Is technology key to NZ-China export success? (Thoughts from the 3rd annual NZ China Symposium)

 The Haier Way

Notes from the NZ China Symposium, 25 July 2013

UPDATE: Speakers’ Presentation Slides now available on the Symposium Website

Key themes:

  • Understanding the China market (whether, as Patrick Chovanec told us, it’s 9 Chinas, 31 provinces, 800 prefectures, or, as Glen Murphy said, 7764 consumer segments)
  • Understanding NZ’s unique challenges in dealing with China (clue: culture seems to be a bigger problem than size or distance)
  • Understanding the new marketing landscape including the dramatic rise of ecommerce and social media (hurrah!)  

I’ve been to a lot of China events recently, and one broad underlying theme keeps echoing to me: it’s the soft skills. It’s relationships. And, it’s time spent “in market”

And, the sound bites:

  • Disaggregate. 1.4 billion people is impossible to understand. A niche segmented by location or interest (something that’s possible through social media) is a lot easier to engage with. (A topic started in John McKinnon’s opening address, and furthered by Patrick Chovanec, Glen Murphy and others)
  • Disintegrate. As outlined in Professor Marshall Meyer’s presentation (and accompanying Journal of Marketing article), small firms do better in China, so big firms should act small by breaking their business down into independent units. That’s what Haier did, and it has literally revolutionised their business (see this article’s picture … more on The Haier Way later)
  • Differentiate. It’s your entry ticket into China, according to NZTE Trade Commissioner John Cochrane. New Zealand is great at differentiation in product concept and design, but we tend to abdicate, rather than delegate, our responsibilities at the other end of Stan Shih’s smile curve. We have the opportunity to differentiate through our marketing and service, but it requires commitment.
  • 先做人,后做事 (xian zou ren, hou zhuo shi) – First attend to people, then do business. Thanks, Professor Gao

Startling stats & stunning soundbites:

  • Only 55% of NZ secondary school students feel prepared to succeed in Asia. (Asia NZ foundation)
  • While China has a huge GDP, it’s GDP per capita is #86 in the world (Professor Yuhuang Zheng)
  • China is New Zealand’s second-largest market for full-bodied red wine (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah) (Philip Gregan, NZ Wine)
  • Zespri ships 10 million trays of kiwifruit to China every year. They aim to double that in 5 years.
  • China is the 91st easiest place in the world to do business (NZ is the 3rd) (Paul Smith, NZ Customs)
  • Shopping on the internet is like an IQ test” – Mark Lawler’s fantastic description of the Chinese attitude towards finding the best price online. 
  • There are 7764 distinct consumer segments in China … each one on average comprises 183,000 people. (Glen Murphy)
  • The average Wechat user opens the app 22 times per DAY.

One thing I couldn’t help but notice is that our export sector needs to get digitally savvy, fast. There’s very little overlap between the crowd that comes to SMCAKL, and the crowd that attends events like these. That needs to change.

I’ll leave the last word to Glen Murphy, who sums up my thoughts exactly:

“New Zealand’s top executives don’t get social media, and worse, they’re not curious about it.”

Amen. Time to get curious! 

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