A most important year in Chinese B2B

Shirelle Pexton discusses the past year China

01 July 2015

Settling in

It has been exactly a year since I landed in Shanghai to head up Stein IAS’ APAC branch and lead them on a most important journey to success in the region. And it’s fair to say it has been quite an extraordinary year.

For me, adjusting to life in Shanghai has been pretty straightforward. I’m based in the former French Concession in downtown Shanghai, where the European influence is apparent in the Baroquesque architecture and bustling sidewalk cafe culture. This makes my kilometre walk or cycle to work an absolute joy.

I’ve joined the Expat Professional Women’s Society, where I’ve met some fantastic women living and working in Shanghai who have delivered some truly amazing insights into the opportunities the region has to offer. 

I have (pretty much) mastered the Shanghai Metro System so getting around town is easy. And after much exploration I’ve discovered my two favourite haunts:

  1. Mia’s Yunan Kitchen, whose lemongrass chicken recipe really is something else
  2. The Brownstone, who host a Mojito night every Thursday

My Chinese lessons seem to be paying off, too, as interactions and communications with people become a lot easier every day.

Settling in to my personal life so swiftly has been crucial in helping me build a strong platform from which to launch myself head-on into my work.

Making our mark

Shortly after my arrival in Shanghai, the World B2B Congress was hosted in the city and Stein IAS was made a platinum sponsor. Here we unveiled a pilot version of our Digital Marketing Maturity Index (DMMI) survey, inviting the 300+ event attendees to contribute to the results. This has helped us make our mark in China, putting us in an authoritative position from the offset.

The DMMI is the first global study, designed to assess the current performance of the global business community in specific areas that we call ‘the four tenets of modern marketing’. These are:

  • Reach & attract
  • Engage & inspire
  • Nurture & convert
  • Analyze & optimize

The survey asks a few simple questions on each area to assess maturity, delivering an overview of the user’s digital marketing, benchmarked against average performance, which contributes to the overall report. Respondents are either categorized as Explorers (not mature), Pragmatists (not achieving their full digital potential) and Masters (achieving their full digital potential).  Worldwide, there are still more Explorers than Pragmatists, and the percentage of Masters is comfortably in single figures.

Most delegates were also surprised to find out that most Western enterprises are not very far ahead of their Chinese counterparts when it comes to fully implementing the latest technology in some areas. But as Tom Stein puts it: “As with most things, China will catch up very quickly and surpass. Delegates are hungry for information and have the buying power to act it out”.

Setting the pace

China’s has one of the fastest growing economies in the world and, if it hasn’t already, it looks set to become the world’s strongest economic power. The development and uptake of new technology is relentless and to be successful, it’s important to stay ahead of the pace.

In the past year we have recruited two highly talented individuals in Kenny Leung, our Creative Director for Shanghai, and Suzette Xu, part of the client services team. Their expertise in their roles, coupled with their extensive knowledge of the local market is an invaluable asset to what we’re trying to achieve in China. We have also forged some important strategic partnerships with specialist digital agencies WPIC, a web development agency in Beijing, and Allin, a boutique social media agency in Shanghai. Alliances like these are essential in making the most of China’s unique digital landscape.

We are in an extremely strong position in the eyes of existing and prospective international clients, who consider China a key region to set up shop. In the past year we have built up a roster of China-based clients who have subsequently made the list of Stein IAS’ top five global clients.

And as the only B2B-exclusive marketing communications agency in China, we aren’t just keeping up with the pace, we’re setting it. 


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