More companies are looking to international markets to fuel business growth, but it can be tricky to navigate cultural and political differences — especially when conducting and analyzing the foundational research that leads to global insight. A globally focused partner like THRIVE can help you ensure successful engagement across the world, from tailoring studies to align with cultural nuances, to complying with different government regulations that ensure you gain entry into the country in the first place. Learn how the global insight focus at THRIVE can help you fuel your innovation pipeline.  

As our world continues to get smaller and we continue to become more connected, learning from each other at an amazing rate, there’s more impetus on businesses to look outside their domestic borders and expand internationally. For our clients, the lure of overseas growth opportunities looms large. But, to create and capture growth from an international market, you need to start with a deep understanding of your global consumer and their cultural context.

Companies often come to THRIVE with planet-spanning plans, and more than a few questions. The growth and innovation strategists at THRIVE love these types of challenges. If international research is in your future, whether it’s a way to better understand customers, culture or business opportunities, read on!

International research is something we do regularly. So, we’ve jotted down a few considerations to be aware of when you prepare to go global, and when it may make sense to partner up to ensure success.

The Risks are Real

Conducting research overseas can come with certain legal and financial risks — ones that you can reduce by working with a partner. For example, fielding in Europe now requires compliance with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). While it’s currently making headlines for high-profile data breaches, GDPR has a lot of implications for market research including what you must disclose to respondents, how long you can store market research data, and how quickly you must notify respondents in case of a data breach. Failure to comply may result in hefty fines — surely a scenario anyone would want to avoid. In partnering with THRIVE, not only do we work with you to ensure compliance from the get-go, but we can also store qualitative research data to mitigate the risk for our clients.

Cultural Etiquette is Complex

Not all countries have government laws as strict as the EU’s, but another tricky situation we can help navigate when collecting global insight is proper host-country etiquette. At THRIVE, our researchers develop detailed client field guides to help team members seamlessly engage in an immersive research environment, from simple tips like the proper way to greet respondents in other countries to more complex nuances like what to do when offered food or drink in respondents homes. While some of these nuances are exactly that, nuanced, to maintain research integrity, it’s important to ensure that respondents are comfortable expressing themselves freely, especially when being observed by someone from a foreign-to-them country.

Access Isn’t a Given

In some cases, before you can even enter another country you need to obtain certain credentials and complete an application process, which can be time-consuming — especially if you don’t get it right the first time. These requirements can also vary depending on the type of locations where research will be conducted and the types of stimulus you plan to bring in to gather global insight. Will you be going into consumers’ homes, places of business, doctors’ offices or other sensitive situations? Will you be bringing in physical prototypes or other intellectual property? These are all points to consider when planning your international engagement. To help navigate, THRIVE works with a trusted network of international agencies adept at navigating the different policies for these types of government documentations.

There’s nothing worse than spending a ton of money to invest in this type of research and then ending up with the wrong approach or questions that fall flat because of cultural differences — or being dismissed entirely by the government when you get there. Even people with skilled internal resources will want to look for an expert to ensure their work is not only culturally, but also politically sensitive.

Getting to Global Insight Isn’t One-Size-Fits-All

Finding the right balance of localization and standardization can be tricky with international research. That’s why THRIVE brings growth and innovation strategy expertise to research engagements.

On one hand, having a hyper-local approach will yield deep responses in a specific country. On the other hand, keeping some inquiry areas constant will enable comparison across markets. The right answer will ultimately be determined by the types of research questions you want to answer, and the type of growth you’re looking to achieve.

Two strategies to consider:

1. Market-Specific Approach

With this approach, we conduct research with a goal to ultimately create specific solutions for the market they serve. It’s a worthwhile approach, and it works for many industries, especially if you’re looking to differentiate your product, service or experience based on culturally relevant details, or specific use cases. This approach often yields a pipeline of specific product, services or experiences with multiple SKUs for each country, which may support a company with a well-developed regional business structure to better serve their respective markets.

2. Cross-Market Approach

Here we home in on the similarities between people and cultures rather than the differences, with a goal to develop a pipeline of products, services, and experiences across markets. While each may have local country-specific nuances to their execution, there is a clear commonality with unifying elements. This approach enables our clients to take advantage of economies of scale and is often preferred by companies who have less-developed regional business structures to facilitate more efficient management of fewer SKUs.

From finding the right approach to structuring the work with the end result in mind, international research aimed at finding global insights may seem complex. But it doesn’t have to be. Partnering with THRIVE, clients step into global markets primed for success. While we don’t have footprints in every country across the globe, the globally-focused teams at THRIVE work relentlessly to ensure seamless engagements around the world.

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