Dr. JO Ebhomenye is the Founder and Chairman of Market Trends International Ltd – the oldest and largest indigenous market research agency in Nigeria. Over the last 40 years, he has been a major player in the African market research industry, providing clear-cut research solutions to most international and local organizations in the areas of product development, social research in Nigeria and across major African countries. He is currently the ESOMAR representative for Nigeria, the African representative of Gallup International Group, as well as the Worldwide Independent Network of Market Research (WIN).
A veteran in the industry, Dr. Ebhomenye shares with Research Intelligence how he has been able to over the years overcome the challenges and tap into trends in the industry especially with the raging scourge of the coronavirus pandemic.
In your opinion, how have Covid-19 affected businesses?
I can only speak on the Market Research Industry, but generally, I think it has been demoralizing for everybody. Some businesses have gone down and it has been terrible for everybody. We, as an organization is thankful to God that we survived the year2020. Once you survived 2020 as a business, it is a profit. The idea of making a profit in 2020 did not seem like a priority and the main issue was survival.
How have Market Trends been able to survive these trying times?
We do not only rely on Nigeria for business because our services cut across most major markets in Africa. During this period, demand for research in Nigeria was very low compared to previous years. However, we have had quite a lot of requests for studies to be done outside Nigeria during the period of covid-19.
What coping mechanisms do you think businesses should adopt in the present situation?
Some time ago, I was at a conference in Canada and a presentation was made by one of the participants on the future of the market research industry. He said that in the next five years or so, face-to-face data collection would be a thing of the past. At that point in time, I was wondering how this could be achieved, as F2F methodology has been a standard practice for collecting data in the market research industry. The presenter mentioned that a time will come when data will be collected without the need to send interviewers out. Covid-19 has now brought this to the fore.
Currently, the old method is gone forever. It can never come again. So, we now realized that if you want to survive in the current challenging times, you need to be flexible and efficiently adapt to the changing business environment. We are moving towards a more digitalized system and it is important for agencies to invest in and grow their digital ability. Everything that was done face-to-face before now, is now done digitally; without any need to leave your office.
What role does Market Research play in solving the challenges people are having with their businesses?
Market Research helps to reveal people’s attitudes to change, which in turn will help businesses know what their consumers and/or target markets are thinking. We know that businesses need a lot of information these days. As a matter of fact, we have done a lot of studies on covid-19 both in Nigeria and beyond on how businesses can move forward even with the pandemic. A business that has access to such information will succeed.
What should be the focus of market research companies in the current recession?
Like I said before, they should be adaptable to the changing business environment. One of which is being digitalized, without this the company may likely struggle. There are now various apps for collecting data, conducting online interviews, conducting online communities, etc. For instance, in the current climate, face-to-face interviews are no longer straightforward due to covid-19 restrictions. To interview respondents face masks/shields are now required. Without exploring available digital services, how can a research company conduct its surveys? So, the need to invest in digital services is very important.
What strategic changes have Market Trends made in the COVID-19 outlook?
It is to ensure that all our services can be provided using digital services. In addition to using Survey-to-go to collect data, we have equally invested in two other software such as Nestarr and Checkers. Before then, we have been using Survey-To-Go to collect data but with new developments, we now realized that we needed more features in order to provide top-class services to our clients.
What are your projections for the Market Research industry?
As long as businesses continue to need information, market research agencies will continue to thrive. The only challenge due to the current pandemic is that growth is likely to be very slow. Agencies should not expect to make huge turnovers for now until business stabilizes post-covid-19.
What do you think Nigerian market Research agencies can learn from international agencies?
As a major player in the market research industry, there is a need to belong to key market research organizations such as ESOMAR and other major research organizations. Every year, a number of conferences are held where new ideas for conducting market research are presented by key experts. At these conferences, a lot of insights are shared among participants and it also gives the opportunity to increase one’s network. As an ESOMAR representative in Nigeria, I will be hosting conferences for students at the University of Lagos to introduce them to Market Research and the opportunities that abound in the profession. That will be later this year.
What do you find interesting about market research?
It’s the fact that my work does not limit me to being at a desk all the time. Most of the time, I have the opportunity to travel to various countries outside Nigeria either for business meetings or attend conferences. It also gives me the opportunity to meet new colleagues which most often translates to more business for my organization.
What makes Market Trends different from other agencies?
It’s our reliability and ability to tell the client the truth no matter how bad it is. When clients know that you are honest, they will come back to you.
How do you ensure the quality of your reports?
The success of a market research agency depends on the ability to provide high-quality data. Currently, we now have apps that give us the opportunity to link our client with on-the-spot data collection including the use of GPS mapping.
What else is new in Market Trends?
I have been in this business for over 40 years and it has become necessary to appoint a successor for the company so that I can finally step aside. Thankfully, my son, Victor Ebhomenye, PRC is already acting in this capacity to move the company forward. Victor has a degree in Computing from the University of Bedfordshire United Kingdom and a Master’s from the University of Georgia specializing in Market Research practices. For the past ten years, he has been understudying me and mastering the process. He has come up with a lot of great ideas on how to grow the company and I look forward to seeing these come to fruition. As time goes on, I am very confident that Victor can deliver with or without my support.
Recently, your son got married. How do you feel about your son’s wedding?
As a parent, one will be very happy and delighted that they are able to see their children get married and start their own life and home. My wife and I are very pleased to have added a new daughter to our household and we pray that they have a very successful and fruitful marriage.
What message do you have for the couple and newly wedded couples?
Just like my business, I have been married for over 35 years; we have not had any third party come to our home to settle any disagreement between us. My message is that they should be transparent and honest with each other. Good communication plays a great role in any successful marriage. It is also very important to have God at the center of their marriage.
In your perspective, how best should couples relate in the post-COVID-19 era?
They should be loving and understanding because there is no marriage without challenges. As I have already said, transparency and communication are key components in marriage. I would also advise the couple to be prudent with their finances, as proper financial planning is necessary in a marriage and more so in these uncertain times.