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BW Businessworld

Consumer Behaviour Complexity Has Become Much Bigger

In an interview with BW Businessworld’s Ruhail Amin, Kantar’s chief operating officer Richard Ingleton and Kantar Insights South Asia CEO Preeti Reddy, talk about the changing dynamics of market research firms and the global importance that India commands when it comes to the research business

In an interview with BW Businessworld’s Ruhail Amin, Kantar’s chief operating officer Richard Ingleton and Kantar Insights South Asia CEO Preeti Reddy, talk about the changing dynamics of market research firms and the global importance that India commands when it comes to the research business

How popular is the use of big data in the Indian context and which industries are driving the trend?
Richard Ingleton: What you see happening almost everywhere, is clients struggling with the volume of data. The concept of big data is nice, but applying that data to specific business problems is still something we have not yet codified. In marketing, I think people are still struggling to bring multiple data sources to predict brand strategy, they are still struggling to find out which part of the consumer journey they can best influence. In many cases, they are struggling to use it to calculate price points. Some businesses, which are big data businesses, are generally good at it from a functional marketing perspective. However, it’s still hard to see codified, consistent solutions anywhere in the world.

Preeti Reddy: Big data is today’s absolute buzzword. Most of our clients are using it in one way or the other. What we are seeing is that the usage of big data for strategy and for bringing better options for consumers is higher among service businesses such as telecom, finance and retail. Our FMCG clients have been a little slow in coming to it. Moreover, India is a very large backend market and provides backend services like advanced analytics on big data to markets like the US and the UK. So, the use of big data is common among the non FMCG clients, the FMCG clients are just getting there.

Does the sheer diversity of Indian consumers pose a challenge to the market research business?
Richard Ingleton: We are increasingly trying to move towards helping the marketers to make decisions in the moment. The ability to understand a consumer’s context and to send a relevant message in the particular moment is the trick that many marketers are pursuing. When you look at India, given its diversity, having one marketing method alone isn’t going to work, and it often is challenging to understand consumers with such limited approach.

As we know, market research firms are chiefly concerned about what people buy and why they buy. Historically, the only way to research has been through surveys, and there are many different ways to do that. Now, I can find out not just why people buy and what they buy, particularly the why factor, simply because there are lot of things I can do now, like mapping consumption patterns, using smart technology and many other things. The way the market research is conducted is evolving fast and we have dedicated teams to figure out how we can keep moving forward. What I have observed is that in less mature markets or the non western markets, people don’t want to spend too much time on strategising. They want to know what to sell, where to sell, at what price and not spend time on strategy like the businesses in western markets do; but with time that may change soon. Especially, when the world is changing so fast and it is almost too complicated to understand sometimes. Earlier, the path to purchase was relatively simpler, but now the situation is entirely different. So for marketers, the consumer behaviour complexity has become bigger than ever before, and we have to move faster to understand the insights that we offer to clients.

Preeti Reddy: What Richard said applies to India, especially when it comes to the need for speed and the need for greater experimentation. This has shrunk the strategy time for clients. A client today prefers 80 per cent accuracy if it is faster to 100 per cent accuracy that is slow. So, those are the kind of trade-offs that we are making in the interest of speed for clients.

Has digital complicated the data gathering game?
Richard Ingleton: It has become more complicated for sure. When you add a new variable to any equation, it gets more complicated. We have added e-commerce and social media to the things that we need to understand the consumer, so it has got more complicated. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t solve it. Many information industries are evolving at the moment in the way that they have become more complex and the fact is that we have got to deal with it.

What are Kantar’s plans for India?
Richard Ingleton: India is one of our nine focus countries and there are many reasons why it is so. One is the quality of people that we can develop in India. The second is the economic opportunity. But most importantly, it is the social opportunity, improving the life of the people through the public work we undertake, like the sanitation schemes or the schemes related to infant mortality. We are also witnessing the emergence of local giants in developing markets, which is a good development, and India is witnessing it along with markets such as China, Indonesia and Mexico.




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