Best Practices

China Best Practices Part 2: Conducting Market Research

 2021/10/girl-tablet-kitchen-245-155.jpg Daughter playing on digital tablet while parents running around
Daughter playing on digital tablet while parents running around

Part 1 of our China Best Practices shared insights about consumers based on the experience of our senior leaders in our Beijing and Shanghai offices.  In this Part 2,  discover best practices for conducting research in China.

Obtaining a clear understanding of Chinese consumers and the Chinese way of life is critical to any consumer-facing companies that want to drive growth in the China market. Having a firm grounding in the Chinese consumer is vital to capturing reliable market research that sheds light on your strategies and practices in China, whether they be focused brand development, brand positioning, target identification, or portfolio management.

Based on the Radius experience in China, we’ve identified these 5 best practices:

1. Be precise in sampling for, and targeting, respondents:
Given China’s regional breadth and diversity, sampling inconsideration could seriously stymie marketers. The discrepancy among regions is as important as the difference among city tiers. Categories that are critical to one region can often be more or less non-existent in another. Research that does not pay deference to these regional nuances risks spreading itself too thinly and wasting effort in irrelevant areas.

2. Design a holistic approach:
Chinese consumers are becoming more sophisticated by the day. To truly understand how they think and behave we often require a multi-stage design to achieve the right result. A combination of qualitative and quantitative is almost always necessary for achieving goals and guiding action. Further, workshopping with the research agency and all of your internal stakeholders is just as critical to ensuring that your results translate into impactful marketing initiatives.

3. Apply methodologies that are appropriate for the situation:
Research methodologies are highly associated with the lifestyles of the target audience. For instance, it is no longer feasible to check household penetration by fixed-line random calling (CATI), as fewer and fewer households are now using fixed lines. Online research is efficient and cost-saving, but it faces the problems of limited coverage on low tier cities and the ability to cover larger sample sizes due to constraints in panel scope. In addition, there is a need to be very cautious when executing online studies due to fraudulent respondents.  As such, we see many clients, despite the cost implications, still preferring door-to-door or central location computer aided interviews, to ensure data collection quality.

New methodologies such as WeChat surveys or online IDIs are gaining popularity in China, as are mobile surveys.  This is primarily due to the fact that consumers find them interesting and engaging. A benefit of these approaches is our ability to better check respondent validity.

4. Vigilantly manage field quality to obtain solid data:
Data quality is the heart of any research project. In China, there are challenges with ‘professional interviewers’ (persons who take many research studies to gain compensation), or ‘lured interception’ (interceptors or recruiters recruiting unqualified respondents to meet the quota).  As a result, researchers must pay special attention to field execution. Trap questions are sometimes necessary, especially for online studies. Proof, such as pictures and/or audio recording, with the permission of the respondent, is often required for offline studies.  At Radius, we implement a range of data quality measurements, such as requesting pictures, IDs, receipts, etc., to ensure our data is as accurate as possible.  For any project we conduct, we will have our own staff monitor the process, randomly select interviewers to accompany, or travel to the sampled cities to check FW process.

5. Look beyond the data:
Traditional Chinese culture has a deep influence in the way people talk about and comment on topics. Data interpretation will be based upon a deep understanding of cultural influence. For example, Chinese consumers tend to rate positively. Even for the products they don’t like, ‘just so-so’ is likely to be the lowest rating they would present. For a ten point scale rating, we need to pay special attention to the rating of 7, because number 7 may indicate that the consumers do not care. Also it is important to read the top-box or bottom-box of a 5-point rating scale, rather than the top-2 box or bottom-2 box like many researchers will do in the U.S. Major insights and business implications are derived on solid data analytics, coupled with a deep understanding of the Chinese market.

Exploring market research in China market for your brand? Contact us to discuss more specifics about the best approach.

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