As some of you know, I really have a thing for doing research in multiple countries. I’ve been working in market research for two decades now and have always conducted international research projects — and experienced all the challenges that come with them. But I believe that conducting international research is even more challenging now than it was 20 years ago when I started my research career.

I see three key challenges that market researchers must deal with when doing multicountry projects:

1) How to collect globally comparable data. As soon as the surveyed cultures are so different that you need to adapt research methodologies and localize questionnaires, you’ve lost the chance for global comparisons. How do you walk that fine line between globalization and localization?

2) How to put this data into a local context. It’s really hard to understand the real drivers of behavior in different regions. Just looking at the results and comparing them with those of other countries might result in the wrong conclusions.

3) How to distribute and communicate these results back. Collecting information is one thing, but communicating it back to the local organizations and having them act on it is quite another. Will your local market insights teams use, share, and implement the data that you’ve collected globally?

But why is it now harder than it was before? Because technology has made the world flat. Information travels fast, and it feels like we know everything (or at least we could). But knowing doesn’t equal understanding. In fact, understanding and analyzing information from other regions is really, really hard. One of the challenges is that our brain translates new information into concepts with which it’s familiar. For example, when we think of Chinese consumers buying books, we think of an Amazon-style website. Why? Because that is what we know. But is it true?

I’m working on a research framework that will give Market Insights Professionals a process for collecting, analyzing, and communicating global research — including the kind of information needed, how you move from data to insight, and an overview of solutions that can help you share these insights.

One of the key components of this framework is collaboration with local teams, as they are the ones that in many cases can make or break a project. Three tips:

  1. Make sure you engage with them before you need them; make them feel part of your team.
  2. Work with local resources to vet the final outcome: Get additional insights and feedback and brainstorm possible action items. Don’t report local results back into the global organization without a local check. It’s so easy to get this wrong.
  3. Make sure you communicate from the get-go how you will share the final results, when you will share them, and, most importantly, with whom you will share them. Don’t give local teams the impression that you’re going over their heads.

Anything else you’d like to add?