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Article: Navigating unchartered territory

Pei Li Teh, August 2018

Navigating unchartered territoryA guide to conducting effective market research in emerging markets. Emerging markets present an exciting opportunity for growth for the pharmaceutical industry, as traditional Western markets mature and there are a limited number of new products in the pipeline offering blockbuster revenues.

Many emerging markets, not just confined to BRIC countries, are experiencing double-digit growth, as well as burgeoning public and private health care systems. A demographic of wealthy urban patients who can afford better quality health care is on the rise, with an appetite for Western lifestyles and products.

To successfully launch in these markets, however, pharma manufacturers need an in-depth understanding of the environment in which they are planning to operate and this can be challenging as many lack reliable data intelligence. Custom market research can plug the gaps in knowledge and help marketers make more effective strategic decisions.

Based on our experience in managing research projects involving emerging markets, here is a three-step guide to conducting effective market research in these territories.

Step 1: Understand the environment
Understanding the environment is critical to ensure the project scope is defined in the best way to achieve the project objectives. This will help you answer the following questions regarding your research design:

  • Which emerging market(s) to select?
  • Which cities to research?
  • Which stakeholders to interview?

Is it worth considering building in a definition phase to define the project scope.

Step 2: Select the best method
To determine which research methodologies are possible and appropriate in emerging markets you need to understand which methodologies are culturally permissible and which methods are technologically possible. 

Step 3: Build in stringent quality checks and balances
To achieve high quality research in emerging markets, additional quality control steps, which are not always necessary in developed markets, are recommended:

  • Moderators must be highly experienced in interviewing healthcare professionals and must demonstrate therapeutic expertise
  • When there are numerous materials to test, extended briefings should be undertaken using webcams and even dummy interviews if necessary to ensure understanding
  • During the fieldwork period, allow time to review the interview transcripts for quality control reasons and to re-brief the moderator if necessary
  • Because emerging markets are often new for the commissioning client, additional questions may be generated after the research has been completed

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