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Marketing Research in the Asia-Pacific

Globalization, growing consumer affluence, and other factors conducive to business have prompted an increasing number of MNCs to expand into the markets of Asia-Pacific countries. Marketing managers of these companies need reliable data to make their decisions and plans to achieve competitive advantage. Consequently, over the last two decades, marketing research has steadily expanded in this region. Some experts believe that the research expenditure potential in the region is enormous.
Japan has the highest research volume (in US$ terms) followed by Australia. Next in line are countries such as India, Hong Kong, South Korea, Singapore, Thailand and Malaysia and China. Then come Taiwan, The Philippines, Indonesia, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Vietnam.

Some Truths about Research

Marketing research provides decision makers with an image of the actual and potential market, consumer behavior, market trend, and competition. Marketing decision makers do not use exactly the same information for a similar decision process. Culture influences the scope and nature of research information and the results in the process of marketing decision making.

Some Truths about Asia-Pacific I

Collectivistic societies: Asia- Pacific nations are predominantly collectivistic whereas Western nations are more individualistic.
Consumers in collectivistic societies tend to be more loyal on average than they are in individualistic societies. More reliance on reference groups and on group consensus People mind arrogance and the showing of extreme self confidence.

Authoritarian pluralism: Many countries in this region practice Authoritarian Pluralism Image of managers: Asian people see managers as experts, Westerners see them as problem solvers.

Some Truths about Asia-Pacific II

Temporal orientation: Asians are typically past oriented. Different symbolism: In different Asian cultures, things, numbers, color, etc. mean different things.
Black is not the colour of mourning in many Asian Countries Four (4) is a bad number for the Chinese, not for other Asians. Red suggests good fortune in China, not in India

Differences in verbal and non-verbal communication styles:

Many languages; very different from English [in terms of structure, meaning, interpretation etc.] which is the most used language in marketing research. Different meanings of gestures.

Problems of Research in the Asia-Pacific I

Various issues discussed earlier affect data obtained by the marketing researchers. For example:
The Japanese look for information from the actual buyers rather than the potential buyers; In countries such as India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, national income estimates do not reflect under-reported or unreported income. Traditional values often prompt people in many countries to give socially desirable responses rather than true responses.

Because of the above, the style and procedure of market research and the type of data sought may be different from the traditional marketing research approach described in text books.

Problems of Research in the Asia-Pacific II

Lack of understanding of importance of marketing, absence of research culture and poor state of research industries in many countries in the region.
Lack of qualified researchers and interviewers

Lack of adequate infrastructure, social and educational development. For example, in many of the less developed Asia-Pacific countries Postal system and telephone system are unreliable and rate of literacy is rather low. These make mail survey and telephone survey, respectively, difficult. There is high crime rates. Respondents are often reluctant to allow interviewers to conduct in-home interview.

Problems of Research in the Asia-Pacific III

In most economically less developed countries in the region, there is a general lack of databases. Secondary data
is nonexistent, unreliable or too expensive to obtain. Rate of change is high and fast; data quickly becomes outdated

Primary data is also difficult and expensive to collect.

Survey research suffers from sampling problems including nonavailability of reliable sampling frames; respondents unfamiliarity with research and lack of trust in the interviewers resulting in refusals or less than truthful responses.

Culture-specific connotations:
In many Asian nations high price is equated with high quality. A supermarket in Bangladesh or Pakistan is different from that in Singapore.

Problems of Cross-cultural Research I

Cross-culture research involving comparison between countries:
different from pure domestic research more problematic and expensive

Market research measurement instruments adapted to each national culture (known as the emic approach) offer more reliability and offer data with greater internal validity than tests applicable to many cultures (the etic- or culture-free approach) which lack external validity and cross-national comparability.

Problems of Cross-cultural Research II

Formulation of research objective in differing cultures cannot be the same since cultural context is very important in marketing research.
An understanding of the cross-cultural environment is a prerequisite for formulating research objectives. The researcher must establish the quality of research instruments, the consistency of behavioral/attitudinal constructs, and the equivalence of samples.

Establishing cross-cultural equivalence is important if the etic approach is adopted.


Problems of Cross-cultural Research III

There are several areas of equivalence: 1. Conceptual equivalence: Concepts (e.g., quality, sexappeal, loyalty, image etc.) may have different meanings and connotations in different countries. There are recognized procedures to assess conceptual equivalence

2. Functional equivalence:Similar products may perform

different functions in different societies. To establish functional equivalence, one should examine the social setting in which the product is consumed.

3. Sample equivalence: Involves choice of respondents,

representativeness and comparability of samples.

Problems of Cross-cultural Research IV

4. Translation equivalence: Due to special characteristics of a
language, culture and communication, a translated instrument may fail to generate comparable data. This problem may be overcome by using, back-translation technique: one translator translates the instrument from the source language to a target language. Another translator translates it back to the source language and compares the two.

5. Measure equivalence: Refers to variation in the reliability of

research instruments. Statistical methods are available to assess reliability of measures.

6. Data collection equivalence: Involves issues such as secrecy

or unwillingness to answer, response biases and response style.

All the above make cross-cultural research difficult and costly.


Overcoming Research Problems I

Treat each country differently and refrain from developing one marketing research for all of AsiaPacific region.
Sampling should be done carefully. In countries with high rate of change, samples should be based on future demographic profiles to account for the rapid change. It is preferable to work with larger sample sizes. Sources of secondary data must be carefully scrutinized before use. A sequence of piloting, adaptation and rollout would help.

Overcoming Research Problems II

If interviewers are used, they should be given rigorous training. Stringent measures should be in place to ensure data accuracy and reduction of interviewer cheating. When conducting cross-cultural research: Care should be exercised in establishing various equivalence. External validation among data sources is highly desirable; Standardized question structure, back translation and logic check questions should be used.