By Rebecca Smith
China is New Zealand’s second largest trading partner, with bilateral trade currently exceeding 26 billion dollars annually. The opportunities for Kiwi businesses to succeed in this market are huge but Chinese consumers and businesses are not sitting around waiting for the next great thing to come out of our country.
In the four years since we first carried out research in China we’ve seen a shift in how they see themselves. A new found confidence and inward pride for Chinese produced means they are not looking offshore for products and services as they have in the past.
Which is why NZ Story carried out comprehensive country perception research entitled “How does China see New Zealand”. Four consumer focus groups were conducted in China, talking directly to Chinese consumers who had bought New Zealand goods and services in the past. The research team interviewed a mix of younger and older consumers based primarily in Beijing and Shanghai. Additionally, eight in-depth consultations were carried out with business leaders across a variety of industries.
The resulting research detailed what we have learned about the Chinese market, starting with how Chinese consumers and business leaders see themselves and the implications for New Zealand exporters. We then looked at how they perceive New Zealand, key points to remember when doing business there, how to create persuasive messaging and sector specific considerations for trade.
The insights support the perceptions that many overseas markets hold of New Zealand. Chinese consumers continue to associate us with purity, landscapes and agriculture – using words such as ‘friendliness and openness’, ‘honesty and safety’, ‘culture and diversity’ to describe New Zealand. But even though Chinese view our country as one “full of potential”, the general perception is it’s hard to do business with New Zealand.
Several perceptions need to be shifted to ensure a better outcome for Kiwi businesses trying to enter this market.
Chinese do not associate New Zealand with being sophisticated, technological, or advanced. In their eyes we are seen as a country that’s falling behind, rather than keeping up with them and the world. They see New Zealand as expensive and a lack of tailoring in New Zealand’s products and packaging for market often means they’re not suited to the Chinese aesthetic.
The research contains many key points that will help New Zealand businesses overcome these and other issues when looking toward China. While the Chinese market presents many challenges, the research shows that we also hold many advantages. In many ways New Zealand represents the opposite to their everyday experiences in China. We are known for our lifestyle, our integrity, and being open and friendly. We are also often seen more favourably than other Western nations because of our political stability and independence.
‘Perceptions Research: How does China see New Zealand’ also shows how we need to shift New Zealand’s marketing messages from ‘what we produce’ to ‘how we produce it’ and showing the ‘consumer experience’. To do this we must express how good we are, prove how we add value, demonstrate how we use technology to advance industries and other offerings, give evidence of how we are of service to the world and show how we can add value to China.
Even though our research highlights that the cultural differences between our two countries are many, we also discovered significant strategies to overcome potential barriers. The research pack is an invaluable tools for any New Zealand business wishing to enter this challenging but exciting and potentially very lucrative market.