Marketing research is defined as the systematic gathering, recording, and analyzing of data about problems relating to the marketing of goods and services to provide information useful to marketing decision making. Although the research processes and methods are basically the same, whether applied in different countries, international marketing research involves two additional complications.

First, information must be communicated across cultural boundaries. That is, executives in one country or state must be able to “translate” their research questions into terms that consumers in another country like Guangzhou, China, can understand. Then the Chinese answers must be put into terms (i.e., reports and data summaries) that American managers can comprehend.

Second, the environments within which the research tools are applied are often different in foreign markets. Rather than acquire new and exotic methods of research, the international marketing researcher must develop the capability for imaginative and deft applications of tried and tested techniques in sometimes totally strange milieus.

Types of Research based on Information needed

  1. General information about the country, area, and/or market
  2. Information necessary to forecast future marketing requirements by anticipating social, economic, consumer, and industry trends within specific markets or countries
  3. Specific market information used to make product, promotion, distribution, and price decisions and to develop marketing plans.

Types of information gathered in International Marketing Research

  1. Economic and demographic – General data on growth in the economy, inflation, business cycle trends, and the like; profitability analysis for the division’s products; specific industry economic studies; analysis of overseas economies; and key economic indicators for the United States and major foreign countries, as well as population trends, such as migration, immigration, and aging.
  2. Cultural, sociological, and political climate – A general noneconomic review of conditions affecting the division’s business. In addition to the more obvious subjects, it covers ecology, safety, and leisure time and their potential impacts on the division’s business.
  3. Overview of market conditions – A detailed analysis of market conditions that the division faces, by market segment, including international.
  4. Summary of the technological environment – A summary of the state-of-the-art technology as it relates to the division’s business, carefully broken down by product segments.
  5. Competitive situation – A review of competitors’ sales revenues, methods of market segmentation, products, and apparent strategies on an international scope.


The International Marketing Research Process

A marketing research study is always a compromise dictated by the limits of time, cost, and the present state of the art. A key to successful research is a systematic and orderly approach to the collection and analysis of data.

Marketing Research steps

  1. Define the research problem and establish research objectives
  2. Determine the sources of information to fulfill the research objectives.
  3. Consider the costs and benefits of the research effort.
  4. Gather the relevant data from secondary or primary sources, or both.
  5. Analyze, interpret, and summarize the results.
  6. Effectively communicate the results to decision makers.

Marketing Information Sources

The two major sources of information are primary data and secondary data.

1.Primary data – this is defined as information that is collected firsthand, generated by original research tailor-made to answer specific, current research questions.

Problems associated with primary data source

Ability to Communicate Opinions – The ability to express attitudes and opinions about a product or concept depends on the respondent’s ability to recognize the usefulness and value of such a product or concept.

Willingness to Respond – Cultural differences offers the best explanation for the unwillingness or the inability of many to respond to research surveys. The role of the male, the suitability of personal gender-based inquiries, and other gender-related issues can affect willingness to respond.

Language and Comprehension – The most universal survey research problem in foreign countries is the language barrier. Differences in idiom and the difficulty of exact translation create problems in eliciting the specific information desired and in interpreting the respondents’ answers.

2.Secondary data is defined as information that has already been collected for other purposes and is thus readily available.

Problems of comparing secondary data on international marketing

Reliability of Data

Available data may not have the level of reliability necessary for confident decision making for many reasons. Official statistics are sometimes too optimistic, reflecting national pride rather than practical reality, while tax structures and fear of the tax collector often adversely affect data.

Comparability of Data

Comparability of available data is another shortcoming faced by foreign marketers. In the United States, current sources of reliable and valid estimates of socioeconomic factors and business indicators are readily available. In other countries, especially those less developed, data can be many years out of date as well as having been collected on an infrequent and unpredictable schedule. Furthermore, even though many countries are now gathering reliable data, there are generally no historical series with which to compare the current information.

Primary Research

When secondary data are unavailable, irrelevant, or obsolete, the marketer must turn to primary research. One decision that must be made is whether to compile or buy the information. In other words, the question to be decided is whether outside agencies such as marketing research firms should be used to collect the information needed or whether the firm should use its own personnel for this purpose.

Secondary Research

There are many different ways to collect secondary data, and there are many information sources for this purpose. Such sources may be grouped under either public or private sources.

Private sources

A very basic method of finding business information is to begin with a public library or a university library.A library with a reasonable collection should contain standard reference guides, commercial and industrial directories, financial reference manuals, and other materials containing pertinent business information. One useful source of information is the World Trade Centers Association (WTCA) which has more than 300 World Trade centers in eighty-nine countries. WTCA promotes international business relationships through a network of members worldwide. These centers offer referrals, contacts, and information for businesses. Another good source of information is a community’s chamber of commerce.

Public sources

Public sources of market information are numerous. Foreign governments, their embassies and consulates, and trade promotion agencies either have the information desired or are in a position to guide the marketer to the proper source of information. Germany, for example, has the Society for Information and Documentation, which promotes development of information science and exchanges scientific and technical data with other countries.

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