As international trade and commerce continues to dominate the world of business, market research analysts have become key to helping businesses explore and successfully access new markets by gaining an understanding of consumer needs and desires worldwide, as well as the marketing strategies that would be most effective in reaching these new audiences.
According to the ICC/ESOMAR International Code on Market and Social Research, market research is defined as, “… the systematic gathering and interpretation of information about individuals or organisations using the statistical and analytical methods and techniques of the applied social sciences to gain insight and support decision making.”
More simply put, it is the job of international market research analysts to gather customer and competitor information so that companies can cater to public interest in products with a greater level of precision. The primary way that market researchers gather this data is by carefully constructing surveys and evaluating participants’ responses. This allows them to determine the demand for a particular product or service within a foreign market, and structure a marketing campaign that would be most effective within that market.
Although market research analysts typically favor internet-based surveys, they also collect statistical intelligence through surveys conducted by telephone interviews, postal questionnaires and in-person. Once analysts have amassed survey feedback, their next task is to scrutinize answers and formulate conclusions. These conclusions are then presented to marketing managers who use the findings to make decisions regarding sales and distribution strategies, pricing, design and promotion.
Foreign market analysts perform much the same tasks as their domestic counterparts, but they also face the unique challenges of working within foreign markets. Market research analysts working in the global arena must effectively navigate the cultural difference, political climate, economic condition, language barrier, and technological capability of their target county, as well as the financial status and standard of living of their target market within that country.
Businesses most often give the complicated task of researching potential markets to third party market research firms that are contracted to analyze the viability of the business’s product or service within a new market. These market research firms develop expertise in specific countries and geographic regions, and also hone industry-specific expertise. This allows these research firms to cater very specifically to businesses from one or more of a number of different industries as they become interested in introducing their products to specific countries.
Among these areas of industry expertise are heavy industry, including energy, mining, utilities, automotive, manufacturing and construction; life sciences like healthcare, biotechnology and pharmaceuticals; information technology and media, including entertainment and communication technology; food and beverage, including restaurant chains; professional services like banking, finance and accounting, as well as retail and manufacturing of common consumer goods.
Each industry and its products require a unique set of considerations as they intersect with the cultural and social norms within a foreign market. As an example, because of cultural and social mores, food and beverage producers will need to know if alcohol and certain food products will be well received, while pharmaceutical companies would look to find out if consumers in a given market commonly suffer from a particular ailment before marketing a drug that addresses it.
International Market Research Industry
According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (US BLS), approximately 249,800 market research analysts were employed throughout the United States in 2008. Government projections show that by 2018, the number of analysts employed in the U.S. will increase by 28%. This industry growth has been largely attributed to the continuing globalization of business and the expansion of emerging markets in China, India and elsewhere, which has caused businesses to rely more heavily on international market research analysts to gain a better understanding of new markets.
Major international marketing research firms such as GfK Custom Research North America, Opinion Research Corporation, e-Rewards Market Research, and ASKI International Market Research GmbH have branch offices throughout the world. In the United States, California and New York are home to the headquarters of most of the U.S. based firms, while India and the United Kingdom boast the highest concentrations of international marketing research firms aboard.
Since international market research firms specialize in specific industries and global regions, would-be market research analysts exploring their career options should consider what industries and international locales most appeal to them. Professionals can focus on an industry that best suits their professional aptitude and personal preferences, and can choose to specialize in a region or country with which they are already familiar.
Market research analysts usually hold bachelor’s degrees, master’s degrees or graduate certificates in marketing, public relations, communications, international management, or business administration. An appropriate education will explore everything from quantitative and qualitative methods in social marketing research, to psychology and human behavior. Students focus on courses in mathematics, statistics, business, social sciences, computer technology, communication, psychology, marketing, social media marketing, sampling theory and survey design and data analysis.
While a degree is clearly an asset, previous experience learning, training or working outside of the United States is also extremely beneficial. Students are encouraged to seek internships, entry-level positions and study programs overseas. Completing courses in world affairs, a foreign language, global marketing, cultural diversity, and international business may also help bolster professional prowess.
Certification and Professional Associations
Professionals in the field of international market research analysis often strive to stand out among their contemporaries. One great why to achieve this higher recognition is by achieving professional certification. The premier certifying agency for experienced researchers in the United States is the Marketing Research Association (MRA), which grants the Professional Researcher Certification (PRC) to qualified individuals.
The MRA offers three different types of certification for market researchers: researcher provider, corporate researcher, and research adjunct. Eligibility requirements for certification are largely based on work experience, participation in professional associations, past attendance at industry conferences, formal business or research education, letters of recommendations and performance on the PRC examination. Based on qualifications, candidates may be eligible for either expert status or practitioner status within research area. Once certified, international market research analysts must apply for re-certification on a biannual basis to maintain active status.
Many foreign market analysts are members of one or more professional associations such as the Marketing Research Association (MRA), International Marketing Research Organization (IMRO), European Society for Opinion and Marketing Research (ESOMAR), American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR), Council of American Survey Research Organizations (CASRO) or the Qualitative Research Consultants Association (QRCA). Not only do these associations keep members up-to-date with current trends and news within the field, but they also promote positive business relationships and networking opportunities.
Perhaps the biggest benefit of holding membership in professional associations is the availability of continuing education services for members. By offering continuing education experiences through ongoing coursework, webinars, conferences, lectures and publications, professional associations encourage the kind of professional development that can lead to advancement.
Findings by the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (US BLS) in May of 2010 suggest that nationwide, the middle 50% of market research analysts earn between $43,990 and $85,510, while the overall national average is $66,850 annually. Experienced analysts, representing the 90th percentile, earned $111,440 on average.
Although the industry of management, scientific and technical consulting services employed the most marketing researchers, at over 29,000, the industry of personal care services offered the highest average salary at $113,920, followed by aerospace product and parts manufacturing at $93,850 and semiconductor and electronic component manufacturing at $92,560.
The BLS report indicated that the highest salary averages for market research analysts were found in Oregon ($82,290), Washington ($79,970), Delaware ($77,780), District of Columbia ($75,020) and California ($74,300).
In 2010, the states in which the most market research analysts were employed were California with 40,390; New York with 26,700; Texas with 16,090; Pennsylvania with 15,070 and Illinois with 12,890.