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Globalization has become a business buzz word and the market research industry, in common with marketing services companies across other sectors, has expanded its role to take into account the international ambitions of key clients and to exploit market opportunities in the growth areas of the world.

An increasing amount of the research now undertaken by organizations has an overseas' dimension. The business environment for British-based organizations has become increasingly international. Even the smallest organizations are subject to international influences through either direct international competition, European legislation or the need to explore the perceived opportunity in international markets for British products or services. The most recent balance of payments figures indicate that Britain is in a unique position within Europe to exploit international markets and that many companies are already doing so with some success. However, some companies are put off international marketing research by the perceived difficulty of 'getting started'.

The broad methodology and research plan used to develop international marketing research are, however, little different from those used in the home market. The complexity of the task lies in the number of markets to be considered and the different levels of support available within them. Other difficulties in international marketing research include:

■ socioeconomic differences in national markets, e.g. the UK is used to using the social class definition described in Chapter 4, but this is unlikely to be relevant in international markets

■ differences in the level of support for marketing, the marketing and market research infrastructure, e.g. access to key statistical data varies substantially from country to country

■ lack of familiarity with data sources

■ cost, payment and economic instability

■ doubts about the competence of overseas' research agencies, and differences in research procedures

■ problems of communication between client and agency, and agency and respondents

■ differences in the levels of market development

■ differences in legislation, which affect the ability to carry out research and store data

■ the longer time taken to complete international research studies

■ differences in language, the use and meaning of words

■ other cultural differences, including levels of technical infrastructure, religious differences, attitudes to privacy and information dissemination.

The idea that international data has to be comparable is relevant only if the marketing strategy demands immediately comparable data, for example owing to the development of a pan-national advertising campaign, or the creation of a regional pricing policy. Of utmost importance, as in the domestic market, is that the data collected must be accurate, valid and relevant to the user's research objectives.

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