AIMRI conference in Malaga, Spain

March 3rd, 2011

This year’s spring conference brought us to Malaga, Spain. The old city of Malaga with its 2, 800 years of history and the inviting AC Palacio hotel of Malaga created a perfect surrounding for this event. A rainy and rather cold Friday morning welcomed us at the beginning of the conference, so we could fully concentrate on 6 inspiring presentations to a ‘Future of international research in a cost conscious age’.

David Smith from DVL Smith in London started this event by asking: ‘Do they deliver value & drive growth in this cost conscious age?’ He inspired market researches to go beyond the delivery of data slide after data slide. Instead he lined out seven actions to guarantee the delivery of meaningful insights to our customers. Among them is a recommended shift from conclusions only driven from statistically representative results – ‘the gold standard’ – towards a broader view of our customers in combining various sources of information, which not always comply with the ‘gold standard’. The researcher is therefore urged to become the ‘wide angle lens’ of our customers. Only focussing on statistically representative results narrows our possibilities in such a way that only few findings are possible which also may need a longer time to develop until results can be presented. Insights will only be meaningful to our customer if they can inspire action. Therefore the insight story has to be told in a fashion that inspires actions and creates value for our customer. In order to do this we also need to recruit researchers with an entrepreneurial gene who can embrace causal and effectual reasoning. This presentation like all others can be downloaded from the AIMRI homepage which is highly recommended to get a full list of his seven actions and what they mean for our research community.

How can we adapt to cost pressures? Ruth Stanat from SIS International Research, New York, shared her thoughts with us in presenting her view of ‘The era of the agile research agency’. Dangers and also chances can come from various directions which influence today’s international market research agencies. Often we are facing falling budgets as our buyers cut costs. Easy implementation of online questionnaires and trends like co-creating lead to do-it-yourself studies by our customers. Furthermore new entrants in the research community and competing companies who differentiate their offers can be observed. Research companies can react in different ways as they can keep their prices or lower their prices and also keep their costs or lower their costs. All combinations have their pros and cons but being more effective e.g. operationally or technically can lead a way out of a current deadlock. After the crisis innovation and leadership are needed as well as talented and more productive staff. All employed changes have to be sustainable to lead the research agency in the new era.

High salaries and high taxes make fieldwork in the Scandinavian countries relatively expensive. Johnny Heinmann from Analysegruppen in Silkeborg, Denmark, showed one possible way to cut cost in ‘Calling Nordic countries from Spain’. A group of roughly 30,000 Scandinavians are constantly living in the vicinity of Malaga which made it feasible for Martin Wenzell to establish the fieldwork agency Infonordic in Malaga. Often young people from Scandinavia take a time out to go to Spain for about a year to enjoy the warm climate. Due to the low costs of living they can work for reasonable prices in the CATI studio of Infonordic which on the other hand can cover all Scandinavian languages with native speakers. No other region in the world outside Scandinavia can offer these services.

Paolo Rossi, from Lorien Consulting, Milan, followed in presenting ‘Alternative sources for recruitment & research’. His company developed strategies to efficiently recruit respondents for online access panels tailored to the needs of specific customers. Their innovative, customized and convenient approach makes it possible to install feedback systems which are also affordable for the often smaller and medium sized companies in Italy. Examples were reported where the new approach created not even more cost efficient results but outperformed also former CATI studies in delivering more meaningful insights.

An example of Web 2.0 as a source for market research in the travel industry was outlined by Nicos Rossides, from the MASMI Research Group in Cyprus and London. Often marketing managers solely rely on traditional sources like mass media for their marketing decisions. The various comments of travellers which can be found on the web are widely ignored. On the other hand the feedback of customers is a source which is used by a lot of travellers to plan their next holiday and which therefore has a significant impact on their decision making. Especially comments about the price-performance ratio of an area or a hotel can be found in the statements. In order to learn from this the MASMI Group has established a system to use these feedbacks for brand building in the travel industry. In his lively presentation an example from the travel industry in Cyprus was given to illustrate the benefits which can be gained from this approach.

Contrary to the prior announcement the last paper was not presented by Antonio Salvador from Intercampus, Lisbon. Caused by illness he was replaced by his colleague Maria Retorta who presented insights in ‘Responding to challenges’ in the fieldwork in Portugal. As in other parts of Europe, Portugal fieldwork agencies face a decreasing market for field work. New data privacy guidelines, a small coverage of landline telephone lines across the country, reluctance to take part in surveys and an ageing society create an environment where interviews are more and more shifted from CATI to online. Some special interest samples are built to even cover hard to reach target groups like doctors.

The conference closing dinner was held in the Parador restaurant uphill in the vicinity of the historical site of the Castello de Gibralfaro which was once a Moorish castle. From there one has a fantastic panoramic view over the city and the harbour. An excellent dinner with stimulating discussions convinced again that as in 2008 Malaga was worth while coming. 

Dr Ralf Zacharias

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