These days, the world is smaller and more interconnected than ever before. However, when it comes to conducting international research, there are still a lot of differences between countries. In fact, as the world continues to change, these differences can actually become magnified - which has a big impact on cross-cultural market research. From laws and privacy regulations to cultural differences, language barriers, respondent engagement and even time zones, there’s an awful lot to think about.
In order to ensure your international research runs smoothly, you need to have country-level expertise, an understanding of social subtleties and even establish a local presence so you can properly understand your chosen market and their people. Read on for our list of things to think about when conducting international fieldwork - and how a country-specific agency can help iron out any problems and ensure your research goes smoothly.
1. They understand the culture
As we said above, in order for your market research to be successful, you need to have a real understanding of the culture. Every country will have their own specific nuances, from purchasing habits to product popularity - but it’s not just about culture, it’s about context too. By understanding the context in which people live their lives, you can clearly interpret and analyse your findings. Of course, no one wants to stereotype any culture, but it in order to get the results you need from your research, it’s necessary to understand and incorporate cultural nuances into your project.
After all, the culture of the region will have a huge impact on things such as how the research is conducted, the type of questions asked and the information that is received in return. In addition, the willingness and ability of respondents to participate are also influenced by factors such as culture and education - which means that cultural and context will have a pretty big impact on research techniques you use. By using a country-specific fieldwork agency that already has a deep understanding of the culture you can make sure you stay one step ahead at all times.
2. They’re already in the (time) zone
When it comes to planning market research in a different country, you need to make sure you consider absolutely everything - including the time zones and time of day you contact your respondents. This can take a bit of planning: for example, if you’re London based and reaching out to people in Australia to kickoff a project at 9 am on a Monday, you’re going to need to ensure everything is in place and ready to go before you leave the office on Friday. Otherwise, you’ll most likely be spending your Sunday morning dealing with technical issues from the other side of the world!
You should also consider timings when you first approach your potential participants too, and how this will affect your approach. For example, if you’re reaching out to participants at lunchtime in their time zone, it’s best to contact them via email or text because they will most likely be away from their desk. But that’s not all! When conducting research in other countries you also need to make sure you allow for things such as office hours and national holidays too. That’s why it’s so great to use a country-specific fieldwork agency - because they are already living in the time zone they will be completely aware of anything that could hold up or impact your research. And having someone local on board, especially if anything goes wrong, will help with participant engagement too (more on that below!)
3. They’ll know which methodology to choose
Once upon a time, all research had to be done in person, by pen and paper. Not anymore though. In today’s world, digital methods are fast becoming the norm, which makes a huge difference when it comes to country-specific research. However, despite such technological advancements, you still need to carefully consider which methodology you choose. For example, if you are doing an online community that is designed to run on a desktop or laptop, this could be a problem for countries who mainly use mobile devices. Believe it or not, many parts of the world are skipping fixed-line internet connections entirely and going straight to mobile, which means that a number of international markets are likely to respond better to mobile-led research.
If you do decide to go down the mobile ethnography route, you also need to consider translation costs and implications. But what about if you are conducting research in a country with limited access to the internet? Although internet usage is steadily increasing worldwide, the level of penetration still varies greatly from country to country and requires a significantly different approach in undeveloped or less developed countries. Because a country-specific fieldwork agency will have a thorough understanding of what methodologies work best in their market, they can help to conduct a thorough feasibility test and provide expert advice on how to choose the right type of methodology to properly engage with your target audience.
4. They can advise on incentives
With any type of market research, it’s pretty standard practice to pay your participants an incentive to thank them for their time. Offering the right incentive can make all the difference when it comes to high response rates and engaged, motivated participants. But the type of incentive - and the amount you decide to offer - will depend on a lot of factors. From how difficult your chosen topic or location is, to what currency to pay the incentive in, to what shops you should offer vouchers for, there’s a lot to think about. The size of your incentive will also depend on socio-economic factors as well - and each country will also have different ideas about what constitutes an acceptable incentive. That’s why country-specific fieldwork agencies are so great - they’ll be able to use their local knowledge to provide expert advice on all these factors so you can choose the right type of incentive to get your respondents engaged and excited.
5. They will be able to engage with respondents
When it comes to finding respondents in different markets, a country-specific fieldwork agency will know exactly where to look in order to find the best participants for your project - and they’ll also know how to engage with them too. This means that they will be able to clearly communicate with potential respondents about what is expected of them, and also build a rapport with them and encourage them to open up as well - especially if you are conducting research in a market where English isn’t the first language. Working with a country-specific fieldwork agency also means that your respondents will have someone to reach out to should they have any questions or concerns. For example, if someone was taking part in MR in the UK, they’d expect to pick up the phone to a UK fieldwork agency if they had any problems.
And if you are conducting research in a country that speaks a different language, a team who are fluent in the language will make a huge difference. It’s not just about speaking the language though - mannerisms and norms can also become easily garbled across cultures, which can have a significant impact on engagement. A country-specific agency will also be able to internationalise and localise, making sure that you are using the appropriate numeric, date and time formats, currency, sorting keys, symbols, icons and colours, text, graphics and even legal requirements. Ensuring these are suitable and relevant to the country or region you are conducting your research in is absolutely critical to respondent engagement levels and the success of your research as a whole.
6. They’ll know data and security requirements inside out
Privacy and data security is a growing area of concern that researchers need to make absolutely sure they address. With data security a hot topic, it’s more important than ever that researchers comply with all the applicable laws, regulations and norms regarding data, both local and national, wherever their fieldwork is taking place. In addition, you’ll also need to make completely sure you comply with all legal requirements and codes of conduct too. For example, if you are conducting market research in the UK, it’s best to use a UK fieldwork agency who are members of the MRS and the AQR, so you can be sure they adhere to the relevant codes of conduct and that your research is being conducted to the highest possible industry standards. In addition, if your research involves participants from the EU and your chosen agency stores any of their data outside of Europe, you will need to carefully audit them to make sure they are compliant to GDPR legislations.
When it comes to conducting international fieldwork, the majority of problems can be put down to language issues, cultural differences and disengaged respondents - but by using a country-specific research agency you can overcome these difficulties. Whether you need a UK fieldwork agency or a country-specific one, using an agency with a deep understanding of the market you are conducting your research in will make all the difference. Want to find out more about how to choose the perfect fieldwork agency? Download our guide.