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The Asia Research Annual Breakfast Seminar

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On 26 September 2013, Asia Research held its third annual breakfast seminar in Singapore. While many market research conferences struggle to fill their venues, this was another sell-out seminar by Asia Research attended by 80 delegates from client organisations, agencies and research support industries.

An ambitious breakfast seminar, with a total of six speakers for five papers, the event turned out to be almost a half-day conference at the Goodwood Park Hotel, one of Singapore’s heritage hotels conveniently located close to many of Singapore’s research firms in Scotts Road.

The ‘State of the Industry Address 2’ featured a paper from Piers Lee, Senior Consultant and Managing Director of BDRC Asia, reporting on several ‘research on research’ surveys conducted by Asia Research. It tracked sentiment in the market research industry based on the 2011 and 2013 online stakeholder surveys, the key point being that the rate of structural change in the market research industry is accelerating, with 44 per cent of respondents believing that in five years’ time the industry would see ‘big changes’ in the type of organisations providing research, and even some predicting the end of the current traditional supply market. But evidence of huge fragmentation in the industry shows that this is already happening, leading to a much greater range of suppliers being used by clients this year compared to two years ago and a loss in market share among the MNC research firms.

But the surveys also showed that optimism in the industry remains high, with more opportunities for a range of research suppliers to leverage off technology for data collection. Past concerns about the industry’s ability to retain talent seems to be receding as it repositions itself as a technology-based business that combines itself with consultancy in areas such as branding and new media.

This year, Asia Research hosted its first speaker from a management consultancy. Ilker Carikcioglu from Bain & Company’s Consumer Insights Group highlighted some of the acceptance issues that market research can have in the boardrooms of organisations. While research firms can generate consumer insights, the acceptance issues might be attributed to barriers that exist in organisations to the implementation of the research recommendations. One of the objectives of Bain’s Consumer Insights Group is to persuade its clients that a holistic customer strategy must be at the heart of every organisation in order to build sustainable profitability. Ilker presented Bain’s ‘BothBrain’ approach, which examines the workings of consumers’ ‘left brain’ (being its rational needs) as opposed to their ‘right brain’ (including unconscious expectations and irrational needs) to derive the consumer insights. It then demonstrated how these findings are applied in a structural manner through its ‘Customer Strategy Framework’ approach, which is designed to ensure that research findings are implemented by organisations in order to secure a competitive advantage.

An unusual case study was presented of a jewellery retail chain that had used research to change its store and display design, and its approach to staff training. These changes were drawn directly from the research and resulted in significant growth in revenue for the retailer.

In the next paper, Tushar Desai (Founder of Kaleidosense) demonstrated the differences that can be observed in findings obtained from traditional Q&A research, and those from monitoring social media. The theory is that simply asking a respondent a question can in itself modify the way they express their views about a brand or product, as compared to listening to what people say spontaneously about these brands and products through social media. Based on a case study in the automotive industry, the conclusion was that traditional Q&A research compares fairly well to monitoring social media in terms of the rational needs of consumers, but that by contrast, ‘digi-conversations’ will be much heavier on emotion and will reveal the less tangible needs of consumers.

Max Weber, Managing Director of SSI, described the technicalities and potential pitfalls of moving projects from traditional offline data collection to online. While online research is well established and accepted in many Asian markets, there are still latent ‘fears’ about the unknowns of online research. Max provided a highly informed paper on the effects of sampling through online panels, and the practical issues of questionnaires designed for self-completion, especially in the light of more online surveys now being conducted through mobile devices. He went on to argue that much greater honesty is obtained through self-completion questionnaires (in the privacy of online surveys) as compared to traditional surveys where the respondents might feel obliged to please or even to impress the interviewer.

The final paper, delivered jointly by Chris Richardson, Managing Director of ABN Impact’s Singapore office, and Melissa Gil, Head of Group Digital Life at SingTel, showcased a product development study conducted in Indonesia using an advanced co-creation technique.

ABN Impact convened a full day workshop in Jakarta to help SingTel develop ‘Pixable’, a new mobile application that compiles pictures from various social media sites into one place. With so many apps in the market, the research really needed to generate breakthrough insights in order to develop a compelling proposition for consumers.

ABN Impact’s workshop brought together a diverse range of stakeholders within one setting, including professional photographers, tech bloggers, writers and even stay-at-home mums. The one-day workshop involved the clients themselves within the session, who all acted as moderators and facilitators, working together in a fun and explorative environment to develop the best product proposition.

The range of projective techniques used in the workshop, including word associations, took the research in many new directions such that the winning idea came “from the unknown universe”. One key insight came from people’s thoughts and feelings about the word “pollution”, a common everyday issue in the streets of Jakarta. “Traffic jams, smog and noise are constant struggles we face every day . . . and it is creeping its way into social media sites. There is too much trash on these sites that I don’t want to see”. The proposition developed from this consumer stress was “Pixable clears your sites and calms your thoughts – Pixable navigates your social media sites to deliver only the photos you need to see, not the rest of the clutter”.

Speakers (left to right): Max Weber (SSI); Melissa Gil (SingTel); Chris Richardson (ABN Impact); Piers Lee (BDRC Asia); Tushar Desai (Kaleidosense); Ilker Carikcioglu (Bain & Company)

Speakers (left to right): Max Weber (SSI); Melissa Gil (SingTel); Chris Richardson (ABN Impact);
Piers Lee (BDRC Asia); Tushar Desai (Kaleidosense); Ilker Carikcioglu (Bain & Company)

With the success of Asia Research’s third breakfast seminar, we are now intending to hold these events twice a year. The next seminar is due to be held in Singapore in March 2014, with further international events being planned for Jakarta and Hong Kong. For inquiries about sponsorship and speaking opportunities, please contact editor@asia-research.net.