By Lifeng Liu

Welcome to China, my homeland. I appreciate this opportunity to introduce you to China. On one hand, China is a leading emerging country within the new world economy, and on the other hand remains an information island. In many ways China is disconnected from the world, for example, Facebook has not yet arrived.

China’s tremendous market provides us with the opportunity to discover new generations, consumers, clients, media, retail, marketing, advertising, and research, as well as new big data. With the development of the internet and related developments, including mobile networks, WIFI, smartphones, iPads, etc., market research approaches must adjust to this new environment. The new digital world needs us.

Retail is moving to e-commerce. In the past, consumers purchased goods from shops, shops obtained products from wholesalers, and wholesalers were supplied by manufacturers.
Consumers today first check reviews and price comparison websites, then buy the product online through e-commerce, and the product is delivered to the consumer’s home. How can manufacturers impact consumer’s decisions? How can marketing approaches and research tools address this evolution?

How are manufacturers changing? Manufacturers rely on research companies to study consumers and assess what products could be offered in the market.
In the near future manufacturers might begin to design personalized or tailor made products, possibly relying on internet based product designing applications. Consumers could easily become product designers. Manufacturers might depend on big data companies to reach target consumers directly. The era of big scale advertising campaign and big scale production may be coming to an end.

How is the advertising industry evolving? In the past, manufacturers relied on advertising agencies to develop and launch commercials to influence consumer decisions.
Today, manufacturers require commercials to be accurately targeted towards their audience. Advertisers rely on big data and data mining platforms to decide where, when, the target consumer and with what key words to launch. Consumers have left their footprints of behavioral information on the internet. Traditional advertising strategies have collapsed and the advertising industry needs to be rebuilt based on the big data environment. For example, when you are drinking alcohol, your partner might receive a message suggesting a substitute driver be booked through an e-driving app. Scary?

How is the market research industry transforming? In the past, we provided research for clients to help them find whitespace and opportunities. Clients want us to test concepts, products, and commercial copies, and they want us to track their brand, campaign, and product performance. We also have our secret weapon: we interview consumers to collect information by selecting respondents through random sampling.

Today, consumers also express their preferences through social media. It is no longer necessary to continually interview consumers. Attitudes and behaviors can be tracked. Random sampling is utilized less as the cost for universal data is cheap.
Today, consumers are linked with manufacturers. Many manufactures talk to their consumers directly, and target consumers can even help manufacturers co-create concepts, products, and brands. Why not?

I do not want to argue that research strategies are collapsing, but clearly they are changing. Fortunately market researchers have the ability and experience to analyze data and develop insights to help clients make decisions.

Obviously, there are developments awaiting our discovery. Consumers are different now. While they remain consumers, at the same time they are designers: they are “media” owners and experts in judging product performance and services. One consumer, and even a group of consumers, might be wrong but consumers as a universe cannot be wrong. Internet makes it possible.

Our clients might have become lost. Many international FMCG clients are suffering in China, suddenly realizing the way they market products no longer works. Consumers are smarter and more hypercritical. The competition is more challenging. Clients need us to help negotiate the path forward.
Media has changed. Online video websites have more impact than TV channels in China, and we do not even need to mention social media. Advertising development processes and testing have changed dramatically. Do we even still need testing?

Product launches could also be very different, as products can be co-created by the client and its target consumers.
There are lots of new economy questions. China by far is the largest country in human history moving from underdeveloped, to emerging and to developed economy, moving from low income to high income. China has a huge mid-class population rising with emerging markets requiring our assessment.
They are many new clients including BAT (Baidu, Alibaba, Tencent) and Didi (China Uber) as well as Facebook, Google, Airbnb, etc. Their marketing strategies necessarily are changing and they are waiting for us to help.

Enough! That is why we are heading to Shanghai and we hope you will join us on a data, research and insights journey that begins on May 18th with:
• Discover today’s China, the rise of innovation, start-ups, and opportunities.
• Discoveries at the heart of client transformation and impact.
• Discover the undiscovered.
• Client led discoveries in consumer insights.
• Discover the trends and cost of research around the world.
• Client views and debate on which APAC countries will lead innovation and research growth, and how.
Then continues on May 19th, with:
• Design discoveries, the art and science of insight.
• Engagement discoveries in media and retail.
• Discover how to design brands and great customer experiences
• Use data and analytics in making discoveries.

Do not miss this opportunity to join the presentations and masterclasses, to hear from clients like Pepsi Co, Unilever, L’Oreal, GSK, Coca-Cola, ANZ Bank as well as the advertising and media talents presenting and the technology companies including Tencent. Of course, there are great opportunities to connect with each other during the network sessions.
I am looking forward to seeing you soon!
Lifeng Liu is Programme Committee Chair , ESOMAR APAC 2017