How to WIN in China – Cultural Immersion is Key


When oil magnate J. Paul Getty set his sights on dominating the world’s oil market, he first set his sights on becoming fluent in Arabic. His command of the language and respect for the culture earned him 60-year drilling rights in Saudi Arabia and billions in the process.

China is one of the world’s largest emerging markets and everyone wants a piece of the action… from Disney to Pampers to Ford.

According to Sherri Wu, head of international e-commerce business development at Alibaba, no amount of market research or analysts reports could ever compare to full cultural immersion, which, she says, is what has proved most useful for her.

I worked in the U.S. for more than 15 years and have worked on many APAC projects as well. I read analyst research and thought I understood how things work in APAC, especially because I am originally from China.

However, after I first joined Alibaba, I went back to live in China for about 6 months, to understand what Chinese consumers are really like.

What I learned over there is different from what I had researched in theory.

Bottom line is, you really need to understand people in China – your local customers – in order to be successful.

It is not about translation, culture difference, or even localization.

It is actually deep into everything: from how you present your company value, team culture, products, to how well you understand your customer’s way of life and aspirations.

You have to connect the dots for them. If you do, you’ll be successful no matter where you are.