6 Considerations for International Market Research

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So you’ve got a product or service you want to market internationally and want to start conducting some qualitative research across your target markets? Fantastic!

Once upon a time, carrying out international qual would have meant earning some serious Air Miles and a good dose of jetlag as you zipped around the world in a ‘if it’s Monday, this must be Dusseldorf’ kind of way.

Now, with the advent of online market research you can easily conduct research across languages and time zones all without having to get on a plane. Great news – online research is clearly the way to go.

However, before you whip out your phrase book, there are some practical points you’d do well to consider; in this post I outline a few of them.

1. Get in the (Time) Zone

When planning your research, time zones make all the difference. Our experience has taught us the importance of the time of day you contact respondents. This makes a big difference and helps you get the best response rates. For example, reaching out to participants just before lunchtime so they get your message whilst sat at work eating their baguette/sushi/deep fried pizza means they are more likely to respond to your email or mobile message. Similarly, contacting participants on the last day of the working week offers employees across the world a handy alternative to concentrating too hard on their job.

This requires a bit more planning. If you’re embarking on a research project in Australia at 9am on a Monday morning and you’re based in Europe, remember that you’re going to need a system in place that means you don’t have to spend your Sunday morning creating users’ accounts and setting passwords! You need the system you’re using to be able to take into account different time zones to make this work.

2. Mobile Or Go Home

In the UK, Western Europe and North America you can’t assume that people will be accessing your survey on desktop or laptop. However, this is even truer when you look at the developing world. The table below shows the difference

  Fixed-Line Broadband Subscriptions Per 100 People Mobile Broadband Subscriptions Per 100 People
Developed World 29.0 86.7
Developing World 7.1 39.1

Figures for 2015 from ITU

Many parts of the world are entirely skipping fixed line internet connections and going straight to mobile. So you need to bear in mind that international markets are likely to respond better to mobile-led research. This means that it is more important than ever to plan your research and design tasks in a mobile-first manner, especially in markets where consumers are largely accessing the internet through portable devices.

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"Many parts of the developing world are skipping fixed line internet connections in favour of mobile."

3. Internationalise and Localise

Localisation involves making sure that you are using the appropriate numeric, date and time formats, currency, sorting keys, symbols, icons and colours, text, graphics, legal requirements and so on. Make sure these are suitable and relevant to the country or region you are conducting your research in. Conducting your research in a system which controls these variables is crucial to the success of your project.

But it’s not enough just to think about the right language. You also need to think about internationalisation. Where the same language is used across different countries, you may find differences in spelling, grammar and usage (not to mention more contextual factors such as cultural references and brand names). The involvement of locally-based researchers in the planning and design process as well as the implementation of the research can be invaluable in these circumstances.

4. Understand the Context

Not only is it necessary to understand the culture of your participants to design your research, it is also vital to understand the context in which they live their lives in order to interpret what they have told you into findings and recommendations. Really useful in this regard are image and video. As the old adage goes, ‘a picture tells a thousand words’ and can help you understand more fully your respondents’ lives. For example, you can learn what their house looks like, their family dynamics, the area in which they live and so on.

Further, it is worth remembering that there may be at least as big differences between people in one country depending on economic status, gender, religion, ethnicity and language as between countries so it is important to use segmentation to determine who you want to talk to within each country or market.

5. Some Languages Are Bigger Than Others

Some languages are more ‘compact’ than others, meaning that they take fewer characters to say the same thing, whilst some take a lot more characters and/or have longer words (German, I’m looking at you). Because of this, different languages take up different amounts of space on a web page. Therefore, even within a platform like ours which is designed to use different languages and character sets, when adding a new language careful checking by native speakers is required to make sure that everything fits on the page where it should.

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"Not all languages are created equal. some take up more screen space than others - an important UX consideration."

6. Google Translate - Good, But Not That Good

There’s a bit of a utopian dream when it comes to international research – all of our target consumers happily chatting to each other regardless of location and language. A bit like if the Tower of Babel never wobbled at all. Of course, this dream is fuelled by Google Translate, allowing you to follow the course of all these conversations without so much as wrinkling your brow. Sounds great, but it’s unfortunately not that simple.

For the purposes of allowing research participants to talk to each other across language divides, Google Translate doesn’t tend to cope well with colloquial nuances, turns of phrase and language switching common in online discourse. When reporting to your client or stakeholders, do you really want to advise them to base their strategy on the output of machine-translated text? It’s better to work with decent translation agencies and/or multi/bilingual researchers.

Our platform has been translated by professional translators to ensure the best experience for participants, administrators and stakeholders. Further, although Google Translate can be convenient, it won’t help you out with ensuring that your research is localised and presented correctly.

What are your top tips for International research? Tell us in the comments below.

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