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What’s in Store for International Research?

The UK is the place to be for international research.

By Julie Aebersold, Marketing and Content Executive, Keen as Mustard Marketing

Last month, an article about the 2017 Insight Show in London raised the question of whether London can substantiate its claim as the world’s capital for market research. So after attending the UK’s largest event dedicated to research and insight professionals, and as an American currently resident in Britain, I’d like to provide my thoughts on the state of market research in the UK.

Is London now the world capital for market research? Although statistically the UK is still a smaller market than the US with a market of $7,344 million compared to US’s $19,097 million, the UK is most certainly the place to be for international research. The UK leads the world in global research with 36% of projects completed at an international level, compared to the US where most projects are completed at a domestic level (according to the ESOMAR GMR report). This was shown throughout the two days of the Insight Show, predominantly on the International Stage, where speakers from Dubai, Germany, India, Nigeria, Italy, Belgium and the US flew over to give a unique perspective on cross-cultural research.

There was frequent chatter in the audience about the percentage of international attendees, alongside speakers and multiple cross-border case studies presented on all four content stages. In particular, the International Stage offered insight and guidance for those research companies and clients looking to discover new markets. A presentation by Heineken explained the importance of simultaneously thinking global and acting local when performing research in emerging markets. Despite the challenges there are still many benefits to completing research in emerging markets, such as in Africa and the Middle East. Ultimately, Heineken grew the brand in question by 20% after launch through hard work, dedication, flexibility, global protocols, local field partners, local translation, and most importantly, strong partnerships both client and agency side.

The International Stage closed with a presentation of the 2016 ESOMAR Congress award winning paper, ‘New visions – pushing the frontiers of the eyewear business,’ which gave unique insight into the perceptions of eyewear in India, China and Brazil. The stereotypes associated with eyeglasses in these cultures were rather shocking. Over a quarter of the population in India believe it isn’t appropriate for young women to wear eyeglasses as it makes them unattractive. Other cultures believe glasses are dangerous and lead to drastic health failures or a lack of beauty standards. Due to these stereotypes, only 31% of those who need eyeglasses in these countries actually wear them. And, although India makes up 17% of the world population, it only accounts for a mere 1% of eyewear sales. Strive Insight told us how they helped Italian eyewear company Luxottica understand the barriers behind this resistance in order to determine the solution, which was found to be through luxury brand promotion of world leading brands like Prada and Dolce&Gabbana. Associating eyewear with high-end brands proved to be valuable enough to rewrite the harsh eyewear stereotypes across different cultures.

Another interesting discussion on international market research came during a debate about Brexit and the election of Donald Trump, and how these two political events might have an effect on international research in the UK and US as we know it‎. Moderator Tony Dent from AIMRI stated that the UK has been the leader in international research for the past 12 – 15 years. Overall although the value of sterling has dropped making buying research in the UK cheaper, Brexit can’t make selling research any easier, said Richard Sheldrake. And as a result of the election of President Trump, Jim Whaley of Gazelle Global said he’s aware of many projects being put on hold or moved into the re-planning mode, primarily due to the 17,000 tariffs affected by the election and the renegotiation of international trade. Overall the research industry saw a big loser and a big winner after the two votes. The big loser is traditional online research as we began to question the validity of online polling. On the other hand, the winner was data analytics and behavioural sciences – or big data combined with attitudinal research.

As an outcome of this debate on the US election and Brexit, I think it begs the question of what the future has in store for international research both in the UK and the US. Will it continue to grow? Will Germany take on the mantle of leading international research? As the debate moderator Tony Dent put it, “Unless we pull ourselves together, we may lose this title in the UK.” It will be interesting to see the repercussions (if any) of Brexit on international research in the UK, but is its status as the leader in international projects really in danger?

On top of this international perspective, attendance was up by more than 50 percent year on year at the Insight Show. Could this be an indication of future growth within the market?

If you missed the Insight Show this year, keep an eye out for next year’s event on 7 – 8 March 2018. The 2018 Show is already 50% sold and is increasing in size by 30% to accommodate even more presenters and visitors from across the globe. Find out more by visiting

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