THE MARKETING RESEARCH INDUSTRY IN NIGERIA
The history of Nigeria‘s organized Marketing Research (industry) dates back to the sixties. This period witnessed the emergence of a Research Agency (Research Bureau, London) which offered services to the Unilever Group. This Agency was later incorporated in Nigeria as Research Bureau Nigeria Limited in 1969.
At this infant stage, the industry may be described as a monopoly; with only one major player. By the turn of a few decades, the industry had metamorphosed into an oligopoly; with few organized key players which included R.I, RMS, MARP, Market Surveys and Market Trends. Major Clients then were a few multi – national companies who believed in the culture of using marketing research to drive the marketing process. They were mainly players in the Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCGs) segment of the market. During the period under review, awareness level of other forms of research (Social research, Opinion Polls, Business to business research etc) was not particularly high. It was a period diverged from specialization; a period when practitioners conducted any type of research to make ends meet. A period which characterized little but sharp competition for the attention of few client overlords who had difficulty in being persuaded to shift patronage to a few daring Nigerians who ventured into the murky water of marketing research.
Today, the marketing research situation has changed dramatically; both in offering and usage. We now have multiple Research Agencies servicing a portfolio of clientele that may be described as small, medium and large in terms of turnover. We have big research spenders who are not only research driven, but believe absolutely in world best practices. The industry has also experienced structural growth. A trace of specialization has emerged; the offer of exclusive services in the areas of retail audit and opinion polls are good cases in point. We have no doubt that this trend will continue.
Progress has also been made in terms of capitalization and turnover. From a very low capital base (which was mostly within seven figures), capitalization has risen in geometric proportions.
The case of turnover is even better. ‘Super’ Spenders in research like the conglomerates in the FMCGs; the telecom giants; the big and formidable NGOs (especially those involved in HIV/Aids, Family Planning and Malaria); the tobacco merchants; to mention a few, have all contributed towards moving the Industry’s turnover to a new level of not less than ten (10) digits.
The industry has not been left far behind on the challenges of globalization. Major players have had reason to restructure their outfits to meet the global challenge. Some have got affiliated to foreign research companies to enable them collaborate and reap the benefits of internationalization. We have a couple of players in the industry who operate the research business in other African Countries. The most commendable thing is that this phenomenon is being sustained, and it has been growing over the years.
The research industry is not without challenges; the huge debt issue is one of them. This is fast becoming an endemic problem. In fact, a situation where Agencies are owed for three to six months (and sometimes well over a year) after concluding a research job cannot be said to be in the best interest of sustainable growth in the industry. This practice can only push suppliers into further debts as they are constrained to indulge in (unhealthy) borrowing with its attendant high interest rates. This has constituted a veritable threat to the corporate existence of stakeholders in the industry. Although the client appears to be the beneficiary in the “arrangement”, this challenge needs urgent attention because it may hinder performance ultimately.
Another critical challenge is that of achieving credible data base; particularly data collection and management. These require management commitment in terms of sound conditions of service; provision of modern state-of -the-art facilities; and institutionalization of a culture of discipline/ professional ethics in the organization, co-ordination and control of data collection/management.
Research on the internet is also a challenge. It remains a grey research area in Nigeria because we are yet to see a major outfit exclusively set up to offer services in this regard. We shall continue to lag behind if we do not give serious consideration to internet research; as it is presently done in Europe and America. Indeed, we must take advantage of the telecom revolution to tap into the huge market which Internet research potentially offers.