“A wise man adapts himself to circumstances, as water shapes itself to the vessel that contains it.” Chinese Proverb
It’s no surprise that American society is in a state of constant flux. Our country’s demographic make-up continues to shift. Technology advances are impacting product categories across the spectrum. The use of mobile devices is influencing not only how we communicate with each other, but our shopping behaviors as well. This is the first in an ongoing series of blogs that will address what trends like these mean for marketers and how marketing research is adapting to meet changing needs. Some of the topics we’ll be writing about over the next few months include:
- Customer Experience (CX)-centric marketing
- Mobile technology
- Visual-based communication
- Social media and online communities
Our series begins with the topic of multicultural research. We take a look at a few key demographic trends and offer tips on how to address cultural differences when conducting marketing research among a diverse target audience.
Growing Demographic Diversity
According to the Pew Research Center1, racial and ethnic diversity has increased dramatically over the last 50 years and the trend is expected to continue growing. Today, over one-tenth of the country (14%) is foreign-born compared to 5% in 1965. Based on this trend, Pew Research predicts that no single racial or ethnic group will have a majority in the population by 2055. Some key differences between ethnic groups include the following:
- The overall Hispanic/Latino population continues to grow; however, the growth in US-born Hispanics is outpacing that of new immigrants.
- Asian population growth rate now outpaces that among Hispanics, representing the biggest source of new immigrants, and Asians tend to have a higher regional concentration.
The increasingly multicultural make-up of the general population is a key factor when designing strategic research studies.
Tips for Multicultural Research – Sampling Plans & Weighting Considerations
- Tip #1: Keeping in mind the potential for demographic differences by racial or ethnic group, make sure to include adequate multicultural representation in your sample. Due to varying response rates and/or panel representation, you may need to include an oversample to obtain an adequate read.
- Tip #2: Compare survey demographics with that of the population to determine whether adjustments need to be made to the data (through weighting/balancing) to ensure results are reflective of the population.
Response Differences by Level of Acculturation
Researchers have observed a number of ways that survey responses may differ based on ethnic background or level of acculturation. For instance, less acculturated households are more likely to include family members who speak a language other than English in the home. Noted differences in “favorability of response” also exist between certain ethnic groups. Hispanic consumers tend to be more guarded when responding to opinion-related questions and tend to provide more socially desirable responses.2 This “agreeability” tendency is most common among unacculturated Hispanic participants, who are more likely to give positive brand perception ratings and inflate responses to questions like future purchase interest.3
Tips for Multicultural Research – Survey Design
- Tip #3: Consider providing participants the option to complete the survey in their native language, particularly in the case of phone studies and in-depth interviews.
- Tip #4: Ensure that translations are authentic and avoid overly formal language.
- Tip #5: Avoid question types that use complicated rating scales and grids.
Economic Differences Between Ethnic Groups
While the economic divide is increasing within the American population at large, the gap between the haves and have-nots is particularly dramatic among different racial and ethnic groups. As a result, there are marked differences in areas like internet access and preferred communication methods based on ethnicity. Consider these key stats:
- The poverty rate among African Americans is 25.4% compared to 14.7% for the total US population.4
- Asian American have a higher median household income than the total population ($77,166 vs. $56,516 respectively).5
- Overall, 80% of Hispanic adults access the internet via a mobile device.6
Tips for Multicultural Research – Data Collection & Analysis
- Tip #6: When conducting research among a specific racial or ethnic group, be sure to use the right data collection method to effectively reach participants.
- For instance, Hispanics and African Americans are more likely to access the internet via a mobile device (cellphone, tablet, etc.).6
- Conversely, Asian Americans are more likely to have broadband in the home.7
- Tip #7:In the data analysis phase, be sure to carefully evaluate whether income levels, ethnicity, or some combination of other factors are driving behavioral or attitudinal differences between consumer segments.
Clearly, there’s a myriad of multicultural variables to consider when designing marketing research studies. Professional marketing researchers can play a critical role as consultants to help brand marketers design smart, actionable research up-front. On the tail-end, an experienced researcher can provide a nuanced interpretation of results, helping marketers better understand the implications on brand management. By adapting your market research strategies to keep pace with ever-evolving societal shifts, you can be confident that your research investments will be on target and actionable.