News and Insights

Best Practices for Multinational Research

January 13, 2020

FINN’s Research, Planning and Measurement Division (RPM) manages communications research across markets, cultures and languages.  With experience in more than 60 countries across six continents, we are skilled in developing and managing multinational research programs.  Managing multinational research is not just a question of scale, you also need to me an expert in navigating the challenges posed by international research projects:

  • Translating words is not the same as translating meaning.  We take great care to ensure that our questions convey exactly what we want them to convey.
  • Different cultures answer questions differently.  In some countries, research participants are reluctant to express negative opinions, especially in Asia.  In others, they are less likely to say “I don’t know.” Being aware of cultural differences helps us write better questions and more accurately interpret results.
  • Laws vary.  European countries have particularly stringent laws regarding the protection of research respondents’ privacy (this is also become the norm in the U.S. as well).  Many Middle Eastern and Asian countries have laws that limit the allowable topics of research – and who can participate. We make it our business to make sure we comply with both the letter and spirit of local regulations.
  • Cultural norms vary.  Because of differences in the way people interact with one another, as well as differences in languages, a focus group discussion that takes 90 minutes in the U.S. will take 120 minutes in France and 150 minutes in Italy.  Similarly, a survey that can be completed in 10 minutes in the U.K. will take 20 minutes in Japan. Asian cultures, especially in Japan prefer, face-to-face qualitative interviews instead of over the phone. Being aware of these differences is critical to ensuring we achieve our research objectives.
  • Quality standards vary.  We have very specific standards and expectations for the way our data is collected—the way samples are managed, the way interviewers are trained, and the way data is validated.  We choose our international data collection partners very carefully, country by country, and we supervise them closely.
  • Technology varies.  Understanding which technologies reach which kinds of respondents in which countries is critical to collecting reliable data.  In some countries, internet access is so widespread and market research panels so mature that on-line research is possible. In much of the developing world, internet access can only reach the most affluent households and telephone research can only reach those with socio-economic status levels of C or “those who can afford purchasing consumer goods”. 
  • The world is not 24/7.  In most of the world, businesses operate on their own clock.  To avoid unnecessary delays in international research, FINN/RPM’s project managers are ready, willing and able to work nontraditional hours—so that when our data collection partners wake up, they have our instructions, whether they are in Singapore, Israel, London or Washington, DC.

If you’re interested in an excellent sample of a multinational study, check out our B2B Influence report. This is a multinational study, directed by FINN/RPM designed to gain a greater understanding of B2B purchasing decisions – who is involved, the purchase journey, the key attributes and sources of information that influence decisions and the confidence with the chosen provider as compared across multiple industries and countries.

Download Report

POSTED BY: Christopher Lawrence

Christopher Lawrence