Researching the market

Before venturing into business in China, it is crucial that companies understand both the market they are entering and their own strategy. Products and selling points that appeal to one demographic in the UK can have an entirely different cultural relevance in China and it is important to understand these differences before making your investment.

Moreover, regional economic and cultural differences mean that even within China the marketability of some products may vary widely between different areas. Good, reliable research will save costs and improve efficiency and can have an impact on the long-term success of your venture. This guide contains some resources which will help provide an overview of eg China’s middle-income consumers, regional city demographics, sector updates, advice on developing your China marketing strategy etc. As the China-Britain Business Council (CBBC) is the UK government’s chosen partner to deliver business development services on their behalf in China, they will be able to assist you further.

CBBC works closely with UK Trade & Investment (UKTI), the British Embassy in Beijing and the British Consulate-Generals in Shanghai, Chongqing and Guangzhou.

CBBC’s research and consultancy teams span thirteen cities in China and include sector specialists who can help you assess opportunities for your business. Their Chinese team have typically trained or worked in the UK as well as having a wealth of business experience in China; and their British staff are China specialists who have extensive experience helping international companies in China.

Together their team is well-placed to help UK companies understand market potential and to advise on the best way to access it. See the CBBC contact details in the Contacts section at the end of this guide for addresses of CBBC’s UK and China offices.


Taking a strategic approach 

British companies are advised to undertake as much market research and planning as possible. Doing business with China can be challenging, but taking a strategic approach is the key to making the process manageable. The first step is to spend some time thinking about your company's China objectives.

The questions listed below should help you to focus your thoughts. Your answers to them will highlight areas for further research and also suggest a way forward that is right for your company. You may then want to use this as a basis for developing a formal China strategy, although this may not be necessary or appropriate for all companies:

Questions to Ask

Your Aims

  • Do you wish to buy from China, sell to China or both?

  • Do you know if you can be competitive in China?

  • Does your company have the time, resources and commitment needed to break into a new market?

    • Do you have the time, resources and commitment needed to handle the demands of communication, travel, product delivery and after-sales service?

Your Company

  • What are the unique selling points of your products and how will they appeal to Chinese consumers?

  • Who will be leading the project within your company?

  • Will you aspire to a nationwide presence, or focus on a regional market?

  • Which locations will provide the most favourable market for your product – first-tier cities with more sophisticated markets, or developing regional cities with potentially more opportunities and less competition?

  • What kind of venture will best suit your company, both initially and in the long term – will you operate from the UK or establish a physical presence in China?

  • If the latter, will you set up a wholly foreign-owned enterprise, or a Joint Venture with a Chinese partner?

  • Would Hong Kong be a safer place to start?

Your Knowledge

  • How will you communicate both with your Chinese partners and with your customers?

  • Do you know how to locate and screen potential partners, agents or distributors?

  • Are there any legal or regulatory issues affecting your market entry?

  • Do you know what the local competition is likely to be, and what they are doing?

  • Have you evaluated the business risks of all aspects of your venture, including protecting your intellectual property and conducting due diligence?

Some of these questions will require quantitative research in your sector, while others involve more contextual and cultural considerations. Talking to other people in your industry and regularly visiting your intended market will give you access to the most current advice, and such experience can often lead to new insights and form the basis for further research. Furthermore, the increasing use of e-commerce and B2B websites in China has made identification of (and access to) potential business partners possible across the globe.


Consultation and bespoke research

However, research based on secondary information is often inadequate. Many websites and online materials are written in Chinese; the quality and reliability of content varies greatly and sometimes certain information is simply unavailable. It is therefore essential to be able to verify the initial research findings and conduct further investigation.

Often this requires mapping out a bespoke research brief face-to-face with the help of specialists, and exploring what additional information you might need to make an effective entry into the market, and how you can make the contacts vital to success. There are a large number of highly qualified China-based consultancies that can help you conduct research on the Chinese market, providing advice on some of the questions above and assessing the business opportunities available. As a non-profit organisation, the CBBC’s services are a popular choice for many SMEs from the UK.


Help available for you

The Overseas Market Introduction Service (OMIS) is a UKTI service delivered by CBBC in China and UKTI in Hong Kong and Taiwan. This service can assist you by undertaking tailored research using their extensive network of dedicated researchers across the market.

This can be used in a wide variety of ways to help your business with its particular needs when entering the Chinese market. Possible ways in which OMIS can help your business include:

  • Market research & analysis

-  Sector reports

-  Market initiatives

-  Regulatory environment

-  Market opportunities

  • Identification of local contacts

-  Agents

-  Distributors

-  Suppliers

-  Potential partners

  • In-market activities

-  Meeting arrangements

-  Event organisation, such as workshops, seminars, promotional activities and product launches.

For more information about how OMIS might be used to assist your company’s strategy for China, contact the CBBC's OMIS team at:, or your local UKTI International Trade Adviser via:

Other UKTI and CBBC services

UKTI, together with its partner the CBBC, assists new and experienced exporters with information, help and advice on entering the Chinese market. These services include:

  • An Export Health Check to assess your company’s readiness for exporting and help develop a plan of action.

  • Training in the requirements for trading overseas.

  • Access to an experienced CBBC or UKTI local International Trade Adviser.

  • Advice on how to go about market research and the possibility of a grant towards approved market-research projects.

  • Launchpad service (CBBC), providing a simple, cost-effective, low-risk and legal means of having a presence in China, before you set up your own office there.

  • Ongoing support to help you continue to develop overseas trade and look at dealing with more-sophisticated activities or markets.

  • Information, contacts, advice, mentoring and support from UKTI/CBBC staff in the UK and their/CBBC’s network of staff in China.

  • Support to participate in trade fairs in China.

  • Opportunities to participate in sector-based trade missions and seminars.

  • Access to major buyers, local governments and supply chains in China.

  • Advice on forming international joint ventures and partnerships.

  • Exploratory visits to China.

  • Alerts to the latest and best business opportunities.

To find out more about commissioning any of these services, contact your local UKTI office. See: or CBBC office:

 Return to the top of the page

Source – UKTI


comments powered by Disqus

Contact Form