Episode 16 - Glocalisation: Should It Impact Research Strategy?
In this episode of the MRX Lab podcast from FlexMR, we look at the opposing forces of globalization and localization. What do these trends mean for the market research industry and how do they affect the work that we do? After a brief introduction, we examine the challenges that a connected world poses and identify ways local knowledge can be used to build a competitive edge.
In the second half of the episode, we outline simple ways in which market research teams under pressure to deliver more for less can influence both global decisions and act as the voice for territorial differences at the same time.
Glocalisation, as the name suggests, is a compound of the words globalization and localization. The term refers to businesses which are distributed globally, but meet local needs. Fast food chains are often great examples of how this works in practice. Brands like McDonalds and KFC with locations across the world will maintain an established core set of menu items available in every shop, but also cater to more local tastes with unique menu items in each country. However, not all examples of glocalisation are so clear cut. In service economies and industries with complex supply chains, what constitutes as the meeting of local needs is not always easy to see.
The challenging question for researchers in this is how to structure the generation of insight in a way that balances a view of international audiences as simply territories versus unique and individual groups of consumers. In a way, researchers have an inherent advantage over other business functions. As it is our job, and our trade, to understand people – we are acutely aware of just how prevalent differences in audiences can be.
But still, it’s fair to ask the question; how can market research overcome the practical challenges that come with growing a global customer base. In overly simplistic terms, its fairly easy to identify the need for either localized research teams, or local agency partners to input into wider territory-level decisions. However, both of these solutions are costly – and researchers consistently face mounting pressures to do more with less. That leads to a second, equally important question, which is whether a centralized insight team is able to effectively conduct research activities with enough nuance to cater towards the differences in each territory.
While that is a tall order, there are a number of simple steps that can be taken to help. First, define the scale of a territory. While glocalisation tends to use countries as proxies for territories, the size of a country may also need to factor into decisions. For example, while its appropriate to consider most countries within Europe as requiring a different approach – when it comes to larger countries such as China or the United States, it may even that further sub-divisions are required.
Next, be sure to have a degree of ethnographic knowledge about audiences in each territory. It’s important to acknowledge that a non-local team will not have the same intuitive and inherent knowledge as local competition. Therefore, it’s vital to have a fully rounded view of customers and consumers within each territory. While this work doesn’t have a direct goal to meet or decision to influence, it will serve as a foundational base for future work in that territory – providing vital learnings about standard hierarchies of beliefs, the value placed on various social factors and a window into daily life.
Finally, know when a flat, global approach is best. While glocalisation rails against the simple and linear growth structure of multi-territory firms, it doesn’t go so far as to entirely devalue globalization, acknowledging that it in itself can still be a useful tool.