Even with more than 43 million Facebook users, 1.3 million Twitter users and 2 million daily blog posts in the Arab world, introducing more innovative market research solutions, such as social media measurement and online qualitative moderation, can be a challenge in the region. Traditionally, to collate market research insights, the trend has been to use face-to-face methods, such as street intercepts and central locations, and (less often) telephone interviews.
In Dubai, many marketers and researchers are still working with the impression that online is not a suitable option for gathering consumer data, which is primarily due to a lack of training once an employee has been signed with a company (such as attending a research conference to stay up-to-date with the latest trends), and a gap in the educational system in the region (market research was introduced quite late), but also the rapid economic growth, and the inability of these professionals to keep up with the pace of development.
However, with more than 90 million internet users in the Middle East, we believe the region is expected to see a dramatic growth in online methods in the near future.
This month, POINT Consultancy launched Ignite, a specialized division that focuses on FMCG, conceived in the context of a greater need for a research offering that is specialized for this sector, which is fast-growing and highly dynamic in the region. One of the products include VirtualFocus, which is capturing consumer responses online through a user-friendly, interactive environment that runs either on a Facebook platform or a smart phone. The suite also includes a mobile app (iOS) which enables consumers to do quick exercises through their iPhone or iPad with an internet connection, sharing instant, fresh impressions.
Both online and mobile have a number of benefits over traditional research methods, such as more honest answers, as the lack of an interviewer and personal contact results in fewer socially desirable answers.
Furthermore, reaching women in the region has proven to be a special challenge using traditional interview methods, particularly in the Gulf region (such as Saudi Arabia), where approaching women and asking them questions about personal habits is not considered a social norm. By going online or mobile, however, these obstacles are, in large part, removed, as the internet presents Arab women with an open platform, free from any potential social restrictions.
Improving the outlook
As one of the more innovative research companies in the Middle East, it is our responsibility to continue to set high standards and introduce unique approaches that make a difference to the client’s business.
With the rise of the internet in the Middle East and a dramatic growth in online usage, it is only apt to remove barriers when it comes to research. The continuous growth in the number of internet users means that online methods are more important than ever for regional professionals.