A lot is changing. The market research sector is moving more in the direction of data analytics – integrated data from different sources appears to be the next phase. There is a huge shift from data generation to insights, and researchers are now looking at data from a more holistic view. The industry currently prioritizes the need for speed; with everything almost required to be real-time. For Chris Githaiga, who is the managing director of Ipsos In Kenya, a new era has just begun. He had a chat with the Nairobi Business Monthly on why businesses and brands must now set their priorities right.
You stopped doing opinion polling regarding politics, what informed this decision?
We are still doing opinion polls (as this is still one of our core competences) but we are focusing more on non-political and issue-based polling.
As a researcher what do you see as the most cross-cutting issue that consumers are more concerned about?
In Kenya for instance, consumers are back to worrying about what troubled them before the COVID-19 crisis. These were mostly, insecurity, climate change and matters inequality. More and more, the concern about the rising cost of living has taken center-stage in almost every economic front.
Globally, consumers are making a paradigm shift to show that they are willing to pay more for sustainability as demand grows for environmentally friendly alternatives. This can be seen in their attitudes, which vary across generations, countries, and industries. At least 85% of consumers have become “greener” in their purchasing in recent years. This calls for corporate institutions to act quickly to avoid obsolescence in the future.
As attentiveness to climate concerns increases, we hear from more consumers who are environmentally conscious in their brand selections. While finding the right balance between preservation of nature and efficacy/personal safety is an ongoing pandemic dilemma, we do see more deliberate decision-making in this area. Consciousness does not always equate to behavior change, but it does suggest at least one blinding veil is lifting. Given the combination of health, financial and socio-political challenges, consumers seem to be increasingly extending their awareness of global issues and shifting their needs and wants onto brands. Ipsos Global Trends 2020 data shows us that people now expect more from business and brands, with 68% of people around the world wanting commercial brands to speak out on social and political issues.
From the perspective of consumer behavior, do you think organizations, and brands are on the right path?
Consumer behavior has fundamentally shifted. Decision making drivers have changed. Priorities and value sets have also changed compared to pre-covid era, and so has the market ecosystem- with new emerging channels (distribution, communication).
Personal well-being and different value sets are influencing a lot of decisions people are making, be it with choice of goods or even purchases. Consumers are paying more attention towards sustainability and climate change, and there is evident change in the value chain of needs, for instance, the real estate sector has witnessed an increase in consumers who now prioritize home ownership.
For businesses, the growth of e-commerce is evident. Businesses have been forced to change fast and blend with the changing times if they are to meet their consumers where they are. The technological advancements around e-commerce have been such a huge enabler towards this. There has been a massive disruption in the supply chain which has in turn affected supply and even pricing of raw materials. Brands have done good changing in this perspective.
In a period of profound internal and external contextual change, where people are examining their own blindness and pausing to re-prioritize, brands need to adapt to deliver against a shifting set of consumer decision criteria and expectations. Brand owners should be conscious of the fact that the socio- economic context in which people make decisions is dynamic. People’s beliefs, values, and goals are influenced by these changing socio-cultural contexts. This means that the relevant associations consumers have with a brand can be different in these different contexts, and they can change over time.
What are some of the challenges you are facing in Kenya as a researcher?
The pricing issue still hurts the market research industry. Three in four consumers globally are concerned that price increases in 2022 will outpace their income growth. On the other side, leaders in the consumer goods sector have faced disruption to their innovation pipelines as they fire-fight emerging priorities such as rising cost of goods, stock shortages and rapidly shifting consumer sentiments.
It is a challenging time as innovation leaders face choices to completely redraw their pipeline, launch inflation-resilient innovations or renovate to reduce pricing vulnerability. Even when price increases are inevitable, whether to directly raise prices, downsize or use other indirect methods still present tough choices to make.
Inflation is another key challenge facing the market research industry. Managing the perpetual inflationary pressure on cost of doing business whilst price increase is not always an option.
There is not enough talent to cater for market research needs. Despite this, however, there has been tremendous growth in the number of local boutiques that are specialized and even deliver high quality research outcomes. This has additionally seen the growth in quality and insights that shape decisions and policy.
2022 is an election year in Kenya. Elections are always disruptive both at economic point of view and if they turn violent, the ability to conduct data collection is impended.
COVID-19 will remain a concern and a challenge for market research. Beyond the economic impact of COVID-19, any future increase in the infections impacts the ability to collect data as our access to consumers remains largely face-to-face.
On boosting growth of the research industry in Kenya, are there any policy reforms you would recommend?
Yes. Education is one of them. Offer market research as part of secondary school curriculum to address the talent gap. The other is budget allocation for market / sector-based trend data. Now, there is huge gap on publicly available sector-based data. This is an area the government should invest in – and in turn it should have huge boost on the market research sector.
What are some of the solutions/services that you are offering to help your clients overcome these challenges?
In our world of rapid change, the need of reliable information to make confident decisions has never been greater. We believe our clients need more than a data supplier, they need a partner who can produce accurate and relevant information and turn it into actionable truth.
Therefore, our passionately curious experts not only provide the most precise measurement, but shape it to provide true understanding of society, markets and people. To do this we use the best of science, technology and know-how and apply the principles of security, simplicity, speed, and substance to everything we do so that our clients can act faster, smarter, and bolder. Ultimately, success comes down to a simple truth: You act better when you are sure.
How can organizations better connect data and insights at their disposal to become more “consumer- conscious”?
In an increasingly volatile world, where market developments and consumer behaviors have become harder to predict, more companies are turning to consumer-centric strategy frameworks. Consumer centricity is a term often used to describe a strategy to use consumer insights to drive the business.
Companies are using different strategies to get closer to the consumer. Some companies focus on acquiring vast amounts of consumer data like sales data, social media feeds and market research reports. Other companies focus on information technology systems to integrate available data on one platform. A third strategy is to use market research to find interesting insights to help drive innovation, communication, or in-store activation, as well as the use of digital one-on-one marketing to give consumers personalized offers. None of these strategies, however, will separately result in a true consumer-centric organization.
Companies with a high level of consumer consciousness are more aware and attuned to consumer needs and more agile to changing consumer needs or market disruptions. Especially in today’s volatile world, deeply embedded consumer consciousness in any organization is critically important for companies to survive.
Are brands demonstrating leadership in terms of sustainability?
Consumer expectations and demands for more sustainable practices are higher than they have ever been, and they have withstood the pressures of the pandemic. It is no longer a question of when companies should pursue the sustainability agenda, but how they should go about it. This rise in public concern and expectations is not the only mounting pressure on industry to make sustainable changes: there is increasing global recognition that business as usual is no longer viable.
Sustainability is the long-term viability of a business. It is more than corporate social responsibility and reputation, and it also goes beyond environmental sustainability. A sustainable business integrates long-term stakeholder value into all dimensions of its activities, including its supply chain, employee relations, community relations, environmental impact, and governance practices.
Organizations today have a right and role to provide leadership in sustainability and help consumers to act on their desire to make more sustainable choices. Ipsos’ expertise in this area can provide guidance in what can be a complex and nebulous topic for businesses and consumers alike.
What are some of the unique solutions you are offering organizations towards the climate crisis?
Climate crisis is a behavior change challenge. At Ipsos in Kenya, we apply behavioral science to a behavior change challenge, linking problems directly through to their solutions. We use a systems-based approach and our behavior change framework called MAPS to diagnose barriers, design interventions, and deliver them in the right way.
Ipsos has used this approach in a range of commercial and public sector contexts, including financial wellbeing, vaccination behavior, cyber-security, recycling, public transport, and cosmetics. Most recently, we launched a conservation initiative that should help the Ipsos in Kenya community to actively support the Sustainable Development Goals.
How has technology transformed your business operations as a research institution? What are the latest global trends in market research and how are you keeping the pace?
During the COVID-19 crisis, we saw a huge number of new user innovations gain wide public interest. People have created ventilators from scuba diving equipment or espresso machines out of frugality and necessity. And these recent times have shown that the web is where people come together to collaborate and find solutions to emerging needs.
Ipsos’ Innovation Spaces methodology applies semantic AI algorithms to the universe of user-generated social data. This significantly improves the efficiency and expense of identifying commercially promising lead user innovation whitespaces in consumer goods.
User-led early innovation research makes it possible to continuously decode innovation opportunities as they arise as part of a truly consumer-centric corporate innovation
What does the future hold for Ipsos In Kenya?
We have been on a growth trajectory for the past two years. We will continue to grow and gain more market share… We will also expand into new spaces such as healthcare.
As the market evolves, we will continue to focus on adoption and to invest more on online and low contact data collection capabilities.
We will also continue to invest in young talent through our Generation Ipsos program and Research Clubs of Africa that target young and upcoming researchers.
Giving back to the community remains a key value for us. Through our Ipsos Cares Initiative, we will continue to support worthy causes that prioritize children and refugees.