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28/05/2017 Dipen Mehta 0 comments

Quantitative Market Research in the Middle East – the perils and practices

Doing market research surveys and in general quantitative research in the Middle East is a bit different from doing it in the west.  What we take for granted elsewhere as common market research practices, can be surprisingly illegal and can be very disastrous to any market research agency – esp. in Saudi Arabia. Practices  like online market research and looking  big data  have limitations and traditional random sampling for CAPI surveys is often not possible

Consumer research needs to find workarounds in markets like Qatar, KSA, UAE Egypt and the rest of the GCC

Unboxed Consulting Middle East and Africa has been around for eight years and does both Qualitative and Quantitative Research – using techniques like CAPI and CATI as well as F2F surveys using pen and paper , Focus groups and Ethnography.

There are many differences conducting Quantitative Research and surveys in Middle East and North Africa – be it for product testing (say CLTs), concept evaluation, advertising research Brand Equity or U&A studies

Let us look at why things are different here :

  1. Random sampling in surveys can be dangerous

If you enter the Arab world and understand the restrictions, a surveyor cannot go knocking on doors randomly following the left hand rule (esp. in markets like KSA and Iran). In fact the whole area of quantitative market research in Iran is a grey area with no proper rules on what is allowed and what is not. For e.g. we have to submit market research surveys to the government for approval before commencing. Knocking on the door in Saudi Arabia by a strange male when the male of the house is not there can lead to repercussions.  Arabs do not encourage this

  1. How do we research HNWIs

Luxury and hospitality brands see the Middle East as a growth region. But how do you reach a person who has a Rolls Royce, or lives in a 6 bedroom villa.  How to do a CATI survey with someone whose networth is 10 million USD and incentives do not motivate them, How to get people who are not well educated and wont complete an online survey as they never grew up with internet and went from camels to Toyota Landcruisers in  10 years due to the oil boom?

Unboxed Consulting has been regularly researching HNWI and UHNWI segments in the Middle East using innovative contact methods


  1. Researching Women – how do we reach them when female interviewers are not mobile

Focus groups are one way to research women but how do you a CLT or do random sampling with women?  Since women cannot drive and males cannot interview females using CAPI, workarounds have to be found to interview women. Seed sampling is the order of the day – not random. A local supervisor’s home becomes the venue for a CLT.

  1. Lack of reliable published data

Since there is no income tax or often no corporate tax, there is limited data on SMEs and sizes of corporates, making B2B surveys difficult to do scientific sampling. This cuts across Middle East and Africa.  Land and property ownership data is scattered and we have to use innovative methods like attendance of boat show, property shows etc to source HNWIs.

Apart from UAE where the government has moved towards a smart online government with a lot of regular data available online, most markets are not upto speed – and given that a lot of the workforce is expatriate, CATI interviews often have low productivity due to outdated lists as B2B managers have moved on

Unboxed Consulting is an Independent research agency based in UAE and KSA, Levant and Africa  and is an ESOMAR affiliated consulting house that Quantitative, B2B, SME and corporate research – in the sectors of healthcare, hospitality, telecom and fincne High networth individuals (HNWIs) are their forte. They have FGD venues that are  Focusvision equipped (in UAE and Saudi Arabia). Its founder Dipen Mehta has been working in the Middle East and North Africa region with various FMCG , Telecom, hospitality and finance brands for  two decades. Their footprint spreads over Middle East, GCC, Levant, Africa and India.





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