When I started helping companies do consumer research in China in the early 2000s, I have to admit it was pretty much a ‘hit and miss’ affair. The information available from public sources (which you could access in English language on Google) was very primitive (high level statistics only supplied by Government agencies) and the best and most useful analysis was usually done by hiring young chinese graduates to walk around with clipboards asking people targeted questions and comparing the prices of different products on supermarket shelves.
Just over 15 years later, it’s amazing how much high quality research is now publicly available on the internet (often free of charge or, if not, at a very modest cost) which points to a thriving local market research and data management industry, together with an abundance of rich, precise and highly targeted data on consumer preferences, behaviours and propensity collected from a retail sector which has become highly digitised.
For a good example of this, look no further than China Skinny’s analysis of China’s Lucrative Post-90s Segment – How, What, Where and Who Online which is freely available to anyone with a computer and an internet connection. Look at how much detail they have collected on the post 90s generation in China and their analysis of “the segment’s online preferences and behaviours to shed light into what pushes their buttons and where to push them”. And I know from working with them that this is only the tip of the iceberg in terms of the detailed research and analysis they provide to their clients.
There really is no excuse any more to doing comprehensive and thorough research before getting on a plane and engaging with the market. And it doesn’t have to cost a fortune either.