Economy, Business And Markets

Market Research Companies and the Road Ahead

Post-Doc and Teaching Fellow at Alzahra University
Market Research Companies and the Road AheadMarket Research Companies and the Road Ahead

With the prospect of Iran hosting a growing number of international businesses and multinational companies, market research companies are poised to see a boost in their fortunes.  Finding reliable market information in Iran is valuable for international companies. Due to limited accessible information both at micro and macro levels and lack of resources in the English language, foreign companies need to acquire information from established sources rather than relying on their own assessment.

As data-based management is perceived a luxury partly because of the high costs, most Iranian companies make decisions based on their own experience and encounters.  A glance at market research companies in Iran confirms this assertion as their major clients are foreign firms and businesses.

Decisions based on descriptive information tend to vary from those based on experience which could entail risky decisions. High competition and risk management have compelled international companies to make decisions based on all of their accessible sources. This is further visible from the growth of market research that is overtaking the music industry in UK and US.

 The leading market research companies in the region such as MEMRB (The Middle East Market Research Bureau) used to work in Iran before sanctions hit but left the country at the behest  of  Nielsen (the global leader in market research) in 2011. Beside international companies that monitor Iran market and produce reports through their agents, there are Iranian companies with international underpinning. These companies, often founded by western-educated Iranians, are cooperating with international companies. For example, EMRC became an exclusive Iranian member of Gallup International Association in 2013.

Advertising agencies constitute another face of the industry that is engaging more into research for effective results. There are 5,000 registered advertising agencies in Iran. If market research companies want to establish hegemony on marketing data, they should improve their role as consultants who decide data sources and assign weights to each of them while providing qualitative research for new product developments. Market research companies should gather data and use it more scientifically for predictive analytics rather than rear-view mirror analytics.

To better understand markets and assess companies' share, data should be from a representative sample that allows reliable inferences. The international market research companies are delving into big data and mobile and passive measurements while working on issues surrounding survey data such as reliable sample size and survey design biases. It has become apparent that passive monitoring and eliciting preferences are more effective than directly asking people questions about their activity that they cannot accurately answer.

Changes in survey design are toward finding trends that are actually driving consumer behavior and not just what customers say. What consumers claim might not be their true preferences because of their emotional state, shortening attention spans, and continued pressures on time, consumers' awareness of being marketed and their realization of what is behind the surveys. Market research companies should speed up the process of updating their research methods to what is considered as the state-of-the-art industry.