How to carry out market research in China

When you’re entering the Chinese market or building your brand within this savvy market of 800 million netizens, it makes sense to first invest in market research in China. Good market research will be cost-effective and give you far better returns when you plan and deliver your digital marketing campaign. First, let’s assess why this preparatory step is so important.

Benefits of conducting market research in China

– The Chinese market is vast and highly fragmented.
– Western marketing tactics do not always translate well to Chinese audiences due to a wide range of socio-cultural and other variables.
Digital marketing in China is highly competitive, so accurate data and quantified insights are needed for better returns.

… and above all, with better intelligence at your disposal, you will enjoy better returns on your digital marketing investment, and avoid expensive mistakes!

The right market research in China will allow you to:

Gain a valid and qualified understanding of the complex Chinese market – and your target market segment.
Accurately analyse China’s competitive landscape, to assess which competitors may be operating within your target space, and how well they may be doing.
Identify strategies to successfully enter your target market and to build your brand.
Better understand the specific characteristics of your target Chinese audience and political, economic, social, technological, environmental and legal (PESTEL) factors which will influence your digital marketing activity.
Identify any regulatory and legal impacts which could affect the way you do business in China.

When should you carry out market research in China?

There are plenty of times when it makes sense to commission some form of market research in China. For example:

1. When launching your Western brand in the China market.
2. When seeking to bring a new product or service to your Chinese target audience.
3. Before creating (or changing) a Chinese digital marketing campaign.

What market research methodologies should you use?

There are several approaches here to consider. All market research can be categorised as:

Primary research; carried out on a first-hand, bespoke basis, or
Secondary, or desk, research to analyse readily available or published data that offers an overview of the industry, its competitors, rival products and so forth.

Western brands may choose to carry out some elements of secondary research themselves into the China market. For example, market reports may be available from government sources, Chambers of Commerce and other business organisations and consultancies. Possible sources include the National Bureau of Statistics of China, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and the Chinese Ministry of Commerce.

Where this data doesn’t exist, bespoke quantitative research may be commissioned to gather relevant, targeted data sets which strengthen the body of information that the brand can use for its marketing planning.

First-hand research is where the real value steps in, however! Western brands may want to commission deep-dive and bespoke market research pieces which cover:

Qualitative interviews, to gather perspectives and knowledge from market experts within the relevant Chinese industry, and/or
Competitor interviews to support market positioning and overall strategy.

A good approach is to combine primary and secondary research methods to build up a valuable, holistic base of highly-relevant information which makes it easier to plan a subsequent digital marketing campaign. It’s important to note, however, that what works in the West might not work in China. For example:

1. There is no single China in this country of 1.3 billion people. Most brands will need to focus on highly targeted demographic groups and territories in order to understand localised attitudes, needs and wants.
2. Demographics are very different. For example, Chinese customers tend to grocery shop little and often, in comparison to many Western countries which tend to do bulk shops every week.
3. Around 40% of Chinese customers will only access the internet via their mobiles – making mobile research a potentially powerful channel to consider.
4. Sensitive topics should be avoided for Chinese market research. Chinese customers will generally not want to answer questions about politics, sex, religion or official media which are state-owned and controlled.
5. Public holidays must be taken into consideration for your market research timing. For example, businesses close for up to a week during Chinese new year, and customers are likely to be celebrating – rather than answering surveys!
6. Personalisation is key. Many big Western brands are already offering incentivisation in return for data. For example, Adidas has offered shoe customisation in return for the creation of customer profiles.

How to deliver market research in China

For most Western brands, it will be challenging to carry out a full programme of targeted Chinese marketing research with an existing in-house marketing team. This field is an expert one, and most brands will use a Chinese marketing agency to access a specialist market research resource on a flexible basis.

Working closely with your brand to understand its objectives, Market Me China can recommend a programme of targeted market research in China that will provide the insights that your brand needs to make confident, effective decisions for its next digital marketing campaign.

Don’t waste money on digital marketing activities that don’t achieve their intended outcomes. Invest first in the necessary research that you need to truly understand your Chinese audience; their needs, wants, motivations, influences and demographics, the competitive space that you plan to operate within, and the interplay of other complex socio, technological, legal, political and macro-economic factors which may affect your digital marketing campaign.

Find out more

Please contact Market Me China to find out how we can help you with your market research objectives. We work with companies across all industries, but particularly in e-commerce, healthcare, travel and education, and our team of experts work on a flexible basis to deliver measurable results.