How do we manage market research projects in different locations, cultures and time zones across Asia, all while ensuring we deliver high-quality results to our clients?
We caught up with Wendy Lim, Senior Qualitative Research Manager at InsightAsia, to find out!
Hi Wendy! What do you do at InsightAsia?
I manage qualitative research projects across Southeast Asia and East Asia, along with two research executives. We are the first point of contact for most of our key clients who are keen to conduct research in Asia, and we coordinate multi-country projects out of our regional office in Singapore.
As we work with global clients and in multiple time zones, we sometimes start our day pretty early to catch up and update them on our progress in Asia. We then have to follow up with our network of local offices on their respective projects and action steps, then we like to wrap up and move forward with new milestones for the team at the end of each day.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
Every project and market is completely different, meaning every new challenge is exciting. There’s always something new to learn, from market insights to managing local interpersonal relationships.
We not only get to travel to different countries, but we also get the invaluable opportunity to visit different households and understand their unique living conditions. What excites me the most is learning about decision-making in different cultures - how other people evaluate their options and make the best decision for them.
What kinds of work does your job entail?
Mostly qualitative research. This is usually a mix of lab sessions (done in-facility), focus group discussions, home visits and occasionally intercept sessions. We are fortunate to work alongside huge global companies as well as small business owners who are interested in understanding their consumers’ mindsets, attitudes and the competitive market.
We are personally involved in every project commissioned to ensure the quality of the research carried out, as well as the level of customer service our clients receive. We fulfil every stage of a research project, from helping a client to set their objectives, to screener design, designing the discussion guide, executing fieldwork, reporting and analysis and other deliverables such as video outputs.
On top of this, we also often help with travel administrative work such as getting business visa invitation letters, firming up itineraries and bookings, and even recommending local places that our clients must visit during their trip to get a first-hand local experience of the market.
We work very closely and flexibly with our clients to ensure we meet their requirements, and we bring forward these relevant learnings so that our experience in executing these projects is cumulative and integrated each time. The fact that so many clients return to InsightAsia to conduct research with us is a testimony to the hard work we have put in over the years.
How do you manage multi-country projects effectively?
The regional team has to think ahead when it comes to multi-country projects, looking at a macro level from project execution to completion. This makes sure all fieldwork is consistent.
We work with multiple markets, and very often we have to be familiar with more than one of the markets in the region. Besides collaborating with the local teams, we do a lot of desk research on our end to enrich our knowledge base. This is really important as we need to bridge the market, language and cultural differences between all the stakeholders.
It is critical for our team to think ahead of both the client and the local teams, as we’re managing from a macro perspective and we want to ensure the project will deliver an efficient, effective and consistent field work experience to client teams.
Which research projects do you find are requested most often?
We get a good mix of exploratory research and user research in China and East Asia.
There has been a growing interest in understanding millennials, whom are generally better educated, digitally savvy and increasingly affluent. They are hungry for new knowledge and experiences and expect instant gratifying returns.
For instance, China has developed a mature ecosystem - it is living in the future of a cashless society. For that reason, we have been looking at the consumer journey, and how people are adapting to their local culture and behaviours, which can be very different from the traditional road to purchase across Asia.
The popularity of live streaming in Asia is growing tremendously, and many Asian millennials are jumping on the livestreaming bandwagon by broadcasting their everyday lives, e-commerce activities such as online shopping, or attempting a “Meok-Bang”, or ‘food porn’ broadcast in South Korea, streaming themselves stuffing their faces at dinner. One can easily rise to fame and generate income through small gifts and donations made by fans during the livestream.
This means a lot to brands, as the rise of live streaming has prompted many companies to invest and launch their own live streaming channels, working with influencers who can help humanise the brand relationship and bring a new level of engagement that is instrumental when building trust for the brand.
Do you face any challenges when managing multi-country projects?
The only thing I can think of is conducting fieldwork during the winter in the South of China – it can be really chilly!
Unlike Northern China, households in Southern China, Shanghai for example, don’t always have heating systems, so a lot of the homes we visit are without heaters or air conditioning. Most people will just wear winter clothing at home, and they are accustomed to the weather being this way.
Fieldwork during winter can sometimes be a huge shock to the system, and it can be challenging to concentrate, take notes etc. when it’s so cold. We’ll prepare extra heating pads for our clients when conducting research in the South, and we’re lucky to have such kind respondents, who often serve us hot tea.
Do you have any advice for clients who would like to do fieldwork in Asia?
Working in so many different countries means we have to adapt to different cultures all the time, and cultural intricacies should be taken into account when carrying out any research project.
For example, Chinese consumers are less trusting in products and services than consumers in other countries, due to widespread scams and counterfeit products in the past. Because of this, they tend to investigate more before making a purchasing decision.
With the rise of social media, and a more sophisticated population, people are also more active in sharing reviews – both good and bad – in China. Over the years, Chinese consumers have become more critical and active in sharing their dissatisfaction and bad experiences online, which can go viral in a short span of time.
So when it comes to group discussions or interviews, we may be faced with a lot of feedback during the session, which may seem immoderate or excessive. But these are really great moments which essentially allow our consumers to tell their stories, providing us with the opportunity to understand how a product or service is lacking from the consumers’ point of view. This enables us to identify areas where we can better improve a product or service offering.
Want to discover how our multi-country research expertise can uncover new opportunities for your business? Get in touch today.