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Chinese Market Research

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Introduction

Although it is a goldmine of opportunities, the Chinese market is sometimes difficult to crack. Even the most reliable market research methodologies do not always work. One major reason for the inconsistencies in research is that the Asian concept of truth is different from that of Western societies. Presenting information in a certain way so as to save face or maintain harmony is seen as being just as true as what we would perceive as true. (Cateora, et.al., ch. 5) This can present problems in researching consumer opinions unless handled delicately.

The sheer size of China's population makes dependable data very difficult to obtain, and the markets are also fragmented and diverse. For instance, there are over 1,000 breweries competing in China's beer market. (Oliver) Secondary data is available, but is often outdated, inaccurate, or comes from questionable origins. And because of a natural distrust of outsiders, businesses are often wary of participating in surveys and might either refuse to participate, or their answers might be the official stance instead of what they really think.

Keys for Successful Market Research

As difficult as it may be, there are ways to conduct market research in China that will produce quality data. Companies planning to do research can do a variety of things to increase the accuracy of the data they collect.

When conducting surveys, it is important to cautiously choose who will conduct the interview. They must have the appropriate status, education, gender, and region of origin in order to gain the best results. For instance, because Chinese is a very contextual language, it is best to use someone from mainland China to interview another from the mainland. The cultural nuances might be lost on someone from Taiwan. (Oliver)

At times a series of interviews with different people will yield better results, as it allows for crosschecking of the answers given to the first interviewer. It is also necessary to take into account the product or subject of the interview. Sometimes it is good to have a foreigner with a Chinese national if they are interviewing about an imported, prestigious product - even if the foreigner is just for show. However, if the subject is a sensitive issue - especially if it deals with issues of national heritage or national pride - involving a foreigner will actually be counterproductive. (Oliver)

Chinese culture highly values the extended family unit, even in business. Outsiders are not always trusted, making it necessary to have local contacts when doing business, known as guanxi. Telephone interviews will usually be refused, and face-to-face interviews yield more reliable results anyway. And it is a good idea to involve local civil society groups to conduct the interviews. (Oliver) They know the people in their neighborhoods, and there is already a high level of trust. Reliable answers will be more easily

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