I've just finished three weeks in the Asia Pacific (APAC) region and I'd like to share some of my thoughts with you.
A packed schedule
My three weeks included meetings in Singapore, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Tokyo, Auckland, Melbourne and Sydney. While the schedule was a challenge, it also reminded me that the APAC region is very client and service oriented. In places like Singapore, Hong Kong, and Shanghai it is not unusual to be sent material at 5pm with a request for the work to be sent back to the client by 9am. Doing business here means understanding and accommodating local perceptions of service. My schedule simply reflected the need in APAC to get a good ROI on every dollar spent, and the need to spend time meeting and talking with people. In this part of the world, face-to-face meetings are still an essential part of doing business.
The key learnings from the trip are:
- Insight communities work everywhere. In Indonesia, they need to focus more on mobiles devices (and in many cases that means feature phones). In India, they focus more on up-market target groups. In China, they need to accommodate the technical challenges of the great firewall of China. And in many markets, the communities need to be multilingual (for example a community may need to operate in Simplified Chinese, Traditional Chinese, and English).
- Partners are essential in most APAC markets. Vision Critical is a technology company. In markets like China, Japan, and India, we work with partners to deliver great research solutions. For example, in New Zealand, our long-standing partnership with Camorra Research has ensured that great research is added to great technology to deliver great benefits.
- Clients want to hear from, meet with, and learn from other clients. Whilst the users of insight communities always seem happy to meet us, it is the client round tables that really excite them. Hearing about the successes, the challenges, and the opportunities faced by other users of insight communities is the best way to share information and passion.
- When an insight community is successful, the insight team becomes central to decision making. Clients such as Singtel, Kimberly-Clarke, and Cathay Pacific talk about how the customer view is now included in their organization's decision making because of the community. This process has changed the decision-making dynamic within their organizations, gaining the customer (and the insight team) a seat at the decision-making table.
- Diversity and energy. Compared with Europe and North America, the APAC region is marked by diversity. This diversity is present in language, economic development, market maturity, geography, and climate. However, the region does seem to have at least one characteristic in common, and that is energy. The APAC region is about change, new growth, and new ideas. In my opinion, APAC is the most exciting place to be doing business right now.
Whilst the trip was definitely work oriented, there were some wonderful moments, including:
- In Singapore, having a client round table meeting in Google's offices, great people, great clients, and an impressive location. A trip to the top of Marina Bay Sands building was fun, but it also reminded me that many of the most adventurous new projects are in APAC.
- In Hong Kong, hearing Bashuli Sane of Cathay Pacific talk about how their insight community was bringing the voice of the consumer into every facet of decision making was rewarding, and a tip from the concierge at the hotel led to a great evening eating dim sum with a newly arrived colleague from the Hong Kong office.
- In Shanghai the tech, the new buildings, and the 300 kilometers per hour (nearly 190 mph) Maglev train were all impressive. As was hearing Mike Sherman talk about how leading Asian telco Singtel are using insight communities to ensure that decision makers never have to rely on their gut to make decisions.
- Tokyo was memorable for the wonderful meals with our local partner Seven Seas, meetings with some iconic brands (which I can't mention just yet), and a fantastic evening with the cutting edge of Japanese market research, the JMRX.
- Our time in Auckland showed that even a relatively small market can be a great place for insight communities and our partner Camorra Research's client list is almost a Who's Who of New Zealand companies. The social session after the client round table event seemed to indicate that almost every Kiwi I met played sport, ran marathons, or tackled some significant challenge.
- Melbourne and Sydney were fantastic opportunities to be a part of larger client round table events, where clients from sports and leisure, banks, telcos, media, and FMCG (CPG) all shared their experiences, best practices, tips and tricks. The trip finished with a day in Watsons Bay and lunch at Doyles - a must for any tourist.
As part of this tour we were able to announce that over the next few weeks Vision Critical will be launching an insight community for clients, partners, and colleagues in the APAC region. This community, called Connected Wisdom, will focus on listening to clients, to co-creating the future of insight communities (and of Vision Critical), and to exploring how best to meet the demands of this exciting region.
The community is going to be moderated by me and by colleagues from the APAC Vision Critical team, led by Arda Ergun. If you'd like to apply to be part of this, email me at email@example.com.