Conversations with corporate researchers

Christa Melotti 

International Research Lead, Vanguard 

How has your background in the retail/fashion industry influenced your work as a marketing researcher? 

Working in retail, specifically as a merchandiser, made me realize how client, or customer, behavior can deeply affect a business. Having the insight to be able to forecast client/customer needs as well as learning how to quickly adjust a large seasonal buy so it isn’t detrimental to the business – especially financially – was a large takeaway.

What aspects do you enjoy most when conducting international studies? 

The cultural nuances that vary from country to country or region to region fascinate me. Understanding even simple research things such as what typical research recruitment methodologies are in various parts of the world or how a respondent in one region may use a rating scale differently are very interesting to me, and pertinent to know.

What tips would you give a researcher beginning his or her first international study?

Being a researcher I would say research as much as you can before starting any international work. Look to understand the region’s customs, culture. There are some great books and resources that detail regional differences in a business setting that can be a great start. Learning what the laws are around marketing research and how that may differ depending on which methodology is used is very important to know before launching into any work.

I think it’s also worth noting there may need to be additional regional understanding depending on what type of research will be done. If you are doing quant-based work, look to see the order of questions asked. It’s important to note even simple things such as the order of the numbers or where to place a 0 in a scale can vary. Such detail can quickly let a respondent know if the study is being done by a U.S.-based firm or is in-country – revealing more than you’d like if the study is blind. Understanding the soft skills in a region and using your emotional intelligence when in-country conducting work can be very useful as well. Seeing if there are phrases or words that are inflammatory or frowned upon is also very helpful, as well as any slang or lingo typically used in that region. Knowing how the culture values time is important if you’re conducting focus groups or interviews. Learning how to quickly read a respondent’s reaction and how to pivot if needed is important in qual work, whether you’re inside or outside of the U.S.

Are there any new methodologies you would like to explore in the next year and why? 

As we live in a world that’s changing at lightning speed and where we do more and more online, utilizing online communities and leveraging social media to listen and learn from user patterns can help a company understand new trends in their industry. I think understanding a client’s digital experience is something that’s vital for all companies.

What excites you about coming to work each day?

I love how the work can vary day-to-day –  it’s never boring! I enjoy learning, especially as it relates to other countries and their cultures. Realizing how findings in one large, international study may vary by region excites me, as well as noting what’s consistent across regions. Seeing how macro events in one part of the world can impact perceptions globally is also interesting.