Who Will Stimulate Our Thinking And Push Things Forward?

As part of a pre-conference interview series for the second InsightValley Asia conference in Bangkok, we had the chance to interview Anouk Willems who is the Senior Research Innovator for InSites Consulting.

 “It is really exciting what is happening in Asia at this moment. The way they are doing business and the rising middle class are fascinating developments and offer a lot of opportunities for our clients and their global brands”, said Anouk Willems, Research Innovation Manager at InSites Consulting.

With her presentation ‘Collaborating with Consumers in Asia – Opportunities and Challenges of MROCs in the Asian Market’, at the upcoming InsightValley conference 2013 in Bangkok, Anouk will highlight some real-life cases from her work at InSites Consulting and show different approaches running research communities in Asian countries, like South Korea, Malaysia or China.

Based on her work with global clients, such as Unilever, Heinz and Ikea, I was curious to hear more about the differences between Asian participants and those from other regions, such as Europe or America, and the impact of cultural background …

“There are many differences between the cultures and how to successfully manage a community. To identify these cultural differences and adapt the method to the local Asian cultures, we collaborate with our Global Moderator Network on an ongoing basis. These moderators are experienced qualitative researchers, who are trained and certified in running InSites Consumer Consulting Boards. Based on previous studies with these local experts, we found that we need to adapt local communities on a couple of aspects, such as the reason to participate, the conversation guide, the technology used, the role of the moderator and the type of play-mechanisms.

One of the dimensions is the framework of the conversations, which we refer to as the conversation guide. A different culture also means different attitudes and values, leading to a different way of reacting to questions, tasks, and challenges. Comparing the Asian countries with European and American countries, we have learned that the community members are more comfortable talking about the group instead of sharing a lot of details about themselves and their lives. Also, we tend to use more feedback exercises instead of co-creative tasks, because the Asian participants seem to perform better in those tasks. They are less used to taking initiative compared to European and American participants. Another factor that is included in the conversation guide is ‘trust’. In the Asian countries, we need to play harder on this. For example, personal contact with the moderator is one important way to earn their trust and make them feel comfortable in participating.

While we observe differences when we compare the continents, we also detect a lot of differences within the Asian markets. For example, when we look at Indonesia, the internet population is mostly mobile (est. 55%). In the scenario of mobile-only communities, we need to work more task-based and ask more questions that can be answered in a short and convenient way. Wisely rethinking the mix of research tools and adapting them to the small screen is a final must-do. Next to technology, the native moderator knows the local market and helps us to adapt the guide and motivate participants customized to the local culture”.

Now into its 2nd year, the InsightValley Asia conference will take place in Southeast Asia. I was interested to hear from Anouk, what are her three reasons, why the global Market Research industry should look at Southeast Asia …

“There are a lot of opportunities for the Market Research Industry in this region. Firstly, according to Bloomberg, 3 of the top 10 emerging economies lie in Southeast Asia. Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand are leading the pack (Bloomberg 2013).  It is the rising middle class in these regions that makes that a huge business potential arises. For example, the consumer spending in Indonesia is already closer to the levels in developed economies than to the corresponding figures for neighbouring, largely export-driven nations, such as Malaysia and Thailand. The percentage of the country’s population living in urban areas will grow from roughly 53 percent of Indonesia’s residents today to 71 percent in 2030. Indonesia, together with other Southeast Asian countries is the growth engine of APAC and in extension of the world (McKinsey Quarterly 2013).

Secondly, many global brands, mostly Western, Korean and Japanese brands are looking into the Southeast Asian markets. In order to be successful in these markets, it is important to fully understand the many local differences. There is a strong need to foster this cultural diversity within companies and move away from copy-pasting best practices from outside the region. Step by step, we will learn more about these rich cultures.

Thirdly, next to these opportunities, this region also offers some great learning experiences for us and our Western clients. Think about the fast mobile adoption rate. These countries have taken a different route than their ‘developed’ counterparts in internet technology, what we refer to as ‘leapfrogging’. The PC phase was skipped and they jumped immediately onto the mobile web. That is only one of the reasons why one needs to take a look at these countries when it comes to expertise in successfully advertising on social networks and knowledge in the space of mobile marketing.

Another inspiring example is how they are innovating, often referred to as ‘innovation through commercialisation’. Asian companies do not spend months or even years on testing and fine-tuning new products in labs based on big piles of research. A good enough product is immediately thrown onto the market and, based on the feedback from the first customers, the product is fine-tuned in a process of iterative loops. These examples show that there are both business opportunities and great learning ¬¬opportunities in this region for the Market Research industry”.

And, Anouk’s expert tip on collaboration? ’Collaborate with people that are interested & interesting’

“… because a successful collaboration involves people that are passionate about the topic or the brand. Based on our research-on-research, we know that the high performers in a community – the ones who participate frequently and share the most interesting insights and ideas – are the ones who show brand and/or topic identification. They are a fan of the brand behind the community and/or they are more interested in the discussed topic(s) than the average person. Thus, we work with people who are not only interested in what we are going to do, but who are also interesting to listen to. They are the ones who will stimulate our thinking and push things forward”.


First published at InsightValley Blog