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How To Run Successful International Online Qual Research Projects

More and more, brands are looking to conduct research across multiple markets at the same time, in support of their global marketing efforts. Despite the overall design of your research project being consistent with single market studies, there are elements that need to be done differently and things you need to consider which, if not factored, can result in a poorly executed project and, worse still, the wrong insight.

Online qual research has the potential to deliver an optimal experience for you and your clients when setup and executed properly. Not only will you achieve great costs savings over face-to-face research and all it's associated travel costs, but it will maximise the learnings and insight.

Having run hundreds of multi-market, international online qual research projects, we've made the mistakes and had many more great successes, not least a recent study in China during Covid-19 crisis.

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)


In support of your work, here are 5 things you must do to make your online qual research a huge success.

1. Provide detail strategic briefings to moderators

Delivering projects internationally requires a team of skilled moderators, preferably in each market to be studied. Your moderators must have a deep understanding of your clients' objectives and the research questions. Build time in your program 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. Provide a detailed analysis template

If you let each individual moderator report back to you using their own reports 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 to each moderator, you are setting up for success and making it easier for them to know what data, verbatim and other outputs they will need to include from the get-go.

That said, by working collaboratively with your moderators, you are giving them the space and permission to add value, and nuance their interpretation of the data for you to ponder.

3. Translate using humans, not machines

In running an international project, it's likely you'll be engaging participants with several different languages. This means that you will need to get your discussion and activity guide, plus any stimulus, translated prior to kick off and programming.

Our advice is use humans - your moderators if possible - to do the translation, and not machines. It's tempting to use machines, we know - 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 client! 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 their being many international panel companies and behavioural recruitment tools available, we've always achieved the greatest success on strategic research projects with greater associated risk using this method.

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, so it's better to make the learnings once and iterate the remaining markets quickly.


We hope this advice will help you have the confidence to tackle international online qual projects more readily. You can lean on Further for help and support, or you can use our online qual research platform from hereon.

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