In developed commercial markets, data on market performance is routinely gathered to provide commercial market players (e.g. distributors, manufacturers) a clear and updated picture of the market. This analysis provides a frequent pulse on how the market is performing in terms of depth (volume and value) and breadth (range of products, price points, places available, investment in promotion). They can track performance of their own products and competition. These players use this market intelligence to design their go-to-market strategies. Additionally, non-profit organizations, governments and donors can use this market data to build an understanding of where there are constraints in the demand or supply of a particular market, and where they might intervene to improve the accessibility of a product.
This market information is often collected through retail audits. They are usually a syndicated market research tool – Nielsen ratings are a well-known example. They provide information of interest to multiple market players within a product category at a much lower price than if it were to be collected individually. A key advantage of retail audits is that they are conducted frequently (typically monthly), which gives market players the ability to react quickly to changes in the marketplace.
A retail panel is lower-cost alternative to a retail audit that can be used to generate routine information on market performance and structure. While commercial retail audits aim to represent as much of the market as possible, retail panels rely on a representative sample of outlets. Depending on the sales and distribution structure in a market, the sample could focus on the highest volume retailers (i.e. the 20% of outlets that cover 80% of the market volume), or – in a flatter market structure – on a representative sample of outlets.
The panel collects key information on the outlets offering the product of interest, as well as the market volume, value, and the types of brands and variants available. These indicators provide market players with a “pulse” on the market to facilitate decision-making. This document provides a guide on how to set up a retail panel in a developing market – based on the experience and learnings from a retail panel of condom availability designed and conducted by PSI in a largely informal market in dense urban areas of Mozambique.