User Research in foreign contexts

Performing effective market research in new regions can be a daunting task. Here are some proven strategies to help you get up to speed faster.
April 21, 2023
3 minutes
Hanine Lteif
Product Lead
Omar El Sayed
Product Manager

Market research is a crucial aspect of any business venture. It provides valuable insights into consumer behaviour, market trends, and competitive analysis, which helps in making informed business decisions. However, conducting market research in unfamiliar contexts and industries can be a tough task. It requires building a deep understanding of the industry, the cultural norms of the region, and the target audience's preferences without having any previous related context or exposure. Despite the challenges, venturing into unfamiliar territories can also provide unique opportunities for businesses to tap into new markets and expand their reach. In this article, we will explore the importance of market research in unfamiliar contexts and industries and provide practical tips to navigate the process successfully.


The market research process is a series of steps that businesses follow to collect and analyze data that will help them make informed decisions. The process typically includes defining the problem or opportunity, designing the research, collecting data, analyzing the data, and presenting the findings.

When going to new markets, it is best to start broad before diving deeper:

  • Understand the general culture inherited by ethnicities, architecture and geographies.
  • Understand your target group’s profiles; who are the people we want to know more about, how do they live, when do they get married, how much do they earn, etc.
  • Understand their needs and wants when it comes to the problem/solution space you are exploring.

Before jumping right into ticking the boxes on your user research project to-do list, spend some time knowing the country, the people, and the culture. Visit their homes and their businesses. Eat with them. Talk to them. Listen to their life challenges and their ambitions as human beings. Despite cultural and regional differences, it is often surprising how much common ground exists between geographies. Even when it seems like there is nothing in common with the target audience, similarities can be found, including in household dynamics, spending and saving habits, and daily routines.

In one experience in India for example, our team learned that the people show hospitality and friendliness by insisting that you share a meal with them or offering snacks, depending on the time of day. While this was a normal experience for me, some of my colleagues from different backgrounds found it fascinating. Understanding even this small local gesture has helped us connect more with our target audience and made them more at ease with us, which enhanced our communication and knowledge sharing.

Tips - Dos and Don’ts:

After understanding the general culture inherited by ethnicities, architecture, and geographies, it's important to dive deep into your target group's profiles and their needs and wants. This understanding will help you tailor your solution to answer the target audience's needs and meet their expectations. These are some dos and don’ts that you have to be aware of when navigating into an unfamiliar context:

If you are targeting poorly educated individuals, never under estimate their mental abilities; they are as smart, as demanding, and as selective as you are! Respect their minds and tailor a solution that answers their needs and meets their expectations.

If you are targeting less tech-affine people, don’t get stuck. Technology is just an enabler: don’t make it a bottleneck! Think outside of the box and find workarounds to deliver a solution that is suitable to your users’ tech-affinity level. Your audience might only become ready for the fancy mobile app you’ve been dreaming to build in 5 years from now. Thats totally fine! for now, just focus on easing their pain points and gaining their trust.

If you are targeting low-income workers, don’t expect them to splurge on a fancy product or solution. They will only pay for what is crucial for their living or their businesses. These people have a lot of financial stress, so don’t increase the pressure. Instead think how you can empower them by offering them free solutions and monetize through the wealthier players in the market.


In conclusion, conducting market research in unfamiliar contexts and industries can be a challenging but rewarding process for businesses. Understanding the culture, the people and their needs and wants is essential to conducting successful market research. Starting broad and then diving deep into the target audience's profiles can provide valuable insights into consumer behaviour and market trends. Additionally, following dos and don'ts such as respecting the target audience's mental abilities, finding workarounds to deliver suitable solutions, and not expecting low-income workers to splurge on fancy products can help businesses conduct effective market research. By following these tips and strategies, businesses can make informed decisions, tap into new markets, and expand their global reach.

Cover photo by Mario Heller on Unsplash

Hanine Lteif
Product Lead
Omar El Sayed
Product Manager

Interested in how our team can help you?

Get in touch with our partners to learn more
Thank you! A member from our team will be in touch soon.
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.