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Connecting with Consumers in Emerging Markets


Product Testing in BRICS: Avoid Delays Meet Your Local Ipsos InnoQuest Guides Travel Tips for Testing Products in Emerging Markets Destination: Brazil Destination: Russia Destination: India Destination: China Destination: S outh Africa Planning Your Next Excursion About Ipsos InnoQuest Click on any of the topics above to travel directly to your desired destination.


Given the critical role of emerging markets in growth strategies and the need for speed to market there is no room for missteps when it comes to local product testing.
However, marketers who embark on product testing in emerging markets often nd themselves in unchartered territory with unforeseen obstacles. To help ensure smooth execution and high-quality results when conducting product tests in emerging markets, we asked our Ipsos InnoQuest experts in Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS) for their advice on navigating product testing in their respective countries. Lets begin by meeting our local guides!


Carla Mahfuz
Director, Brazil

Amit Adarkar
Managing Director, India

Kevin Zhou
Managing Director, China

Anton Negrebetsky
Head of Ipsos InnoQuest, Russia

Vidya Sen
Executive Director, India

Nick Coates
Director of Ipsos Marketing, South Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa


Interviews with our experts in the BRICS countries revealed common challenges that marketers face when conducting product testing in emerging markets.
These challenges relate to the heterogeneity that exists in emerging countries, cultural nuances which are hard to recognize without having lived in the country and physical obstacles that might not become apparent until eldwork begins. In the pages that follow, our experts reveal seven challenges that must be overcome when conducting product testing in emerging markets along with their advice on how to make your product test a success. From executional excellence to reliability of results, our experts will help you navigate a successful product testing journey.

Consumers in the same country may have extremely different lifestyles. How they live and what they have access to will impact how and if they will use the test product.
Lets rst take a look at China. In Tier 1 cities (which represent the most developed areas and include Shanghai, Beijing and Guangzhou) all households have running water and most respondents use a showerhead. In contrast, households in Tier 3 cities (which are less developed) may not have a well-equipped bathroom and may use a bucket instead of a showerhead. If you are testing a new shampoo in China, the ratings for the attribute easy to rinse will be very different in a Tier 1 city vs. a Tier 3 city. Similar product usage challenges can arise in South Africa as well. According to Nick Coates, our local guide in South Africa, Although considered a newly industrialized country, there are still large segments of the population that do not have regular access to basic amenities such as electricity or running water. In Brazil and India, consumers in the emerging middle class have lifestyles that afford them premium and luxury products like expensive brands of alcohol. Consumers in the middle class who have experience with these categories will evaluate them differently from consumers trying them for the rst time.

Travel Tip:
When designing a product test, it is important to understand how the consumers lifestyle will impact product usage and, consequently, evaluation. In a given country, are all the people you intend to sample able to use the product in the way you intended? How do people normally interact with the type of product you are testing, if they interact with it at all? How does this vary throughout the country? These are the questions you must answer upfront, before deciding who and where to interview. When in doubt, include survey questions not only about product application and consumption but also about how the product will be served, shared, stored and disposed of.


Taste preferences can vary signicantly within an emerging market which can lead to different levels of product acceptance from one region of a country to another.
Emerging countries are often large in size and population, giving way to differences in food sources, customs, and ultimately taste preferences. In China there are eight major schools of cuisine from different regions which translate into different taste preferences (e.g., in Shanghai respondents will prefer sweeter food while in Chengdu respondents will be very accepting of spicy food). In Russia, differences in taste preferences often stem from geographic specicities: sh, fruits, and vegetables are popular in the South while meat dominates the diet in the Urals and Siberia to provide warmth. And, In Brazil, avor preferences will be inuenced by the regional fruits with which respondents are familiar. In India, the heterogeneity of taste preferences is remarkable as well. Vidya Sen, one of our local guides in India, explains, When conducting a product test in India, test centers must be chosen judiciously. For example, in certain parts of the country, oats or porridge is consumed in the sweet form. Choosing centers from these regions for testing savory oats would result in poor ratings for the test product.

Travel Tip:
Our experts advise: The design of the product test will ultimately be dictated by the product launch objectives in the country. Marketers rst need to decide if they are going to develop a single product formulation for the country or customize the formulation by region. If a single product is intended, different action standards per region should be set and the product test should be concentrated in regions where the product has a realistic chance to succeed.

Climate adds complexity and will have a signicant impact on product transport, storage and evaluation.
Many emerging markets are vast in size and have multiple climate zones most notably Russia, which has every climate zone except tropical. According to Anton Negrebetsky, our local guide in Russia, Climate can impact consumer perceptions of a product and also actual product performance. In Russia, a cosmetic manufacturer had to make signicant changes to its mascara formula to adapt it to Siberias frigid temperatures without these changes the mascara would have frozen on the consumers eye lashes. In China, a moisturizer that is perceived by consumers to be light in Beijing (which has a continental climate) could be perceived as too heavy in Guangzhou (which has a tropical climate). Similarly in Brazil, the texture of a moisturizer will be evaluated differently in hot, humid regions close to the Equator versus drier regions further away. Seasonality will affect the timing of a product test as well. In India, some areas of the country like Chennai are hot all year round while other areas like Delhi have extreme variations in temperature from summer to winter so while a carbonated soft drink could be tested in February in Chennai, it would not be the right month to test a cold beverage in Delhi.

Travel Tip:
Extreme weather conditions can interfere with test products getting to their destinations so build in extra time for delivery. For perishable and non-shelf stable products, safeguard against spoiling with appropriate packing as climate-controlled facilities may not be available in emerging markets and power outages can be common. Lastly, give forethought on how the climate will impact product formulation, usage and the consumer experience.

Consumers may be more accustomed to homemade solutions than processed and branded products. Consequently, respondents may evaluate the same product differently based on what they currently use.
Consumers in some developing countries are more likely to use homemade solutions than processed and branded products. For example, in India the penetration for most branded products is low (with the exception of a few mass categories like shampoo and bar soap). Similarly, consumers may be in the habit of customizing the products they do buy, using and consuming them in their own way. Furthermore, according to Amit Adarkar, one of our local guides in India, Given the nascent nature of many product categories in emerging markets, respondents may not know exactly how to use the product. Case in point: If the test product is a fabric conditioner the respondent may need to be informed of the right stage of the wash cycle to use it in or the test results will not be reliable. Safety concern is another issue that arises with processed foods. According to Kevin Zhou, our local guide in China, This is especially true in China, where concerns over food safety can affect willingness to participate in the product test. The bottom line is that product tests need to take into account that respondents may have little experience with processed products and their level of experience will impact product evaluations.

Travel Tip:
Because consumers product experience benchmarks are diverse, matching panels becomes critical for monadic tests. For food products, including ethnicity (e.g., the part of India that the consumer comes from) as a panel matching variable is important. Marketers should also be aware that consumers might be wary of processed foods. Professional credentials are important in overcoming this barrier.


Product testing in emerging markets is mainly conducted face-to-face but not without challenges. Mobile not online is a new alternative.
Face-to-face interviews for product evaluation is the usual data collection methodology in emerging markets. For most countries, phone and online will not work given the low levels of household penetration and limited bandwidths. Still, face-to-face interviewing can be tricky. In the large cities of Brazil, India and China many citizens live in gated communities containing thousands of condominiums. It is difcult to gain access to respondents residing in these communities. Conversely, outside of these gated communities, personal security becomes a concern for the face-to-face interviewer. According to Caral Mahfuz, our local guide in Brazil, Another issue that arises with face-to-face interviews conducted in respondents homes is interviewer bias. As interviewers are considered guests in the home, respondents may consider it impolite to give negative responses.

Travel Tip:
Mobile data collection is becoming an attractive alternative to face-to-face, offering faster and easier access to the growing number of consumers in emerging markets who own a mobile phone. Moreover, mobile enables marketers to capture consumer responses at the moment of use, providing insights into the context in which products are being used and the key factors driving satisfaction with the products on different usage occasions. In addition, mobile offers the benet of alleviating interviewer bias, as mobile surveys are answered autonomously.



Distribution channels can range from outdoor markets to Walmart you need to know where your product will be sold and mirror those conditions during product testing.
When conducting a product test in an emerging market, you need to have a good sense of where you will have distribution for your product at time of launch. In India and China, there will be a mix of modern retail outlets and traditional trade. In South Africa, there remains a strong traditional trade where informal traders and street vendors break-up bulk product into single units. However, this trend seems to be shifting as modern trade has mushroomed in South Africa as demonstrated by Walmart recently entering the market through the acquisition of a major local retailer. Even in Brazil and Russia, where the distribution channels are quite similar across regions, there will be deviations in the contribution of each channel, with open markets accounting for larger volume in small cities and modern trade more pronounced in large cities.

Travel Tip:
Product tests should be designed to replicate the reality of the marketplace. The rst step is to determine where the product will be sold: A mix of traditional and modern trade? Modern trade only? The product test should be implemented in the key geographies where you will have distribution. If distribution is to be staggered, the product test needs to cover the markets where the product will be initially available. Also, dont assume that the retail trade will have cold storage facilities. So, for categories like chocolate, rather than carry out product tests in air-conditioned facilities, it is wiser to replicate reality and test the product under normal, in-market conditions.



The use of rating scales in many emerging markets varies signicantly from how they are used in developed markets.
Consumers in Brazil, India, China and South Africa tend to exhibit substantial courtesy bias in their product test ratings, with most products attaining very high top two box ratings. Most emerging markets use the typical 5 and 7 point scale as a 3 or 4 point scale respectively, given that 95% of the data usually sits in the top three or four boxes. This is in sharp contrast to developed markets, where responses tend to be spread across all scale points.

Travel Tip:
For product tests in emerging markets, anticipate your analysis ahead of time and include a control cell to act as a benchmark against which to compare test product results. Be aware that top two box scores will rarely provide differentiation; therefore, focus on top box scores. Finally, avoid comparing absolute scores between countries, especially between emerging and developed markets; instead use ndices as points of comparison.




Your Local Guide:

Carla Mahfuz
Director, Brazil

In Brazil we cannot give money as an incentive since it is forbidden by law. Usually, people are really enthusiastic to answer a survey and they consider the opportunity to receive a test product as their incentive to take the survey. Asking people for their opinions makes them feel really important!


Lifestyles We need to differentiate the South (So Paulo, Rio) and the Northeast (Recife, Fortaleza and Salvador). In the South, we see a huge number of consumers emerging from the lower to the middle class. This has brought massive change to the behavior and purchasing power of consumers, who now have access to everything from premium marketed products to private education and health assistance. In the Northeast, on the other hand, the social economic levels remain mostly unchanged. Tastes There are many differences in avors, products and food habits across Brazil. Again, comparing the South and Northeast, we see product lines offering different avors to accommodate differences in these regions. The ice cream market, for example, incorporates regional fruits, bringing the people of the Northeast the feeling that the ice cream is made especially for me. Climate The regions closer to the Equator line are extremely hot and humid, so the texture of moisturizers, for example, must be lighter as well as the intensity of perfume on personal care products. Homemade vs. Processed Here, Brazil differs from other emerging markets. Branded and processed foods are the norm, and thus do not impact product evaluations. Reaching Consumers CATI interviews can be used to administer the interview, although land line penetration is about 59%. While online surveys look equally attractive (~with 56% penetration), slow connection speeds can result in lower response rates. Mobile phone penetration is quite high: 82% overall with moderate to high levels across socio-economic classes. We recently conducted a product test at a venue where the consumers tried a snack and had to answer via mobile the next time they felt hungry. Response rate was 100%! Trade In the South, there is access to modern trade. In the Northeast, most of the people buy their products in the traditional trade, and it is common to buy only the quantity they need for the day or week so they have a lower out-of-pocket spend. Survey Ratings Brazil is known widely as a country with a high courtesy bias. In most cases, this is true. However, when a product really has a difference or if it is really worse than a benchmark, Brazilian consumers will not give higher ratings for it.



Your Local Guide: Anton Negrebetsky

Head of Ipsos InnoQuest, Russia

Consumer attitudes in Moscow can be different from and sometimes contradictory to attitudes in other regional cities. For product evaluation, it can be even more pronounced as each region has its own traditions of consumption. When testing products that will be launched at the national level, it is highly recommended to include several cities in the sample to measure geographical differences.


Lifestyles Consumers varied lifestyles impact how they consume products. For example, in the cosmetics category, makeup plays a greater role in the lives of women in the North than in the South (e.g., in Saint-Petersburg). Therefore, it is important to understand the lifestyles that exist in the areas where you plan to test and launch the product. Tastes Taste saturation strong, rich, intense avors is very important to Russian consumers. Products that do not provide strong sensations will not likely perform well in a product test. Texture preferences must also be considered. For example, in the oatmeal category we have learned that oat size really matters to Russian consumers. They like large, whole oats and not small, crushed oat pieces upon learning this, an oatmeal manufacturer changed oat suppliers and achieved higher appreciation among the target audience. Climate Severe weather conditions can impact consumer perceptions of a product and also actual product performance. Climate, including freezing temperatures, also needs to be factored in when deciding how the product will be transported and stored. Homemade vs. Processed Consumers accustomed to homemade dishes may shy away from processed versions introduced to the market. For example, soup is a highly traditional dish in Russia. It is usually thick and lling and contains many ingredients (e.g., meat, lots of vegetables). Although several international brands have been launched in the ready-to-eat soup category, consumers remain loyal to traditional, homemade soups. Reaching Consumers Product testing studies are done primarily through face-to-face interviews. Trade Distribution channels are similar across regions. However, in big cities especially Moscow and Saint-Petersburg the share of modern trade is higher than in the rest of the country. Survey Ratings Russian respondents do not give extreme scores on rating scales. Their ratings are between those in Brazil, India and developed markets. To obtain better differentiation a 7 point or 9 point scale is usually used.



Your Local Guides:

Amit Adarkar Vidya Sen

Managing Director, India Executive Director, India

Placing products that could have a hidden non-vegetarian component (such as animal gelatin in jelly sweets) needs to be handled with care so products that are not universally acceptable do not get placed with the wrong set of consumers. Explicitly label products and provide clear instructions to eld staff on this issue to avoid sparking off a sensitive situation. When implementing in-home tests where the quantity of product used is being measured at the recall stage, it is important to check if the product was also used by other members of the household. It is quite likely that the respondent will share the test product with other household members. Products should be placed in quantities sufcient for the entire family to consume.

Lifestyles Different socio-economic levels result in consumers having different product experiences which will impact evaluation. For example, when it comes to testing evolved categories such as ne fragrances in India, consumers with very little exposure to these categories are probably not in a position to appreciate the ner nuances of the product. Tastes India is a heterogeneous country with substantial differences in food habits and taste palates. For example, our used to make rotis is preferred in the coarse form in the North and in a rather ne texture in the South. Nuances like these must be recognized at the category level and incorporated in the test design. Climate Seasonality needs to be considered when deciding the timing of a product test as there are extreme variations in summer and winter temperatures. Homemade vs. Processed Consumers are in the habit of preparing food from scratch. For example, consumers make their own tea by boiling tea grains in water and adding milk, sugar and other ingredients at various stages. It is not surprising that tea is evaluated at multiple levels (grain appearance, grain size, grain consistency, color release when boiling starts, etc.) and consumers have their own system of linking various sensorials to the likely quality of the end cup. We always tell our clients that food products are consumed visually as well as olfactorily at each and every stage of food preparation. Reaching Consumers Almost all product testing in India is carried out through face-to-face interviewing. Online penetration in India is too low yet to take on product testing for most products. However, it is getting tougher to carry out product research for premium products because of denied access to gated communities. Mobile is an alternative methodology for certain products. Trade India leans toward traditional trade rather than modern retail outlets; therefore, new products usually have staggered launches across different geographies making it important to ensure that the markets where the product is distributed initially are covered in the product test. Survey Ratings India exhibits substantial courtesy bias. It is rare to get top two box ratings below 80%; top box is a much better discriminator.



Your Local Guide:

Kevin Zhou

Managing Director, China

China is never ONE market! When designing a study in China, its meaningful to split the sample by city-tier and region and often, we need to consider these two factors at the same time.


Lifestyles Even among Tier 1 cities one must take into account regional preferences and stage of development. For example, the northern city of Beijing is more traditional and interest in basic categories is high. Here, you can expect to see discrimination in laundry testing. On the other hand, in the more commercially-minded city of Shanghai there is little interest in laundry, but indulgent categories like ice cream are important. Tastes There are eight major schools of cuisine from different regions which translate into different taste preferences. Clearly, when testing a food or beverage product in China, you should expect different levels of product acceptance. Companies like McDonalds recognize this and develop local avors and offerings to attract consumers. Climate There are four distinct seasons and this affects product evaluation and frequency of use: for example, when testing a soap product in winter, one must realize that skin is dry, water is cold, and washing is less frequent. Homemade vs. Processed When conducting product tests, especially blind product tests, fears about food safety must be addressed and alleviated by offering proof of professional credentials. Reaching Consumers In Tier 1 and 2 cities, Internet and smart phone penetration may be higher than in developed markets, but beyond that frontier Internet penetration can be very low. Trade Although China has a mix of traditional trade and modern trade, its distribution structure varies signicantly by city tiers. For instance, in large cities, modern trade, especially hypermarkets, accounts for a large share of distribution. In low-tier cities, traditional trade or wholesale markets still dominate. Survey Ratings Similar to other developing markets, Chinas consumers have courtesy bias. Top two box ratings are often above 80%. Top box is a much better discriminator. On the other hand, due to the different levels of economic development and consumer sophistication, the ratings always follow a geographic pattern. For instance, ratings from low-tier cities or northern/western areas are usually lower than those from high-tier cities or eastern/ southern areas.




Your Local Guide:

Nick Coates

Director of Ipsos Marketing, South Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa

Consumers often purchase products for communal use, so there is always the possibility that more than one person will use the product in a home usage test. Talking to consumers in addition to the respondent you placed the product with can reveal interesting insights.



Lifestyles In South Africa, the socio-economic effects of Apartheid and more recently high levels of unemployment have resulted in a society with gross economic inequality. Despite a growing middle class, the Gini coefcient used as a measure of income or consumption distribution amongst individuals or households indicates that South Africa is the most unequal society in the world. Differences in income and consumption coupled with the sheer diversity of the South African rainbow population must be taken into account in the product test design. When undertaking product testing research, it remains important to know and understand who your target market is within South Africa. Tastes In the case of South Africa, the new middle class retains many of its more traditional tastes and product preferences. This in turn warrants manufacturers to extend their product lines in order to align with more traditional needs amongst consumers with recently increased purchasing power. For example, manufacturers are introducing new product accompaniments to traditional staple foods. Climate South Africa is a country of two climates a Mediterranean climate on the West coast and a hot, humid, tropical climate on the East coast. In the summer, from November to March, the entire country shares the hot, humid, scorching sun. However, in winter, from June to September, temperatures drop drastically in the northern and western parts of the country. Homemade vs. Processed A melting pot of cultures and ethnicities make up the landscape of South Africa. As such, each culture holds their own traditions and homemade dishes in high esteem. Any processed food that enters the market is judged in relation to its homemade counterpart. Flavoring and adding spices forms a signicant part of South African cooking and culture; therefore, in order to succeed in this market, processed food and fast food need to incorporate traditional recipes and spices. Reaching Consumers Increased access to the Internet is mainly due to growth in smart phone ownership as opposed to traditional xed line access. However, total penetration of smart phone ownership across different consumer segments remains relatively low and unrepresentative in specic target markets. Trade In South Africa there still remains a strong traditional trade in the form of informal traders and street vendors. However, this trend seems to be shifting as modern trade is growing and consumer purchasing behavior is shifting as shoppers start buying in bulk weekly or monthly due to affordability and improved proximity of modern trade outlets. Survey Ratings South Africa has a high courtesy bias. Most ratings do not go lower than a top two box for a 5 point scale and top three box for a 7 point scale. When consumers rate a product as good it implies that there is room for improvement.


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Ipsos InnoQuest is dedicated to meeting the innovation and forecasting needs of our clients.
Ipsos InnoQuest helps clients to maximize the ROI of their innovation processes through a unique, global end-to-end offer and deep expertise across a wide array of sectors. Central to our offer is our ability to provide nancial metrics even at very early stages and clear direction for maximization of initiative potential. We offer simple, intuitive tools built on a consistent philosophy of what drives innovation success, a comprehensive suite of tools for product research and development offering solutions throughout the products lifecycle, and powerful simulation capabilities to help clients reach their nancial targets. From the fuzzy front end to mix optimization, launch and beyond, we help our clients to maximize their innovation I.Q. Ipsos InnoQuest is a specialized practice of Ipsos, a global market research company which delivers insightful expertise across six research specializations: advertising, customer loyalty, marketing, media, public affairs research, and survey management. With ofces in 86 countries, Ipsos has the resources to conduct research wherever in the world our clients do business. In October 2011 Ipsos completed the acquisition of Synovate. The combination forms the worlds third largest market research company. In 2012, Ipsos generated global revenues of 1.789 billion euros, Marketing research contributing to 53% of Ipsos revenues. Visit to learn more.