In the contemporary world, international marketing has become of vital importance as the world’s trade borders lift. Research in marketing is the support upon which all marketing schemes rely on. Since the advent of globalisation and the increased in phenomenons like Foreign Direct Investment, scholars are always looking for ways which will increase their chances of success in foreign markets (Javalgi et al, 2011). Which is why, it is important to pinpoint the issues pertaining to the current marketing research knowledge that is used contemporarily. To meet this end, this paper will examine literature pertaining to the understanding of international marketing research methods and approaches and find out what issues underlie these methods. It will also categorically look at the research that has been presented in scholarly works and understand if there are any gaps in their research.
2. Understanding International Marketing Research
Czinkota and Ronkainen (2013) speak of several aspects of international marketing research which have an influence on the company and how they work in the international market. They can be broadly summarised as follows:
- The objective of the research needs to be based on foreign market opportunity-analysis, which at first need to concentrate on the market variables like the value of the currency and the population of the country.
- The research needs to find categorise countries in specific classes before beginning research, for example, it needs to find if a specific country has different rules for import and for FDI.
- It is important to find if adequate secondary data is present. Typically, it is better for a business if the country it is trying to penetrate has trade organizations, service organizations and international bodies like the UN, IMF and the OECD have extensive data of their trade regulations and economic patterns.
3. Issues in International Market Research
As seen in the section above, one of the main problem which plagues companies when they are undertaking international market research is the problem of adapting to the cultural, social and religious practices of the market they are trying to capture. However, it is not necessary that a company will get it right, or the bigger the company, the better the research. The following sections contain critical analyses of some present understandings.
- Ghauri and Cateora (2010) argue that it is the loss of context which make people commit grave mistakes when it comes to doing research in international market. However, not much is elucidated about what it entails to undertake research which provides appropriate context to the kind of research which would take care of all perspectives in a foreign market.
- Engelen et al (2016) attempt to bridge this gap to an extent and identify some problems that may occur when someone is approaching international marketing research. They elucidate that the starting point for a company in respect to starting market research may be the the measuring of the performance of the firm across international contexts. For example, if the foreign nation’s population consumes soda a lot more than the business’s base nation, then their sales need to increased substantially more than what happens in the base nation.
- Czinkota and Ronkained (2013), however, question the very validity of the unit of research which organizations choose to base their research on. They reiterate on the importance of culture and understand the free-flow of ideas as being more important than the flow of actual products and services. Culture allows for the business to understand if the environment is receptive to the kind of products that they are offering. They differentiate between high and low context culture in order to differentiate between the different kinds of culture that organizations need to be mindful of when entering the market. They speak of an important role that the business will play, whereby the business needs to act as a ‘change agent’, which means they cause cultural shift in the country by their products and/or services.
- The political and legal aspects are not dissipated as cultures get more homogenous. On the contrary, what could happen is that cultural homogeneity could result in stricter laws regarding business. Additionally, conflict between nations is always a possibility, which may affect business relations. A good example would be India’s ban on several Chinese apps, following border issues with the nation. The move was unprecedented and shocking because India formed a very large part of some of these apps’ user bases (Al Jazeera, 26 January 2021).
- A significant problem that occurs when international marketing is not done right is the loss of perspective which occurs when research doesn’t completely reflect the socio-cultural perspectives of the said society. Usually, the consequences are the marketing being offensive or sending a wrong message and in those cases, it sends a wrong message to the population and attracts the ire for not just the campaign but also the whole brand. Varnes et al (2012) relate that traditional approaches like surveying questionnaires, focus groups and interviews in marketing. But they describe the ethnographic research as being the most accurate method in understanding the context in which individuals become consumers. They describe the usage of contextual interviewing as understanding the context of the environment in which the consumer resides and the data which comes from such an inquiry provides ‘outcome-driven innovation’.
3.1 Understanding International Marketing Approaches in a Globalising World
The phenomenon of globalisation has been both a curse and a boon to the world of international marketing research. It has been advantageous as the kind of data which would make the job of the researcher easier; population, buying trends, consumer preferences, market gap etc. are now a lot more readily available. However, one must consider the fact that this kind of data is available to not just their company, but to a lot of other companies who are trying to percolate the area as well. Following are some arguments about how globalisation has affected international market research:
- It has been argued that technological and communications development has led to more problems as research has become more complicated. Sinkovics et al (2005) speaks about the difficulty in interpreting data and the psychological distance that has come to play with globalisation, but unfortunately doesn’t elucidate on this much. They speak extensively on the interpretation of quantitative and qualitative data, reporting that one of the main arguments against using qualitative forms of research is that is is very difficult to replicate the results of a qualitative form of research.
- The problem with quantitative studies is that the results are too rigid to be applied in an international context. Hence, while it is true that globalisation has made the access of these markets for the purposes of research very easy, the contextualisation of quantitative research has become difficult as well. Barnham (2015), speaking about the relative merits and demerits of the usage of qualitative and quantitative data, postulate that quantitative research focuses more on the ‘what’ and qualitative research focuses more on the ‘why’. The qualitative part of research aims to do more than quantitative, in some cases trying to build on from the research that has been uncovered from the quantitative part of research. However, he notices, that qualitative research suffers from the criticism of disregarding the ‘mental facts’, but in market research, methods like triangulation can lend objectivity ad utility to the research outcome and give clearer data for the business to work with. However, he warns, that utilitarian perspective should not be always used when dealing with market research, especially in international market research. It is perfectly acceptable for research to be phenomenological, which concentrates on the view point of the consumer and doesn’t need to necessarily directly contribute to the market research.
- Research on decision-making and buying behaviour will be different for academic purposes and for business purposes. Action-oriented research needs, above all, to have replicable results so that they can be adaptive to different kinds of markets. It is an expensive and time-consuming exercise to do the same kind of research for each market that the business is trying to percolate. If the business is not a large scale business, it becomes more difficult. Hence, there is a need for sequential mixed-methods way of research, whereby there needs to be sequential form of method which is easily adaptable to each market the business is trying to percolate (Ibid).
3.2 Market Research, Identity and Culture
In 2019, Nike came under fire for releasing a line of shoes, the design of which resembled the words ‘Allah’ in Arabic. A petition was launched to recall that line of shoes and it garnered support from thousands of people across the globe (Bloomberg, 31 January 2019). While it is not possible for a company to predict how every religious and cultural group would react to a certain product or service, this is a problem which arose because of the circulation of images on social media. This incident reiterates on the problem that international market research needs to look at, which has seen a considerable rise since globalisation. The following section examines the effect of culture and identity on international market research:
- One of the main issues that international market research has failed to understand is the growing importance of local culture and religious meaning, as a mechanism of pushback against the rise of globalism. Recent trends worldwide indicate has challenged the view that culture is becoming homogenous and individuals have begun to blame the liberal economic order for deprivation and dissatisfaction with the quality of their lives (Friedan, 2019).
- It is clear, the, that research needs to be mindful about such problems and understand the economic and social trends that have emerged post-liberalisation. Even commercials, a large part of marketing, sometimes lack perspective which could possibly lead to widespread criticism and financial losses as companies scramble to pull offensive ads off-air. A prime example of this would be an ad for Dove body lotion, which appeared racist and had to be pulled when backlash started, the company had to apologise and it was a waste of a campaign (The New York Times, 8 October 2017).
The document has made it clear that a significant issue with international market research contemporarily is that there is a need for not just the evaluations of factors which must be taken into consideration, but also there needs to be a revamping of the current methodologies which international market research is making use of. Additionally, we have understood that territorial borders, culture and identity are just as important considerations as they were decades back. There is a possibility that there has been a recent resurgence in identity and culture in societies as a backlash against globalisation. Hence, it would be wrong to assume that the phenomenons of globalisation has only aided the process and methods of international market research, not hindered.
Another important player which is surfacing in capturing international markets are the SMEs, which are increasingly crossing boundaries, as the factors for their entry into international market for SMEs are the same as for bigger corporates (Ahi et al, 2017).
The first step to improving international market research, hence, is identifying these issues which occur while planning and conducting research, specific to the kind of research that the company is planning to undertake. The identification of the problem is most of the work done in international market research, and will ensure that the campaign and product/service design is never off base. International market research is more important now than ever, because a variety of international players are entering the market and a diverse range of products and services are now in need.
- Javalgi, R.R.G., Deligonul, S., Dixit, A. and Cavusgil, S.T., 2011. International market reentry: A review and research framework. International Business Review, 20(4), pp.377-393.
- Czinkota, M.R. and Ronkainen, I.A., 2013. International marketing. Cengage Learning.
- Glinow, M.A.V., Shapiro, D.L. and Brett, J.M., 2004. Can we talk, and should we? Managing emotional conflict in multicultural teams. Academy of Management review, 29(4), pp.578-592.
- Engelen, Andreas & Engelen, Monika & Craig, C.. (2016). Challenges in Conducting International Market Research. 10.1007/978-3-319-05542-8_6-1.
- Goffin, K., Varnes, C.J., van der Hoven, C. and Koners, U., 2012. Beyond the voice of the customer: Ethnographic market research. Research-Technology Management, 55(4), pp.45-53.
- Aljazeera.com. 2021. India to impose permanent ban on dozens of Chinese apps: Reports. [online] Available at: [Accessed 30 January 2021].
- Andaleeb, S.S. and Anwar, S.F., 1996. Factors influencing customer trust in salespersons in a developing country. Journal of International Marketing, 4(4), pp.35-52.
- Bloomberg.com. 2021. Bloomberg - Are you a robot?. [online] Available at: [Accessed 30 January 2021].
- Frieden, J., 2019. The backlash against globalization and the future of the international economic order. The Crisis of Globalization: Democracy, Capitalism, and Inequality in the Twenty-First Century, pp.43-52.
- Nytimes.com. 2021. Dove Drops an Ad Accused of Racism (Published 2017). [online] Available at: [Accessed 30 January 2021].
- Barnham, C., 2015. Quantitative and qualitative research: Perceptual foundations. International Journal of Market Research, 57(6), pp.837-854.
- Ahi, A., Baronchelli, G., Kuivalainen, O. and Piantoni, M., 2017. International market entry: how do small and medium-sized enterprises make decisions?. Journal of International Marketing, 25(1), pp.1-21.