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What is Cross Cultural Marketing Research?

As businesses continue to expand globally, it has become increasingly important for marketers to understand their audiences across markets. Companies that fail to recognise cultural differences in their marketing strategies risk losing out on significant opportunities to connect with customers and grow their businesses. This article aims at presenting what cross cultural research in marketing is, and the benefits it has to offer.

Cross Cultural research

General definition

To begin with, it is important to define what cross cultural research is. Cross cultural research is a form of market research that aims to understand how cultural differences between countries or regions can impact consumers' attitudes, behaviours, and preferences toward products and services. This research mainly relies on analysing and comparing data from different groups in order to identify striking differences. These contrasts will help tailor marketing strategies according to the target audience.

But before being able to perform any kind of analysis, it is vital to collect relevant data. There are different ways to conduct cross cultural research, but it typically involves one or more of the following methods.


Surveys allow us to collect data from a sample of individuals across different cultures or countries. It involves asking a set of questions, typically in written or oral form, to a group of people who are representative of the population being studied. A sample has to be similar to the bigger group it aims to represent (e.g. gender distribution, age groups, education, etc.). The bigger the sample is, the more reliable the data is. Surveys can be administered in different ways, including through online forms, phone interviews, or in-person interviews. The data collected through surveys can be analysed to identify differences and similarities across cultures.

However, surveys have some limitations that need to be addressed to ensure the validity and reliability of the data collected. These limitations include

  • Language and cultural barriers: Questions and response options may not be interpreted in the same way across cultures, and cultural differences in communication styles may impact the accuracy of responses.
  • Sampling bias: The accuracy and representativeness of survey data may be limited by the sampling method used. If the sample is not representative of the population being studied, the results may not generalise to the larger population.
  • Social desirability bias: Respondents may provide answers that they think are socially desirable rather than their true opinions or behaviours. This can be more pronounced in some cultures than others and can lead to inaccurate data.
  • Limited depth: Surveys may provide limited depth and richness of information compared to other research methods, such as in-depth interviews or ethnographic research. They may not capture the complexity of attitudes and behaviours related to a particular product or service.
  • Question and response options bias: Survey questions and response options may introduce bias that can impact the accuracy of the data collected. For example, the phrasing of questions may lead respondents to answer in a particular way or the response options may not be comprehensive enough to capture the range of attitudes and behaviours being studied.

It is thus preferable to ask for professional support when aiming to conduct surveys. Consultancy agencies are often well-aware of these limitations and have developed strategies to correct for or avoid biases and overcome potential cultural barriers. Surveys can also be conducted in combination with other research methods, such as focus groups or ethnographic research, to provide a deeper understanding of cultural patterns.

Focus groups

A focus group is a research method that involves bringing together a small, diverse group of individuals from different cultures or countries to discuss their attitudes, behaviours, and opinions related to a particular product, service, or topic of interest. The focus group typically consists of 6-10 participants and is moderated by a trained facilitator who guides the discussion and asks open-ended questions to elicit detailed responses from each participant. The purpose of a focus group in cross cultural research is to gather in-depth information about how consumers from different cultures perceive and respond to a particular product or service. By bringing together participants from different cultural backgrounds, researchers can gain insights into how cultural differences may impact consumer behaviour, preferences, and attitudes.

Cross Cultural research tips

However, it is important to note that the insights gained from a focus group may not be representative of the larger population. Therefore, insights gained from focus groups should be interpreted with caution. Focus groups are often used in conjunction with other research methods, such as surveys or interviews, to provide a more comprehensive picture of consumer behaviour across cultures.

Ethnographic studies

Ethnographic studies involve the observation of people in their own environment to understand their experiences, perspectives, and everyday practices. Ethnographic studies can be conducted in various settings, such as homes, workplaces, or public spaces, and involve long-term observation and engagement with participants. The purpose of ethnographic studies in cross-cultural marketing research is to gain a deep understanding of how culture influences consumer behaviour and decision-making. Ethnographic studies often involve a combination of different research techniques, such as observations, taking field notes, informal conversations, interviews, document analysis, surveys, filming and photography etc. By immersing themselves in the cultural context of their participants, researchers can identify cultural norms, values, and practices that impact consumer behaviour and preferences.

However, ethnographic studies can be time-consuming and resource-intensive, and the findings may not be generalisable to other cultural contexts. Ethnographic studies are often used along with other research methods, such as surveys or focus groups, to provide a more comprehensive understanding of consumer behaviour across cultures.

The benefits of doing cross-cultural marketing research

As a value-based research company, Glocalities stands at the forefront of cross-cultural marketing research. Based on a unique framework that consists of over 2,500 independent variables, we help organisations to develop marketing strategies that are effective in different cultural contexts. Glocalities recognises that cultural differences play a significant role in consumer behaviour. By identifying values, sociocultural trends, lifestyle, media and more that are important to consumers, we help organisations to understand the nuances of different cultural markets and develop sensitive marketing campaigns that resonate with local consumers.

Here are some of the main benefits of doing cross cultural research with Glocalities;

Identifying similarities

Cross-cultural marketing research is not just about identifying differences, but also about identifying similarities between cultures. Glocalities' research shows that there are values that are shared across cultures. For instance, Health (63%), Caring (63%), Freedom (60%) Friendship (60%) and Wisdom (57%) are the top 5 and highest scoring values cards globally. By identifying these shared values, organisations can develop messages and campaigns that resonate with consumers in different cultural contexts. This is particularly relevant when aiming at (re-)uniting consumers across countries (e.g. the war in Ukraine not only goes against the people of Ukraine but also violates the highest values that are held dearest by the people of Ukraine, Russia, Europe, and from around the world).

Cross Cultural research guide

Tailor communication to the audience

Another key benefit of cross cultural research is that it allows companies to tailor their messages to specific cultural groups. For example, a marketing campaign that works well in the Netherlands may not resonate with consumers in China. Thanks to our research, we know that the Dutch population is more hedonistic and individualistic, while the Chinese population is more materialistic and status-oriented. Sociological trends, values, and life aspirations widely differ between the two countries. By conducting cross-cultural research, companies can identify cultural differences and adapt their tone of voice, message, and products accordingly.

Prevent cultural missteps

Another benefit of cross-cultural marketing research is that it helps companies to avoid cultural missteps. A marketing campaign that is considered impactful in one culture may be seen as offensive or inappropriate in another. By conducting cross-cultural research, organisations can avoid making cultural missteps and develop marketing campaigns that are appropriate and effective according to specific cultural contexts. For example, social proof (showing consumers that many people adopted the product before) might work well in China but be less effective in the Netherlands.

Expand businesses to new markets

Fourthly, cross-cultural marketing research helps organisations to expand their business into new markets. By understanding cultural nuances, companies can develop marketing strategies that are effective in different cultural contexts, enabling them to successfully enter new markets. Entering a foreigner is always a big challenge. It sometimes requires changing or adapting the product to the specific needs and expectations of the new target audience. Some fields such as food and beverage, require a deep understanding of people’s cultures. Our research revealed huge differences in terms of diet and food preferences across countries.

Build strong connections with audiences

Finally, cross cultural research allows organisations to connect with their audience. Glocalities' research revealed that consumers are increasingly looking for brands that align with their values. According to consumers, the second most important brand characteristic for a brand to have is honesty/authenticity. By identifying values that are important to consumers in different cultural contexts, companies can develop authentic marketing strategies that tap into their audience’s values.

In conclusion, cross cultural research is essential for companies that operate in global markets. Glocalities is at the forefront of this research, providing valuable insights into the values and attitudes of consumers across the world. By conducting cross-cultural research, companies can identify cultural nuances, tailor their marketing messages to specific cultural groups, avoid cultural missteps, expand the business, and build strong connections with customers.

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