Data collection is not unfamiliar to us: from taking street surveys to answering feedback form. But what does a market researcher actually do?
I was curious especially after reading the Facebook–Cambridge Analytica data scandal (read here) and now know that the data collected from the Facebook–Cambridge Analytica data scandal is through unethical and unorthodox means. I have several questions swirling in my head. What’s the need for data collection? And how does it serves us? Or how it is being collected?
Fortunately, today I have invited Rose Lemiso, a Kenyan living in Kasarani, Nairobi, working as a market researcher to share her insights with us.
It is so good to have you here with us today, Rose. Please tell us who is a market researcher? What do you research?
A market researcher deals with the collection of data from people through face to face interviews, phone calls or observation. This information is collected on behalf of a business or an organization to help provide insight or support decision making.
Let’s assume a company like Coca-Cola wants to have a new advertisement on TV. Before they air it, they give us a contract to do something called a link. A link is a test advertisement whereby we book a hall and have gadgets like tablets or laptops on different tables.
The interviewers talk to random people around the target area and convince them to go into the hall so that they can watch the advert and give out their opinion. What they like, what they don’t like. What should be added or what should be removed. What impressions the advert makes and whether it has any influence on the respondent’s consumption of the product among other questions.
Market research involves assessing competition from other companies.
Market research also includes product tests whereby respondents are provided with a product that is already on the market and a new product and they are asked to compare the two. They pick the products they prefer and give a reason why. This helps the client determine whether to change their product or keep it as it is.
It also involves assessing competition from other companies. For example a company like Unilever numerous products attached to its name; soaps, deodorants, spray, margarine etc. its main competitors include Nestle and Procter & Gamble.
Market research can be used to determine which products are bought most often, why consumers prefer a certain brand to the next and what a company can do to increase sales of their products e.g. by reducing the price, making it easily accessible by having it in local shops or changing a certain aspect of the product like the scent or color.
Market research also includes social research and opinion research.
That is a very detailed description. But how do you come up with the data?
We collect data from people who are willing to participate in our research.
We go to people’s households; make phone calls as well as randomly talking to people along the streets. We also use software like Nfield, Survey To Go, and Dimensions.
What are the skill sets needed to become a successful market researcher?
One really needs to be good with people. This job involves convincing people to share information that they would otherwise consider private. A market researcher’s success depends on his/her ability to gain the trust of a respondent.
uphold your integrity by providing true and timely data
One also needs to be able to deduce how the respondent is taking in the questions. In case a question seems hard for the respondent to answer, they need to be able to explain it to them in a much simpler way to get the best results.
This means that a researcher needs to understand the questionnaire 100% during the briefing. Ask as many questions so that when they go to the field it is easier for them no matter what type of respondent they encounter.
Is it easy for a female to excel and recognize in your field?
Most of my colleagues are females. People find it easy to trust a woman easily as compared to a man. We are naturally charming and easy to talk to so yes, a woman can excel in our field and be recognized.
I understand you work for a company called Kantar Public. What does your company do?
We basically do everything I had explained earlier like assessing competition, test advertisement, product tests, social and opinion research.
We have numerous clients like Coca-Cola, Unilever, various local banks, dairy products companies like Brookside etc.
We once did a project for a foundation associated with Bill Gates. It had to do with tobacco prevalence in East Africa.
It was a pilot study to find out the number of people who smoke, why they smoke, how much a pack of cigarette costs if smoking is allowed in public places like restaurants or bars and whether they are aware of the effects of cigarette smoking. It was an interesting project as we got to conduct tests on people by checking their saliva to find out the amount of nicotine they had through direct or second-hand smoking.
Wow! That is really interesting. Testing saliva… Hmm… Another interesting thing relating to your industry. Have you heard about the Facebook scandal with Cambridge Analytica?
Yes, and I must say it is shocking to know the lengths that people will go to acquire other peoples information. That was a very serious breach that shouldn’t happen in the first place.
It definitely creates an air of suspicion on researching firms and questions how we collect our data. It makes my work very hard since people will question where their information is being used and by whom and for what reason.
How different is your work versus Cambridge Analytica?
Cambridge Analytica deals with electoral strategies as it is a political consulting firm while market research deals with gathering information about consumers’ needs and preferences.
This is a good example where data collection has gone wrong. How do you make sure your findings are true data?
The company takes measures to ensure that the data we collect if factual and from real people through;
- Apart from the interviewers(data collection team), there is another department known as quality control whose main job description is to ensure that the work that is submitted is of high quality.They do this by accompanying interviewers in the field to monitor the process and ensure that it is done according to the right procedure. In case an interviewer is not accompanied, they do callbacks to the respondents to confirm that the information relayed on the data relays their thoughts and opinions.The call also confirms that the right person was interviewed and that the interview took the standard required time to be administered.
- The tablets used in data collection capture GPS coordinates of where the interview was conducted. This is very vital as each study targets specific quotas in social class, age, and gender.Social classes are divided into AB, C1, C2, D &E. In Kenya, specific areas have a particular social class. To ensure correct data is collected from the target area, GPS is captured thus leading to true data collection.
- Platforms like the Survey To Go and Nfield provide for recordings to be incorporated within the questionnaire. This is helpful to ensure that the interviewer asks the entire questions and that what is coded is exactly what the responded gives an answer.
How do you ensure you keep those data ethical?
We are guided by a strict code of ethics. The market research association (M.R.A) code of ethics which include;
- Protect the privacy of respondents. Keep confidential all information/data that could identify respondents to third-parties without the respondents’ consent. If such permission is given, it must be documented and the data may be used only for the purpose to which the respondent has agreed.
- Obtain consent from respondents prior to utilizing their data in a manner materially different from that to which the respondent has agreed.
- Ensure that respondent information collected during any study will not be used for sales, solicitations, push polling or any other non-research purpose.
- Treat respondents with respect and in a professional manner.
- Protect the rights of respondents, including the right to refuse to participate in part or all of the research process.
Failure to abide by the Code may result in a range of sanctions, including publicized expulsion from the association.
Do you think your data matters?
Yes, it matters a great deal. These are genuine facts and opinions collected from various individuals. It is vital information that can help change a company’s performance to the top.
Do you think your work impact the society?
It has an impact on society in that companies get to learn what they can do to improve their services or products. This, in turn, leads to increased sales leading to better revenue for the country. People also get their voices heard concerning issues like product quality and prices.
we got to conduct tests on people by checking their saliva
What are the challenges you face in your daily work?
Many of the local people are ill-informed. Not a lot people in Kenya know about market research and what it entails. They see statistics being announced on the television but they don’t understand how it was arrived at.
When they see us in their neighborhood they assume we are cons or thieves. They adamantly refuse to take part in the survey no matter how convincing one is.
Sometimes the weather is unfavorable. You have a deadline to submit work but it rains. Most of the time we are on the ground and bad weather can really disrupt data collection efficiency.
What do you think can make it better for you?
Public education would help a great deal to smoothen our work. When people know that people like us who do research and exist and that we can be trusted, it would change our work positively.
This should not, however, be a chance for conmen to take advantage of innocent people. A real researcher carries her official work badge as well as papers authorizing the research from the relevant authorities. They should present this during an introduction.
How do you find satisfaction at work?
Having a perfect record is very important to me so when I do my work and I get no complaints from the quality control team I am the happiest person.
Where do you see yourself in, let’s say 10 years down the market researcher’s path?
In the next 5 years I see myself as a project manager and in ten years I aspire to be in charge of a region like the whole of Kenya or the East African region.
If you can change a thing about your choice of career, what would you change?
I would change the fact that I started so late. Market research can also be done as a part-time job. I wanted to start while I was still on campus pursuing my undergraduate Degree in Graphics, Advertising, and Communication but I feared it would affect my performance. I wish I had conquered my fears and multitasked.
What is passion to you?
Passion is total dedication and commitment to something. I am passionate about my job and that’s why I put so much effort into it to make sure I do it to the best of my ability.
At the end of the day, what do you do to relax?
I have a 2-year-old daughter. The moment I enter the house in the evening after a long day at work I fell relaxed. She is charming and an angel. She tells me how her day was or at least she tries. She enjoys learning colors, listening to children songs and watching animated movies. I can’t count the number of times I have watched Moana, Trolls, Coco, Princess Sofia and many more.
Any last words for someone who aspires to be a market researcher?
Make it happen.
Become a researcher and uphold your integrity by providing true and timely data. It is a fun profession and very flexible.