The summer AIMRI meeting took place in the beautiful Polish city of Krakow on Friday 20 June 2008, on the subject of 'Research in Central & Eastern Europe (CEE)'. The somewhat disappointing turnout of members from Western Europe was compensated by the excellent attendance of market researchers from Poland and other CEE countries, for most of whom it was their first ' but hopefully not last ' AIMRI conference.

Held in the heart of the Old Town just a stone's throw from Krakow's famous Cloth Hall, the conference was housed in the elegant and luxurious Grand Hotel, described as the best 5-star hotel in the city, over a century old and lovingly restored.

Session 1, 'Understanding Central & Eastern Europe' was kicked-off by Ruth Stanat, founder and president of SIS International Research, New York, with a paper on CEE a'market opportunity for international clien'. Emphasising the dangers of a one-size-fits-all approach, she presented the results of detailed in-house research into the various CEE markets, pointing to potential business opportunities on a country-by-country and sector-by-sector basis. She concluded that B2B is the largest current growth area for market research in the region due to the lack of reliable business data and the need for international clients to understand the market landscape.

'CEE markets are not created equal', by Agnieszka Gornicka, of Inquiry sp, Warsaw, provided an entertaining and enlightening look at the cultural factors driving differences in consumer behaviour in the region. Taking the powerful Hofstede Model of cultural dimensions as her frame of reference, Agnieszka described some of the differences in consumer attitudes, illustrating her talk with video clips of commercial TV spots from various CEE markets. She concluded by emphasising the importance of understanding consumer mind-sets when approaching the region.

Sessions 2 and 3 covered the changing background of market research in CEE and the development of online research in the region. Jens Kramer, at random international, Hamburg, answered his own question: 'Poland and Germany, where is market research more acceptable?' by reference to a specially-conducted CATI survey on attitudes to market research in the two markets. The survey covered e.g. perceptions of whether there is 'too much' research, willingness to participate in surveys, and expected incentives. A surprising discovery was the lack of differences between the two markets, despite their very different backgrounds.

David Wieseltier, from Cint AB in Stockholm, spoke on 'online research in Russia and throughout CEE'. Despite his conviction th 'the future of research is onle', David pointed out that Russia still has very low internet penetration and online panels are not yet really representative except for younger age-groups.

Nevertheless, telephone surveys also face problems such as declining response rates, and David sees a big future for online research in CEE, for which his agency is preparing by acting as a point of access to a range of local online panels.

Speaking on 'the qualitative dimension in online research', John Storey, director of Blog Research, UK, conveyed hi'passion for qualitative resech' as well as his conviction t'the future for qualitative research is one'. He described how his agency has extended its reach by setting up blogs ' including in CEE ma's' enabling respondents to participate in research in their own language and at times convenient to them.

Session 4 after lunch dealt with the Polish scene. We were privileged to hear Professor Jan Jerschina, of CEM Market and Public Opinion Research Institute, Krakow, one of Poland's most distinguished market researchers, speak on the development of the industry in Poland and the phases of economic transformation and modernisation in 'the critical years: 1990 ' 2000'. He drew attention to current challenges facing the industry due to the development of online and mobile technologies, and problems of falling response rates. He suggested that greater emphasis may need to be placed on qualitative approaches in future rather than relying on quantitative interviewing.

In the day's final paper, Maciej Bartminski of Market Side, Warsaw, introduced delegates to 'the retail market in Poland'. Since the fall of communism this has passed through phases of explosive growth, entry of foreign operators, and a current phase of concentration and expansion. Yet surprisingly, over 90% of Polish retail outlets are still small stores of below 100 m2. Despite consolidation there is still room for new players, Maciej concluded.

After the conference papers, AIMRI's Annual General Meeting was held at which the Council for the coming year was elected as well as a new Chairman, John Mackay of Sample Answers, in place of retiring Chairman Gerry Stacey. The AGM was followed by an Open Council meeting.

In now traditional fashion, the conference was rounded off on Friday evening by a Gala Dinner for members and their guests in the excellent Cyrano de Bergerac restaurant ' voted sixth best in Poland and the best in Krakow. Many delegates were able to stay for the weekend to enjoy the sights and tastes of this fascinating and historic city and to hope that this will not be the last AIMRI event to be held in the emerging markets of Eastern Europe. 

John Attfield Attfield Dykstra & Partners, Hamburg

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