A Synopsis of Information Sources For Buyer Behavior in the International Marketplace


Dolores A. Barsellotti (2001) ,"A Synopsis of Information Sources For Buyer Behavior in the International Marketplace", in AP - Asia Pacific Advances in Consumer Research Volume 4, eds. Paula M. Tidwell and Thomas E. Muller, Provo, UT : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 306-309.

Asia Pacific Advances in Consumer Research Volume 4, 2001      Pages 306-309


Dolores A. Barsellotti, California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, U.S.A.

Buyer behavior information for the international marketplace is a complicated and challenging topic. The wide range of information that is needed to develop markets outside of an organization’s home country covers everything from the basic economic data (to ensure that there are markets) to very complicated buyer behavior profiles needed to develop the specific strategies surrounding the market mix of product, price, promotion and distribution. Included are "hard" data needs specific to evaluating the county as a potential international market. That is, those areas considered as indicators of economic development and market size. This is critical whenever assessing developing nations as a potential marketplace, especially for consumer goods.

In most studies, a search is first conducted of any secondary information sources that may be available on a particular country or culture. Secondary data, however, are not without problems.

In the acquiring of secondary data, the data may be for more than one market area, covering several different countries with very diverse cultural and behavior factors. This may be true even when dealing with a regional trade area such as the European Union. Each country will have a unique set of challenges that must be addressed by the marketer.

In developing nations, secondary data may have serious flaws, or be totally nonexistent. Eve if there are data in existence, the difficulty may be in acquiring access to it, or it may be very outdated, inaccurate, or in a form that is not usable to the researcher.

In most highly industrialized countries, the access to secondary information to partially aid in the obtaining of information surrounding buyer behavior issues may be more readily available through governmental agencies, commercial sources, periodical sources (usually available through a country’s various types of libraries) and internet sites. Also, many local research organizations may be able to provide data as a commercial enterprise (i.e., for a fee).

Business periodicals and journals offer a wide range of information, and most major libraries in large metropolitan cities often have a listing of which periodicals are available (Table 1). Many of the major publications have web sites as well as yearly indices to aid in the tracking of a wide range of appropriate information.

In less developed countries, the secondary information search becomes a great deal more difficult, as these countries may not have the means to collect and archive data in any meaningful way for scientific research use. There may not even be a library with any significant archives for the obtaining of periodical literature for researchers to use. Further, the country may not even be collecting retrievable information through its governmental agencies (Harrell and Frazier). There is a wide range of issues surrounding the less developed counties’ ability to collect, store and use data. These same issues may impact on conducting primary research in these countries.

Many developing nations are attempting to attract foreign investments into their countries. In these cases, the governments’ embassies, consulates and trade mission members will have information that may be quite good.

Adding to the complication of the availability of data, are the comparability and reliability of the data that is obtained (Cateora and Graham). Data may be being collected, but it may be incomplete, inaccurate or very outdated.

For a company of one country seeking to do business in another country, excellent secondary data search sources would be the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

International Financial Statistics (Monthly report on exchange rates, inflation, deflation, country liquidity, etc.) Published by the International Monetary Fund.

The United Nations:

Yearbook of Industrial Statistics (Statistics of minerals, manufactured goods, electricity and gas)

Statistical Yearbook (Population, production, education, trade, wages)

Demographic Yearbook (Population, income, marriages, deaths, literacy)

The World Bank:

Country Economic Reports (Macroeconomic and industry trends)

World Development Report (Population, investment, balance of payments, defense expenditures)

In the highly industrialized countries, governmental agencies usually publish a wide range of information on countries with which they have trade interests. The U.S. government, for example, has an extensive listing of published materials obtainable from the U. S. Department of Commerce (Table 2). A very brief sample of several documents that may be obtained through this source:

Business and trade associations provide information to their memberships; many of these may be in localized trade areas where there are heavy concentrations of that particular industry. There are other business associations that do not imit interests to a particular industry, but have information on a wide range of areas. In the United States, for example, there is the Chamber of Commerce of the United States, which has more than 100 local Chambers that maintain foreign trade bureaus to serve members engaged in foreign commerce. A very helpful source to aid in finding these associations is the Trade Directories of the World (a loose-leaf volume by Croner Publications, San Diego, California), which may be available in the reference section of a major library. This publication lists more than 3000 trade, industrial and professional directories in 1000 categories across 175 countries (Cateora and Graham).

Many companies are in business of selling services, thus must keep up with international developments, issues and opportunities. The information these organizations gather may be available to their client companies. Typical organizations here are banks, transportation companies (international airlines, steamship lines), advertising agencies (BBDO, Young & Rubicam, Saatchi & Saatchi, J. Walter Thompson), accounting firms (Price Waterhouse), and international shippers (UPS, Federal Express, DHL).

Other helpful resources for U.S. organizations available at most business and/or major public libraries in large cities (in the reference section or through the internet access) are listed in Table 3.

For organizations seeking to do business in the U. S. there are many information sources available through the above sources as well as through the internet. Table 4, is a short sample of listings for various internet information sources that may be helpful in finding useful secondary data (the list does not include the commercial (for a fee) sources).






For primary data, the issues have a differing set of complications. It is highly recommended to use a local research firm in the country being analyzed, as one must understand the culture, local business practices, and the language to conduct the research. Doing research on your own is usually not advised. The listing of the ten major international research firms is shown in Table 5.

There are times, however, when a local research organization may not be available. Then, it is still not advised to totally conduct the research by yourself. It would be wise to have the assistance of someone from the local culture to assist you. Assistance in obtaining an appropriate contact for this may be obtained through governmental agencies, through business and trade associations, universities in the country, colleagues, and local business people. In many developing nations, however, there may not be a trade association in existence, or if there is one, the data it has may not be reliable (Terpstra et al.).

The search for information on buyer behavior issues in the international marketplace usually surround these areas:

1. Who makes what purchase decisions?

2. Who influences these decisions?

3. How are goods purchased? By whom? How often? Where?

4. How are prices negotiated? Are the prices negotiated?

5. How do consumers/buyers find out about products?

6. Where are products available?

7. Media habits or profiles of buyer market.

8. Do buyers prefer local products or do they like foreign products? For all products or only products in certain categories? Or, does it matter in your particular market? (Perception of foreign products by the market).

9. Any social, legal, or religious taboos associated with the product, its package, and its usage or of the marketing of it?

10. What factors specific to the product may be affected/influenced by buyer issues? That is, such detils as the colors available, the product design, etc.).

This is only a partial list of the various information areas needed to develop strategy in reaching international buyers, be they consumers or business-to-business/organizational customers.





The major reason for the earlier caution of using local research firms in foreign countries for the obtaining of detailed consumer information is the "double whammy" of having to understand the cultures themselves before embarking on more detailed research within that particular culture (cultural sensitivity)(Czinkota and Ronkainen). A researcher must have a good understanding of the environmental and cultural behaviors to be able to assess which methods, methodologies and evaluations tools would best match the research needs to the research environment. That is, many tools and methodologies taken for granted in industrialized nations may be unusable in another country where the infrastructures are not widely in place. Mail questionnaires, for example, cannot be used in countries where there are not highly developed postal systems, where there are no accurate or proper street addresses (much less, roads and streets), or where literacy rates are low.

The cultural and environmental parameters of various countries affects the ability to collect the needed information, the accuracy of the data collected, the cost to collect the data and complicates, in some cases, the analysis itself. These problems become multiplied wherever a cross-cultural analysis is being conducted.

Even in industrialized nations these considerations must be addressed. The language issue, for instance, is a major area, even in countries that have the same or similar language, such as England, Canada, the United States, Australia, and New Zealand. These countries speak the same language very differently, thus this must be considered whenever designing questions and questionnaires.

The approach to sources of information depends on whether the information needed is for designing strategies that stress similarities across markets (global or standardized approach) or where market differences are stressed (unique/differentiated markets). If the research objective is for initial evaluation of a potential market, macro data may be all that is required.


Baines, Adam, editor. The Handbook of International Direct Marketing. London, England: KoganPage Limited, 1992.

Cateora, P. R. and John L Graham, International Marketing (10th edition). Boston: Irwin/McGraw-Hill Publishing, 1999, Page 220.

Cohen, W. A., The Marketing Plan. New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1995.

Czinkota, Michael R. and Ilkka A. Ronkainen, International Marketing (5th edition). Fort Worth, Texas: The Dryden Press, Harcourt Brace College Publishers, 1998.

Czinkota, M. R. and I. A. Ronkainen, International Marketing (5th edition) Dryden: Florida, 1998. Pages 88-89.

Deans, C. and s. Dakin, The Thunderbird Guide to International Business Resoures on the World Wide Web. New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1997.

Harrell, Gilbert D. and Gary L Frazier. Marketing: Connecting With Customers. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 1999, Page 147.

Hiebing, Roman G. Jr. and S.W. Cooper. How to Write a Successful Marketing Plan: A Disciplined and Comprehensive Approach. Lincolnwood, Illinois: NTC Business Books, 1990.

Jeannet, Jean-Pierre and Hubert D. Hennessey. Global Marketing Strategies (Second Edition). Boston, Massachusetts: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1992, Page228.

Kotabe, Masaaki and Krisstiaan Helsen. Global Marketing Management. New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1998.

Roxas, J., H. Czepiec and P. Hopkins. "Using the Web to Teach International Marketing: The Country Notebook Assignment." Paper presented at the World Association for Case Research Methodology and Applications, Edinburgh, Scotland, June 29- July 2, 1997.

Tuncalp, Secil. "The Marketing Research Scene in Saudi Arabia." European Journal of Marketing, 22(5) (1988): 15-22.

Gilbert D. Harrell and Gary L. Frazier, Marketing: Connecting with Customers. Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle River, NJ, 1999..

Terpstra, Vern and Ravi Sarathy (sixth edition) International Marketing (sixth edition). The Dryden Press: Florida. 1994. Page 220.



Dolores A. Barsellotti, California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, U.S.A.


AP - Asia Pacific Advances in Consumer Research Volume 4 | 2001

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