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Do-it-yourself market research in China

Many SMEs planning to enter the Chinese market have limited resources and decide not to spend too much energy on market research. However, in a complicated market such as China, it is crucial to understand the features, spending habits and needs of your target customers, as well as potentially valuable information about your competitors, their products, services and pricing, distribution channels, marketing, etc. Even a small mistake at the early stage can prove costly further down the line.

There are several ways to conduct market research in China on a limited budget. You can even do this research from your desk and a lot of information is available in the English language too. For some information you need to be able to speak Chinese or ask a Chinese speaking friend or colleague.

Here are some items which you can check online:

  • Trademarks and other intellectual properties: is my trademark registered in China yet or are there any similar trademarks in China? What about patent protection in China? ;; the China IPR SME Helpdesk at
  • Foreign exporters and manufacturers list: is my company or factory registered as an overseas exporter or manufacturer at Chinese customs?
  • Tariffs and taxes: do I need to take into account any import tariffs or taxes when importing my products into the Chinese market? Are there any restrictions in the import of my products in China? and
  • Standards: what are the national level standards or other industry standards for my products in China?
  • Finding competitors and prices: check e-commerce platforms in English:,,, or in Chinese:,,,,, etc.
  • Search in Chinese social media apps: conducting keyword searches will help you to get inside the mind of your Chinese customer. Free analytical tools are available online to help, for example in Wechat, Weibo, Tieba, Zhihu, Baidu, Bing, etc. WeChat even has a feature to scan barcodes of products in western supermarkets to check where and at which prices these products are sold in China.
  • Checking the financials of a potential partner in China: ask your potential partner’s business license, check the National enterprise credit information public system: and (only from China) or the tianyancha WeChat miniprogram.
  • Screening of your potential partner: apart from a legal and financial check of your potential partner, there is another simple trick to get more information from your potential partner: just ask him! If they are really willing to work with you, they will be happy to share information. You will be surprised how much information they are willing to share.

Unfortunately, traveling to China is impossible these days, but a reliable market research in China also requires a visit to China and some ‘on-the-ground field work’. Some examples of research to be done in China:

  • Ask your potential customers for their feedback face-to-face
  • Talk to industry professionals and/or China experts
  • Attend networking events and social events
  • Visit exhibitions
  • Do store checks
  • Talk to other foreign companies active in China

Horsten performs market research starting from desk research, up to detailed field studies. In case a desk research does not answer answer all questions, field research can be performed to collect more detailed and hands-on information on the Chinese market.

We can help you getting to know the potential market, the competitive environment and the possible threats and opportunities. Only when you fully understand the market, you will be able to define the best strategy for your company or your products. Don't hesitate to contact us in case you need some help with it.

This is an abstract from an article written by Bart Horsten and published on the WeChat account of the Belgian-Chinese Chamber of Commerce on 8 December 2020. 

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