Qualitative research

Qualitative research is also helpful in revealing the impact of socio cultural factors on behavior patterns and in developing research hypotheses that can be tested in subsequent studies designed to quantify the concepts and relevant relationships uncovered in qualitative data collection Procter & Gamble has been one of the pioneers of this type of research – the company has systematically gathered consumer feedback for some 70 years. It was the first company to conduct in depth consumer research in China. In the mid1990s P&G began working with Chinese ministry of Health to develop dental hygiene programs and has now reached over one million children in 28 cities. The company now offers Crest toothpaste in two flavors and toothbrushes in four colors to Chinese consumers.

Many a time the combination of qualitative and quantitative research proves useful in consumer markets, industrial to business and business to business marketing settings as well. In one study the number of personal referrals used in buying financial services in Japan was found to be much greater than in the United States. The various comments made by the executives during the personal interviews in both countries proved invaluable in interpreting the quantitative results suggesting implications for managers and providing ideas for further research. Likewise, the comments of sales in Tokyo during in depth interviews helped researchers understand why individual financial incentives were found not to work with Japanese sales representatives.

Problems of Gathering Primary data:

The problems of collecting primary data in foreign countries are different only in degree from those encountered in the United States. Assuming the research problem is well defined and the objectives are properly formulated, the success of primary research hinges on the ability of the researcher to get correct and truthful information that addresses the research objectives. Most problems in collecting primary data in international marketing research stem from cultural differences among countries and range from the inability of respondents to communicate their opinions to inadequacies in questionnaire translation.

Ability to communicate Opinions:

The ability to express attitudes and opinions about a product or concept depends on the respondent’s ability to recognize the usefulness and value of such a product or concept. It is difficult for a person to formulate needs, attitudes and opinions about goods whose use may not be understood that are not in common use within the community or that had never been available. For example, someone who has never had the benefits of an office computer will be unable to express accurate feelings or provide any reasonable information about purchase intentions, likes, or dislikes concerning a new computer software package. The more complex the concepts, the more difficult it is to design research that will help the respondent communicate meaningful opinions and reactions. Under these circumstances, the creative capabilities of the international marketing researcher are challenged.

No company has had more experience in trying to understand consumers with communication limitations than Gerber. Babies may be their business, but babies often can’t talk, much less fill out questionnaire. Over the years Gerber has found that talking to and observe both infants and their mothers are important in marketing. In one study Gerber found that breast fed babies adapted to solid food more quickly than bottle fed babies because breast milk changes flavor depending on what the mother has eaten. For example, infants were found to suck longer and harder if their mother had recently eaten garlic. In another study, weaning practices were studied around the world. Indian babies were offered lentils served on a finger. Some Nigerian children got fermented sorghum fed by the grandmother into their babies mouths. Hispanic mothers in the United States tend to introduce baby food much earlier than non-Hispanic mothers end continue it well beyond the first year. All this research helps the company decide which products are appropriate for which markets. For example, the Vegetable and Rabbit Meat and the Freeze Dried Sardines and Rice flavors popular in Poland and Japan respectively most likely won’t make it to American store shelves.