Effective Market and Competitor Research for International Businesses

Whether your business is expanding or already operating internationally, high-quality market and competitor research can enable your brand to develop an appropriate localization strategy, thereby avoiding costly mistakes. With brand differentiation now more critical than ever, an effective localization approach allows your company to engage with local audiences and cut through the noise.

This article discusses the basics of international market and competitor research, what pitfalls to avoid, and how it can help businesses thrive.

Why perform market and competitor research?

Navigating international contexts can be complex for brands, especially in multilingual markets. Conducting market and competitor research can help companies understand buyer behavior, channel distribution, and the kind of content users consume. Using this information, companies can better tailor their approach to the target market and communicate their value proposition in a way that resonates with the local people.

Insights of market and competitor research include linguistic and cultural values, user preferences and habits, and competitor tactics and performance. Research can uncover specific considerations such as payment methods or legal requirements. This knowledge can help organizations adapt their content to local markets, find root causes of any issues, and avoid alienating potential customers.

Planning your research

Planning your research methodology includes outlining data sources, communication strategies, timing, and resources. You should document your processes and data sources for your own reference, as well as to use in communication with stakeholders — which will help you to get internal buy-in.

It’s important to use the right data sources and people to understand the real insights in international markets. Utilize marketing professionals who already know that particular market, as well as linguists who know the language well. That way, you will get better-quality data and outputs, while also saving time and money.

Gathering relevant data

There are two types of research: primary and secondary. Primary research generates original data, whereas secondary research compiles data that is already published. Ideally, there should be a mix of primary and secondary research data, as they complement each other. The data should be reliable and presented in terms of both numbers (quantitative) and explanations (qualitative).

Secondary research data is usually easier and quicker to collect than primary research data, so it can make for an excellent starting point. Secondary research data can be useful to understand the context of the industry. Despite its benefits, secondary research data has limitations, as it was produced for other purposes by other researchers and in other contexts.

Good sources of secondary data are case studies, papers, and statistics published by the European Commission, Statista, or Pew Research Center. Blog articles and publications like MultiLingual can also be useful to learn about topics of interest. 

Primary research data is gathered using a variety of methods, such as focus groups, UX trend analysis, and online surveys. Survey questions should be relevant to the task at hand and tailored to the market. You can use online and offline tools to identify competitors and understand their brand visibility and the performance of their digital assets.

Analyzing the data

Analyzing data is a systematic process that involves defining key metrics relevant to the research and cleaning the data to remove all the inconsistencies and aspects that are not useful to the task at hand. Then you need to analyze it further by using an appropriate method, such as conjoint analysis, TURF (Total Unduplicated Reach and Frequency), or segmentation. Statistical or other software can be useful for large or complex data sets. 

Data analysis should be done with an open mind to avoid any bias that can prevent us from uncovering the results. In most cases, cross-referencing the results across data sets is useful to validate data and findings, while removing any bias. This is particularly important in an international context, where the data available may contradict other findings. 

Implementing findings

Finally, draw conclusions from the data and present them to stakeholders if necessary, reporting on the goals of the research and any recommendations and next steps. 

Then, the implementation itself needs to be monitored and analyzed. The lack of a quick implementation is a real issue in search engine optimization (SEO), as it prevents businesses from maximizing their opportunities. Keeping an eye on market trends and customer behavior over time can also help create a solid international SEO strategy. 

By acting on the findings of market and competitor research, brands gain trust with their audiences and improve their reputation internationally. And what business wouldn’t want that?

Montserrat Cano
Montserrat Cano is an international SEO digital strategist and project manager who’s been working for 20+ years helping businesses become competitive online. She focuses on business growth and digital transformation for companies of all sizes.


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