Out of focus information can come from “out of focus”, focus groups.

Using focus groups in Cambodia can be tricky. The qualitative focus group tool, used in Western countries for more than 50 years, is still relatively new in Cambodia and used less frequently.

Nevertheless, focus groups can be a helpful tool to probe, generate and generally “deep dive” into subjects that sometimes  are not ideally suited for other research techniques.

HOWEVER, for Cambodian focus groups, you need to keep in mind to the following factors:

  1. Time of Day – If the groups are among employed workers, then obviously they should be scheduled after work i.e. after 6pm and allow for travel in sometimes rush hour traffic. If conducted with housewives, domestic workers or stay-at-home women, the best time should be after 10 or 11am or over the lunch period. For students, unless conducted on campus timing should be flexible to attract most participants outside their class schedules.
  2. Venue – The venue should not be too low or too high class, as that can make the participants feel uncomfortable. If the participants are female, it is important not to schedule groups in a hotel, as some ladies feel uncomfortable as a single woman going into a hotel unescorted.
  3. Gender – In general Cambodian men feel they are more knowledgable and stronger than women, so normally they are more active participants in the groups. Hovever, with the younger generation, young women are becoming more outwardly comfortable and participate almost equally to men. It is also suggested to use female moderator if the groups are with women; conversely, male moderators for men’s groups.
  4. 4. Age Grouping – Wide differences in age of group participants should be avoided. Many times older people will not discuss their ideas with young people, and younger people will be hesitant to be open with their “elders” sitting at the table. Normally, it is best to split groups by general age characteristics, i.e. older versus younger..
  5. Expert Moderator – This is especially important in Cambodia. As a society Cambodians are sometimes hesitant talk openly in front of strangers. The moderator needs to manage the group to get satisfactory feedback on the topics, participation by all and finish the group on time. The moderator in Cambodia works harder in the group than in other developed countries.
  6. Topic – Although in Western countries “politics” can be carefully discussed, in Cambodia, people do not want to talk about politics with someone they don’t know well. This is a topic that must be avoided.

At Leverage Research Solutions, we know the Cambodian consumer well,so our focus groups are tailored to our country’s people. That guarantees we get the information our clients need to make better business and marketing decisions.

“Don’t use amateur detectives to solve the customer experience mystery.”

Mystery Shopping shouldn’t be a “mystery”.

A bad customer experience can undo all that’s good about all the other parts of the marketing effort. It doesn’t matter if the product or service is good, promotion is effective, distribution gets it to where it should be and pricing is competitive. If a customer’s experience at the last step of purchasing is negative, most everything that went before can be meaningless. And that’s why researching the actual customer experience, using “mystery shoppers”, has become more and more widely used.

Mystery Shopping is still relatively new in Cambodia and not frequently used. This is because many marketing people are relatively unfamiliarity with it and many times it is difficult finding experienced, trained providers among in-country market research agencies. Some confuse “mystery shopping” with “customer satisfaction” research. However, mystery shopping is very different.  Mystery shopping explores the actual customer experience as a snapshot in real time (rather than asking respondents to think back and remember their views of what they experienced).

Mystery Shopping is a very powerful and useful tool for management and the customer service manager to measure and monitor the service delivery or shopping experience. In addition, it is even more useful in the competitive business environment where a business has a competitive advantage due to its better service. The company then can see how well it is maintaining its competitive advantage and see what areas can be improved.  Achieving a high level of positive customer experience translates to high customer satisfaction, which in turn leads to higher customer loyalty and repeat purchases.

It is critically important when using a Mystery Shopping methodology to have a research agency with extensive experience in the area. Their most critical contribution will be to provide experienced and trained “shoppers,” who understand the technique and what the client is trying to learn. Don’t use amateur detectives to research the customer experience mystery.

A research agency with mystery shopping experience also will be capable in development of the detailed methodology and coordination planning to be used for a particular customer environment. And, last but not least, they can be responsible for developing any necessary physical materials needed.

Leverage Research Solutions is such an agency.

Market research bias = market research errors.

Bias in your market research will confuse your findings…and YOU!

Excellent piece from Skyword’s Carlos García-Arista on the problem (and some solutions for it) of bias in market research.

Although the main thrust of the article is political campaign polling research, the points made and suggestions offered apply to all market research.

How the “Year of Polling Missteps” Can Teach Us to Avoid Bias in Market Research

Marketing executives now are very wary of surveys, following the terribly wrong  forecasts in the 2016 Brexit referendum in England and the Presidential election in America.

However, if marketers are aware of potential bias in their surveys, they can take steps to reduce its effects.

The problem with the erroneous Brexit and US Presidential surveys is that all the errors went in the same direction. When that happens, it means that the data contain a bias.

Two Possible Reasons

  1. Biased Non-Response This occurs when only certain kinds of people are willing to give their opinion. Respondents may have been reluctant to reveal their true opinions for fear it might not reflect well on them.

Biased non-response is not exclusive to politics. The market research industry faces exactly the same problem everyday. Think of a survey where only customers with a grudge or “employees of the month” had motives to participate. The results would be skewed in both cases.

  1. Response Bias Sometimes survey responses are not reflective of respondents’ true opinions, because of their other considerations  of how their answers make them appear.

Experts call this the “Bradley effect” after Tom Bradley, an African-American politician who lost the 1982 California governor’s race despite having a big lead in the poll surveys. The resulting  hypothesis is that some voters were not only reluctant to reveal their preference for the white candidate—for fear of opening themselves to criticism—but actually expressed a preference for Bradley to appear more socially accepting, skewing results even further than a non-response.

How to Avoid Bias in Market Research

  1. Preventing Biased Non-Response

Frequently, companies don’t take any measures to determine if their surveys are affected by biased non-response, which means that they may be deciding their next moves based on flawed data.

If marketers identify a non-response bias in their data, it’s still possible that the bias is irrelevant to the matter at hand. For example, if, say, tall people were much more likely to participate in the survey than short people, it wouldn’t make much of a difference.

  1. How to Minimize Response Bias

Put the emphasis on anonymity. When questions are about sensitive or personal topics, sheilding the respodent’s identity can encourage honest feedback. Also, the use of online self-administered questionnaires helps reduce bias.

Word your questions carefully. It’s important to avoid leading or hypothetical questions. The question “How often do you buy on impulse?” would trigger people’s desire to present themselves as rational consumers. Instead, provide a variety of options about making—or not making—“only purchases that are on my shopping list,” and the outcome will be more accurate.

Use indirect questioning. This bias occurs when respondents try to present themselves in a more favorable light. Therefore, one trick that researchers often use is to word their questions so that the participants have to answer from a different perspective. Using the previous example, we could put the question this way: “Under what circumstances do people buy on impulse?”

Market research can be very helpful to a business or organization’s success, but it must be “effective.” That’s the only kind we do at Leverage Research Solutions.


Carlos García-Arista is a Barcelona- based journalist specializing in translation, language and marketing content. Here is the link to the full article.