Editor's note: Sarah Faulkner is principal and founder of Faulkner Strategic Consulting, Cold Spring, Ky.

Getting spa services in Singapore, interviewing physicians in Frankfurt, shopping for skin care products in Shanghai, watching men shave in Paris and visiting homes in Moscow – these are a few of the amazing opportunities I’ve gotten to learn about consumers all over the world. Conducting consumer and market research outside your home country brings with it plenty of interesting experiences and stories and new and rich learning but also comes with plenty of potential pitfalls. Here are five key areas to focus on when planning international qualitative or quantitative research.

Lay the groundwork. When planning primary research in another country, it’s helpful to first get some under-standing of the unique market dynamics, key competitors, consumer habits and practices, etc. If you don’t already have access to secondary research in that market, some smart Internet searches can go a long way. It will give you good context for creating meaningful research questions as well as helping you better understand local consumer responses.

For example, before conducting a quantitative survey on workplaces in Australia, I checked out blogs for ex-pats working there. It was a great, quick way to get some compare-and-contrast insights about unique work-place culture and habits in that country. In another case, before doing consumer interviews about skin care services in Hong Kong, I visited lots of local spa Web sites to check out the service menus, benefit language, etc. If you’re doing Internet research for a country with a different primary language than your own, Google Translate is a lifesaver (not word-perfect translation but it helps you get the gist).

Supplier partnerships. As with any research project, finding the right research partner is key for success. When conducting research internationall...