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Key challenges facing international market researchers

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in Market Research

International market research has been increasing in volume and scale for many, many years and is more important to businesses than ever before. This exponential growth owes a lot to how the world as we know it has developed over the latter part of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st century. Thanks to international trade, greater freedom of movement, global investment. the evolution of the web and associated tech, everything is – or at least feels – more international.

Global has therefore become the new local and consequently, for market researchers, demand for their invaluable service is high. Regularly, they are being inundated with requests and commissions that reflect this new reality – organisations want to look further afield, understand what options they have beyond single-market, domestic audiences and extend their reach.

While this opens up new and more opportunities, it’s not without its challenges for market research agencies. Globalisation has posited some interesting and quite thought-provoking questions that ask the sector to rethink everything it knows. We look at some of the challenges arising out of this exciting upheaval.

Delivering faster insight

Swift, highly relevant and insightful results …  those are the exacting demands placed on today’s market researchers by brands that want real-time responses that allow them to “appear to anticipate” what their new and existing customers want before even they do.

Why so? Partly it is to do with the superfast, super-connected world we live in. Everything, from the coffee we drink to the movies we opt to watch online, feels instant. Friends and family members’ lives are regularly updated; contactless payments make buying effortless; and breaking news headlines pop up throughout the day on our smartphones. It’s all there, in the blink of an eye.

The other factor influencing the drive towards speed is to do with changing customer/service user expectations. Not only is your audience a smarter buyer/user, they’re also a lot more switched on when it comes to personalisation. In short, they count on being targeted effectively. It has to at least feel bespoke.

New approaches in new markets

There are a lot of similarities between carrying out domestic market research and international market research. Certain processes, for example, are evident in both approaches. Whether it is identifying the problem, designing methodology to solve it, carrying out research and producing a report, very little changes “home or away”.

However, once you go from singular to plural, that’s when you deviate from the so-called norm. Simply put, new market, new approach, and one that’s tailored to each segment. That’s the key takeaway. In composing surveys and hosting focus groups, researchers have to be more considerate of political, social, economic, legal, economic and cultural differences.

Moreover, procedurally, international projects can be rather convoluted, with a considerable number of stakeholders to engage across different timezones and multiple steps to take. For example, domestically, one language responses to questionnaires is simple enough to carry out. Surveys have to be translated from the original source into multiple languages – localised as well – and then translated back. Without technology or third party support, this can be hard to manage.

Effective engagement with multiple sources of data

Access to information isn’t necessarily the problem, it’s what to do with it that is the challenging part. Like finding a needle in a haystack, extracting insight from multiple sources of data in a pressurised environment requires confidence and skills. Big data, while an asset, needs to be carefully handled and properly understood.

Market researchers need to adapt to this new, data-rich environment and equip themselves with the abilities needed to utilise traditional methodologies, while also knowing how best to deploy new techniques. ESOMAR’s guidelines into mobile market research is just one example of how far the sector has come in recent years.

For many, this is a huge step. While many may be reluctant to evolve their approaches, the environment in which they work will progress nevertheless meaning they have no choice other than to go with with the flow or lose out to those who have embraced the future, which is going to be more tech-focused.

Keeping costs down

Costs are a pressing issue for all stakeholders who want to maximise every penny, cent or euro of their investment. In the past, value for money had negative implications – quality, somewhere along the line had to be compromised. Today, that is unacceptable. Results have to be delivered swiftly, without extra spend and without sacrificing on the integrity of the project.

It’s a big ask to say the least, especially for international market researchers who have to deal with the logistics of managing large, borderless projects that involve significant numbers of individuals. Add to that different time zones and languages and you begin to see how arduous and expensive that can be.

Streamlining processes, embracing technology and establishing long-term partnerships are a few of the solutions on offer to market researchers, their clients and collaborators. It requires a lot of strategic planning though and again, this is where technology positions itself as the most logical and effective answer.

Hard work and innovation

Business is good in the world of market research, with agencies specialising in this area finding that they are in ever greater demand. Yet, when the enquiries come in, the pitches are made, what they’re finding is that the language has changed – do more for us in less time and make sure the quality of your work is preserved.

It’s startling at first, to wake up to this, but the fact that this expectation is no longer the exception says a lot. Market research, like so many other sectors, is beginning to feel the aftershocks of the digital revolution. However, the sector is well-positioned to overcome the challenges it faces and moreover deliver above and beyond what it is still getting used to. In time, it’ll be setting the standard.


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