Online research in Latin America
Updated: Jan 29, 2020
We use the term 'market appropriate' research to describe how we work in different countries. Adapting the research methodology to fit with local infrastructure, culture and behaviour. A recent project in Lima, the capital of Peru is a good example of how this works in practice.
The challenge was to recruit 100 parents to take part in a one-hour online research session at exactly the same time. Although a relatively simple specification, this example illustrates the importance of local understanding.
It can be quite typical for clients to approach international research with a local mindset, making assumptions based on their home market or what has worked in other countries. Sometimes, this can lead to unforeseen difficulties, delays, cost and sample bias. In this example, the initial assumption that participants would join from home and via a PC needed to be adapted to take into consideration internet behavior, infrastructure and traffic conditions.
1. Urban & rural population differences
Internet penetration rates within Peru vary considerably by social demographic and geography. This can immediately lead to sample bias. As in many Latin American countries, there is a huge divide between urban and rural populations affecting education, income, health and literacy. This means geographical representation within a sample can become meaningless (depending on the research topic). In this example, there was no value in going to remote communities with limited internet access to ask about a premium product very few could afford.
1. Internet device
Perhaps more importantly for researchers, how people access the internet also differs significantly. Smartphones ownership is significantly higher than PC ownership.
The devices used, connection speed and screen size have practical research considerations for example showing video, concept show-cards etc.
2. WiFi speed
In contrast to many countries, WIFI speed in Lima can be faster in public places such as cafes than in people's homes. This is a big generalisation, but illustrates the point that speed of access is not universal and what works in one country will not work in another. Where the research is conducted can be an important consideration when high speed internet access is needed.
On average, every Lima citizen has to spend three hours in traffic every day. This means it is not possible for working people to finish work at 5.30pm and be able to take part in research before 7pm. Furthermore, the unpredictable nature of the traffic means that participation can be similarly unreliable.
For focus groups, taxis are typically arranged for participants and the start time scan be flexible, but traffic becomes much greater consideration when 100 people need to take part in a session at exactly the same time.
In this example, the technical requirements meant smartphones could be used instead of PCs. This simple change broadened the demographic and provided flexibility for more people to access from a range of locations at the required time.
As researchers we need to consider what we are being asked to deliver and to propose alternative suggestions if there is a better solution for our clients. This in turn, highlights the importance and need for trust in the relationship so the recommendations are not interpreted as taking an easy route.
Fundamentally, local market understanding is extremely important to get the most from the research.
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