Best Practices for Successful Research in China

As a global research company, we get the distinct pleasure of fielding reports and gathering targeted feedback from cultures all over the world. One of the critical parts of our international research is ensuring we gather the right feedback for our client’s concepts. This ensures the final products are well understood, highly desired and correctly optimized for each distinct market they target.

In order to ensure both timely and precise consumer insights, our team of in-market experts uncovers the results that might go unseen in other data acquisition only models. These small nuances between cultures can impact the key findings in your research and ultimately the success of your concepts. We asked a few of our in-market experts to give us a few examples of common cultural nuances across a few highly targeted international markets. Today we are going to delve into some of the intricacies within the Chinese market…

High Growth, Highly Targeted

China is the world’s fastest-growing major economy, with growth rates averaging 10% over the past 30 years. This growth attracts the attention of major brands in a big way and their insights teams are always looking for new and better ways to target this massive market.

Here are some of the higher level facts that we have uncovered in this market:

  • Simplified Chinese is the preferred language for online studies as it is more common and will help recruit a wider audience
  • Online studies are relatively easy to field, with over 90% of urban areas and 60% of rural areas connected
  • Many popular global social outlets like Facebook, YouTube, and Vimeo are blocked and forbidden in China. These common touchpoints are unavailable for any form of consumer research.
  • Research studies should be avoided during the annual holidays such as the Spring Festival, Qingming Festival, Labor Day, Dragon Boat Festival, Mid-autumn Festival and National Day
  • Chinese characters can have many meanings.
    • For example, if you translate a five-Chinese-character sentence into English or other Indo-European languages (German, French, etc), you may need 10 or more words to express the same meaning.

The Details Matter Most

Beyond the basic guidelines for China listed above, our in-country experts had some great advice for the Chinese market. Here are some of the guidelines provided in regards to interactions within an active discussion:

IRG Respondent

Chinese people tend to be very shy in a new environment. If they don’t know other respondents in a study, they may feel a bit shy to share their comments freely. I noticed several respondents saying if there is a moderator who can interact with them more frequently, they may want to share more opinions. I guess it’s like in a class, if there is a teacher who can lead/host the discussion, students may become more active to share their opinions.

Chen C.
IRG Respondent

In general, Chinese research respondents give short and abstract answers. There is initially less detail and explanation; mostly just facts with the ‘whys’ missing. You need a moderator to really probe and follow up to pull out the important influencing factors.

Beibei P.

In addition to the obvious need for a well moderated discussion, we also uncovered that the inherent politeness of the Chinese culture could potentially lead researchers astray. Along with the shy nature of many respondents in this market, many are reluctant to give real hard line negative feedback. One of our in-country experts expands on this point:

IRG Respondent

The problem with asking Chinese respondents to pick something negative is that they can feel pressured to do so, even when they don’t really have anything negative to say. Maybe it was due to politeness as most respondents, in my experience, tend to be friendlier and less critical.

Ming L. 

In Country = In Tune

With a country that values its long history and established traditions as much as China does, it is specifically important to conduct your research in a way that feels comfortable and familiar. The Chinese are quick to recognize when something is unnatural to their culture, foreign to their behaviors, or not quite right for their long established tastes. However, they are not as quick to speak up about these facts, without having a native researcher involved that knows just how and when to probe for these hidden factors and feelings. This is just one of the many reasons why at GutCheck we employ these in-country experts for our international research engagements and why you should always choose a partner that has this level of global market understanding.

Some of these tips seem simple, but if they are not followed, your research can be derailed. To learn more about international research best practices, check out the eGuide below that details cultural nuances in five major countries.

Download eGuide