November 2011

Consumption Pattern

Matthew Wang, CEO of MAP, opens his diary

In the ten years since we first launched MAP, it has been a long journey filled with both rewards and challenges. At the beginning, we were facing many obstacles – we had no money to invest or clients to serve. It was a challenge to find credible, professional staff to prove that we were qualified to do our job. It’s been hard work but at the end it was all worth it. We managed to establish ourselves as one of the leading marketing research companies in the country.

There are over 3,000 market research companies in China. What sets us apart from the others are our experience, professional expertise and global mentality. Over the past ten years, we have managed to gain trust from our multinational clients. In the past we have served all kind of fields in domestic and foreign enterprises including Nike, Johnson & Johnson, Coca-Cola, LiNing, Nivea and Power Dekor. Each of our projects is creatively designed with a specific research approach and customized to the unique needs of each client.

We carry on about 400 projects annually through a mosaic of different approaches – focus group discussions, mystery shopping, product placement tests, door-to-door interviews, brainstorming sessions and others. We are specialized in nine industries and we always make sure to keep an eye on consumer needs. We concentrate on studying the Chinese consumer and help our clients to understand the business problems within the Chinese market so they can make better decisions.

Running a market research company in China is very challenging. China is so big – we have a huge geography to cover and doing research here can sometimes be very complex. Having offices in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou allows us to easily collect data around the country simultaneously, and enables us to gain deep insight into the Chinese consumers and their needs. In order to adequately advise China’s business and industries about the needs and expectations of the Chinese clients, in addition to our three headquarters, we have maintained a long-term partnership with over 30 subcontractors in other provinces.

It’s been really interesting to see how the market and clients have changed over the past ten years, as demands and expectations of consumers have evolved. At the beginning, market research in China was just about fieldwork and collecting data. Our clients were very cautious about the market in China and needed our help to develop their business here. A lot has changed since then. Now, Chinese consumers are becoming much more powerful; they have more money to spend and luxury consumption is increasing. Chinese consumers are upgrading to quality consumption. They are willing to spend more money on quality. They are more brand-conscious and more concerned about safety. There’s been a huge shift from the quantity and value mind-set.

I’m one of the three founders of MAP. All of us had a prior experience in marketing research before we decided to establish our own company. I graduated with bachelor degree in management from Hefei Poly-tech University, EMBA from China Europe International Business School and now I’m pursuing DBA study with Grenoble Ecole de Management. I have more than 15 years of experiences in research and analysis and have been involved with world-renowned brands like Johnson Baby, Carefree, Clean & Clear, LiNing and Haier.

In MAP we always want to make sure we employ the best talents we can get in order to offer the most reliable and efficient services to our clients. There are about six million students graduating from Chinese universities each year so in theory it should be easy to find new talent. But some of the new graduates take their time in finding jobs; they are too comfortable at home and prefer to spend their parents’ money instead. So finding good reliable employees can sometimes be a challenge in China. And once we employ the best ones, we need to make sure we can retain them and make our company an exciting environment to work in for them.

We’re always working on new projects and thinking about ways to improve our services. Market research is still very young in China compared with Western countries. The industry has only existed here for about 20 years. Now is the golden age for us to move on and expand. We have to get more aggressive in order to compete with multinational research firms. For now we are going to stay focused in Shanghai since most of our clients are based here. But China is big enough for us and this is a very exciting time for marketing research. There are new opportunities and challenges waiting ahead of us.

Matthew Wang is the CEO of MAP, an industry-focused marketing research company. He is based in Shanghai.