Assign modules on offcanvas module position to make them visible in the sidebar.

Market research is an integral part of a scientific approach to advertising and marketing by enabling key decisions to be made on factual feedback from consumers rather than on industry experience, gut feel or from market feedback which may be subjective. Good market research provides a precise understanding of what consumers need, buy and watch, thus enabling organizations to aim better for profitable growth.

Market research is an integral part of a scientific approach to advertising and marketing by enabling key decisions to be made on factual feedback from consumers rather than on industry experience, gut feel or from market feedback which may be subjective. Good market research provides a precise understanding of what consumers need, buy and watch, thus enabling organizations to aim better for profitable growth.

Market research has three main sub groupings — consumer, retail and media research — as well as smaller areas such as stakeholder and industrial research. Research can be used as an insight generation tool, a product development tool as well as a monitoring mechanism to track marketing campaign effectiveness, set KPIs for evaluating performance and to monitor brand health – of one's own brands as well as those of competitors.

Insights gained from market research are widely used in many spheres of business including media, advertising, consumer packaged goods, telecom, financial and other services as well as industrial products.

More room to grow

Globally market research is a US$ 34 billion industry (as per 2011 statistics from ESOMAR) which translates to a global research spend of US$ 5.70 per person per year. In Sri Lanka the value of the research business is about Rs 1 billion (US$ eight million), which while seeming to be sizeable, is just 40 US cents per person per year. Clearly therefore research has more room to grow in Sri Lanka and will do so, as more and more organizations see value in evidence based decision making in the increasingly competitive marketplace. While market research data was traditionally purchased predominantly by multinational and large local organizations, in recent years newer users have grown the market. These newer users include medium sized local consumer packaged goods companies as well as organizations from the telecom and financial sectors. Many organizations in service sectors such as telecom and finance now use market research as a critical planning tool for strategic and tactical decision making.

Many research studies reveal remarkable insights of consumer lifestyles, psyche and interests which can be used by marketers to understand needs for their categories and thereby grow their brands. An increasing number of organizations are now aware that commissioning ad hoc research and purchase of syndicated market research data would produce inroads into greater understanding of consumer and brand issues.

In an era when category demarcations are becoming more blurred, market research is also used to understand inter-category interplay. For instance while tea and coffee traditionally operated in the hot beverages space, tea has now expanded into the cold beverages category with iced tea, and tea now has opportunities to compete with carbonated beverages as well. Research would enable the understanding of interplay between various products and what varying needs and consumer expectations drive the usage of different products. On the basis of these differing needs, demographics, expectations and lifestyles, consumers can be grouped into various segments so that companies can target their brands to consumers in a more focused and differentiated manner.

Responding to sensitivities

As with any industry the market research industry too needs to face up to its challenges and capitalize on opportunities. In terms of challenges, Sri Lankan consumers are becoming more time sensitive in answering long questionnaires and research users must be sensitive to this concern. Also the industry does have to work hard at attracting and retaining talented and passionate researchers. In terms of opportunities, the market research industry is now evolving rapidly: moving from surveys with simple cross analyses by various demographics to the use of more complex multivariate analysis techniques and the use of neuroscience and big data in understanding consumer behaviour.

The future of research appears to be one of change and growth. Newer customers, newer data collection and analysis methodologies and newer ways of generating insights would continue to make the research industry a vibrant and challenging workplace.

As consumers become smarter and more value conscious, companies that have continuous consumer and retail research programmes, and invest in innovations that are research based would find their brands becoming stronger in challenging times. Despite current challenges, Sri Lanka is expected to gradually move into middle income status where new consumer needs would emerge. Here too research would play a significant role in identifying new opportunities. Organizations also have a chance to be at the front end of the curve with commitment to a budgeted research programme where timely and regular consumer feedback would become an integrated component of companies' marketing DNA.

(The writer is the Managing Director of Nielsen Sri Lanka, and a Council Member of Market Research Society of Sri Lanka.)

Featured News

  • 1