Nature is not static hence change is constant. The following philosophers perceive change as inevitable.
“The only way that we can live, is if we grow. The only way that we can grow is if we change. The only way that we can change is if we learn. The only way we can learn is if we are exposed. And the only way that we can become exposed is if we throw ourselves out into the open. Do it. Throw yourself!”
― C. JoyBell C.
“Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.”
― Lao Tzu
As the popular saying goes, the only constant thing in life is change. Technology has permeated all facets of our lives and industries; market research has been no exception. As technology evolves, market research industry has also evolved.
The emergence of the market research industry in Nigeria in the 1990s was gradual with a limited number of local players as opposed to the current situation where there are several international market research companies, strong local players and small boutique agencies.
The Nigeria/Africa market research industry has been playing catch-up with the growth in the global market research industry. Nonetheless, our growth pattern has been unique and at our own pace, not precept on precept as the case is in the global market research industry or the developed countries.
Further, while developed markets were using sampling frames, this was not available in this environment. Conducting interviews using telephone and Computer-Assisted–Personal-Interviews (CAPI) were normal practice in developed markets but we were stuck with Paper-Pencil Interviews (PAPI). Additionally, there were chronic issues of low penetration and/or access to land-line telephone, erratic and unreliable telephone networks, and very expensive computers, hence the use of telephonic and CAPI interviews were not feasible and CAPI did not take off.
However, the introduction and high penetration of mobile phone and networks in Nigeria was therefore a welcome development. This was a game-changer for many businesses and the market research industry was not an exception. It became the enabler to adopt Hand-Held Mobile (HHM) device to conduct interviews. The benefits are enormous. Apart from fast turnaround of fieldwork/projects, the use of GPS can also confirm the exact location of where interviews were conducted and as such could side-track the use of Quality Controllers and save cost in that regard.
In the case of data processing and analysis, data tables were usually printed and one ends up with huge tables to review for correction. Once the data is certified clean, then the daunting task of extracting data for reporting begins. Then, the process of giving the secretary to type and review begins. That was a stressful and frustrating life!
Whenever statistical tests are required to be run, most times the data will be sent off-shore for analysis. This is in contrast to nowadays where there are several statistical tools at one’s fingertips that can be used for such analysis. In fact, nowadays one can learn the use of such software such as SPSS online.
Similar evolution has happened in the Qualitative studies. The voice recorder used then has transited to a small mpeg format, which removes all the background noise and echo.
Now, Focus Group Discussions (FGDs) are being conducted online, FGD sessions are streamed live and key stakeholders can view from anywhere in the world. Respondents can upload materials related to the subject matter on a portal/platform or send via a WhatsApp number. WhatsApp groups are also formed for example, to understand consumers’ lifestyles as well as their habits and attitudes to the subjects of interests.
Certainly, market research has evolved in this part of the world, although might not be as smooth and fast paced as we have it in the developed world, we have gradually evolved and are advancing. We are not stagnant!
Unquestionably, technology has brought advancement to the market research industry globally and even in a developing country like ours. The fast pace of technological advancement requires one to keep abreast of happenings at the global level and determine its impact. Like any technological advancement, while there are some significant positives, there are also some negative impacts. One of the negatives is the fact that some roles in market research are being taken over. Will your current role still exist in the next generation of market research industry? Currently, the buzzwords are Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML). One might say it will take a long time for it to catch up in this part of the world, but I tell you, it might not take long. However, one good thing is that there are several functions that AI or ML cannot easily replace such as brief appreciation and proposal writing. One thing we have to constantly keep in mind is that the world has become a global market where we cannot overlook or under rate the impact of the global players on the local and small players in our world of market research.
As a market researcher who desires to be relevant in the next generation, how ready are you for any inevitable? Change will definitely come. That is a given, how prepared are you to embrace the compelling but desirable changes in the industry?
MD/Lead Consultant – QuantHub Insights Services Limited.