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For many EMEA-based businesses looking to expand or secure a stronger financial foothold amid COVID uncertainty, North America is an incredibly tempting prospect. With more than 330 million citizens and the highest average disposable income of any of the 37 OECD members, business owners can be forgiven for viewing the US as the holy grail of countries to find success in.
However, as the UK’s beloved supermarket giant Tesco could tell you, a successful landing in the crowded American market isn’t a given, no matter how successful your brand may be in its current region. But to guarantee the best chances of success and to minimise the risk, you need to start your research and preparation long before you begin your market entry. This is when getting feedback from your target market can be invaluable.
Thanks to the growing adoption of digital technology, a wide American audience to give detailed, qualitative feedback on your product can be at your fingertips. I joined the human insights platform UserTesting as one of its first EMEA employees, at a time in which the company had already established a significant presence in North America and built the industry’s largest and most diverse panel of American test participants. From this, I have seen first-hand the value that can come from receiving qualitative feedback from consumers and brand experts alike.
So, if your business is looking to make its American debut, what are the key insights you should be looking to gain from your research to ensure your success?
- Discover your target market
As much as you may believe in your product or service, and as enamoured as your EMEA customer base may be, there’s no guarantee that this will translate to an American audience. Putting in the groundwork during the initial stages of your research to gauge public response to your offering and identify a target market in America can save you in the long run, and allow you to adjust your approach.
This process can also expose you to the reality of your market fit for America. Products that are grounded in genuine market demand are vastly more likely to succeed, and there are significant risk reductions to be found when you make no assumptions on how vast your target market will be and invest the time to find out.
With a target market identified, carefully chosen panel parameters enable you to delve deeper into that demographic’s feelings to help identify issues and tweak your offering accordingly. The nature of qualitative research means that even with intelligently chosen smaller panels, a great depth of feedback can be gathered directly from the customers you need to hear from.
- Learn cultural differences through listening
Some of the greatest faux pas in international marketing history could have been avoided by asking a local or native language speaker to review the brand's name, product, UI, and advertising before they went live in a new market. As harmless as you and your colleagues may think your brand is, there’s no way to account for the cultural differences between you and an American audience without asking them directly. Fortunately, remote usability studies can answer these questions for you quickly and easily using open-ended questions – insight not usually gained from quantitative research.
Beyond the risk of offending with cultural differences lies another problem: consumers and audiences from different countries often don’t want the same product or service packaged in the same way. Across the globe, people shop differently, prioritise how they spend their free time differently, expect different levels of customer service and associate colours with different emotions. The impact all of these differences have upon your business and its offerings must be considered carefully before you enter any new market. In some cases, it may only require minor adjustments, but in others, these can expose the need for a complete overhaul of your approach to suit the requirements of customers.
For example, what3words, the innovative location sharing app, regularly launches tests via the UserTesting platform to gain critical insights from its US audience to ensure the product resonates with this market and encourages usage. This enables what3words to gain first-hand knowledge of its US audience and create a better experience for them.
- Compare with competitors
When entering a new market, there’s a whole new group of competitors to account for. The best way to discover the existing businesses that the public associate with your product or service offering is to let them tell you. The brands that your target market associate with your business may be unfamiliar to you and may not have arisen in other research; they could be limited to certain geographical regions or be otherwise surprising.
Once you have identified who your competitors are for your target market, you can look for how best to challenge them. There’s much to learn from being able to ask a panel directly not only about what they like about a product or service, but also what they dislike. Even when discussing their favourite brands or products, individuals are always able to think of areas of weakness that they’d like to see improved. Through this process, you can expose the in your competitors’ armour and look to differentiate yourself.
By applying the rich, qualitative insights you gain from user testing, you lay the groundwork for your business’s successful entry into the US market and significantly reduce risk. While not all products and services are destined to be an exact market fit, companies that embrace innovation are vastly more likely to succeed.