As the sun shone brightly on a cold November morning, two dozen delegates representing seven different countries gathered at Hotel Jalta to attend AIMRI’s first ever meeting in Prague with the theme “Research in Central & Eastern Europe”. Prague, the capital city of Czech Republic, is referred to as the Heart of Europe and has also been called golden Prague and magic Prague. Prague truly is “golden” and “magical”. If you were fortunate enough to have additional time to see the city, there were plenty of places to visit such as the Charles Bridge, Prague Castle, Old Town Square, The Jewish Quarter, Wenceslas Square and the Prague State Opera house. Beauty surrounded you at every turn.

The welcome and introduction was given by conference chairman, John Attfield who presented a quick overview of the day that was to follow.

The morning began with a presentation from Ruth Stanat of SIS International of New York, titled “A Clients Viewpoint; To Invest in Eastern Europe vis-à-vis other global regions”. Ruth escaped New York in time to avoid Hurricane Sandy in a heroic effort to attend the AIMRI Conference. Her presentation provided fascinating insights into how clients should decide which Eastern European countries should be the focus of their research. The key drivers and decision points are speed, time to the market, innovation and productivity. The new market landscape for six different countries was discussed as well as major global trends.

Ruth presented a case study based on the perception of Poland. It was a face to face study with heads of companies discussing where they were going to invest. It was found that America had an outdated concept of Poland. They did not consider Poland a destination and did not consider Poland an area of opportunity. Yet in reality, in 2011, Poland was ranked the 6th most attractive investment country in the world. The moral of the story is to avoid getting blindsided by bad news or old news. Make sure you keep an open mind.

Along the same theme, Daniel Lemon with Norstat in Stockholm presented “The Wider region: Links between Scandinavia and Eastern Europe”. The discussion had an overview of research methods in Poland, Russia and Baltic. In Poland, online research still is not the most popular but face to face is. In Russia, where most of the research is done in ten major cities, online research is still trying to take off. In the Baltics, 50% of the research is done through face to face and door to door. CATI is growing and online is slowly getting acknowledged as a viable method of data collection. It was concluded that in the Baltics, online methods are slow to grow against other methods and they are slow to follow new trends.

After the coffee break, Oldrich Zajic of SANEP in Czech Republic presented “Improving Panel Research in Eastern Europe: New Possibilities in a Virtual Environment”. Using an interpreter, Oldrich described a data collection method which they called Triangulation Data Control or T3 Control. They believe they are the first to apply this method and consider it to provide a representative sample. This method was used in the elections the prior month and they made the claim that their data was the most accurate. During questions some members of the audience felt that alternative methods of providing a representative sample should be considered.

Steve Gittelman with Sample Source Auditors in New York presented “Correcting the bias of the poorly engaged: a new paradigm. How the distribution of buying behavior segmentations change as engagement levels shift”. Steve finished the morning sessions with a presentation on engagement and how poorly engaged respondents can change the distribution of buying behavior segmentations.

Using a biblical theme, Steve pointed out that, like Noah, we need to decide who shall stay and who shall go. Noah states “look at that mess down there. Who is going to clean it up?” There is a fine line. If you take out too many, then you can bias your data. He looked at those that are unengaged with an eye toward how one decides which respondents fall sufficiently outside of the data to mandate their removal a fraction which he conservatively estimated to represent about three to five percent. We ask too many questions so we need to be careful. After all, George Burns in “GOD” refused to answer any more questions because he said he answered too many already. When respondents don’t want to answer any more questions they will satisfice. We need a measurement tool to determine those that are unengaged. Through the use of quality metrics such as speeding, straight-lining, inconsistencies, hyperactive survey taking to name a few, data based on 42 studies conducted in July of 2011, showed that after two or three quality faults, the data is unreliable. For example, when asked, “Do you smoke?”, at three or more quality faults, the percentage of smokers increases from the national average of 20% all the way up to 60%. Poor data at three or more faults was proven over and over. We need a way to determine ‘who shall stay and who shall go’ and this method provides us with a guideline to purge those unengaged respondents that provide us with ‘bad’ data.

Following lunch, Michael Schaaf from at random international, Schenefeld, Germany, presented “Telephone Research: CATI Challenges in Russia”. Russia is the most prosperous of the BRIC countries as well as the biggest. Over the last twenty years, face to face has been the dominant method of market research in Russia, but today, telephone is growing exponentially. But there are challenges with CATI market research. Corruption is an everyday problem. Bribes account for 20% of the Russian GDP as of 2005. Only half of the population can be reached by landline and telephone penetration in rural areas is only 30-35%. The availability of sample is an issue since recent laws prohibit publishing private numbers. Random sampling is difficult because of the decentralized phone systems. Incentives are expected as a sign of appreciation and they are not easy to administer since a lot of people still don’t have bank accounts. The survey length is limited to 15 minutes and the Russian people are not used to answering exploratory questions. There are also six different time zones which need to be taken into account. So what is the preferred source of sample for Russia? The answer is, “we ask the client what they want”.

The last presenter of the day was Ricardo Modolo, CEO of Uniquest in Sao Paulo, “Research in Brazil: Overview of Challenges and Opportunities”. Brazil has 190 million consumers and has the world’s 6th largest economy. The key question is “what must be understood to place the product?” The first step is to understand Brazilian demographics, which has five regions and twenty-seven states, and each region is culturally different. Social class is different in each region as well as internet access. Thirty one percent access the internet at a LAN House such as a Starbucks. Fifty percent of the people with internet access go on line at least once per week and twenty-three percent access the internet one time per week. When comparing the different methods of doing market research, focus groups are too costly. Panels have their cost and time efficiencies, but only 43.4% of the population has internet access. CATI is better than F2F in terms of cost and time but the respondents don’t want to give information over the phone. Ricardo presented some amazing statistics on Brazil so it would be worth your while to check out his presentation online. 

Elaine Trimarchi

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