Evidence and Insights about the COVID-19 impact in Latin America

While the pandemic seems to have gone beyond the peek in many European countries and most of the restrictions have been relaxed, the situation is still quite worrying in Latin America. WHO reported by the end of May that for the first time this region concentrated the largest number of new daily cases, outpacing the US and Europe. Brazil only became the second country globally in terms of total infections.

Two months before the pandemic outbreak in Wuhan, Fine Research, Latin American partner of the Open World Network organized a survey in this region and the US about how prepared these countries were to face an epidemic. In the light of what we know today, results became not only truly shocking but unexpectedly prophetic, confirming the ill-preparation that was already evident for most of the physicians across the Americas.

With the start of the pandemic, the agency specialized in data collection in LatAm, decided to start a series of projects on COVID-19. The objective of that program was to make available its research capabilities and the online physician survey platform to support the public, the medical community and the health authorities with evidence and insights useful against the pandemic.

The initiative was designed as an open and collaborative work so while it has been overall sponsored by the ESOMAR Foundation and Save The Children, have also received contributions by many companies and organizations. The list include: Confirmit, Delvinia, EBSCO HEALTH/DynaMed, Datum, Ipsos, Observatorio 87, PBG, Provokers, Unilever, The Pharmaceutical Marketing Group, YOUNIVERSAL, DIMM Magazine, Brazilian Association of Research companies (ABEP) and of individual researchers (ASBPM) as well as ESOMAR.

Toluna and Reckner Healthcare have supported the pre-pandemic survey, and M3 Global have brought on board an interesting global project for the Birmingham University aimed to improve COVID-19 testing which we included in this pro-bono program.

The topics were grouped into four main axes: evidence around COVID-19, assessment of public policies, insights about the impact in the medical practice and future post-pandemic scenarios.

Some of the key lessons have been:

1. By late May the region was polarized between those HCPs who believe that restrictions should be relaxed in a gradual and controlled manner and those who think that controls should be maintained or tightened.

2. The number of COVID-19 patients reported in the survey is line with public information reported by WHO, confirming that by late May, most affected countries were Brazil, Mexico, Peru, Ecuador, Panama and Chile. However, evidence of suspicious cases and testing suggest particularly high levels of underreporting in Brazil, Venezuela, Ecuador, Mexico and Panama. While tests are considered reliable, they are not enough. Thus, in most countries are not even covering patients at risks and with symptoms. Tests are also taking much more processing time. If in the US and Europe, this is around 1-2 days, in LatAm the average is 4 days.

3. By late May most doctors saw Peru’s hospital resources as already collapsed, including the availability of hospitalization beds, IT areas and respirators. In Ecuador, Guatemala, Mexico, Brazil and Venezuela these resources were perceived as having a high short-term risk of collapse.

4. Despite the limitations of the hospital infrastructure, in most countries the LatAm region has improved it, compared to the results seen in March, with the significant exception of Brazil.

5 The majority of hospitalized patients have been people showing pre-existent pathologies, particularly Diabetes, Cardiological diseases or respiratory diseases.

6. In all countries, there is an abrupt drop in patients seen in general by HCPs, significantly affecting adherence in all kinds of diseases, including potential life threatening diseases such as Cancer, HIV, Diabetes, respiratory, cardiological or autoimmune diseases.

7. The main perceived risks for the doctors are associated with the lack of protective material and lack of protocols. Doctors need clear training not only for the treatment of COVID-19 and the use of protective equipment, but also for the care of all types of patients, whether in hospital, office or virtual.

8. The pandemic has emotionally affected doctors, and the vast majority say they suffer from one or more of the following effects: fear of infection, anxiety, tiredness, difficulty sleeping, isolation, anguish, uncertainty, or irritability.

9. Those who are in the front line are especially affected by fear of family and personal infection, pressure from the work environment, and fatigue.

10. The imagined post-pandemic future will imply an important impact on the physical and emotional health of the population, as well as a profound transformation of the health ecosystem and the modalities of medical care, with new protocols and an increased use of telemedicine.

While the obtained results were shared in several webinars, and published in sites and leading media in over a dozen countries, the program is working on updating the evidence so please free to reach out if you have any relevant ideas or contributions to support this program.

The latest webinar and report can be freely accessed at: https://newsletter.pharmamkt.net/critical-challenges-that-physicians-are-facing-during-the-pandemic/

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An universal typology of women towards food for explaining cultural differences observed in multi-country tests

Having tested food products from across the world in our testing laboratory in Paris and also having tested French food in many countries through our network Open World, we know that we don’t get the same results depending on different culture, in terms of people’s habits and tastes. Hence our surprise when seeing the results of an ethnographic study carried out in Russia, France and the Netherlands prior to a product test, that highlighted the four same basic types of women in respect of their attitudes toward dining and food products. An universal typology thus?!

Of course, it is obvious that people don’t eat the same way across all three countries. An online quantitative survey provided us with the solution to this enigma.

Although women in the three countries were categorized under the same four basic types, the proportion of each type of consumers is very different from one country to another. Hence the different results between France, Russia or Holland towards the same products, towards the same concepts or towards the same advertising messages. However, if the results are broken down into the four basic universal types of women, they are very similar amongst the women of the same category from one country to another (and very different from one type of women to the other within the same country).

The cultural differences observed in the multi-country test do not thus stem from a totally different way of thinking depending on the country, but from a different composition of their population across the four universal types of women towards food. And it is pretty interesting to know what each type likes and dislikes.

You’ll find hereunder a short introduction to the four universal types of women with regards to food. It will allow you to sort the results of any food test according to these typologies.

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What are the latest packaging trends and how can we measure packaging?

Wrapping up a fish in a newspaper or using a lot of plastics for packaging is no longer acceptable to consumers. Governments have also introduced strict environmental legislation and rules concerning hygiene. But.. companies not only have to think of the governmental rules, they also wish to communicate their brand and product.

Modern consumers want to be seen as individuals. They don’t want a “one size fits all” approach, but something more personal. Companies also want to be recognised, so personalized packaging is becoming more popular. Companies can use personalized packaging to create an identity that they want consumers to see. Consumers want to feel unique, so products that contain their name, or products that they can assemble themselves will be highly appreciated.

Example: last year Ferrero used a specially developed algorithm to make 650.000 unique designs for their jars of Nutella®. All 650.000 jars had an unique number and different colors and patterns.

The use of modern technology will become more integrated in the near future. Being able to scan a product and find for example ingredients, instructions or recipes will be a benefit for consumers. Companies can profit from new technologies as well: products promoted in popular channels like SnapChat or other Social Media will attract a lot of (free) attention and consumers can be contacted in a lot of (individual) ways, such as chatting or messaging.

Modern technology can also help in giving clients a feeling of uniqueness by opening up new forms of contact, for example by adding a QR-tag that allows a consumer to get in touch, to share a review or to obtain a reward.

Example: augmented reality gives consumers the possibility to read information about ingredients from Albert Heijn products and to find recipes for the items they want to buy.

Of course, both consumers and companies want to feel good about the products that they make / buy. This means that packaging has to be designed in a way that it is not only attractive, but also as sustainable as possible. Making use of reusable materials or biobased packaging is a good way of showing that a company cares about the environment.

Example: CocaCola® uses bottles made from 100% recycled plastic, fully recyclable materials, plant-based materials or hybrid innovations.

The Open World Standard Solution for packaging is our Buy One Pack Test, a test that measures the appeal of your pack relative to competitors. It also unveils the key drivers of appeal (and detractors) and highlights the improvements required for your packaging. Results can be harnessed both at national and at international levels.

The latest Open World project on LAUNCHING new packaged food goods is based on the 2 levels that clients may look for in international research:

  • A tried and tested technical protocol allowing aggregating results from one country to be compared to another … for the clients looking for solutions,
  • A clear demonstration of our food testing laboratories and kitchens … for the clients looking for a reliable representation of their own protocols.

This brochure will be mailed to the food industry. If you are interested in receiving the brochure, please contact us at mail@open-air.fr

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New Year Greetings

Dear Friends of the Open World,

It has become a tradition: sending New Year Greetings on behalf of the Open World Netwok Partners:

I wish you all health, success and love for this new year (and decade).

I hope it will be a year full of inspiration and cooperation. Don’t hesitate to submit new ideas that the board and myself will always consider with great attention.

Amicalement vôtre,



Frédéric Miedzinski
Open Air Market Research

Member of Open World: the Market Research Network for Positive Globalization

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Esomar Brazil, a festival of Inspirations

Esomar names its annual conference in LatAm a Market Intelligence Fest. And a festival is an excellent definition of what we expect to see in a good conference research nowadays.

“Festival” means celebration and partying, but also implies the exhibition of a diverse collection of pieces, as we would see in a music or a movie festival. This variety of genres coexist without a single theme that unifies them other than being a selection of outstanding objects, oriented to engage the audience. Such multiplicity is certainly a powerful metaphor about the sign of our times as researchers. The boundaries of our profession are continuously disrupted, increasingly vague and plural, and challenged from multiple angles, not only by our own movements but also by the dynamics of many close professions, namely behavioral economists, social listeners or data scientists, to name a few.

In this exciting scenario, the aim of a festival is less to convince anyone about a unique way of being an expert in the market intelligence field and more about showing the many possibilities open to our professional lives. 

ESOMAR conferences usually bring innovative techniques and business cases, giving a preview of the future, offering clues about which contents, ideas and methods will shape an industry that has recently undergone an extreme transformation and continues to move at high speed towards roads that are not yet completely drawn. This was not an exception.

In this case the organizers and the committee which I had the pleasure to chair were able to put together a vibrant environment and a good selection of presenters.

We were supported by a record number of submissions this year, with so many superb presentations with scores of very good or higher that we would have had enough to run another parallel conference

Among other topics we could learn for instance, how out-of-home media can now be measured by big data, coming from artificial intelligence reading satellite map images, cell phone carrier data or mobile apps. We could also see how neuroscience, facial coding, or a digital laboratory simulating social media can be used to improve the effectiveness of our communications. Also, how design thinking could be critical to emulate the success of virtual trade leaders, even for the most traditional retail channels. We could learn about some of the endeavors that digital giants like Amazon, Facebook or Twitter are working towards, as well as why the road to happiness in the life of a corporation starts by confronting the naked truths, as shared by some of the interesting stories shared by Coca Cola, Sanofi, Fox, L’Oréal, and many others.

I personally had three takeaways of this conference.

  • First, while we could see many innovative approaches, a side lesson was that well applied research – even when using growing technologies as big data, AI or automation – is still less about sophisticated tools and more about good judgment.
  • Second, it was wonderful to notice that the quality of the contents was pretty much in line with the finest world conferences in the industry, in terms of both variety of topics and quality. This was not the case in previous editions a few years back, confirming that LatAm research industry has grown significantly and moves to a brighter future.  
  • Last but not least, there was a wide discussion of our own roles, beyond the business or technical sphere.  Is unusual that ethical concerns are put into the table in market Research conference, and this was one of those rare cases. As my friend Joaquim Bretcha, recently elected as Esomar president, put it. “We have a great power as researchers, and a great power comes with a great responsibility”

Diego Casaravilla
Programme Committee Chair
CEO & Founder, Fine Research
Diego has been in the international market research business for over 20 years, Has founded and still fully manages Fine Research, an independent MR data collection network in Latin America with offices in Brazil, Mexico, Colombia, Argentina and Uruguay. The agency focuses in consumer, healthcare and b2b fielding. Created in 2008, Fine Panel, the first and largest medical panel in LatAm, with over 90,000 active panel members in the main 6 countries in the region. He has published books, and articles in leading industry magazines related to MR and also to broader Social Sciences topics (racism, migration, etc.).

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The future of healthcare

Healthcare is expected to go under significant transformations in the future. But which trends would dominate this future? How would the medical profession change? What kind of technologies will impact most and what would be the potential consequences to all of us? Will be the future dominated by genetically adjusted drugs, virtual consultation, robotic and/or nanotechnology?

To answer these queries we run a survey in the Americas covering 17 countries in the Americas from Canada to Argentina to learn the predictions, as well as their fears and hopes of over 2,600 doctors and to help us to reflect together how would this impact us, as future researchers.

Obtained insights show a significant convergence among very different countries suggesting is likely that the outlined trends might also be seen in other regions beyond the Americas.

In a nutshell doctors imagine a future lead by technological improvement, a more informed patient on the bright side, but also limited access to treatments and an impoverished of the role of the doctor in the healthcare process with a decline in respect, remuneration and working conditions.

We can conclude that based on the view of the medical communities we can be optimistic that technological innovations are certainly expected to revolutionize healthcare in the way we know it. The hot technologies making the most significant impact would be according to the respondents preventive medicine, new vaccines, immunotherapy, usage of genetically adjusted drugs, genetic engineering and biologics. However according to the physicians is likely that limited access to new treatments/technologies by market (price) and or legal/bureaucratic means will largely dominate the scene.

Another positive future expectation is the increase of the active role of the patients. Doctors will have to learn to deal more effectively with this empowered patient. The patient passive model will likely shift to a more collaborative knowledge sharing model with the physician coaching the patient.

We will likely see a proliferation and growth of patient associations lobbying for coverage of their diseases from chronic ailments to extensive proliferation of orphan diseases.
In any case is clear that the medical profession will have a struggling position as the weak link of a chain integrated by fast evolving technologies supported by the pharmaceutical and device industries, an empowered patient, and an increasingly cost conscious public and private payer.

If these tensions will lead to a more catastrophic scenario, a mixed scenario with pros and cons (as most doctors imagine) or a optimistic future is still an open question but in all of them the profession is strongly challenged. From a business point of view, in this scenario there would be a continuous opportunity for solutions that can help doctors to transit these challenges (such as continuous training, online education, digital information channels, community forums, AI solutions, etc. ).

But this is unlikely to be a smooth process, showing significant contradictions. This tension will take place far beyond the original scientific/technological context to pose political and social dilemmas. In other words societies still need to resolve how to reconcile the generalized expectation to extend life and its quality (which technologies are likely to make increasingly feasible) with the cost that would need to be collectively invested in that effort.

Doubts regarding access to the new medical possibilities are certainly worrying, though we can also keep some optimism that the pressure to generalize the technological promise by giving a wide population access pushed by the industry, empowered patients and educated physicians, may well also impact positively in the process.

About the author:
Diego Casaravilla (CEO, Fine Research) is sociologist, Master in Research and has been conducting international market research for over 25 years.

Speaker in several conferences, has been part of the Program Committee of ESOMAR Latin American conference in 2018, and has been appointed as Program Committee Chair in its 2019 edition. Has published several articles in leading MR magazines and sites, as well as run workshops and trainings on industry forums.

He founded and continues to manage Fine Research, a LatAm healthcare panel and data collection agency with its own offices in Brazil, Mexico, Colombia, Argentina, and Chile.

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Daniel Starch

Daniel Starch, born in La Crosse, Wisconsin in the United States in 1883, is considered to be one of the first people to rationalize the way to reach out to people through advertising.

Before the effectiveness of his work was recognized, journalists simply wrote articles and hoped that they would be read.

The simplest definition of advertising, and one that will probably meet the test of critical examination, is that advertising is selling in print. ~ Daniel Starch

Starch, who studied both psychology and mathematics, conducted interviews and collected data to reveal the actual reach of an advertisement and this is considered to be one of the first efforts to use market research.

Two common conceptions with regard to advertising which are held by a considerable number of people are that enormously large sums of money are expended for it, and that much of this expenditure is an economic waste. ~ Daniel Starch

In 1906, he published “Advertising: Its Principles, Practices & Techniques” and in 1923 “Principles of Advertising”.

By that time, Starch was the first head of the American Association of Advertising Agencies’ research department.

Lying and cheating in advertising, in the long run, are commercial suicide. Dishonesty in advertising destroys not only confidence in advertising, but also in the medium which carries the dishonest advertisement… No one can be ill in a community without endangering others; no advertiser can be dishonest without casting suspicion upon others. ~ Daniel Starch

Starch founded Daniel Starch & Staff and ran this company until he retired at the age of 90.

Daniel Starch died in 1979 in White Plains, New York, United States.

Advertising as the printed form of selling would seem… ultimately to be justified in so far as it serves as a means of increasing legitimate human wants, as an agency of fair and economic competition in the distribution of goods, and as a stimulant to social progress. ~ Daniel Starch

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Open World meeting in Amsterdam

The 11th annual meeting of the Open World network was recently held in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Partners from all over the world flew in to the Dutch capital to meet at a hotel in the city centre. This hotel consists of 25 historic canal houses from the 17th and 18th centuries. The buildings have been combined but their original details have been retained, furnished with numerous paintings and other works of art.


The Open World partners not only met to discuss on-going collaboration and use of the network’s unique research methods and specialisms, but to strengthen personal working relationships. Helping clients achieve reliable market research results all over the world is enhanced with strong communication between partners and it helps to not only have frequent contact by phone or mail but also, for example, by being able to talk in person about cultural differences between countries.

The Dutch Open World partner shared interesting inside information about the history of the country and typical Dutch behavior. It seems that there is more to the Netherlands than just tulips and Rembrandt!

The French partner, also chairman of the board, provided an interesting review of the first 10 years of Open World: 10 years of Efficient and Friendly Cooperation in International Market Research Studies.

Partners from other countries such as Russia, Italy and China presented interesting case studies that prompted detailed discussion amongst partners. At the end of the meeting, the partners enjoyed a trip in a beautiful boat around some of Amsterdam’s canals and the Amstel and IJ rivers. Having then enjoyed a delicious meal, all partners agreed that it had been a productive day of sharing experiences and getting to know each other.


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Holistic Approach in Ethnography

The worsening of the geopolitical situation in Russia, the introduction of sanctions and counter-sanctions, the devaluation of the ruble had a negative impact on consumer demand in late of 2016 – early 2017. The population, faced with a reduction in real disposable income, was forced to change its behavior strategies. Many trends in consumer behavior remain relevant now: the real exit from the crisis to the levels of at least 2014 is expected only in a few years.

Among the food products, the reduction of consumption has affected expensive and imported products: vegetables and fruits, meat (shift in demand for pork and beef to chicken and turkey), sausages, baked goods and others.

In the face of increasing competition in Russia, retailers are aware that shoppers have become more sophisticated and knowledgeable. The emergence of a substantial number of very large western type hypermarkets, has expanded the choice of not only products, but also the buying conditions. This lead to a change in shopper preferences too. Shoppers are less than before, “tied” to a particular store, which caused an aggravation of the struggle for the shopper between the trade enterprises.

Such dramatical changes in consumer and shopper behavior require the market researchers to find new and effective approaches to study the Russian consumer. Using just focus groups or online interviews will not give the immediate desired result, i.e. deep understanding of the modern Russian consumer. In such situation, ethnography research is the most effective tool for studying consumer behavior and the consumer trends.

CreaMetrix has implemented holistic approach in ethnography research for the clients recently. Holistic approach in ethnography is a combination of offline and online tools for consumer understanding which may cover various research objectives. CreaMetrix uses both the following offline and online ethnography instruments:

Offline instruments:

  • Ethnography with video / audio / photo recordings
  • Accompanying visits
  • Observations
  • Offline diaries

Online instruments:

  • Online insight communities
  • Mobile ethnography
  • Online diaries
  • Nethnography

Our main expertise lies in the field of FMCG markets and HORECA segments. CreaMetrix was the first company in Russia which used online communities as a tool for deeper consumer understanding. Our company has launched online community of creative consumers in Russia in partnering with Canadian research giant Vision Critical in October 2011.

Applied methods of ethnography research both in, and out of home always consider Russian specific cultural aspect. We spend a lot of time with our respondents in their own environment. This can guarantee that people be more relaxed and feel comfortable to talk openly about not only specific product categories, but also about the real life and respondents’ attitude to the quickly changed and worsening situation in Russia.

Using ethnographic research, we are getting helicopter view of the consumer experience, picking up of unmet needs, and making the observation of unintended uses of products, which may equally lead to new product/packaging ideas.

In the research of FMCG categories pantry check and fridge opening during the home visits are like litmus paper, which reflects real situation with consumer income and purchasing behavior.

As an example of pantry check, we can see on the following picture.

In HORECA segment CreaMetrix uses interviews with chefs in their own environment, usually in the kitchen. It is very important to talk with food service professionals on one-to-one to get to know more about food trends, recipes of the most popular dishes, major ingredients used, etc. We are conducting ethnography with chefs for big multinational FMCG companies in Russia.

CreaMetrix can study online communication between consumers using netnography for understanding their attitudes, perceptions, imagery, and feelings. CreaMetrix proposes to the clients netnographic service and software, which is a qualitative research approach used text analytics and content analyses to gain a more profound insights into the consumers’ world. Netnographic research is able to offer very detailed descriptions of the life worlds of consumers, which researchers usually look for.

Russian consumers like many other people in the world communicate in social networks, forums, and any kind of communities to discuss different products and services perceptions, their attitude to changing economic environment, pricing and wages dynamics. All this is a field for profound research, which is done by CreaMetrix to reveal true motivations and beliefs of Russian consumers.

Another area for ethnographic research, which CreaMetrix developed recently is mobile ethnography. It is a modern technique that allows to record and visually represent a part of consumer experience in the real time “here and now” using smartphones.

Consumers record their attitudes and perceptions with pictures, audio, video and text messages. To do this they do not need sophisticated software or expensive applications. Consumers may use popular messengers, e.g. WhatsUp, etc. CreaMetrix implemented this ethnographic approach for the one client in tea category to get more understanding about tea sachet using in various product consumption situations.

Mobile ethnography tool has a big potential for the country like Russia, because such studies may be conducted simultaneously in different regions of huge country.

In conclusion, it should be emphasized that ethnographic studies of the types listed above, which are used by CreaMetrix, allow one to obtain exhaustive information about how the Russian consumer is going through the current crisis and get more knowledge and understanding their real life and their hopes and fears.

About the author:
Alexander Blinov is a marketing professional with 20 years of experience in FMCG categories in Russia and CEEMEA regions. He has extensive experience on the top management positions of market research companies like GfK, Ipsos, Romir, and CreaMetrix. He has also experience on the client side in Mars Inc., as a market research director of Russia and CIS.

Current position of Alexander Blinov is CEO and founder of CreaMetrix company in Russia. Education: PhD degree in Math, Master degree in Applied Economics.

Contact: alexander.blinov@creametrix.com

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New light on consumer purchasing decisions

In a region as diverse as Europe, consumer healthcare marketers must develop strategies to successfully engage with consumers and maintain their loyalty. It is widely accepted that a one-size-fits-all approach cannot maximise a brand’s full potential, but just how big is the challenge facing marketers who wish to gain an understanding of the diverse range of attitudes, behaviours and needs that affect consumers’ purchasing decisions?

As an example of the kind of research required to get to “know your consumer”, Daccle Research, in co-operation with Nicholas Hall, commissioned a small study to sample consumer behaviour in Spain – a conservative OTC market, where medicines are available only from pharmacies – and the more liberal UK, with an extensive mass market for non-Rx healthcare products. Here, we offer a snapshot of the results and key learnings.

Methodology: Quality-controlled online poll
The study focused on two diverse product categories: cough / sore throat remedies, where the majority of brands are registered medicines, and food supplements. Over 1,200 consumers took part in the survey in July 2016 (625 in Spain and 576 in UK), and the sample included those who:

  • Are responsible for the purchase of OTC products within their household
  • Have bought a non-prescription product to relieve cough and / or throat pain in the past 12 months
  • Have bought non-prescription food supplements, like vitamins and / or minerals, in the past 12 months

The online poll, conducted on behalf of Daccle by surveying and data collection specialist SSI, blended multiple panels to achieve a diverse, representative sample that was subjected to recognised quality controls to ensure the end result can enable informed decision making.


Brands vs PLs: HCP intervention play a huge part
Some interesting findings related to consumer attitudes to private labels / generics. Only 45% of Spanish consumers agreed that such products offer the same quality as brands (vs 53% in UK), while 42% agreed with the statement that brands contain higher-quality ingredients (vs only 31% in UK). This was a more important factor in consumer purchasing behavior than the standard / level of information on packaging (only 30% of Spaniards agreed that the quality of branded packaging gave them more confidence compared to generics). Crucially however, despite their reservations about product quality, 58% of Spanish respondents said they would buy PLs / generics in place of a brand if advised to do so by a pharmacist (vs 46% in UK).

This highlights the vital role played by the pharmacist in consumer purchasing behavior in Spain – and other conservative OTC markets – vs more liberal environments where consumers are more willing to buy without intervention.

Cough remedies: Self-selection has clear impact
Around 80% of consumers in both markets have bought an OTC cough / sore throat medicine in the past 12 months, highlighting a relatively high level of awareness about the availability of such products and suggesting a healthy acceptance of efficacy. The rate was lower – 66% in Spain and 74% in UK – among the older demographic (56+ years), which is likely owing to a more traditional reliance on a doctor to diagnose illness (as well as the availability of state reimbursement for prescriptions for the elderly). Average purchase frequency was around 2.5x per year in both countries (65% of Spanish respondents and 60% in UK made their most recent purchase less than 2 months before taking the survey).

When it came to how “involved” consumers felt when making their purchase, around half of consumers in each market declared themselves “very involved” (taking the time to select the most appropriate product, etc), but a significant proportion of Spanish consumers (20% vs only 9% in the UK) classified themselves as “not very involved”, highlighting the strength of pharmacist recommendations in that market.

Owing to the different pharmacy distribution models of each country, direct comparison between consumers’ preferred purchase location is not possible for the cough / sore throat category. However, the survey does provide some interesting insight in the UK. Just over 60% of consumers picked the pharmacy as the most likely place for them to buy such a product, with the remainder split between drugstores and supermarkets (only 2% most regularly shopped online). Advice was one of the main factors given as a reason, but this was still relatively low at 24%, with as much weight given to convenience (in terms of location). Price was the key determining factor for purchasing at a drugstore or supermarket, with the latter channel also popular owing to the attraction of a one-stop-shop destination (groceries and medicines).

In terms of purchasing decisions, Spanish consumers are more likely to know in advance which product they would prefer to buy rather than making up their mind at POS (51% in Spain and 43% in UK). This perhaps reflects Spanish consumers’ favorability towards brands (32% said they only buy cough brands, vs 14% in the UK). Loyalty to the same brand is not particularly high however, with only 37% of consumers buying the same brand in the previous two purchases. Loyalty to a particular brand was higher in the UK at 47%, owing especially to the strong market position of Benylin (J&J). Around 15% of UK consumers and 13% of Spanish consumers could not remember which brand they bought most recently.

Among the most important factors behind making a product choice, previous use and advice from a doctor scored highly in both countries, but there were some interesting variations. In the UK, where self-selection of OTCs is widespread, over 60% of consumers claimed that packaging information was a key choice factor, while less than 30% of Spaniards agreed. Price was another notable difference: in the UK – where there is a thriving discount retail channel and competitive drugstore market – 57% of consumers selected price as an important choice factor, vs only 33% in Spain, where consumers are more likely to buy what they are recommended by a pharmacist.

Food supplements: Large potential market remains
Only around half of consumers in both markets had bought a food supplement in the past 12 months, suggesting many are yet to embrace preventive healthcare. Some good news for the supplements industry however is that the younger demographic – up to 35 years – were the most likely to buy (61% in UK and 55% in Spain). Consumers aged 56+ years were least likely to buy (52% in UK and 44% in Spain). As a large percentage of supplements are used daily, it is not surprising that consumers recorded a higher number of average purchases per year compared to cough / sore throat remedies (3.8x per year in UK, 3.3x in Spain). More than 75% of respondents in each market claimed to have made their most recent food supplements purchase in the past 2 months.

Unlike registered medicines, food supplements are available for sale in non-pharmacy retail in Spain. However, 68% of consumers still prefer to buy supplements in pharmacies (vs only 39% in UK), with only 20% choosing a drugstore / parapharmacy (this channel took 30% in UK). Those who remain loyal to the pharmacy in Spain to buy supplements do so mainly owing to confidence / trust (32%), and pharmacist advice (20%). In the UK, the highest reason given for buying supplements from a pharmacy was the convenience of the location (22%), with the low score for advice (8%) further evidence that consumers in the country are happy to self-select. The highest motivation for UK consumers to buy supplements in a drugstore was cheap pricing, reflecting the fact that many mass market retailers offer multi-buy price deals on such products (3 for 2 is especially common).

Once again, a far greater percentage of Spanish consumers claimed to only buy brands than their counterparts in the UK (38% vs 12%), although almost 20% of consumers in both countries claimed to mainly buy PLs / generics (only 14% said this for cough / sore throat remedies). Once again, loyalty to a particular brand was not especially high – 50% of UK consumers bought the same brand on their previous two purchases, compared with 44% in Spain (18% and 9% of consumers respectively could not recall the brand they bought most recently).

Similarly to cough remedies, there were some important differences between the two countries in relation to the most important choice factors behind purchase. Previous usage, peer and HCP advice were equally important in both markets, but UK consumers are far more interested in packaging information (71% vs 45%), price discounting (62% vs 38%) and a packaging design that “makes the product look like a drug” (59% vs 39%).

Conclusion: Value of research should not be underestimated

This report highlights the considerable amount of valuable information that can be gathered through through consumer research. While this report focused on the test markets of Spain and the UK, many of the findings are relevant to other conservative / liberal regulatory environments across Europe, providing a useful regional insight into some of the key factors that affect consumer purchasing decisions. Some of the results confirmed what we thought we knew about each market – it is important to continually test assumptions to avoid complacency – but the study also brought new information and trends to light, which can be used to improve marketing stategies.

Consumer behavior can evolve quickly owing to factors such as economic trends or regulatory changes. This is especially true of a diverse region such as Europe, where the factors influencing a Spanish consumer’s purchase of a cough medicine in a pharmacy differ greatly from those of a British person buying a similar product in a supermarket. An awareness and understanding of these contrasting experiences can be the key to whether a product launch is a success or a failure.

Key learnings
• Spanish consumers are more likely to consider brands superior to PLs / generics, predominantly owing to a belief they contain better-quality ingredients
• UK consumers are more open to PLs / generics, and place a higher level of importance on price / discounting in general
• The role of the pharmacist remains vital and can play a significant factor in consumer behavior …
• … especially true in Spain, where advice is a key reason consumers give for visiting a pharmacy
• Reliance on recommendations in Spain also sees fewer consumers feeling “highly” or “moderately” involved during the buying process than in UK, citing branding / packaging as less of an incentive to buy
• In contrast, UK consumers place more importance on packaging information, brand image and price promotions, reflecting the higher incidence of self-selection
• Brand loyalty is relatively low in both markets for the categories sampled
• Only around 50% of consumers in each country had bought a food supplement in the previous 12 months (vs 80% who had bought a cough remedy), highlighting the large potential market for preventive healthcare …
• … however, younger consumers are more likely to buy, indicating that the new generation may be more open to investing in wellness products

About the Author:

Jozsi Toth is a Partner of Daccle Research in The Netherlands and Treasurer of The Open World Network.

Contact: jtoth@daccle.nl


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