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Navigating Global Markets: The Importance of Cross-Cultural Market Research

  • August 28, 2023

Businesses that want to succeed in a global marketplace must be able to sell their products or services to consumers globally.

But the messaging that resonates in one market doesn’t necessarily work everywhere. Let’s take a closer look at why it can be difficult to connect with consumers across different cultures—and what savvy businesses do to ensure that their marketing lands with audiences around the world.

Challenges—and Failures—of Cross-Cultural Marketing

We live in an increasingly global society. Thanks to the internet and social media, people are coming together and sharing their experiences in new ways, whether those experiences happen in Fredonia, Kansas, or Dhanoda, India. Trends, fads, and lifehacks are no longer isolated within niche communities; they’re on TikTok for everyone to see.

So, shouldn’t global companies have success selling their products everywhere?

Absolutely—but with a caveat. The global business landscape is more connected than ever, but that doesn’t make it homogeneous. The products and marketing messages that work in one language or culture may not translate literally or figuratively to another culture.

Sometimes, those misses can be amusing. However, at other times, they may be perceived as insulting and have the potential to damage the brand’s image beyond repair.

There’s a way for businesses to avoid these costly mishaps: cross-cultural market research, also known as multicultural research.

What Is Cross-Cultural Research?

Companies already use market research to learn what potential customers want, what could be better about their products or services, and what messages effectively build demand and increase sales for products and services.

One of the core tenets of market research is that one size doesn’t fit all. That’s why you can’t just do one study and call it good. Companies need to constantly assess different markets and different populations.

Multicultural market research is an extension of that concept. It’s a cross-cultural analysis of how regional and cultural differences—whether those variations are shaped by geography, climate, government systems, prevailing customs, traditions, values and beliefs, or anything else—affect sales and marketing. After all, products that appeal to a culture that values autonomy and independence may fall flat in a culture that values family connections and interdependence.

How can global companies get a better sense of cross-cultural psychology?

Cross-Cultural Studies in Practice

The good news is that cross-cultural analysis uses the same tools and methods as any other type of market research. Researchers can collect quantitative data, qualitative data, or—ideally—a blend of both, using approaches such as surveys, focus groups, in-home usage tests (IHUTs), A/B testing, shopalongs, ethnographic studies, and more.

However, multicultural research poses a few unique challenges. Language and dialect differences can be difficult to navigate. Consumers may not have ready access to mobile phones everywhere—and those who do may not have reliable in-home internet access. Cultural factors can be a complicating factor; some audiences believe it’s insulting to give negative feedback. Researchers also have to be particularly alert to the risk of introducing bias or leading participants to particular answers through their questions or their methods.

To learn more about how you can bridge these and other cross-cultural hurdles, check out our ebook on overcoming the challenges of global market research.

The Right Tools for Cross-Cultural Consumer Analysis

QualSights offers cutting-edge tools that help researchers form authentic connections with consumers regardless of geographic or cultural differences. Our mobile qualitative insights platform brings you along with real-world consumers in their homes and on the go, no matter where they live or what languages they speak, while our always-on product consumption intelligence coasters let you passively collect accurate and precise quantitative data about how consumers use products anywhere in the world.

To learn more, contact us.

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