GeoPoll has conducted marketing research in Africa, Asia, and other emerging areas for over 5 years. When we first got started, we were the new kid in the marketing research class, the one who shows up with fancy tech gadgets and can’t wait to show them off. Our mobile-first data collection methodology, which allows for remote data collection through SMS, mobile web, and other mobile modes, sought to redefine data collection methods from the face-to-face approach heralded by Daniel Starch and his contemporary George Gallup. We recognized that face-to-face and landline-based data collection was an ineffective way of conducting research in countries which have poor infrastructure and low landline penetration, and aimed to disrupt the industry by launching technology based research – an approach that befits the current digital era, where more people globally have access to mobile phones than electricity.

Since GeoPoll’s launch, we have grown to now facilitate research in over 60 countries, including 25 countries in Africa alone. During this time, GeoPoll’s team has amassed a trove of knowledge on best practices when carrying out international marketing research. We have also encountered some challenges, and with them, invaluable learnings regarding international research.
Based on these learnings, we have put together a how-to guide on the marketing research process , including tips on regional nuances to look out for as well as the dos and don’ts when engaging a research agency, and how to understand basic research terms and get the most value out of the data you are gathering. We hope you find this useful as you start your own marketing research process. If you have specific questions about embarking on a new project feel free to contact us.

Getting Started With Your Marketing Research Process

a. Conduct Preliminary Research

Carry out some preliminary research by going online and searching for existing survey reports on your topic of interest. There might not be much especially if you are looking for very specific information, but you might find something close either for a different country or a report that gives you some ideas on how to go about your primary research.

While gathering international research data has been difficult in the past, in the last 10 years, information about Africa and other regions is more available online. Governments, the private sector, and international development organisations throughout the world are continuously churning out research data. One example of this can be seen on GeoPoll’s very own blog, which contains troves of research reports on various topics on commercial and international development research. This secondary data can be used to help structure your research brief.

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b. Develop a Research Brief

To get the most out of your marketing research project, put together a brief with the objectives of your data collection. What exactly do you want to understand better? Be as specific as possible, for example: “What percentage of adult working females aged between 25 and above living in urban areas use my product brand?”

Which aspects of the 4 Ps of marketing (Product, Price, Place, and Promotion) do you want to best understand? The more detail you can provide the better. This helps later when designing the project.
A brief document should contain the following information: Company background, the business objectives, the research objectives, your target market, your competition, the geographical focus and your research project budget.

c. Identify the Right Marketing Research Agency

Research agencies come in all shapes and sizes. It often helps to understand an agency’s main data collection method which, more often than not, tells you what their strengths are. What you will note is that many of the international marketing research agencies have wide-ranging capabilities in data collection and use multiple data collection modes. However, often the cost for these agencies is higher than for agencies that only specialize in one data collection method. For you as the consumer, the scope of your project will determine which agency you will work with.

When talking to various research agencies, counter check their website and social media pages to look for any published reports online, which will give you an idea of the quality of their research and topic areas they focus in. Another crucial due diligence aspect of deciding on what agency to work with is their capabilities and country coverage – too many companies claim to be in markets that they are not in, and they end up sub-contracting. This practice means you are further removed from the data collection process and can also result in a higher cost.

You can verify the company’s coverage by requesting for a copy of their panel book; this is a comprehensive document that gives you details of the agency’s research panel and includes their geographical coverage as well as the demographic details of the panel. Also request copies of case studies, either of projects on the same topic or in the same geographical location, to further assess their past experience in the area you are interested in.

Last but not least, confirm that the agency is a member of either local, regional or international research accreditation bodies based on the geographical scope of your project. These associations have strict policies around marketing research ethics and how data is collected from respondents. GeoPoll is a proud corporate member of ESOMAR,  PAMRO, and MSRA.

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d. Determine Your Data Collection Mode

Once you have listed your objectives, deciding on which of the following research methodologies to utilize becomes easier. Deciding on which type of research to run also helps further narrow down the agency best suited based on their capabilities. The data collection mode you use will impact both the type of data you collect and how it is collected.

Data is generally grouped into two categories, qualitative and quantitative. Simply put, qualitative data is unstructured and is often exploratory by nature. When analyzed, responses may be grouped into similar categories but they cannot be ranked in the same way quantitative data can.

Quantitative research is the mathematical approach to collecting data, which can more clearly be measured and structured. Quantitative data includes survey data where respondents have a clear choice of answers, and quantitative questions often appear with radio buttons, check boxes and Likert scales which are easy to measure and compare. The two data collection methods are often referred to as simply quant and qual. It is important to note that qualitative research tends to be more expensive than quantitative research, as it requires more manual data analysis.

Different research modes will often lend themselves more easily to quantitative or qualitative data collection. Focus groups, unstructured interviews, and open-ended questions are typically collecting qualitative data, while surveys with answer choices collect quantitative data. Understanding the different modes and what type of data they can collect is important: Text message surveys can collect some qualitative data, but perform better with quantitative questions that are easily answered from a list of choices.

You also need to consider how robust and agile the different modes of data collection are. Can your selected mode work across multiple countries and languages? How much data are you looking to collect and in what time-frame? The level of scalability of the mode is important, especially if your project will entail a multi-country survey. In addition, some modes will collect data more slowly than others.

Some examples of different modes of data collection include:
• Face-to-face
• Text message (SMS) survey
• Online survey
• Mobile web survey
• Mobile application survey or passive data collection
• CATI (Computer Assisted Telephone Interviews)
• CAPI (Computer Assisted Personal Interview)
• Focus groups

Marketing research agencies can often give you guidance on what modes would be best for your project, and you should also consider if the agency has experience in that type of data collection. Another question to consider is how relevant each methodology is to your needs – if you are looking for a lot of exploratory data, a focus group may be your best bet, but if you want to reach a wide group of respondents in emerging areas, text message surveys would be a better mode.

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e. Conduct Data Analysis

The most important aspect of market research is being able to analyze the data once it has been collected. A thorough analysis should guide you on how to act on the insights you have gathered. It is therefore crucial that the research agency, through their insights report, address the questions you had set out at the start of your survey. For example: What is my product’s current position in the market, who are my actual customers, and which aspects of my 4 Ps do I need to work on? Analysis capabilities of the agency and the tools being used by the analysts and if they meet your needs

f. Complete A Post Project Review

Having a session with the research team after completion of your project to share feedback and discuss the project execution is sometimes overlooked. Such an undertaking involves various departments but is important to understand why a project did or did not go as smoothly as planned. A post-project review session helps in both parties knowing what areas worked and which ones the agency or the client will need to improve for their next project.

In summary

Conducting international marketing research is often a large undertaking and there are various details you need to consider before embarking on your project. Language, infrastructure, internet penetration, and the type of data you are looking to collect all have an impact on your project and how easily data will be collected from your target population. To be successful, you must engage the right company: One that has a wide range of experience in the area you are researching can utilize multiple modes with ease and can give you advice on questionnaire design, regional nuances, and more.

GeoPoll has a team of experts in collecting data around the globe, and specifically in emerging markets in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. We are always happy to advise you on your data collection needs: To ask a question or contact us about an upcoming project, please get in touch with us