Why logistics are important: 4 considerations for planning global research

December 21, 2021

One of the biggest hurdles to a smoothly-run global research project is the planning of logistics. Most research teams are aware that different customs need to be taken into account when conducting global research, as certain cultures are more punctual than others or may expect different standards around session length and compensation.

Even beyond these factors, there are more nuanced challenges that can be difficult to predict. Scheduling sessions across multiple countries, considering the proper format and physical setup for research teams, and adapting to local regulations and data privacy concerns all become complicated in an international setting and require time and communication.

It’s important to account for local and regional holiday dates and customs.

Beyond planning for multiple time zones and customs, adjustments need to be made for planning research around holidays. It’s easy to forget about the impact that local and regional holidays can have on test schedules. Creating repositories of knowledge on local holidays can help with planning: our team created a free research tool, the global research calendar, to list optimal times to conduct research around the world and to flag days when scheduling sessions in certain countries might become more difficult (e.g., a 10-day harvest festival in South India when testing should not occur). Or if a holiday is listed, but does not impact testing (e.g., Valentine’s Day in the US is listed as a holiday but does not impact show rate).

Consider the space needs and room requirements to accommodate local research teams.

Plan ahead to account for all logistical needs of your session. If sessions will be conducted in a local language, onsite observers might need simultaneous translation, therefore requiring separate rooms: one for the observers and translator and another for the local notetaker, who needs to listen carefully to the session. Another possibility may be that your notetaker will listen to a translation as well, in which case observers and notetaker may each need their own space and their own live translation. A solution can always be found, but it may require an extra room or two and time to arrange appropriately.

Strategize how to conduct research across multiple geographies.

There are several factors to consider for products marketed and tested in multiple countries or regions. A best practice is to first conduct testing in the country where either the product is produced or where you have the most familiarity with the market and population. This can help solve or anticipate problems that come up before testing in unfamiliar or trickier environments.

Depending on your timeline, you may have to conduct sessions in different countries simultaneously, or alternatively can stagger them one-at-a-time to ensure that each runs smoothly. If you are working with local teams in each country who need intensive training prior to conducting research, it may be advisable to bring everyone to one location for a single training rather than have stakeholders travel to each location and conduct separate training or onboarding.

Don’t forget about local regulations and data privacy.

Allocate time to confirm local regulations that have an impact on how research needs to be conducted. This certainly applies to research being conducted for highly regulated industries, but also applies more generally for data privacy across industries.

  • An example specific to medical devices – China’s National Medical Products Administration (NMPA) released draft guidance in 2020 advising a minimum of 20 users per group for validation studies and is strongly suggesting a range of regional representation in groups as well. The trend, as reflected by China’s recent update to regulations, is to require more regional representation in participant groups, which other areas like the European Union (EU) or United Kingdom may adopt.
  • Data privacy regulations often differ by region and country as well. It’s important to know how to manage raw data like session videos, audio, and personal identifying information (PII)—or to know what types of data you will be allowed to capture at all.
  • These regulations can also impact required wording on consent forms.

Steps to ensure that your global research study will run smoothly

The logistics of a research plan can make or break a global project, and when operating in unfamiliar countries or cultures, it’s important to think ahead and cover important topics with local teams. Make sure to:

  • Discuss possible constraints and regulations with local research partners as early as possible around physical spaces, human resources and scheduling, and data use; those tend to be key constraints that can limit a study if not adequately planned for.
  • Familiarize yourself, not only with local and regional holidays, but how they’re celebrated (e.g., how many days they last, how they may affect populations’ daily schedules, and whether or not offices or schools are closed) to anticipate how that might affect testing.

Don’t miss the other global research blogs in this series for more great tips!

Twenty years of global research have taught us (sometimes the hard way) that challenges can arise when prepping devices or other products for international research.

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Global user experience (UX) research comes with unique challenges that require planning and consideration.

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