"The competition is getting hot!"

Interview mit Dr. Alexander Shashkin, CEO von OMI

Russland bietet ein sehr dynamisches Marktumfeld, auch für die Marktforschung. Insbesondere im Bereich der Online-Forschung tut sich einiges: Obwohl die Internet-Penetrationsrate noch vergleichsweise niedrig ist starten kontinuierlich neue Anbieter. Dr. Alexander Shashkin, Gründer und CEO von Online Market Intelligence (OMI) in Moskau spricht im planung & analyse Interview über diese Dynamiken und seine Einschätzung der weiteren Marktentwicklung. Das vollständige englischsprachige Interview ist in p&a market research 1/2011 erschienen.

You were one of the first online sampling companies in Russia. How did the market accept the idea of online research in Russia when you first started?
The times were quite hard because in 2007, nobody in Russia actually knew about online research or was thinking seriously about it. It took us nine months before we were able to persuade our first client!

Do you think the reach of online market research in Russia will extend and gain a larger share of the research market?
Yes, I think it will move more in this direction. But looking at the United States, online research makes up about 50 percent market share and has minor growth after this level. There will always be a need for other kinds of research. I believe that landline plus mobile telephone surveys could be a way in the future. And for some questions face to face interviews will continue to be needed. But in Russia the share of online research is still only 5 percent according to Esomar estimations, so there is still a lot of room to grow.

And the growth is quite rapid – the competition is getting hot! Global companies are becoming more engaged in the Russian market, they have sales representatives and have opened offices in Russia. And almost every month there is a new domestic panel provider starting a business. So it is a very dynamic market. Every web service provider comes up one day with the idea that they could offer online research as a service and they offer very cheap prices for their samples. This is a disaster because clients just want to pay less and many of them are not educated in how online research should be conducted. And of course these providers and clients do not even know about Esomar codices or ARF initiatives, nor do they follow any rules for conducting research. So there is a lot of education to be done!

Talking about quality: Sample quality is one of the most discussed issues in online research. What do you do in terms of quality management in your panels?
It is very important to make online studies as interesting as possible for panelists. Many studies show, that if this is not the case, the motivation for participation changes: At the beginning, you typically have around 15 percent of respondents who are just in it to earn some money. But if you are not careful, it ends up being 85 to 90 percent of respondents primarily motivated to participate because of the opportunity to earn some extra cash. And this is very bad for panels because you need people who want to share their opinions and help producers. This happens, when the communication with panel members is not culturally relevant.

This is why we have a team solely working on communication with panel members, answering their questions. What we also do is to share newspaper reports of results from a study conducted by us with panel members so they know their opinion is valued. Furthermore, we share feedback from brands thanking respondents for opinions that have helped them to move forward. This is appreciated by panelists. We also try to keep them engaged with price draws, photo or video contests and things like that, because basically: We need them because they are the atoms of our business! So we have to treat them very well. Because if we do not respect them and they stop answering our questions; we are out of business. And that means all of us: The whole market research industry, including researchers on the client side.

What do you believe are the biggest challenges online market research will have to face in the upcoming years – both in Central and Eastern Europe and worldwide?
One of the important challenges is that the technology becomes so advanced that research data can be combined with behavior data and also with viewing data from the internet. Thus, the online environment makes possible what failed in the offline world before. But it has to be properly put into operation to more precisely serve research needs. There are already offerings linked with that but more are forthcoming.

Interview: Dr. Gwen Kaufmann, planung & analyse
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