How to get closer with your international customers

Do you sell products or services across the globe? If so, how well do you think you understand the local markets, cultures, environments and lives of your international customers? If the answer is ‘not well enough’, we hope this blog may provide a few tips and tricks on how you can use video to get closer with your international consumers.

Spend the time to research your international market

When working on an international scale, researchers and marketeers will spend time and money researching product names, channels of distribution, packaging, campaign messages, financial habits and so on. In most modern roles, huge amounts of statistical data are readily available for when you want to launch a new product, service or design into the market.

Using research data is undoubtedly a great place to start. However, if all you have is statistics, it can be difficult to hold on to key findings or customer understanding. Your next project may be launched successfully, but will those statistics stay with you? Can you call on this type of knowledge two months or two years down the line? The reality is, this type of data is quick to escape our minds once focus shifts to a new market or customer segment.

Build customer understanding among colleagues

Industry research we conducted recently revealed the 3 challenges most commonly faced by insight professionals. 1) Increasing company engagement with insight (52%). 2) Using storytelling to present insight (42%) and 3) making research digestible (40%).

Using research data to inform decisions is a given, but do you know the customers behind the data? Can you visualise them, their wants and needs? This is how a truly customer-centric organisation thinks about their customers. It is also one of the biggest challenges faced by insight professionals – not obtaining customer understanding, but communicating it in such a way that staff from HR to Marketing can draw on their own understanding of your customers in everyday decision making.

Use qualitative research methods

In order to embed such a rich understanding, it is important to paint a picture of your customers’ lives, emotions and everyday experiences. This type of insight will help build an emotional relationship with customer segments that goes beyond a project-by-project viewpoint and act as a foundation for real understanding.

The best way to obtain this more anecdotal type of insight is by using qualitative research methods. This could be focus groups, in-home interviews, street interviews, accompanied shops, ethnography, self completed diaries and web interviews. Qualitative research fills in the gaps that quantitative, or stats simply can’t. It adds the ‘why’ factor, unearths deeper understanding and looks at motivations and habits of consumers.

Paint a picture with video

Looking back at the challenges faced by insight teams, the power of video to embed rich understanding becomes evident. All of the above qualitative research methods can be effective ways to obtain customer understanding. However, none of these methods alone will help you to increase engagement with that insight, nor turn it into a compelling story or make research more digestible. Video, however, does all 3.

By editing together films that show international customers, their environments, where they live, the products they use, the way they shop, their interactions with family and friends – video brings international customers to life in a way not possible by any means other than literally visiting all of your target markets.

Video personalises people, turning them from a statistic into a relatable human being. This allows your colleagues to build real connections with their customers and begin to understand insight with people at the centre, rather than as a concept.

Consider different filming and interviewing techniques

Different filming and interview approaches can be used to gather footage of your international customers. How you set up your interviews and handle recruitment will impact on the final video content and is important to consider during the planning stages.

Customer Videos, for example, are created by combining insights obtained through depth-interviews with B-roll footage of the respondent’s surrounding environment. Respondents are pre-recruited using very tight screeners to ensure that candidates accurately represent your target customers. Using a sympathetic and skilled interviewer is also important to ensure the research is conducted professionally and respectfully. This style is best if you want to tell a story and embed an emotional understanding of certain customer groups.

Vox Pops videos, on the other hand, use intercept interviews to showcase feedback from short interviews with many customers. No pre-recruitment is required for this approach making them very quick to turn around and cost-effective. This approach is effective if you want to illustrate public perceptions from a wider group or feedback on a new product, packaging or advertisement.

Self-filmed Mobile Diaries are another approach to international video research, which are advantageous if you want more of an on-going touch point with your international customers. This approach allows you to get feedback from many customers over a longer period of time. You will be able to update your research questions throughout the course of the project and take a more active role in the research. However, what you gain in sample size and time, you lose in the quality of the footage, the intimacy of the insight and the overall polish of the final deliverable.

Don’t get lost in translation

Beware of ‘lost in translation’. Although there are very good online translation services, such as Google Translate, it’s worth investing in ensuring accuracy. Translation services will often translate literally. Although this sounds ok, human translators and robot translators are like apples and pears; a human will understand nuances and slang phrases, a robot will think you’re talking about fruit. Misinterpreted words can lead to the wrong research findings, which is why at VPI, we will always bring in human translators for international video research projects.

Once you have the transcripts and analysis, it’s about going through the responses and B-roll to identify the clips to be used in the editing process. It’s helpful to find a story/narrative that can stitch the responses together whilst ensuring the message stays accurate. Keep the balance between interview footage and B-roll. Remember, interview audio can be played over B-roll footage so that you hear the respondent’s speaking whilst visualising the topic matter on screen.

Think about graphics, music, voiceovers & B-roll

These final touches are managed in the editing process and are important to consider to ensure the tone is right and your message is clear.

Background music will make your video more engaging and moving. Whether you are bringing to life the harsh reality of living in Nigeria or showcasing the shopping habits of over 50s living in LA, choosing the right music will ensure the video is positioned correctly and the message is appropriate.

Your footage can also be edited to include animated graphics, statistics and text. These finishing touches are useful to highlight key messages from within the responses or to add other complementary data.

‘Share’ your research

The benefit to video is its ease of use, the high level of engagement it creates and its sheer portability. This is particularly true for organisations with offices in different countries around the world. It is a real challenge to present research to international teams. Some organisations may hold internal events, but this is expensive and will usually only provide enough time to cover the research in summary. Webinars, calls and online meetings are also available, but the language barrier and problematic technology can make these options frustrating. A Customer Video, complete with subtitles in the relevant language, can be shared with your teams around the world to make an immediate impact.

Even for business exclusive to one office or one country, video allows you to share your research in an easy to digest format that means that everyone, be it designers, pricing managers, the board of directors, sales teams and operation staff will be able to internalise your insight.

Keep it consistent across different markets

Conducting research and filming customers internationally can be tricky and it’s important to ensure that there is consistency, in terms of the style of filming, interview questions, recruitment, editing and objectives. This is best done using one agency who manages and co-ordinates the whole project. VPI have been conducting international video projects for over 30 years and are the experts when it comes to bringing your customers to life. We offer a full service including recruitment, screener design, topic guide design, interviewing, filming, translating, transcribing, editing and animating.

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