MAMUN M. ADIL: When did Ipsos start conducting the Consumer Confidence Survey?
ABDUL SATTAR BABAR: More than 20 years ago in the West and over time, the methodology has been standardised, so it is easy to replicate it in other countries. The survey is now conducted in approximately 25 countries including Pakistan (since August 2019). It is of value to marketers, economic policy makers and heads of both governments and private organisations.
MMA: What are the objectives of the survey?
ASB: To create an index for the global community that is easy to understand and comparable to other countries. The survey indicates whether consumers are confident that the country they live in is progressing in terms of the economy and security. The ideal score would be 100 on the National Index. In our last survey, conducted in September 2020, Pakistan scored 29.8, which is lower than the global average of 41.8; for context Pakistan scored lower than several countries including Brazil (41.9), India (47.2), Russia (35.4) and Turkey (33.2) and higher than South Africa (29.4).
MMA: Why is the survey not available on the Ipsos’ global website, and only on Ipsos Pakistan’s website?
ASB: In order to be published on the global website, the survey has to have been conducted at least eight times a year (like it is in other countries, where in some instances it is conducted every month). In Pakistan, due to limited resources, we are only able to conduct the survey every quarter. Globally and in Pakistan, this particular survey is conducted free-of-cost, so it is more of a CSR activity and therefore resources are always a challenge.
MMA: How has Covid-19 impacted your research methods?
ASB: Due to the pandemic we had to carry out computer assisted telephonic interviews (CATI). Before, we used to travel to every nook and cranny of the country because face-to-face interviews are the most effective way to conduct research.
MMA: How reflective is the sample size compared to Pakistan’s overall demographics?
ASB: The way we choose our methodology encompasses most Pakistanis. However, there are three caveats. Firstly, given that mobile penetration is relatively high in urban centres (approximately 70%), whereas in rural areas it is not even in double digits, the survey is slightly skewed in favour of urban centres. Secondly, ideally the ratio between male and female respondents should be 50:50, but this time it was 70:30, due to the fact that when it comes to mobile phone usage, men are more likely to answer a call from an unknown number than women are. Thirdly, there is no representation of people under 18, because, as per legal requirements, they are not allowed to participate in such surveys and so despite the fact that they account for a large number of mobile users, we had to exclude them. This aspect creates an inherent distortion as we cannot ascertain their opinions on questions about their spending habits, the future direction of the country, or employment prospects. Nevertheless, despite these three caveats, the results are a true picture of the consumer confidence.
MMA: How are respondents chosen and are they given any incentives to participate?
ASB: We do not provide incentives. They are selected via Random Digit Dialling (RDD), a state-of-the-art software that generates random numbers automatically and with the capacity to dial over 200 numbers at the same time. Once a call is made, our interviewers take over.
MMA: According to the survey, “four in five Pakistanis continue to fear that the country is heading in the wrong direction”, which has not changed in the last year, yet the percentage of people who are dissatisfied with “the way things are going in Pakistan today” has decreased from 43% to 34%. Why is this?
ASB: We leave the answers to the understanding of the respondents in terms of how they perceive the questions. They may be answering them from a political, economic or familial point of view, and at the end of the day, all the questions are relative. Similarly, interpretations with regard to the word ‘dissatisfaction’ can be very different from what they think ‘heading in the right direction’ means.
MMA: Twenty-eight percent of the respondents cited Covid-19 as a major cause for concern in June, yet in September only six percent did. Why?
ASB: Probably because June was the period of the first peak and every day the number of deaths and new cases were increasing. This may change as numbers increase further in the second wave.
MMA: How do the results compare with other countries where the survey was conducted?
ASB: In Pakistan, the top five concerns are related to the economic situation and clubbed together, they account for 70 to 75% and this has not changed in the last few years. This is not surprising as inflation continues to rise. In other countries, although respondents do cite the economy as a major concern, the overall percentage on this issue is lower than in Pakistan.
MMA: What are the main learnings from the survey for brands?
ASB: Brands need to appreciate that people have less money to spend, so they should not indulge in price wars. Instead, they should add value to their products by introducing smaller SKUs or more economical versions of their products. They should also make their supply and production chains more efficient in order to reduce their costs, which will then ensure that they do not have to raise the prices of their products.
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