Healthcare Market Research in the Gulf: 3 lessons I’ve learned
A few key considerations for conducting healthcare market research in the Gulf
Something I recently discovered whilst working on an emerging markets project is that conducting healthcare market research in the Gulf is very different to conducting research in western countries. Whilst the Gulf region is not one single, homogenous market, there are three general truths I learned which I’d like to share:
Recruiting for market research can take a lot longer than in mature markets. Not only can it be difficult to schedule in time with physicians, but the process of screening may have to take place face-to-face rather than over the phone. This approach inevitably extends project timelines. If screening is done face-to-face, then the interview may then take place in the same session. It may not be possible to receive screening answers or an accurate schedule ahead of the interview.
It gets incredibly hot in the Gulf! If interviews are conducted in the summer, they tend to take place in the evening when it is cooler. This reduces the total number that can be completed each day and impacts on timelines.
It is extremely challenging to recruit and interview any respondents during religious holidays such as Ramadam and best avoided. It is extremely hot at this time of year so daytime interviews are not recommended and people prefer to eat with their family when the sun sets rather than participate in market research.
The working week in Gulf countries runs from Sunday to Thursday. This is important to bear in mind when scheduling interviews, providing updates and meeting deadlines.
Face-to-face depth interviews are by far the best interview approach for physicians, because establishing trust is key. From a practical perspective, depth interviews are also much easier to schedule. Respondents frequently cancel at short notice and interview times can change without warning. I wouldn’t recommend using a central location or conducting groups unless the specialty or objective really demands it.
Other methodologies are possible but each has benefits and drawbacks. For example, online quantitative surveys allow respondents to complete questions in their own time but technological limitations in some areas can affect participation. Physician panels are not yet well established in these markets. Telephone interviews, although convenient for both moderator and respondent, are less culturally acceptable.
Interviewing in central location
If you are keen on conducting research in a central location here are some questions you should ask:
- Does anyone need to view interviews remotely? This is tricky in some areas of the Gulf as internet speeds can be too slow to stream interviews.
- What do you need at the venue? Some venues have a different layout than you might expect in mature markets. Interviews might be conducted in a hotel room rather than a dedicated facility and might not offer what you need.
- When is the best day to interview respondents? The Sunday-Thursday working week in the Gulf means a respondent may prefer to be interviewed on a Friday or Saturday. This is worth bearing in mind when planning your schedule.
So there you have it – healthcare market research can be done effectively in the Gulf, as long as proper consideration is given to the cultural environment. The healthcare industry in the Gulf region is continuing to expand with double digit growth expected over the coming years, so it is a market which needs to be well understood. These are just three lessons that I have learned while conducting research in the Gulf. But there are many other considerations for conducting research in MENA which are recommended by my colleagues in Research Partnership’s specialist emerging markets team.