China Contact recommends Schlegel and Partners (02/2009): Schlegel and Partners support international clients in entering the Chinese market

China Contact recommends Schlegel and Partners (02/2009): Schlegel and Partners support international clients in entering the Chinese market
Despite the economic crisis the interest for China remains high as it is still one of the most dynamic and rapidly evolving markets in the world. Sound preparation of the market entry is crucial. Yet, companies often do not have sufficient resources and experience in analyzing market opportunities and sizes. Schlegel and Partners have substantial experience in paving the way to successful business in China.
International companies continue to consider China as critical to an overall global strategy and need to understand the challenges and opportunities of the Chinese market for their particular products or services. Schlegel and Partner have already accompanied a number of their multinational clients on their road to China providing them with a variety of services to support critical business decisions.

With substantial experience in collecting and interpreting market intelligence data Schlegel and Partners have been carrying out market research and consultancy projects in China for over 10 years. In many cases these projects have differed from the ones we offer to our clients in mature markets like Western Europe or the US. In mature markets, companies seek to create competitive advantages by creating and establishing customer loyalty, achieve differentiation through branding, monitor their employees’ satisfaction and develop new concepts or segmentations of their target audience.

A high proportion of the research projects carried out by Schlegel and Partners in the Chinese market is focused on market assessment. Foreign clients ask for a comprehensive explanation of how markets are structured, who the key players are and what the market size is. Other key elements of Schlegel and Partners’ support of their customers in China are: identification and evaluation of potential locations and business partners, merger and acquisition studies, competitor analyses, pricing studies, local monitoring and image analyses as well as employee attitude surveys.

The majority of our projects in China start with a comprehensive desk research. Secondary data is obtained from published sources, the Internet, and public and private databases in both Chinese and foreign languages (primarily English and German). Especially the Internet has become increasingly sophisticated in China. However, statistical data in China still has a bad reputation with regards to their reliability. Yet, having a multitude of different sources available in China now, data can be cross-checked and verified more easily. We always cross-reference to different sources, do a reality check against related measures and get input from local people.

The desk research is in most cases embedded in a larger research project and followed by primary research. This is typically the most extensive, reliable and useful approach to generate data. There still exist misconceptions about the feasibility of primary data collection in China. We at Schlegel and Partners have successfully transferred and adapted Western style techniques to obtain primary data in China.

Culturally, there is no great reluctance in terms of providing information, and as the Chinese become increasingly aware of market research, obtaining their views has become easier.

However, interviewers must have first-hand experience with primary research in China, read between the lines, ask questions that bring out concrete answers. Data from a primary research in China can be distorted by cultural differences which may result in subtle differences in answers and in the interpretations of responses.
Chinese respondents are extremely reliable when hard facts and statements are required. As soon as it comes to qualitative research where personal opinions and ideas are essential this is becoming more difficult. Chinese respondents do not like to put forward their personal opinion.

For many years, Western companies assumed that business people in China were unwilling to provide information over the telephone, and that face-to-face interviews were necessary in the majority of cases. Schlegel and Partners cannot confirm this: 80% of our research is conducted over the telephone. This allows a large number of people to be interviewed at a relatively low cost and in a short time frame.

Other means of data collection include focus group discussions and online surveys. In B2B research, Schlegel and Partners still tend to avoid these approaches. Chinese business people still prefer to provide information on a one-to-one basis rather than in the company of their peers.
Schlegel and Partners are continuously observing the developments in the Chinese market research industry and we adapt our methodological approach accordingly. There is strong growth in telephone-based fieldwork and also online research increases. The internet penetration rate in China will rise further at a high rate in the years to come and online surveys will then become another viable way of data collection, especially for large-sample projects. However, face-to-face interviewing will remain prominent, as personal relationships are still firmly entrenched in the Chinese culture.

Whether you are just starting to develop your business in China, or you are already established in the market, Schlegel and Partners can help you strengthen your position in this important market.