Comparability of available data is a short coming faced by foreign marketers. In the United States, current sources of reliable and valid estimates of socioeconomic factors and business indicators are readily available. In other countries especially those less developed, data can be many years out of date as well as having collected on an infrequent and unpredictable schedule. Naturally, the rapid change in socioeconomic feature being experienced in many of these countries makes the problems of currency a vital one. Further, even though many countries are now gathering reliable data, there are generally no historical series with which to compare the current information.
A related problem is the manner in which data are collected and reported. Too frequently, data are reported in different categories or in categories much too broad to be of specific value. The term supermarket for example, has a variety of meanings around the world. In Japan a supermarket is quite different from it American counterpart. Japanese supermarkets usually occupy two or three story structures; they sell foodstuffs daily necessities, and clothing on respective floors. Some even sell furniture, electric home appliances, stationery and exporting goods, some have a restaurant. General merchandise stores, shopping centers, and department are different from stores of the same name in the United States.
Validating Secondary Data:
The shortcomings discussed here should be considered when using any source of information. Many countries have similarly high standards for the collection and preparation of data as those generally found in the United States but secondary data from any source, including the United States must be checked and interpreted carefully. As a practical matter, the following questions should be to effectively judge reliability of secondary data sources.
1) Who collected the data? Would there be any reason for purposely misrepresenting the facts?
2) For what purposes were the data collected?
3) How (by what methodology) were the data collected?
4) Are they internally consistent and logical in light of known data sources or market factors?
Checking the consistency of one set of secondary data of known validity is an effective and often a way of judging validity. For example, a researcher might check the sale of baby products with the number of child bearing age and with birth rates, or the number of patient beds in hospitals with the sale of related hospital equipment. Such correlations can also be useful in estimating demand and forecasting sales.
In general, the availability and accuracy of recorded secondary data increase as the level of economic development increases. There are exceptions; India is at lower level of economic development than many countries but has accurate and relatively complete government collected data.
Fortunately, interest in collecting high quality statistical data rises as countries realize the value of extensive and accurate national statistics for orderly economic growth. This interest in improving the quality of national statistics has resulted in remarkable improvement in the availability of data over the last 25 years. However, where no data is available, or the secondary data sources are inadequate, it is necessary to begin the collection of primary data.
The appendix of article includes comprehensive listings of secondary data sources, including Web sites on a variety of international marketing topics. Indeed, almost all secondary data available on international markets can now be discovered or acquired via the Internet. For example, the most comprehensive statistics regarding international finances, demographics, consumption, exports, and imports are accessible through a single source, the US department of Commerce at www.stat-usa.gov. Many other governmental, institutional and commercial sources of data can be tapped on the Internet as well.