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    Eliminating the Digital Market Research Divide: Gaining Access to the Middle East and Northern Africa

    Nader Kobeissi, General Manager, MENA

    The Middle East and Northern Africa (MENA) regions are rich in tradition, heritage and history and home to some of the wealthiest countries on the planet. Yet it has remained one of the most difficult parts of the developed world in which to conduct market research.

    Data collection has largely focused on the traditional methods of telephone and face-to-face interviewing. While these methods have worked sufficiently, there have been concerns such as interviewer bias and the extraordinary expense of conducting market research in the regions. A growing concern is the length of time it takes using traditional research methods in today’s fast-paced digital world.

    Fundamental to the disruption of the current market research dynamic is the unassuming but powerful Smartphone. The regions boast a more than doubling of Smartphone subscriptions since 2013 and two countries,  the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Saudi Arabia, are number one and two in Smartphone penetration in the combined regions with Egypt hot on their heels.[1] Projections show Smartphone growth continuing, leading to an obvious but previously untapped opportunity – mobile market research.

    To understand the positive impact mobile research will have in the MENA regions, one has only to look to Saudi Arabia.

    Of all the countries in the MENA region, Saudi Arabia is inarguably the most conservative due to strict and specific cultural norms, such as the public separation of the sexes. It is also a large, wealthy country and a population with enormous purchasing power. But getting reliable market research data is tricky because of the added complexities in sampling and study execution as dictated by those societal rules. These have a chilling effect on the cost of traditional market research, which is as much as 7 to 8 times more than the same research completed using the mobile internet. This differential has limited what marketers could feasibly do in Saudi Arabia simply because of the cost-prohibitive nature of telephone and face-to-face studies. But no more.

    Toluna, now with an office in Dubai, is providing unprecedented access to those hard-to-reach respondents in the Middle East and Northern Africa regions. Using their robustly prescreened respondents and proven DIY research tools, mobile and online studies can now be conducted as easily in the MENA as in other parts of the world. Research that used to take weeks will now take hours or days and cost a fraction of current methods.

    Six countries are currently available for research:

    • Saudi Arabia
    • United Arab Emirates
    • Egypt
    • Morocco
    • Pakistan
    • Qatar

    Other countries will be rolled out as they become available.

    Once again, Toluna is leading the digital revolution and leveling the market research playing field in the Middle East and Northern Africa by increasing sampling accuracy, reducing costs, shortening research timelines and improving data quality.

    [1] eMarketer, “United Arab Emirates leads Middle East and Africa in Mobile Phone Penetration,” Feb. 5, 2015, http://www.emarketer.com/Article/United-Arab-Emirates-Leads-Middle-East-Africa-Mobile-Phone-Penetration/1011971

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