Parallel Market Research in Multiple Chinese Cities – a new research concept

Author: Michael Jeive

The  Swiss SME Research Center China (SSRCC), a center within the University of Applied Sciences and Arts Northwestern Switzerland  FHNW, carries out market research in parallel in multiple Chinese regions leveraging our extensive network of university partners.

Why Carry Out Parallel Market Research in Multiple Chinese Cities?

It is easy to be seduced by the sheer size and apparent potential of the Chinese market. However, in many cases in reality China has multiple overlapping markets and its economy is as varied and complex as that of Europe. Comparing Harbin, Kunming and Shanghai is much like Copenhagen, Cadiz and London, and surely no one would research in Cadiz for a product launch in Copenhagen.

To understand the market potential and market entry modes for a Swiss product or service and to investigate potential market entry modes, the market must be segmented both geographically and by sector. This means finding the right place and the right channels to offer the best chances of success for your products or service.

Would you research in Cadiz for a product launch in Copenhagen?

Let’s consider one example:

Example Findings – Buying Decisions of Retail Cosmetics Customers

Customer preferences and buying behaviours are significantly different in Shanghai and Harbin and also amongst high and mid income buyers. Customers in Harbin respond to cosmetic products in a different way and use quite different criteria and process in the buying decision. Importantly, cities like Shanghai which are most developed are also the most contested and challenging markets while growth potential in many Tier 2 cities is strong and competition still comparatively weaker offering solid opportunities for those companies able to take them. Such data is vital for companies to developing marketing and communication strategies and enables targeted regional activities helping to segment and respond to large and complex market.

Selected cities within easy travelling distance of an FHNW School of Business partner (cities in bold are home to an SSRCC partner, others are within easy travel distance of a partner)

Parallel Market Research Process

Market research is conducted in parallel in several economic regions in China to support SMEs in their decision-making. This is made possible by the FHNW School of Business university network in China. Working with local university partners we also learn more about the local markets and the economic environment in China, ensure our researchers have local knowledge and minimise the potential impact of western researchers influencing the responses of the interviewees.

Swiss Concepts Applied Internationally

The initial market research concepts for the Chinese market are developed individually for each customer in Switzerland, then approved by the customer and tested locally in China by a local partner university to ensure user friendliness and data reliability. After the test phase, the adapted concept is approved again by the customers before the Chinese partners are trained in the research instruments.

This method ensures that each customer works with a project manager who understands the local position of the company in Switzerland and can guarantee that all confidential and sensitive data remain in Switzerland in order to minimise risk. At the same time, the quality of the research is maximized by taking advantage of local insights and the knowledge of the Chinese partners. This process ensures the reliability and clarity of the method for the entire geographically defined market research area in China. Once the research data have been collected in China, they are delivered to Switzerland for data analysis and reporting.

Lower Costs Thanks to Local Partners, Increased Benefits for Swiss Students and Academics

Our new market research method also means that the costs can be kept lower thanks to our local partners and the possibility to test the concept simultaneously in several Chinese cities spread over a larger area. This new method also strengthens and intensifies the cooperation with our local university partners. This results in additional research ideas and joint academic research contributions.

As a University of Applied Sciences and Arts, it is central to our function that we pass on our knowledge to our students in the classroom so that they are prepared for their future employment are more valuable employees for Swiss enterprises especially those operating in global markets now or in the future.

The Swiss SME Research Center China (SSRCC)

The SSRCC’s mission is to promote information and technology exchange and bring together industry partners from Switzerland and China to build cooperation and innovation. The SSRCC provides Swiss enterprises, especially SMEs, with a viable opportunity to gain a market presence in China while offering their Chinese counterparts the same possibility in Switzerland.    The SSRCC is part of the the Fachhochschule Nordwestschweiz FHNW, School of Business and provides services in the area of ​​business consulting and market research for Swiss and Chinese enterprises as well as joint research and executive development programmes with Chinese university partners. We are currently working on a number of market research assignments for medium-sized companies from the region of northwest Switzerland. The FHNW University of Applied Sciences has maintained an intensive exchange with companies from various sectors, renowned universities and important authorities in China for over 25 years. These relationships are used to foster the exchange of knowledge and business relations between Switzerland and China. In this way, we are able to improve the professional abilities of our students and help deliver opportunities for Swiss companies in the Chinese market.

Contact

Prof. Michael Jeive
Head of Swiss SME Research Center China
University of Applied Sciences Northwerstern Switzerland
FHNW School of Business
michael.jeive@fhnw.ch

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