With a purely digital research solution in the MENA region, YouGov's CEO – Stephan Shakespeare unveils the reasons why online research is leading the transformation of market research in the Arab world.
Today 173 million people are connected online in the Arab world, and by 2021, just 3 years from now, it is projected that 47 million new internet users, 45 million new mobile broadband users and 160 million new social media users will come online in the region*. It is no longer a case of if but when the Middle East and North Africa will be a fully digital-lead economy.
Despite generational divides, a critical mass of people in the Arab region are embracing the internet in every aspect of life. The adoption of big-data-driven approaches by businesses large and small shows they are very aware of the power of data to drive the region’s future growth, happiness and superiority.
Driven by the technological vision of its Government and Smart Dubai initiative, last year the UAE was ranked the most digitally advanced country in the Arab world**. Businesses are tapping into the rapidly evolving local taste for technology across the region; digital start-ups are on the rise, inspired in part by global heavyweights such as Amazon, Google, Facebook and LinkedIn who are investing heavily in the Arab world.
Over the past 17 years since I formed YouGov in 2000, which was eight years after the first ever website went online, I have watched the digital revolution expand to take in almost every aspect of human life. The research community was initially sceptical of online research being able to deliver representative data but YouGov in the UK proved that wrong, consistently outperforming traditional polling methods to predict election outcomes more accurately. We applied our statistical modelling approach to market research, which is now 95% of YouGov’s work, and brought new data products to the market like BrandIndex, which utilises the efficiency of online data collection. It is fitting that this region, the ancient home of mathematics, should now be a big part of developing new statistical methods, and some of our work in the region is amongst our most ambitious.
The key today is going beyond running the same traditional surveys one used to run with a clipboard and instead do the same online - market research today needs to embrace the data-rich possibilities of new online methodologies to collect a much wider range of information from people one can talk to again and again. Just collecting isn’t enough, we need to connect data. That way we can see the whole person, in terms of their consumer behaviours, social attitudes, media usage and whatever else one needs.
Once you’ve engaged an audience, and got them to take part in continuous research as part of a panel, new possibilities open up. New data builds on existing data to reveal more richness for analysis. Today, when clients approach us, the question is not who can we reach to collect this information, but what information do we already have? What do we need to add so that we can answer clients’ needs with all the data we have already collected? It’s more efficient and yields deeper insights. With each and every survey that is completed, a more granular profile of people’s personalities and behaviour can be captured, and cutting edge analytical tools can be applied to that much larger, structured data set than was ever possible with conventional single surveys. It provides an instantly available connected data resource for audience profiling and segmentation which ultimately enables businesses to find and engage the best audience to help them reach their goal.
That’s an invaluable starting point from which to address research needs without even sending out a single survey. It offers, in many cases, insights from questions or ideas that companies never thought to ask their customers in the first place. At YouGov, we’re confident that 80% of the answers our customers look for are already available via our connected data set, while the other 20% can be discovered using our custom data solutions.
Starting your research from a richer data standpoint also allows you to significantly reduce survey completion time versus a traditional survey approach. Delivering a much more streamlined, higher quality survey to the end consumer also ultimately leads to a better response rate.
The connected data that digital research affords also opens up much more sophisticated means to inform your marketing or advertising strategy from end to end. It allows researchers to provide solutions that better help businesses understand and target key consumer segments, track the effectiveness of advertising, marketing and public relations strategies and campaigns, and measure perception on a continuous basis to produce even stronger campaigns next time.
It also facilitates collaboration among brands, media owners and agencies to help bring transparency and understanding to a challenging marketing and media landscape, not to mention help brands grow. The digital research age is here to stay, but if you want to get on the cutting edge of market research, don’t just go online, go beyond. Tap into a digital data ecosystem where the whole becomes far greater than the sum of its parts.
This article originally appeared in Campaign Middle East Magazine.
* The Arab World Online 2017: Digital Transformations and Societal Trends in the Age of the 4th Industrial Revolution - Mohammed Bin Rashid School of Government
**World Economic Forum (WEF) 2017 Digital Evolution Index