Being exposed to market research every day, “facts” are pieces of data that can lead to insights, but at the very least get you thinking. That is the business we are in. So here are three “facts” that started me thinking about the future—they might be helpful in thinking about market research in the near future:
Work From Home (WFH) has been one of the biggest discussion points coming out of Covid times. The lifestyle, business, marketing and market research media have indulged this subject with a lot of coverage. I have to admit I have worked on major projects over the last three years for different clients that were all about how WFH would work, how companies need to change strategies because of it, what are workers expectations of it. And yes, probably like many of you, I have developed research that explains the different expectations in different markets. I am happy to discuss further results that show that in the USA there is now a “will be with us forever and just working out the details” attitude prevailing whereas in Indonesia the mood is “I keep on hearing about it but when will it start and how will it work”. Or in Thailand it is similar but tainted by “good idea but does my company have the tech to do it and does that include air conditioning for my apartment” (because those of us in SE Asia know going to the office is often cooler than home).
But the bigger issue is that WFH is actually impossible. Various reports over the last few months highlight that globally 93% of jobs are just not possible to hold down from home. Think of farm, factory, labouring, service jobs and many more, including hospital workers, airline staff and many other professions. This acts as a big reminder that market researchers are an extreme minority. Most of us can WFH. And yes, we are developing lots of techniques to understand people, wherever they may be, but we need to sit back and look at the bigger issues—such as where and how do people work, and how does that affect their consumer habits?
Lesson: Normal people will continue to travel to work, do it out of home and we have to be where they are.
Depending on which international agency you believe, the number of people over the age of 60 is (or will be) two billion this year, or well before 2025. A quarter of all people over 60. And in nearly every country, what is the fastest growing demographic? The over 60s. Not just in Japan. Not just in China. Look at India, Indonesia, Vietnam. It may not be a quarter, but already over 10% of all people are over 60, and in each country that is the fastest growing segment. Those that know me realise I have been hammering the idea we must rethink our approaches to the 60s, 70s, 80s+ age groups for a long while.
The good news? Finally, this year ESOMAR recognized this need in part by issuing new guidelines on demographic breakdowns. Until now, nearly all research agencies broke populations down by 5- or 10-year age breaks up until 55, or 64 and then it was all… 65+. Ridiculous. That meant researchers were saying people at 65 were the same as their parents at 86. But now, slowly, researchers and marketers are starting to realise that the booming over 60 populations need more detailed research—that they are in fact often the biggest spenders, that they are open to new ideas, and as I say, are New Life Builders.
Lesson: So, for 2023 and beyond, get on the bandwagon and start focusing on where growth comes from — and will come from — and understand the over 60s more.
If you are under 35 in SE Asia (or really anywhere it seems but the hardest facts I have seen are for SE Asia) then the media you spend the most time on each day is mobile gaming—often more than all other media including traditional social media put together. Three hours or more on average every day according to some recent research. Now of course it is not just the under 35s. Sit on a train in Tokyo, the subway in Bangkok, watch people in traffic in Jakarta or in a Starbucks anywhere and the most likely thing they are doing is mobile gaming. At 25, 35, 65… yes, all those Candy Crush fans in their 60s.
And remember too that increasingly “in game” time means in game chat rooms and social platforms. No more TikTok or FB. The boom in social is “in game” social. And yes, I see and hear of few market researchers using those platforms for research. There are more companies researching what people do in games, what they buy and trade in games, but not many yet are using the chat rooms and embedded social platforms and the games themselves as research mediums. Which seems like the only way to really get to all those gamers. The normal people. Because normal people are heavy gamers now.
Meanwhile, too many people in the market research world confuse “gamification” with being cute, or simplified. Nothing wrong with that. But what they have failed to grasp is what makes games work: winning!!
Whether it’s formal or informal, competing with yourself for a better score, or beating a friend or conquering someone you only know as an avatar, games have always been about coming out on top. Talk to anyone in the mobile gaming world—creator, manager, player and they all get that. And yet, so far we don’t see many market researchers creating research models built on challenge, test your skills, have fun and win. And by winning I don’t mean the minimal payments offered for completion. I mean recognition—being asked to go to the next level, competing with others, accruing results that give you a sense of status: the things that make mobile gaming so addictive.
Lesson: Let’s think more about being a part of the games people play instead of pretending we can make traditional research fun?
So, three things to think about for Asia in 2023 and beyond: the important demographics may not be where you are focused now, where people really live and work and play may not be where you are focused now; the things they find interesting, the games they play, may be where you need to be doing your research.