Next week I’m making my first ever trip to Latin America and I am immensely excited! I’ll be speaking at the 1st annual conference for AIM (the Chilean Association of Market Researchers) on the future of market research and how the current trends driving change in our industry may play out both globally and in Latin America particularly. It is an understatement to say that I am honored to be a part of the program, but what has me truly excited is the opportunity to meet and chat with professionals who may very well be some of the leading drivers of research transformation and innovation.
I have been fairly vocal in my opinion that I believe the so-called emerging markets (exemplified by the BRIC countries) are likely to lead the charge in embracing new approaches and technologies. That may seem like a counter-intuitive argument when one considers that face-to-face is still a major method in many of these regions, but necessity is the mother of invention and no amount of inertia on the part of researchers will stop the explosive and transformational impact of mobile and social media in those countries. In many cases those technologies are more prevalent and have wider consumer penetration than in the “developed world” (which may soon me a comparative misnomer) and it is quickly becoming a trusim that where 5 years ago the best way to reach consumers for research may have been through face-to-face or intercepts, today the best way to engage with consumers is through social media and mobile devices. Check out this nifty infographic about the digital lives of consumers in Latin America:
A quick search on Goggle reveals many more startling facts that leads me inexorably to the conclusion that digital channels have already emerged as the best means of engaging with consumers for brands and researchers, and in these markets mobile devices are the primary means of accessing all other digital platforms. Now, that situation isn’t so dissimilar to the rest of the world, but I think there is another key driver at play that will force innovation a shorter time frame in LATAM than perhaps in America or Europe: client demand. The new consumer base for brands is in these markets and it is here that they will experience the most growth over the next few years. As cited in the Latin Business Chronicle:
Although Latin America’s economy should slow down compared to last year, it will still be one of the world’s shining stars.
Latin America’s economy should expand by 3.6 percent this year, according to estimates from both the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and The World Bank. That compares with an estimated 3.3 percent globally and only 1.2 percent in advanced economies, IMF projections show.
A rising tide floats all boats, and the continued relative strength of the LATAM economic sphere means growing consumer spending driven by a hunger for new products and services. As local, regional and multinational brands look for new ways to engage with, understand, and grow their relationships with consumers they will look for the insight function to help achieve that mission. Now that may not seem to necessitate a radical shift, but considering that we are talking about a population that has embraced digital life with an unprecedented fervor the expectation will be that social media and mobile based approaches will be the key to deliver business insight and impact. As always, market forces will pressure MR to adapt to client needs or clients will simply look elsewhere for a solution, and many new competitors are vying to get a piece of that pie.
The good news is that the MR industry in LATAM should be positioned well from a relationship standpoint and won’t have quite as many barriers to change as exists in more established markets. Since it is still largely a developing market for suppliers as well without significant infrastructure investment in legacy technologies and also not burdened with a preponderance of historical trackers and outdated norms (although those are still key drivers of revenue for many of the multinationals in the region) there should be more flexibility to rapidly adopt new approaches and capitalize on the opportunity inherent in the new social/mobile paradigm. It is an unprecedented opportunity for leadership by the large suppliers in the region as well as an open invitation for enterprising homegrown firms to move aggressively.
At the recent MRMW conference LATAM research innovators eCGlobal Solutions conducted a series of interviews with attendees on their thoughts around growth in Latin America, especially on leveraging mobile technologies. It’s a great set of short interviews, and of particular interest is the interview with Paul McDonald of Google Consumer Surveys, which is poised to become a major player with their iminent launch of GCS into the Android ecosystem (among other reasons) Here is Paul’s interview:
And for those who are interested, here is my condensed take on the opportunity for LATAM and mobile (and no, I wasn’t praying despite appearances in the awkward screen freeze).
Since the AIM conference is projected to have several hundred attendees from across the continent in attendance I think I’ll have a better sense of what’s happening on the ground next week and will be sure to post a follow-up to this afterwards. Leading up to it though, based on conversations with colleagues in the region, observations on the activity in the social sphere by LATAM researchers, what I have heard from others attending recent conferences in Mexico, Venezuela & Brazil as well as looking at the roster for the upcoming ACEI conference in Columbia it certainly seems that there is a tremendous level of interest in Latin American MR firms leading the Research Revolution.
My hope is that I will be able to play some small part in helping to pave the way next week.
¡Viva la Revolución!