15 July 2007
An undiscovered world of research opportunities
This 5000-year-long civilisation, on path to becoming a socialist market economy, is abundant with opportunities for market researchers willing to venture eastwards. As China's research environment is currently undergoing significant socio-economic changes, the value of research to both foreign investors and domestic companies is escalating.
Market research in China is not only becoming more systematic – its quality is improving as well. This sets a promising trend for the future. Blossoming consumerism, along with a new affluent middle class, communication revolution, information boom and a growing pace of financial liberalisation are opening new doors to a range of business opportunities. Market research plays a key role in turning these opportunities into business growth.
Are there still more questions than answers?
Chinese market research is still an undiscovered world and, as with every undiscovered entity, it offers a vast number of challenges – but equally countless promising opportunities. If we take the best of both worlds and combine knowledge from an "insider" with our western research expertise we may indeed expect very positive outcomes.
But before you begin your research...
Dispel the myths about research in China
The Chinese market is not one homogenous market
For example, consumers in the East (Shanghai, Jiangsu), North (Beijing, Dongbei), West (Chongqing, Chengdu) and South (Guangdong) differ by their income levels, dietary habits, attitudes towards work and life.
No research agency can claim to have full research coverage for the whole of China
For example, research is concentrated among the urban population which has grown by about 30% since 1970s. The rural sector is often under-represented because of a lack of key data
Information is more open than you imagine
For example, the Internet is shaping the way information is disseminated. Chinese consumers are rapidly exposed to foreign ideas, which are adapted accordingly. No subject is taboo in business
“Guanxi”* – “connections" and "relationships" – is not everything
Contrary to conventional wisdom, the expertise, professionalism and international standing of foreign partners are highly valued by local partners and associates. Having the “Guanxi” barely enables quicker access to the key decision-makers and does not guarantee success in the market!
…don’t underestimate the challenges
Bear in mind that your research may, for instance, be constrained by:
Scarce reliable published information (statistics bureau is the main source)
Low telephone penetration in secondary cities
Lack of updated sample lists and list providers
Climatic conditions which vary widely across the country
Lastly, a few useful tips
Make sure you understand the Chinese geography (multi-tiered structure)
Examine the economic and social indicators (which differ vastly from coastal to inner cities)
Conduct extensive desk research (for market entry studies)
Listen to local intelligence and rely on local networks – as reliable information is hard to come by and key information usually lies with people on the ground
If you require more information about any aspects of conducting market research in China, please contact our Marketing department in the first instance.
* Could be defined as personalised networks of influence
For further information, please contact Marketing on 020 7675 1151 or e-mail