International Research: Misconceptions & truths about Qualitative Research in Turkey

Earlier this month we have heard from our partner, Erdogan Gundogdu from Eksen Research , who enlightened us about qualitative research in  Turkey. I am delighted to welcome him back into The Breakout Room to share with us his top tips for researchers working in Turkey. We partner with Eksen Research as part of The Research Alliance when conducting multi-country studies that include Turkey. We enjoy working together to ensure that research runs smoothly in each and every country that we include.

Over to Erdogan!


When you think of Turkey what do you imagine? 

I once attended a seminar in which the presenter details the specifications of his multi-country study. While his respondents in Europe and the USA were given numerous religious options with which to identify (from agnostic to zootheist) his respondents in the Middle East were given no options whatsoever. This misperception fogs the minds of many foreigners prior to entering a Middle Eastern country, particularly Turkey.

People think all Turks wear fez and ride camels. In Istanbul, however, you will find as many people wearing a NY Yankees cap, using an iPod and driving a Carrera as you would see in London

Turkey is the only secular Muslim country, perhaps because it is one of the most industrialised nations in the world. So, get prepared for surprises: attire, hospitality, cuisine and Istanbul!

About half of the country’s residents are under 25 years old, which stands for nearly 36 million people. Youth in Turkey is one of the reasons why it rapidly and easily adopts new technologies and products. For instance, there are now more than 66 million mobile phones in use in Turkey; that is 92% of the entire population. Internet penetration rate is around 45%, which is a good indicator of rapid development: internet penetration was below 20% as recently as 2004. Turkey ranks in fourth place in the world in terms of Facebook usage, with 22.5 million members in July 2010.

Turkey is among the fastest-growing markets in the world, with the 17th largest economy. Like the country itself, market research is an emerging sector.

Qualitative research in Turkey

Although fairly new, the Turkish market-research sector produced about $150 million (U.S.) of revenue in 2010, compared to $43 million in 2002. The heart of Turkish market research beats in Istanbul. This is not a coincidence, since Istanbul is the largest city in Turkey, followed by Ankara and Izmir.

We usually suggest and use Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir for our qualitative studies because they represent more than 30% of the Turkish population and create more than 30% of its gross national product. The data and insights we collect in these three cities best represent the country as a whole.

If we need to talk to physicians, for example, it is normal to target only these cities where people are able to access all of the products and services that domestic and international brands offer. Since there are hundreds of hospitals in these three cities, different types of specialities are easily reached without going any farther.

This is not only practical but also logical. While there are nephrologists in Istanbul, there are none in the city of Mardin. Patients in Mardin who need a nephrologist go to the closest big city where a nephrologist practices. Therefore, you have to follow the same logic to find patients or consumers who regularly use nephrology drugs and/or devices.

This raises the point of geographic representation. Do not take the world “representative” geographically. Being representative does not always mean that we have to visit each of the 81 cities in Turkey. If you conduct a study on fast moving consumer goods (FMCGs), you can pick any city on the map. When you carry out a study on healthcare professionals, though, do not attempt to include every region in Turkey, since your product reaches only a dozen cities at most.

You can find perfect facilities for research in Istanbul, and decent ones in Ankara and Izmir, for your focus groups and in-depth interviews. Apart from these three cities, you will need hotels for your research.

Broadband internet connection (ADSL) has recently become common everywhere in Turkey. That is why we are now able to offer web streaming for focus groups and in-depth interviews, and some agencies have started providing such services.

Most important, the general population in Turkey is now more familiar with market research. Until recently, if a cab driver asked, I needed to give examples to explain what I was dealing with. Otherwise, he would keep asking about politics and who would win the next election!

Now, nobody asks what a focus group or an online survey is. This is partly because market research methods are publicized on TV, thanks to opinion polls, and partly because people are constantly contacted by competing agencies.

Happily, I no longer see building gates with signs saying “Forbidden for marketers and interviewers!” Not long ago, I even saw this disturbing signage every time I entered the building where I live.

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Jane Rudling
01962 842211
Article date - 30/01/2013
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