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Walls Fall Down: Opportunity and Risk in China

The vast Chinese market, like its culture, is marked by duality: a tempting blend of opportunity and risk. We feel this tension, not just in our own business, but across the market research space. Brands are looking to maximize engagement across a variety of platforms, but the risk of bad data (and the bad decisions that could result) looms large. Meanwhile, a blossoming middle class has unprecedented opportunity to connect with brands, acquire targeted knowledge, and inform purchase decisions, but fear exposing themselves personally or getting scammed. It takes the right combination of factors to bring these competing interests together in a mutually beneficial relationship.

Rising internet penetration means that conducting research online, both in language and in English, is becoming an increasingly viable option. It is now possible to gather large (if not entirely representative) samples at a reasonable cost, but statistical significance does not ensure significant impact in a culture as nuanced as China’s. Chinese consumers are not only complex, but healthily skeptical, which means that underlying needs and motivations may not be captured by a point-in-time survey. As evidenced by the parade of Western brands that have failed to make it in China, conducting big research is not as important as conducting the right research, generating the insight and understanding that will allow you to resonate locally with consumers.

C Space was thrilled last year to add fully-localized Chinese communities to our vast experience connecting major brands with international consumers. Along the way, we added a partner (Jigsaw), an office (Shanghai), and a fully bilingual team (they rule) on the ground to deliver always-on service to clients around the globe. In that time, we have come to understand the unique challenges of getting these consumers to engage in an ongoing, open dialogue with a brand—and with each other.

In the forthcoming report, Walls Fall Down: Building Trust and Building Community with Chinese Consumers, we take an in-depth look at our experience—what we’ve learned so far, how we’re still improving, and the opportunities we see for clients looking to connect with this market. Through three case examples, we examine our model for creating a high-trust environment through private, in-language communities, including the critical role of facilitation, conditions that stimulate maximum participation and disclosure, and key differentiators from other online networks. By providing a safe space for connection, online communities can help to maximize opportunity and minimize risk for brand and consumer alike.

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