by September 18, 2013 0 comments

Online Market Research – Addressing Business Challenges in Emerging Markets

Long-perceived only as a source of cheap labor, emerging economies now include the world’s fastest growing consumer base and are an investment focus for global businesses keen to address this demand. Market projections for emerging economies across industries are undeniably positive -Forrester projects that the fastest growing IT markets in 2013 will be China (10.3%), followed by Brazil (7.8%). India already is a recognized hub for IT services and solutions. The Economist predicts that 70% of the global demand for highly skilled labor force will be addressed by emerging markets, with India & China together addressing 40% of that demand.

The Challenge
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Despite their growing importance in the world economy, there are a number of challenges faced by global businesses, even established ones, in understanding the growing consumer needs in emerging markets. Market research has several limitations in emerging markets including trying to remain relevant amidst the changing digital and buyer experience and economy. The consumer model created for the developed world needs to be customized for the disparate needs of the emerging markets. Defining the right target audience in a culturally and economically heterogeneous environment is challenging and influences the major aspects of the research process viz. questionnaire, sampling and research design. It is important to understand these cultural nuances to gain meaningful insights that provide the right business solutions. E.g. a global advertiser in Brazil promoting a washing machine needs to understand that extended families are also a part of the purchase decision. Similarly a product company gathering consumer opinions in Russia & India needs to understand that Russians give lower ratings to a product perceived average while Indians rate the same product higher. These cultural and demographic diversities, dissimilarities between consumer behavior and business environments make it difficult to assess consumer perception and build solutions that address this demand.

The Solution

A growing Internet population with an increasing number accessing via smartphones give companies an effective way to collect consumer opinions. Online market research has emerged as a faster, convenient and accurate way to gather consumer opinions. Online research also helps in ensuring similar data collection methodologies across countries for both developed and emerging markets.

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This is primarily accomplished by online opinion panels. Commonly known as online panels, they are an actively managed community of individuals who have registered to share their opinion in research surveys in lieu of incentives. Recruitment to these panels is typically by invitation only and panelists undergo multimodal verification: email, mobile phone, postal address and now even social media. Recruitment is designed to meet the demographic needs of a panel that is representative of the country’s online population. A healthy panel includes only interested and active participants who understand that their opinions have a broader impact on products and services. All online market research firms employ technology solutions that monitor the panelists – to identify and prevent fraudulent activities where rewards are the sole motivator in responding to surveys.[image_library_tag 195/85195, style=”float: right;” alt=”28″ ,default]

Online panels can be consumer, B2B (decision makers or influencers in an organization) or specialized panels (targeting specific segments like frequent travelers, automobile owners, patients etc.)

Ensuring Genuine Responses

Authentic opinions and respondents help companies gain meaningful insights from market research via online surveys. It’s importance is enhanced when companies conduct multi-country studies. Following a strict recruitment and management process assures a quality panel and accurate data. Recruitment is the best stage to filter uninterested or fake respondents. Recruitment checks such as identity verification via mobile phones, email address, social media ensure that only genuine respondents enter the community. Panelists are constantly refreshed as changes to the economic landscape and consumer demand. Panelists also need to be engaged and satisfied as their cooperation is critical to the data quality. Measures such as feedback surveys, attractive and easy to redeem incentives, limiting the number of surveys per month, sharing research findings to show the impact their views are having on consumer designs ensure a healthy panel.

The Future

Initially global firms were skeptical of using online research in emerging markets due to their limited Internet penetration. But now the ubiquity of high speed Internet in these countries – people accessing at work, from homes and even from their pockets – has changed the global perception, establishing online research as the norm for conducting market research in emerging markets.

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