WRITTEN CASE STUDY 1.2
Three important factors to consider when doing marketing research in South-East Asia.
Answer to Question 1:
With a population of over 650 million, South-East Asia market is the next rising Star of Asia (Thisana, 2016). However, according to one of the research companies specialised in doing a market research in South-East Asia, SIS International Research, (https://www.sisinternational.com/market-opportunities-in-southeast-asia/) despite their geographic proximity, the countries in South East Asia are not quite similar in some aspects beyond culture and religion. Due to these differences, each country in the region should be entered with a differentiated strategy as well. Without local talent or partners, entry to the market in this region can be quite challenging. To understand the behaviour of the consumer and to assist brands or new start-ups to win South East Asian market, most research companies in South-East Asia seem to take into account the three important factors that are crucial in entering the local market. They are the language spoken in the target country, the cultural adjustment and the way to communicate with the people.
SIS International Research suggests that hiring local talents who speak the target language will help to hook into the context of the language spoken by the local people. The understanding of the message that comes across is also influenced by culture and tradition in the country. It also advises foreign business to consider the localization of concepts and context so that they are clearly understood by local consumer. Because of this cultural influence, the languages in South-East Asian are depending on contexts and the tone used in speaking can affect the meaning and the implication of the spoken words. In general, agreeableness and politeness are basic rules in communication.
SIS International Research (https://www.sisinternational.com/coverage/market-research-asia/market-research-southeast-asia/) claims that a success in conducting quantitative market research is often achieved by face-to-face interaction, whether through intercepts or door-to-door. Personal interaction is imperative in Southeast Asia and despite the wide adoption of internet usage and mobile phones, interviews are still preferred to be conducted in person. Spoken words and requests are often met with a state of quietness and agreement but not necessarily comprehension, the act of admitting and conforming to the idea. Counteractions towards given feedback are also culturally unacceptable. A positive approach to sharing information and constructive criticism are needed in order to build an open and transparent communication. In a typical South-East Asian community, although there is popularity in using technology in terms of mobile telecommunication and the internet, a personal meeting and interview should happen before business deals are made.
People in South-East Asian countries are not always keen with online surveys without direct encounter as there is a lack of confidence and perceived inappropriateness of asking for someone’s opinion and perspective. Hence, the better options to conduct a market research are computer-aided personal interviews or in-facility online surveys.
Another market research company that is based in the USA but conducting a market research in the South Asian region, B2B International (https://www.b2binternationalusa.com/research/) adopts similar suggestions mixed with technology assisted method. Their research puts equal importance on every data collection technique. There are face-to-face interviews, telephone interviews, focus groups, e-interviews (website / e-mail questionnaires) or desk research, and often an amalgamation of them. In-depth interviews may be the only option due to the dispersion of respondents around a country or geographical region.
Rakuten Insight (https://insight.rakuten.com/why-rakuten-insight/), a research company that offers one-stop solution for Asian market research is also providing an authentic local feedback for market surveys. The company differentiates itself by staffing local native project managers to ensure the surveys and sampling plans are truly localised. Rakuten Insight even created a Local Fact Book that acts as a detailed guide in conducting a market research in twelve Asian countries – China, India, Japan, The Philippines, South Korea, Thailand, Hongkong, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan, Vietnam. In this book, the readers will find very useful fast facts about those countries, including population, internet penetration level, important research tips and the local Do’s and Don’ts when doing a market research in each of those countries.
From the three market research companies mentioned above, it is very clear that they somewhat follow the suggestions that Grace Chin claimed as important factors in doing market research. Moreover, it is only relevant if market research or surveys are adjusted with the culture that is practised by the local people since they are the respondents or potential consumers that can give a better picture of the market. This include language and specific ways of communicating because language, culture and techniques of communication are an integral part of a cultural identity of a country.
Answer to Question 2:
South Asian have similar characteristics and share many common traits, but they are diverse. They have different religious views, political backgrounds, education systems and lifestyles shaped by their geographical proximity. Companies will need to localize the products or services to earn the sales. It is important to be adaptive to local culture when thinking of launching in South-East Asia (Thisana, 2016). This is in line with what Grace Chin stated in regards to conducting marketing research in South-East Asia.
Similarly, Enterprise Singapore (Enterprise Singapore, 2018) also proposed three tips for doing business in South-East Asia. First, it is important to Identify the appropriate entry strategy that is depending on the target market. Success in overseas business ventures and risk management can hinge on your company’s strategy towards having local partnerships, or independently entering the market. Second, it is essential to cultivate strong relationships with local stakeholders, including economic agencies (e.g. Board of Investment (BOI) for Thailand, and Malaysian Investment Development Authority (MIDA) for Malaysia.) Establishing a business footprint in SEA requires much patience and persistence to learn the local sentiments and cultures of conducting business. Third, it is strongly advisable to tap on increasing consumer spending and demand trends arising due to a growing middle class in South-East Asian countries
Answer to Question 3:
According to Japan Country Commercial Help (2018), the use of the Japanese language is critical to success in Japan. It is essential to communicate in Japanese in order to connect with local consumers and business partners. Labelling requirements for many products are specified by government regulation and must be in Japanese. Although effective interlocutors and professional interpreters are typically used, Japanese business people will appreciate efforts made to communicate in even basic Japanese. To establish and maintain business relationships in Japan, all parties should demonstrate an appreciation of Japanese business culture and social practices. Unawareness to local business practices may be interpreted as the exporter’s lack of commitment or practical knowledge and may cause misunderstandings, and lost opportunities. It is very important to understand the peremptory requests and expectations of the Japanese consumer, in areas such as product quality, appearance, packaging and display, delivery and after-sales service.
It is essential to keep in mind the business culture concepts because Japanese society is complex, structured, respectful of age, hierarchical and group-oriented. Japanese companies tend to take a long-term approach to developing business relationships. If a New Zealand-based company wishes to export meat, it has to be prepared to face with high expectations of excellence in the quality of the product. The Japan Strategy website (https://www.japanstrategy.com/business-in-japan/) shows that Japanese people often call for intensive effort and high expectations. They also have distinctive sense of personal preferences and liking. Therefore, foreign business often need to restructure their design or redevelop their products so that they can earn success in Japanese market. In addition to that, Japan is a country that can be quite rigid and stringent, with a lot of rules and regulations that require companies to follow approval procedures for many things before they attempt to enter the market. Many of these restrictions are designed as entry barriers against newcomers to existing industries although lowly these regulations are “eased” and seldom eliminated.
Based on the findings above, the criteria suggested by Grace Chin is applicable because language, cultural matching and techniques of communication are crucial in starting business in Japan. Their unique society and rules as well as their history of being restricted towards foreign business have made the local market in Japan different from New Zealand.