A very interesting article in this months Research Magazine that looks at the future for online research in China:
âA recent report from management consulting firm McKinsey estimates that there will be 290 million middle class Chinese by 2011 and 520 million by 2025.
Good news for the market research industry. According to the China Market Research Association (CMRA), the industry saw collective revenues of $487m last year, up 22% from 2004, making it the fastest growing MR market today. The Chinese research industry is now expected to grow by 20% annually compared to a global rate of less than 10%. One could be forgiven for thinking that every MR sector will enjoy an ever-growing slice of lucrative research pie.
Not so. Although 111 million Chinese consumers now regularly use the internet, the countryâs top MR spenders â multinational companies involved in manufacturing, wholesaling, retailing, financial services and information technology â have largely shunned online research. According to the CMRA, only 2% of Chinese market research is conducted online compared to 11% internationally. This is despite the fact that mainstream global agencies have had professionally managed online access panels available in China for some time.
The biggest obstacle for the industry by far is the lack of online access opportunities. Web penetration only stands at 8.5% in China with 60% of the online population under the age of 30 and mostly living in tier one or two cities.
This lack of representativeness means online is unsuitable for general population studies unless it is used in conjunction with traditional research techniques.
With this in mind, broad scale research via online doesnât have a bright future in China until web penetration rises considerably beyond its present figure. But considering internet penetration was standing at virtually zero about five years ago, it probably wonât be that long before reliable general population studies can begin to take place via online in China.
Although online is a very significant opportunity for agencies, web penetration will have to increase markedly within the country before the industry can fully reap online revenue benefits. Considering Chinaâs booming economy and rising consumer purchasing power, it shouldnât be too long before online panel providers finally report exploding growth from the land of the Red Dragon.â?