Global marketing can be extremely challenging for managers. This is particularly true when your headquarters are in Houston and your customers are in Shanghai, Dubai and Istanbul. Cultural, economic, political, legal, technological and infrustrural forces differ between regions, nationalities and races. Differences in the way people think, earn a living, behave and live their lives produce marketing challenges for companies who seek to market their products internationally and identify the unique needs of diverse markets through marketing research. Although the fundamentals of marketing research are the same for any country, the unique differences among groups and geographies and level of development and literacy complicates the validity and reliability of data collection methods. Therefore, to ensure marketing researchers must be prepared to customize the research design.
Conducting International Marketing Research
Oftentimes, it is advisable to employ a marketing research firm that is local to the research being conducted. Even when research is conducted in a heterogeneous country such as the United Stated or Canada, it is advisable to work with a translations company that is experienced in translating questionnaires and administering surveys.
Due to the growth of globalization, many of the largest marketing research firms earn a substantial portion of their revenues from projects conducted overseas, particularly in the BRICS. In fact, Nielson now earns more than half of their revenues in foreign markets.
Conducting Exploratory Research of Foreign Markets
Similar to marketing research conducted in the United States, international marketing research generally begins with an exploratory analysis to better understand the unmet needs and desires of the foreign market. Exploratory research can consist of literature reviews, focus groups, telephone interviews, in-person/intercept studies and even observational studies. Each type of exploratory study offers certain benefits and limitations and are generally used for specific situations where greater understanding and develop hypotheses about a particular marketing environment. In international marketing, a literature review of secondary research reports can help marketers gain greater insights into economic, legal, cultural, and demographic issues, as well as in assessing the risks of doing business in that market and in forecasting demand. Marketing researchers often begin by studying country trade reports, as well as country-specific information from local sources, such as a country’s website, and trade and general business publications. Sometimes, there are even useful market studies that have already been developed and simply need to be translated to English. These sources can offer insights into the marketing environment in a particular country and can even indicate untapped market opportunities abroad.
The type of field research data collection used can vary widely among countries. For example, door-to-door interviews may be forbidden in certain countries and regions. Further, telephone interviews may not provide representative samples. Often, the chance for complete and accurate data collection might be better when employing a local research agency that is more familiar with what works and doesn’t work.