Laurent Notin is general manager at the Phnom Penh base of regional market research firm Indochina Research Ltd. The company collates and analyses information from consumers to help a diverse range of businesses better understand their target audience and tailor their products accordingly.
How do you explain market research to businesses, and why is it important?
Market research collects information on a specific topic of interest to a client [an organisation or business] and analyses that information for the client in order for them to make an informed decision and thus reduce the risk of making a mistake.
It is not only about collecting data, it’s also about interpreting data and saying, OK, what does this mean and what are the actionable recommendations we can give to the client?
I usually explain that it’s like when you want to look for a new apartment.
You have to make a decision on which apartment is best for you. That doesn’t mean which one is the most superb, but which one best suits you. But to do that you need to collect a lot of information, about the offer, the cost, the location etc.
How do you collect all this information?
We’re very much based on consumer research. We have different methods, but to make it simple, we have two different key research types – quantitative surveys and qualitative surveys.
Quantitative surveys ask what do people like, when do they like it and where do they like it.
We collect the information through random face-to-face interviews where we send interviewers into the field where they knock on doors, and ask questions based on a structured questionnaire after selecting a respondent following predetermined selection criteria.
The qualitative surveys answer questions such as why people do the thing they do, and how do they do it. And there what we use is a focus group discussion. We select eight or so people to come together with a moderator who follows a guided discussion.
What sectors are active here in accessing market research?
What is very interesting for us is when we see competition building in one sector of activity. Because the more competitors there are, the more you need to be informed and collect information about your consumers because you want to be different from the competition.
Number one here is telecommunications.
Number two is FMCG [fast-moving consumer goods] especially the beer market, which is developing quite fast. But FMCG is a vast category.
Number three would be banking and finance – again there are a lot of competitors.
But this year particularly we’ve seen other clients coming in other sectors of activity, such as vehicles.
What’s behind that?
I think Cambodia is growing, so it’s more and more on the radar of worldwide companies.
I think the other reason is companies now have budgets to invest in market research and marketing – they’ve got money again.
Can a business of any size use market research?
Sure, market research is not only for big companies. It’s for absolutely everybody, but the thing is, it always comes down to budget.
Market research should be considered as an investment, because at the end of the day because you’re going to be able to make the right decision and earn money or save money. That’s the return on the investment.
Has the growth in your company been tough, given the development stage of business here?
It is true that market research in this part of the world is not very well known.
It’s a challenge for us, but we are very much aware of this challenge, so we deal with that and build with that constraint.
In the past five years we’ve been growing very steadily, and I’m very happy actually, except in 2009.
Like everyone, we were affected [by the global financial crisis].
I think one of the key factors in success is to build trust and that takes time.
Getting new clients on board, promoting oneself, explaining why market research is important, that takes time.
Tell us about your syndicated media index survey?
We have a survey that looks at the media-consumption habits – such as television, radio, newspaper, internet – of Cambodian people.
Syndicated means all the subscribers share the same results and they share the cost.
It’s very important because it’s about media.
In this country today companies, even international organisations, do not use the media as a real tool for maximising their efficiency of their communication to their target.
The media is quite a complex market.
For example, some television channels are bigger than others, but whether it will be worth advertising on the bigger channel depends on what you are selling and what is your target.
The idea of the survey is to help advertisers better plan, or for media companies to better sell their advertisements.