Western companies operating in China are increasingly realizing the importance and value of conducting market research studies, particularly within the business-to-business arena. There are 2 key reasons for this:
- Many companies recently adding or expanding their marketing intelligence teams (especially b2b specialist teams) within either their marketing & sales or business development departments;
- More b2b research jobs than ever before being commissioned from within China, whereas normally studies of Asia would be commissioned from Singapore, Hong Kong or Western countries.
Business-to-business market research studies are, by nature, more qualitative than business-to-consumer ones and are always capable of providing in-depth knowledge for certain areas. Through such studies, most companies will expect to discover the size of the market, needs and pain points of their commercial customers, the structure of supply chains and distribution channels, and even the effectiveness of their branding and marketing communications.
Looking at the current Chinese market, it is not hard to speculate on why so many companies are starting to pay more attention to b2b market research. Compared with a decade or two ago, Western companies now have obtained much deeper penetration in the China market. Many of them have already transformed their original representative or single-functioned offices into multi-functional ones, covering almost every aspect of marketing and business activities. However, as everyone knows, the China market is not always an easy one: being both highly complex and sophisticated impacts on various aspects, such as policies and regulations, and an intricate structure within supply chain or distribution channels. This accordingly requires better and deeper market intelligence and knowledge for Western companies to survive and prosper.
In addition, the increasing competition between Western companies or derived from domestic Chinese companies gives another reason why market research services are gaining more popularity at the moment. In many sectors, the China market is seeing saturation rather than expansion. Companies have to fight hard to grab more market share from their peers. Therefore, many of them will use competitive intelligence or other types of market research studies to benchmark against their close competitors or market leaders, in order to find the best way to consolidate their presence in the market.
Lastly, the growing Westernization of the Chinese labor force also explains why market research services are becoming popular. As we know, market research originates from the West. In contrast with 10 years ago, more and more senior positions in marketing or business development departments within Western companies are being filled by Chinese nationals, a large number of whom are Chinese returnees that were educated and have obtained business related degrees (e.g. MBAs) overseas. They understand the nature, and thus appreciate the importance, of market research. For instance, many MBA courses have a very strong focus on market research skill training via numerous practical projects.
All in all, everything indicates that the increasing popularity of market research services in China is a trend that is set to continue, at least in the near term.