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Research News South Africa

Pondering Panda CEO slams research industry

In his opening speech at today's session of the South African Market Research Association's (SAMRA) conference, Butch Rice, co-founder and CEO of market research company Pondering Panda, criticised the local research industry. The conference is being held at the Thaba Ya Batswana, Klipriviersberg Nature Reserve in Johannesburg from 16-17 May 2013.
Pondering Panda CEO slams research industry

In his presentation, Rice described traditional research companies as being slow, expensive, and delivering results that were often invalid, due to being out of touch with research in their very own field.

Rice pointed to recent advances in the scientific understanding of human behaviour and decision-making - advances which, he said, have largely been ignored by the research industry, to the detriment of clients' information needs.

South Africa, a "Jurassic Park"

The research industry in South Africa is a "Jurassic Park", according to Rice. "The traditional research industry still clings stubbornly to invalid analytical techniques, inefficient research designs, and cumbersome and expensive reporting, which takes an inordinately long time to deliver, " he said.

Discussing what the research industry could do to improve, Rice outlined the potential of data collection via digital devices, such as cell phones, and the benefits this offered to clients - such as far larger sample sizes than previously possible, and the ability to interact with respondents "in the moment". He urged the industry to stop using small samples and relying on focus groups, and instead start using shorter questionnaires, and asking large samples of respondents about what they did that day, not months ago.

Future is digital

Said Rice, "The future of market research is digital, and the digital future is mobile. It is an indictment of market research in South Africa that companies are still investing in door-to-door interviews and focus groups. Using cell phones to conduct surveys and interact with respondents, we can determine how they feel as they experience clients' products and services, before their memory decays. And the benefit for clients is clear - much larger sample sizes, a turnaround time of days instead of months, and the ability to watch the results of the survey as it happens. And all this at a significant saving. "

Butch Rice is co-founder of Research Surveys, now TNS South Africa, and co-founder of the Conversion Model. He has authored numerous research papers, and has won four best paper awards at marketing research conferences in South Africa, and internationally. Rice is also the co-author of Commitment-led Marketing, a marketing text published internationally. He has been zookeeper at Pondering Panda since November 2011.

Pondering Panda is a market research company that conducts interviews with respondents on their cell phones. It has completed almost 3.5 million interviews in less than 18 months - setting a new African record for market research.

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