More and more, brands are looking to conduct market research across multiple countries at the same time, in support of their global marketing strategy.
However, traditionally, a multi market research project required a large team on-site, endless travel and hours of management to gather and analyse responses. Online qual and mobile ethnography significantly reduces the time, resources and money required to conduct these studies.
When set up and executed properly, online qual research has the potential to deliver optimal and cost effective research studies across as many markets as your study requires. Not only is it less expensive than face-to-face research, with its travel related costs, but it will maximise learnings into your target market, deliver actionable insights, and ultimately increase consumer impact for your clients.
Having run hundreds of multi market online qual research projects, we've made the mistakes (and have enjoyed many a great success as well).
This article covers both the reasons, as a market research firm we love conducting online qual multi market research studies, as well as six things you can do to avoid mistakes and improve your odds of success.
Multi market qualitative research: key benefits
1. Less bias
When you conduct in-person focus groups or In-Depth Interviews (IDIs), you bring a person outside of their natural setting. Subtleties in the surroundings or the demeanor of the researchers can influence responses - known as researcher bias.
In contrast, to focus groups, an online qual research project allows participants in your target market to complete creative exercises or activities online, upload recorded activities like shopping trips or their daily habits and rituals, type their answers to structured and unstructured questions, or conduct homework tasks all from the comfort of their home. The range of formats helps participants find their individual way to open up and share detailed insights, engage with tasks in their own time, in a familiar setting, significantly reducing the risk of external biases.
2. Fewer costs.
It is undeniably more cost-effective to run multi market online qual research. With the project being hosted fully online - there is little to no travel required, no need for venue hire, tighter control of time - and less expensive, easier methods of communicating with local agencies and teams, as well as participants. All of this adds up to a much smaller budget compared to in-person projects across the entire process.
3. Ease of analysis
With online qual, because everything is done online, data collection is far simpler. Your online qual platform should provide many ways for you to quickly and easily filter, manage and interrogate your data, unlocking your ability to analyse data on your terms.
You can break down the analysis by segment and compare and contrast groups of individuals whose attitudes and behaviours might vary on their demographic or segment. And, importantly, you can have access to large amounts of data in real-time (if desired) allowing you to analyze the data through different lenses and filters even while your project is in flight and pivot your approach or methodology where necessary. When it comes to reporting you can combine feedback in a variety of different forms (from showreels, to images, to significant comments) to amplify the human voice and enable your research to engage wider stakeholder groups.
4. Faster outcomes
Once again, the nature of digital lends itself to speed. Processes, when planned and templated properly, can be accelerated or reduced to a few clicks. Waiting times for things like travel or scheduling are often eliminated. The researchers can spend more time focused on the study versus logistics.
5. Increased flexibility
Platforms like Further’s online qual platform,Together™ provide for a range of different types of contextual activities and tasks you can run as part of your market research study that couldn’t exist in a traditional in person setting.
Participants can access their feedback tools on any device, allowing for in-the-moment feedback. Interactive moderation gives moderates and researchers the ability to interface, build rapport, and handle issues with precision and—more importantly—scale. Learn more about our platform features here.
Multi market qualitative Research: What You Need to Know
Here are six things you can do to help make your multi market online qual research a success:
1. Provide detailed strategic briefings to moderators
Delivering projects internationally requires a team of skilled moderators, preferably in each country or market of the study. Your moderators must have a deep understanding of your clients' objectives and the research questions, demographics of the target market, the task or tasks and ideally the industry. Build time in your programme to brief them—either collectively or as a group if possible, and give them time to ask questions and interrogate the brief with you.
Lean on your moderators for their local market knowledge, and feed this back into the overall approach where possible. They are your partners in delivering success, so by giving them the time and space to reflect and respond before the moderation takes place, you'll have a greater chance of success and less problems to have to tackle during the fieldwork.
2. Create a detailed analysis template
If you let each individual moderator report back to you using their own report styles, you will find it very hard (and inefficient) to weave the markets together and deliver a single debrief to your client. By providing a single clear and well-structured template by way of example to each moderator, you'll achieve far more focus making it easier for them to know what data, verbatim and other outputs they will need to include.
3. Translate using humans, not machines
In running an international project, it's likely you'll be engaging target customers who speak several different languages. This means you need to get your discussion and activity guide—plus any stimulus or surveys—translated prior to kick off and programming.
Our advice is to use humans - your moderators if possible or local translation services - to do the translation, and not machines. We know it's tempting to use machines. They are cheaper and often quicker, but the quality is not assured and you risk missing the use of local dialect and the nuances associated with different markets.
4. Work with trusted, local recruiters directly
Recruit badly and you'll end up with poor data quality, no-shows and an unhappy customer! We prefer to work with local market recruiters where possible, thus having the chance to speak to local teams as you plan and execute the project rather than having a single point of contact in just one market who doesn't know the individual markets so well.
Qualitative recruitment is an art, and despite there being many international panel companies and behavioural recruitment tools available, we've always achieved the greatest success when using local market recruiters to support participant recruitment.
5. Start with a pilot market and then build on the learnings
Not all projects give you the room to take this approach, but if they do then we recommend running a single market first (ideally the least risky) and then feeding the learnings you make into the other markets thereafter. You might find out that you need to tweak some of your activities, or change some of the probing. It's better to make the learnings once and iterate the remaining markets quickly.
6. Invest in tech support and contingency plans
Most of the benefits and advantages of remote international qual research stem from the power of digital technology. And as we all know, that technology can occasionally cause trouble. Your technology ecosystem not only includes the online platform itself but also:
- Your researchers’ devices
- Your participants’ devices
- The local market’s high speed Internet infrastructure
- Supporting software, such as a web browser or an antivirus program
The list goes on. Because technology is so critical to your success, your team and plan should include resources for technical support (both for you and for respondents) and a specific, detailed plan for what to do in the event that something critical fails or is temporarily unavailable
We hope this advice will help you have the confidence to tackle multi market online qual projects more readily. And, should you require support then why not reach out to our client success team who would be happy to help as they did for the international Colgate Palmolive team during the pandemic.
I’m impressed by the online research community in China we did with Further. The engagement with the community has been phenomenal. Even during the tough Coronavirus period, our online activities and a product trial have been executed flawlessly. It’s been a pleasure to work with this professional research team.
Colgate Palmolive, March 2020
Our team of experienced client success and project managers has designed, programmed, and fielded thousands of research projects in hundreds of coutries over the years.
We can help guide or manage every aspect of your international study, from finding local partner agencies, finding and incentivising respondents, platform training, data management support and much more.
Visit our services page to learn more about how we can help you with your next online qual or multi market research project.