The greatest problem in sampling stems from the lack of adequate demographic data and available lists from which to draw meaningful samples. If current, reliable lists are not available, sampling becomes more complex and generally less reliable. In many countries, telephone directories, cross index street directories, census tract and block data, and detailed social and economic characteristics of the population being studied are not available on a current basis, if at all. The researcher has to estimate characteristics and population parameters, sometimes with little data on which to build an accurate estimate.
To add to the confusion, in some South America, Mexican and Asian cities, street maps are unavailable, and in some Asian metropolitan areas, streets are not identified and houses are not numbered. In contrast, one of the positive aspects of research in Japan and Taiwan is the availability and accuracy of census data on individuals. In these countries, when a household moves it is required to submit up to date information to a centralized government agency before it can use communal services such as water, gas, electricity and education.
The effectiveness of various methods of communication (mail, telephone, personal, interview, and Internet) in surveys is limited. In many countries, telephone ownership is extremely low, making telephone surveys virtually worthless unless the survey is intended to cover only the wealthy. In Sri Lanka, fewer than 5 per cent of the residents – only the wealthy – have landline telephones. Even the respondent has a telephone the researcher may still be unable to complete a call.
The adequacy of sampling techniques is also affected by a lack of detailed social and economic information. Without an age breakdown of the total population, for example, the researcher can never be certain of a representative sample requiring an age criterion because there is no basis of comparison for the age distribution in the sample. A lack of detailed information, however, does not prevent the use of sampling; it simply makes it more difficult. In place of probability techniques, many researchers in such situations rely on convenience samples taken in market places and other public gathering places.
McDonald’s got into trouble over sampling issues. The company was involved in a dispute in South Africa over the rights to its valuable brand name in that fast emerging market. Part of the company’s claim revolved around the recall of the McDonald’s name among South Africans. In the two surveys the company conducted and provided as proof in the proceedings, the majority of those sampled had heard that company’s name and could recognize the logo. However, the Supreme Court judge hearing the case took a dim view of the evidence because the surveys were conducted in posh white suburbs whereas 76 percent of the South African population is black based in part on these sampling errors the judge threw out McDonald’s case.
Inadequate mailing lists and poor postal service can be problems for the market researcher using mail to conduct research. In Nicaragua, delays of weeks in delivery are not unusual and expected returns are lowered considerably because a letter can be mailed only at a lost office. In addition to the potentially poor mail service within countries the extended length of time required for delivery and return when a mail survey is conducted from another country further hampers the use of mail surveys. Although airmail reduces this time drastically it also increases costs considerably.
These kinds of problems encountered in drawing a random sample include the following:
1) No officially recognized census of population.
2) No other listings that can serve as sampling frames.
3) Complete and out of date telephone directories
4) No accurate maps of population centers. Thus no cluster (area) samples can be developed.
Although all the conditions described do not exist in all countries, they illustrate why the collection of primary data requires creative applications of research techniques when firms expand into many foreign markets.