Qualitative marketing research in China


Cultural approach


Unlike quantitative studies, qualitative studies are in-depth analysis of your target. The questions remain open as often as possible, and goes deeper into the analysis with a smaller number of interviewees.

Considered too literary, qualitative market research are often not considered  as not providing enough encrypted datas. Yet they are extremely rich in informations as it allows to question the depth of consumers motivations, barriers to purchase, perceptions,taboos…

Major con: this kind of study should be conducted by personnel trained with a good sens of observation and  aware of  psychology.




In China, qualitative studies are very difficult to achieve for several reasons:

The language barrier:

in addition to problems of understanding Chinese don’t often express themselves in a direct way, because in China it can be seen as rude and as a possible source of conflict.

In addition, you will find many differences in meaning of words between different areas in China. This will give a real headache for field analysis.

For example, “xiaojie” (miss) is positive in the south but means “prostitute” in the north. “Fan” means “rice” in Hong Kong and Taiwan but means “a flat” in mainland China.


Cultural barrier:

easy to ask a French to express his true opinion with criticism. It is far more difficult with chinese. In public they  they do not usually criticize or give their true opinion.

I’ve dealt quite often with this kind of study and when asked how was the product even if they say  they like it that did not mean they would buy the product or not. Sometimes some even criticized the product voluntarily because they thought they could buy it cheaper later.


interview prospect chinois

My tips :

install confidence and offer comparisons that are easy to understand  for them.

Example: Product A is better or less good  than product B ? Then why ? In this way they can expose you more easily what they have in mind.

Do not forget that it has been for a long period of time forbidden to criticize the government, teachers or parents in China. It will be hard for many of them to criticize companies.



Some experts such as Catherine Sfez responsible for marketing research in China for Sorgem use projective technics.The idea is to project simple pictures and asked people to tell what it inspire to them. She thinks it is very relevant way of doing things because it frees the individual speech. Source Market Research in China






As far as I am concerned I do not see that as relevant. Already, it is not suitable for any type of products but only mass consumption products. Then, images, color codes and symbols have a different meaning in China than  in western countries.

Drawing conclusions from a person who looks at a picture is too limited. I am really skeptical about the ability to define trends with such a methodology.

Meetings or roundtables are very instructive.

They are certainly difficult to implement, but Chinese have respect for others and listen carefully. If you build confidence they will be happy to contribute to the collective effort.

other interessant article: Market Research in China how to Do? 


Marketing China