Purpose - The paper presents a framework for establishing equivalence of international marketing data. The framework is meant to reduce confusion about equivalence issues, and guide the design of international studies and data analysis. Design/methodology/approach - A short overview is given of the two main approaches to equivalence in the literature. These are integrated and used to distinguish sources of cultural bias in the various stages of the research process. Findings - The highest levels of equivalence most often established are construct equivalence and partial measurement equivalence, implying that distributions of scores obtained in various countries cannot be interpreted at face value. To understand cross-cultural differences better, researchers should investigate why higher levels of equivalence could not be established; this can be done best by including elements from both the conceptual and the measurement approach to equivalence. Practical implications - This study can help marketing managers to establish the extent to which consumer perceptions can be considered equal across countries. Moreover, it helps researchers to determine causes of unequivalence and relate these to concrete stages in the research process. Originality/value - Integration of the two main approaches to equivalence will lead to a better understanding of the validity of cross-cultural differences and similarities. This should lead to improved decision making in international marketing. © Emerald Group Publishing Limited.