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4 Potential Obstacles to International Market Research (and What to Do About Them)

The convergence of a variety of factors in today’s market has made conducting business on a global scale a much more feasible option for all types of businesses, whether big or small. Cross cultural exposure due to changing political systems; a variety of cheaper, easier ways to travel; near universal telecommunication options; and good old-fashioned competition mean companies can seek opportunities abroad easier and cheaper than they ever could have done in the past. But conducting business abroad isn’t necessarily something that everyone should do. It’s a venture that necessitates the same preparation as any domestic enterprise: solid market research. However, just because you need market research for both domestic and international trade, it doesn’t mean the process will be the same for either. On the contrary, international market research exposes potential difficulties that domestic research can comfortably overlook because they just aren’t relevant in a local economy. Here are four things to consider when undertaking an international market research project:


Despite widespread communication options, there are still people out there who don’t have reliable postal or telephone service. There are those without mobile phones and computers and access to the Internet. And there are many who live outside convenient city centers where face-to-face interviewing could be conducted more easily. This means that the type of
research methodology you might have used in a local setting may be unrealistic in an international one. In the absence of a full-scale international market research endeavor, our team at Communications for Research (CFR) uses customized online survey solutions to garner foreign feedback, recognizing that the Internet probably offers the best value for budget spent on research overseas.


People around the world speak different languages. Some languages have words that vary depending on context or intonation. Other languages have words that mean something totally different when translated verbatim into another one. Still others have words that don’t exist at all for anyone else. Thus, the problem: researchers can have a really hard time finding the right words to approximate their intended meaning. The answer: international market research is best partnered with a local market research translator who understands the local language, including its idioms, speech patterns and any technical or social jargon.


Not only do people around the world speak different languages, but
they interpret and express themselves according to a belief system that varies from country to country and, oftentimes, city to city, as well. Some cultures (or communities) cater to perceived authority and seek to please. Others are more direct, preferring to take and stick to a stand regardless of any new information they encounter. This makes it hard for researchers to know how they should phrase and present their questions when dealing with an international audience. To counter potential problems with cultural interpretation and understanding, researchers must design relevant benchmarks based on country and/or cultural norms. They cannot use American standards to measure international results. Instead, they must perform specific statistical analysis using data from each individual research location.


Most companies worry about the bottom line. And whether you’re in need of local or international market research, its cost will inevitably come up. Good research doesn’t have to break the bank, but international market research will probably cost you more than its domestic counterpart. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it. It does mean that you need to be selective when choosing if and when and how you do it to ensure that you’re getting the most out of your time and money.

Need More Information?

To learn more about international market research,
contact our team at Communications for Research (CFR). We have over 20 years experience crafting market research projects that garner actionable results.

Topics: market research process , marketing research

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