Dubai: Using consumers' occupations as the sole basis for determining their living standards is not a reliable method in the UAE's changing economic environment, an international market research firm said.

It is not enough for businesses to know what work their potential customers do, but it is also important to find out how people live and spend their money, according to AC Nielsen.

"The one-dimensional approach of finding out people's lifestyles and spending behaviour through their occupations is no longer true. Two salesmen may have similar incomes but different lifestyles," said Himanshu Vashishtha, AC Nielsen country manager.

The company said it has developed new techniques to study consumer behaviour by looking at a variety of socio-economic factors.

"The living standards measurement (LSM) classification system goes beyond reflecting the affluence of people to include vital information on their living standards and lifestyles," AC Nielsen said.

With the range of products and services expanding and demographic changes creating new classes of consumers, marketers need to identify who their customers are.

"Unlike the past, it is no longer a black-and-white world of haves and have-nots. There are shades of grey in between," said Arun Joshi, regional head of AC Nielsen.

Joshi said understanding these shades of grey will help businesses in launching their promotions, products and pricing policies.

He said the LSM term was coined by the World Bank and used to explore ways of improving the type and quality of household data collected by government statistical offices in developing countries.

AC Nielsen said it will use the method for market studies in the Middle East and North Africa, starting with Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Morocco and Egypt.