Bookworld Market Research – Get your head out of the books and speak to the market by Jonathan Watson

With almost 100 employees and 11 stores across Zambia, Bookworld is not a typical Challenges Worldwide ICS enterprise. A retailer of books and stationery products, Bookworld may be large on paper, however, they still maintain the feel and culture of an SME – largely due to the fact it’s a family business.

Providing Zambians with affordable books and stationery since 1991 (and making considerable improvements to advancing the level of education in Zambia along the way) Bookworld has built up a very recognisable brand.

We wanted to find out what the public really thought about the brand, as well as what their wants and needs were.

Market research is vital for all businesses, but even more so for enterprises in developing countries, where secondary research data is scare.

In the UK, we are lucky to have vast amounts of data at our fingertips, providing us with in-depth insights into consumer behaviour, attitudes and tastes. Researchers are spoilt with information published by private market research agencies (such as YouGov or Mintel), media organisations and even government bodies such as the Office for National Statistics.

In Zambia, there is some basic census data and the odd government report to reference. Therefore, if you want some relevant and useful data – you have to go out and get it yourself. So that is what we did!

Managing a market research project, from the question design through to the data analysis and interpretation is not a simple task and we encountered a range of problems. For example, during our time approaching the public on the streets I soon found the annoyance for a person armed with a clipboard and questionnaire was not something unique to the UK. People would do anything to avoid making eye contact with us, including the usual trick of pretending to play on their phone.

Despite this, those who completed our questionnaire provided some genuinely insightful information.

jonathanWith the promise of a 500 Kwacha (£40) gift voucher giveaway to one lucky winner and a sleek online version of our questionnaire (which we promoted through Facebook), 400 people completed our survey – which we considered a huge success!

One of the main reasons we conducted the research was to find out more information about the online shopping habits of Zambian consumers. We found that currently, one third of respondents had purchased something online before in their lives, but 94% of people say they are more likely to purchase more products online in the future. When we asked what prevented people from purchasing more products online, concerns about fraud was the most commonly cited issue.

As well as learning a vast amount about the habits of Zambian consumers, I learnt a great deal about myself.

Through this project, my professional development was furthered in a variety of ways, some of them small: teaching myself how to use a mail merge function on Microsoft Outlook and successfully sending a personalised email to 1000 different people. Some were large:  developing the desire to peruse a career in market research when I finish my ICS placement.