New markets - new ways: Qual Research in North Africa (page 1 of 2)
- Tuesday, April 18 - 2006 at 12:18
At TNS Middle East & Africa we have seen tremendous growth and development over our past 25 years - and qual research has very much been part of that.
It is not that the days of focus groups and in-depth interviews are over ; they still have their place. In fact, these will always remain the staple of qual research information gathering. However, the door has opened to more innovative methodologies, more advanced techniques, which can often stretch the boundaries of what the traditional qual methods have to offer.
Markets like Libya, Sudan and Algeria are opening up, and offer tremendous scope for applying pioneering qual research techniques which can bring a depth of consumer understanding which was more unusual when entering new markets in the past. Methodologically, as well as analytically, we have a research toolbox equipped with more sophisticated tools - yet the industry is sometimes reluctant to use them.
It seems that research buyers often tend to favour what they see as the safe, or at least most familiar, options i.e. group discussions and depth interviews. This in-the-box thinking might stem from the view that all qual research should take place behind a one-way mirror. Some clients feel most reassured when they can see and hear the consumer sample for themselves.
Certainly it requires a degree of trust in your research supplier, but this is not always the most appropriate way of obtaining the information you need. After all, consumers don't live their lives behind one-way mirrors. Consumers live their lives at home...and sometimes we need to catch them at home. More out-of-the-box thinking is needed. A customized research approach, treating each project uniquely, and devising a methodology matched to the objectives, is much more likely to capture true insights into consumers' lives.
It has to be said that another constraint on the new techniques is cost. Research buyers know a benchmark for the cost of a focus group discussion. They know what to expect. They also see that price in the context of a sample of 6 to 8 people. So we sometimes see real reluctance when the cost of the researcher spending 1 day with only 1 consumer or family is more expensive. In such cases, the research buyer is placing more emphasis on quantity of interaction - the number of people we speak to - rather than the quality of the interaction and the exec hours spent on the job.
Admittedly a leap of faith in the new methods of qual research and the expertise of the new generation of qual researchers is needed.
But our argument is that e.g. only by spending more time in kitchens with housewives can we really bring a truer understanding of how they approach cooking, their relationship with the task, as well as the spices they use and the actual cooking process. This real life approach, taken from ethnography, has been shown to bring a better understanding of consumers' worlds and generate better insights which convert into commercial advantage.
When we want to understand consumers' lifestyles, we gain a significant edge by spending time with consumers in their environment. To identify new and emerging trends, we have to be in the right place, at the right time, with the right people - and that means meeting them in their own environment.
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