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  • Writer's pictureBruce Crandall

¡Gracias por realizar esta encuesta! Some Tips for Latin America research

Online survey panels and communities came of age in the mid-to-late 1990s. A handful of companies rode the wave for several years until more players, inside and outside of research, jumped on the bandwagon. Panels soon became commonplace, competitively priced, and commoditized in the U.S., Europe, and even in some of Asia during the early 2000s.

Latin America was different. Low Internet penetration made online sampling almost impossible there while it boomed in North America. And it remains a more difficult place to do survey research today—especially in smaller Latin American countries like Puerto Rico, Trinidad, Suriname, etc.

Besides lower Internet penetration, there are other big challenges to successfully conducting survey research in Latin America:

· Multiple languages. Translation, fielding surveys concurrently in Spanish, Portuguese, and even Dutch (Suriname), analysis, coding open-ends, client interactions, and presenting data to Spanish-speaking clients require more than just fluency in English.

· Multiple countries. Latin America projects are often not confined to just one country, so fielding surveys with varying brands, products, and concepts across countries can be difficult.

· Low PC penetration. The vast majority of surveys will be completed by mobile phones instead of PCs (about 70%+ own mobile phones across Latin America—in fact, a survey just fielded by Mobile Digital Insights in Puerto Rico showed that 97% had completed it on a mobile phone!).

· Lack of trust for third-parties and an unwillingness to share information.

· Cheaters. As is common globally, some respondents mislead to qualify for a survey and earn incentives, while others claim to reside in a Latin American country when actually living elsewhere.

What to do? MDI conducts research for large fast-food giants across Latin America. The learning curve has been steep, at times (and we’ve encountered some scratches and bruises, too), but here are a few things we’d like to share to help you successfully execute quantitative research in Latin America:

· Design surveys for mobile phones. That means concise and easily scrolled on a phone, no complex grids or large images, and incorporating good skip logic to minimize fatigue.

· Develop flexible protocols across markets. Use protocol that allows for local-market variation. Create survey instruments that can be reused from study to study to increase efficiency, reduce turnaround time, and contain costs.

· Social media sampling. Some global sample companies can easily cover large markets like Mexico and Brazil. But for smaller countries like Suriname and Paraguay, reaching consumers through social media is an excellent option, and sometimes the only alternative.

· Watch for cheaters. As elsewhere, along with flagging bogus respondents through cheater questions, review data early during fielding to ensure that answers don’t look out of place, and double-check IP addresses to catch those participating from outside of the targeted country.

· Native speakers. While not a must, client service in Spanish goes a longer way toward clear communication and more effective, accurate project execution.

So, if you’re considering doing survey research in Latin America, keep in mind that mobile-focused surveys, sound protocols, and sampling outside the box will help you to succeed.

About Mobile Digital Insights (MDI)

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