The two big economies in Asia are Japan and China but for both brands and agencies they offer challenges. Those challenges are not only with organizing UX Research but also with maximizing the investment in the activity and the operation. As an agency that delivers UX Research globally the region presents us with very different challenges.
Let’s start with the Chinese market. Despite the fact that Mandarin and Cantonese are spoken outside of China, it is very hard to conduct research beyond the great firewall. The Covid-19 pandemic has caused a shift toward remote UX research for many agencies and brands and often that can mean greater efficiencies. For example, we recently ran research in the US and Australia and our consultant in Australia, an ex-US citizen, ran the research for both markets remotely.
For China, even though we have Mandarin and Cantonese speakers in the wider team, if they are not located in China, remote UX research is close to impossible. Bandwidth issues and interruptions to the sessions cause so many problems we don’t even attempt it. Thankfully, we have a senior UX Research team in China and for them conducting remote UX Research is straight forward.
And that is the challenge with China. It is a big and important market, the 2nd largest economy in the world by GDP, but difficult to work in, to establish a business in and all the effort is for one market only. Having a presence in China doesn’t help much with the wider Asia region. And in some ways that is similar to Japan.
Japan is the 3rd largest economy in the world and like China an important global market. Running UX research in Japan has traditionally always been carried out face to face, in person. The maturity of the market for services such as video panels is quite low and so recruitment can be challenging, although that is changing. Remote research is possible with fast internet speeds available. In my experience, other than in the US and Brazil, there are few UX researchers who are bi-lingual Japanese and English outside of Japan.
That means we tend to run research in Japan using a lab. I think it also worth mentioning, and this applies to China too, that this is not a typical vacation destination. A lot of our clients have never visited these markets. Many see the trip as a key aspect of the project to help them understand the market they are selling to in person, rather than on video or from the page.
The fragmented region
I have mentioned in previous blogs, there has been a tendency for organisations to create multiple detailed personas for their home market but then a single persona for a foreign market or even an entire region. This has been particularly true of the Asian region. But Asia is a very fragmented market with different languages and cultures. It is not only a problem of personas but also an operational challenge.
To offer a full service in Asia we have had to establish capability in a number of markets. Whilst we can springboard from Singapore into the region as a whole, and the language capability of Cantonese, Mandarin and Malay can get us a long way, it isn’t enough. Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia and Korea are all important markets that have local languages and local facets. That means we need local consultants to conduct research if we are to truly understand the market and localisation challenges.
UX247’s model is all about delivering research in multiple markets. Whilst we have deep UX and Design Research capability, our real expertise lays in our ability to organise and run complex research in multiple markets in parallel. This is only possible through senior UX consultants, in market and that is why we have the accredited practitioner network.