Participating in a Leeds University Business School (LUBS) Summer Consultancy Project gave Consumer Analytics and Marketing Strategy student Ha Thu Nguyen the opportunity to respond to a real-life business brief, while also improving her intercultural competence and understanding of Chinese culture.
In response to a brief set by the Business Confucius Institute (BCI), Ha carried out research into Chinese consumer shopping behaviour in Leeds and produced a report with recommendations for retailer promotional activity on key dates.
The opportunity to learn more about Chinese consumers attracted her to the project, and it was the intercultural dimension of the work that she found most challenging and most rewarding.
When I first came to the UK, I was surprised by the number of Chinese students in my university. That’s why I applied for this project.
In this article we share Ha’s reflections on the linguistic and cultural factors that had an impact on the process, and the steps she took to overcome barriers. Read more about the report and resulting recommendations here.
The language barrier
As a non-Chinese speaker, Ha experienced the language barrier first-hand. She conducted interviews in English, using on-screen prompts to ensure understanding, but felt that interviewees would have been able to express themselves more fully in their mother tongue. This is supported by the observation that 89% of survey respondents chose to use the Chinese version (which Ha had prepared with assistance from Chinese friends and the BCI).
This leads Ha to believe that Mandarin language skills would help companies to communicate better with Chinese consumers, and she includes this in her recommendations.
The importance of relationships
Reflecting on the process of finding participants for her study, Ha explains how she applied her increasing cultural awareness to adapt her approach and improve her results.
She began sharing the survey link in Facebook, before realising that WeChat was the place to find Chinese students.
However just switching platform was not enough. A friend pointed out that, as an unknown non-Chinese speaker in the groups, she was less likely to receive responses.
After this Ha went about establishing relationships. She completed and shared other students’ surveys, and contributed to the group in any way she could. The next time she shared her own survey she got many more responses.
This reminded her of something she learned from the Adyen report that she cited for her work:
There is an English attitude that “we don’t go to them, they come to us…” If Chinese consumers don’t know your story, they aren’t given a reason to buy.
LUBS Summer Consultancy Projects
Participating in this programme has allowed the BCI to benefit from the expertise of a current postgraduate student and provide useful insight for the local business community.
These projects match students from Leeds University Business School with businesses that have submitted a brief for a student to investigate and report on.
Benefits for participating companies include:
- Tailor-made consultancy projects
- Access to marketing insight and talented and enthusiastic postgraduate students
- Increased awareness of the company across the University
- Ability to address business research needs without stretching internal resources
Students are supervised by experienced faculty members from the Marketing Division at LUBS.