Career Path

Market Research: What does the customer want?

by Thomas E caldwell

Market Research
Tricia Ng
Associate Director,
Regional Client Management
ACNielsen Asia Pacific

Market research companies specialize in determining consumer preference by investigating what people want, and why. They identify the particular attributes of a product and advise on marketing and advertising strategies which best appeal to consumers.

Tricia Ng, Associate Director of Regional Client Management, works at ACNielsen, one of the largest market research agencies in the world with a global network of offices in 108 countries. ACNielsen was also one of the first Western market research companies to enter China and it is the current market leader there.

Talking about her job, Tricia explained the importance of market research. In a competitive market, business is driven by the consumer, whose purchase decisions will determine the success or failure of a product. Therefore, businesses have to focus more on consumer satisfaction than dealing with competitors.

To run a successful business, one must understand in every detail what customers want, including what the product should look, taste, feel, smell or sound. Even whether customers like the name of a product could determine the success of a product and the company producing it. If one gets the details right, one will be able to win over customers from competitors.

"One thing about this job is that you've got to have strong interpersonal skills and you've got to be able to enjoy meeting people."

Tricia started her career with a marketing degree and joined ACNielsen in 1995 as an Account Executive. She was promoted several times and acted as Senior Manager and Research Manager. She reached her present position after short tints as Marketing Research Manager at F&N Coca-Cola Sdn Bhd and Assistant Regional Marketing Manager at Asia Online, Ltd.

Tricia recommends having a business or marketing degree as a starting point because it is necessary to understand clients' business needs. Personality is also very important. She says: "One thing about this job is that you've got to have strong interpersonal skills and you've got to be able to enjoy meeting people."

Market research often runs on tight deadlines, requiring all the work to be completed by a fixed date. It is a high-stress occupation with long working hours, but an occupation where a competent person can advance fairly quickly. "Two o'clock in the morning is not unusual," says Tricia. "If you expect a 9 to 5 job, I am sorry, no."

Working in a major market research agency offers good prospects for promotion. ACNielsen, with its many offices in the region, also presents the opportunity to work in different countries. Direct contact with clients provides openings to switch to marketing at a client's marketing department. But Tricia, speaking from personal experience, advises: "The grass is not always greener on the other side."

China Opportunities

China's entry into the WTO should lead to greater economic growth, the formation of a larger middle class and higher living standards. The increase in consumer wealth will provide more business for the market research industry. At the same time, increased opportunities will attract more market research companies. The cost of expanding operations to major cities in China will also increase.

Figures provided by
Levin Human Resources
Development Ltd.

Taken from Career Times 05 April 2002, p. 26
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