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

Erster offizieller Besuch einer swissuniversities-Delegation in China

Eine Delegation von swissuniversities, bestehend aus sechs Vertretern von Schweizer Universitäten bzw. der EPFL Lausanne und Ruedi Nützi, Direktor der Hochschule für Wirtschaft FHNW als Vertreter der Schweizer Fachhochschulen, besuchte im Dezember 2016 in Peking, Shanghai und Shenzhen 14 chinesische Universitäten. Es handelte sich um den ersten offiziellen Besuch einer Delegation von swissuniversities in China. Dies in der Absicht, die von Bundespräsident Schneider-Ammann und Staatspräsident Xi Jinping beschlossene strategische Partnerschaft im Bereich Innovation zu konkretisieren.

swissuniversities Delegation 2016 bei Huawei

swissuniversities Delegation 2016 bei Huawei

Die chinesischen Partner zeigten grosses Interesse an einer Zusammenarbeit mit der Schweiz und mit Schweizer Universitäten und Hochschulen. Auch das spezifische Profil der Fachhochschule fand grosses Interesse, geht es doch in allen Volkswirtschaften um die Praxisorientierung der Wissenschaft. Die Hochschule für Wirtschaft FHNW unterhält bereits rege Kontakte zu nicht weniger als 10 Universitäten in China. In dem Sinn war z.B. der Delegations-Besuch an der Shanghai University of Finance and Economics SUFE ein Heimspiel für Ruedi Nützi: Die Hochschule für Wirtschaft FHNW plant zurzeit mit der SUFE neue Programme in den Bereichen Innovation und Entrepreneurship sowie Forschungs-Kollaborationen und in Zukunft Executive Development Programmes (EDP). Zudem hatte Ruedi Nützi im Juli 2016 an der Summer School der SUFE unterrichtet. Ein weiterer wichtiger Output des Delegations-Besuchs im Dezember 2016 war für die Hochschule für Wirtschaft FHNW u.a. die Aufnahme von Beziehungen zur Central University of Finance and Economics CUFE in Peking.

Solche Universitäts-Partnerschaften sind von entscheidender Bedeutung für eine moderne, international-orientierte Fachhochschule. Durch die Kollaborationen werden neue Kenntnisse generiert, und wir können das gewonnene Wissen an unsere Studierenden weitergeben, die sich in ihrem zukünftigen beruflichen Alltag in einem globalisierten Umfeld bewegen werden. Die Partnerschaften ermöglichen auch Austauschsemester an chinesischen Universitäten für unsere Studierenden, die sich dadurch neue soziale und kulturelle Kompetenzen aneignen können. Unsere vertieften Marktkenntnisse und das Ökonomieverständnis in China  teilen wir auch mit unseren Wirtschaftspartnern, um sie in ihren China-Aktivitäten zu unterstützen. Mehr Informationen dazu erhalten Sie auf unserer SSRCC-Website.

2016 INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON MANAGEMENT SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING

Last week, over 100 guests from universities across China travelled to Switzerland, specifically to the FHNW in Olten for the 2016 International Conference on Management Science and Engineering. This is the 23rd time that the conference has been held by the Harbin Institute of Technology, but the first time that there has been a joint organising and academic committee and an international partner (FHNW) playing such a central role.

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Some of the authors and guests take a photo break during coffee at the opening ceremony

Over 100 presentations took place with papers being submitted by (mostly) lecturers and doctoral students from the University of Applied Sciences and Arts Northwestern Switzerland (FHNW), Harbin Institute of Technology, Harbin Engineering University, Fudan University, Beijing Foreign Studies University, Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Beijing Institute of Technology, Nan Kai University, Shanghai Maritime University, Southeast University, Hangzhou Dianzi University, Northeastern University at Qinhuangdao, Center for Socio-Eco-Nomic Development, Geneva , Shenyang University of Technology, Nanjing Audit University, Beijing Decision-making Consultant Center, China University of Mining &Technology, Dalian University of Technology, Hohai University, as well as universities from South and South East Asia.

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The Vice President of HIT (foreground) and Dean of HIT School of Management discuss the keynote speeches

Distinguished Guests

The conference also included speeches from Professors Dr. Ruedi Nützi and Professor Dr. Rolf Schaeren (School of Business, FHNW, Switzerland); Counselor XI Ru, Education Section, Embassy of The Peoples’ Republic of China in Switzerland; Professor Qiang Ye, Dean School of Management, Harbin Institute of Technology, P.R.China; Professor Gus Gaynor, IEEE Technology Management Council, USA; Beatrice Ferrari Ph.D., Deputy Head International Relations, State Department for Education Research and Innovation; Nektarios Palaskas, Ph.D., Head of Science, Technology and Education Section, Swiss Embassy in the People’s Republic of China.

Our two distinguished keynote speakers for the opening ceremony were Professor Doug Vogel, Harbin Institute of Technology, P.R.China and Professor Dr. Xinhua Wittmann, School of Business, FHNW.

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We were treated to some excellent papers from both experienced and younger academics and all of those who took part gained valuable input.

Challenging Research Topics

For the SSRCC, it was wonderful opportunity to bring together academics from China and Switzerland to investigate research in the areas of:

  • Big Data and Business Analytics
  • Enterprise Ecosystem and Enterprise Strategy in the Context of Big Data I
  • Challenges of Cross-Border Collaboration
  • Financial Innovation and Risk Management
  • Health Care Dynamics and Solutions in Changing Societies
  • Strategy and Innovation Management
  • Urban Development and Governance

To wrap up the conference, we hosted a workshop on Transfer Research into Practice: Creating Actionable Management Knowledge.

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.”

Building Sustainable Academic Partnerships

A conference like this allows us to build stronger relationship with business schools across China and opens myriad opportunities to generate and disseminate  knowledge for key FHNW stakeholders including local industry partners,local public sector partners, local civil society partners e.g. chambers of commerce, students at FHNW, continuing education students, FHNW staff.

We plan to follow-up the conference by working towards joint research and publications on business environment, market entry, effective business models, cross-border collaboration in China so that we can further support Swiss and Chinese companies and institutions through our local networks with Government, industry and academic partners in China and Switzerland as well as cooperating with partner universities to develop programmes to ensure that the knowledge we generate is shared widely.

This quick post is mostly to say thanks to all of those who worked so hard to make the event a success including the whole SSRCC team and all our colleagues at HIT.

It’s great to report that the conference was a great success and we’re looking forward to taking part again in 2017.

More photos of the conference

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