Global insight: going global with your research

Going global

What to consider to acheive truly global insight

The world is becoming a smaller place with people, products and services travelling all over the globe.  For companies with an international remit, global insight is important in order to keep track of what is going on among their target audience.  So, what are the challenges when conducting global research?

When setting up a global research programme there are some things you need to consider:
• Method
• Language
• Culture


Whether you already have contact details of your target audience or need to find them through access panels, online research has made it a good deal easier to achieve global insight.

As we mentioned in our previous blog on the future of market research, surveying far-flung places such as Burundi, Congo, Ecuador or Nepal from the UK used to be an expensive business.  Online methodologies have reduced the cost and effort involved.

Respondents can complete surveys in their own time zone when convenient.  There is no need for native speakers to conduct telephone interviews.  Most cultures are fine with taking part in online surveys, with the possible exception of China where email research is not common.  For Japan it is the inverse: people tend to not co-operate with telephone surveys as it is deemed impolite to call people you don’t know beforehand.  So in Japan, online research works better.

When conducting qualitative research, you will still need native speakers to moderate but online technology will save on travel costs.  Attention also needs to be given to time differences between your country and the target market.  Time differences also occur within one country.  These time differences may make combining people from different geographic locations within one bulletin board or online focus group more challenging.


Translations can be costly and often businesses will try to avoid this, expecting respondents to speak English.  English is a language that is widely spoken.  Approximately 1.5 billion or 20% of the earth’s population speak English, yet only 360 million or 5% speak English as their first language.  We can’t expect everyone to express themselves fully in a different language from their own.  Senior business leaders are often expected to be able to speak English well enough to take part in research.  Nevertheless, we still recommend conducting research in native languages for senior business leaders in order to collect richer feedback for your global insight.  This is particularly important when conducting qualitative research.

An aspect often overlooked is back translations.  It can become very costly when verbatim or transcripts need to be translated back into English for analysis purposes.  It is difficult to know in advance how many words you will end up with needing to be translated.  One solution is to use Google Translate.  Google Translate works well when you want to get the gist of what has been said.  But for some languages it can be problematic.  European languages such as German have a very different grammatical structure to English and sentences often don’t make sense as the words are in a different order.  Asian languages such as Japanese are often more pictorial in nature.  Unless there are very short phrases, Google Translate does not work that well.


Of course, different countries have different cultures.  This is something that has an impact on how people answer research questions.  When conducting international research, and you want to make comparisons between countries, this is important to keep in mind.  For example, when looking at customer satisfaction data, you can see results in Asia tend to be more positive than in Europe.  This may be because they receive better service.  But it can also be the case their culture is politer and less inclined to criticise.

Within Europe, you can also see differences.  Germans tend to be more outspoken for example.  Portuguese tend to be more positive in their feedback.  Residents of countries that have been under a communist regime, where citizens would have been monitored by secret police, are often more superficial and positive in their responses as a result (e.g. Romania).  We would recommend being very careful when making comparisons when gaining global insight.  Keep checking why differences occur and use previous data for each country as the main benchmark.

Global insight

These are just a few considerations when conducting international research for global insight.  At Beehive we have extensive experience in research among B2B and B2C audiences in more than 100 countries.  We use cutting edge technology to communicate with and understand global customers and report back their views.  80% of our business is global, run out of the UK, proving international boundaries are no barrier to global insight.

For advice or help with your global research requirements, don’t hesitate to contact us.

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