17 July 2007
The emerging markets of eastern Europe are progressively following the trends and aspirations of their western neighbours. These economies are developing at a fast pace and offer high growth potential for businesses in more established markets. International market research initiatives therefore need to become more closely aligned with the activities of companies looking to exploit the new market growth opportunities outside the western "comfort zone".
Business not as usual
It is important to dispel the myth of the completely integrated marketing strategy across the whole of Europe and take into consideration the long list of socio-economic differences present in emerging territories. The list includes infrastructure variations; language and semantics; social habits and cultural conventions; religious beliefs and value systems; legislation and data protection issues – to name but a few. Developing creative but consistent approaches to probe the cultural underpinnings of customer behaviour in emerging markets is the key challenge.
There are additional issues and challenges to be considered.
International research is expensive and difficult to repeat.
It is difficult to predict response rates.
Project co-ordination can at times get complicated. In general, project management complexities are rather inevitable due to multi-agency and communication problems.
Qualitative issues must be taken into consideration as not every methodology is applicable to every country. Yet, a qualitative approach is vital when researching markets for the first time.
Is it worth reaching beyond the comfort zone?
We are all aware that the conditions are not only changing very rapidly in the emerging markets, but are also substantially different from those in industrialised countries. Therefore, it is important to be able to adapt to very dynamic local conditions but at the same time not to loose sight of the global perspective. This balancing act should work very well as long as you:
Understand the realities, difficulties and risks in dealing with disparate markets
Consider country of origin impact
Appreciate that the higher stakes involved in conducting work in emerging nations, which often carries heightened strategic significance and is always difficult to repeat
It is also crucial to recognise the importance of being there and working in partnership. Fewer hiccups are guaranteed provided that you stay in close and regular contact with your sub-contractor throughout the course of the survey period (even beyond fieldwork periods).
Explore tomorrow with today’s technology
The increasing sophistication of the communication infrastructure enables data collection on a much broader and diverse geographic scale. If we look at figures, Internet penetration in eastern Europe is catching up with its western neighbours:
This shows that technological advances can be increasingly incorporated into the research process across the emerging markets. Yet, at the same time, researchers have to master these tools and understand their inherent limitations and implicit biases.
In précis, don’t be afraid to break into the new markets. Emerging Europe is still undergoing many uncertain socio-political and economic changes but these transformations offer huge opportunities to both foreign investors and domestic companies. Reaching beyond the comfort zone of the western economies is for many progressive businesses the next major strategic move.
For further information, please contact Marketing on 020 7675 1151 or e-mail