6 Truths about Emerging-Market Consumers

Strategy+Business has an article in the context of selling to Latin American consumer (and probably applicable elsewhere also):

As Latin America makes progress in solving its economic and social problems, companies seeking growth and profit in the regions consumer-goods markets will have to refocus on this vast and growing group of lower-class and lower-to-middle-class consumers we call emerging consumers. Indeed, this was a definitive finding of a Booz Allen Hamilton study of consumer behavior and supermarket retail trade trends in six Latin American countries conducted in 2003 for the Coca-Cola Retailing Research CouncilLatin America.

Companies trying to export modern supermarket and hypermarket models from developed countries to Latin America face the toughest challenges, not the least of which is surprisingly strong competition from small-scale retailers the shops, street markets, and small independent supermarkets that are an integral part of the Latin culture. Through the lens of the modern retailer, Latin Americas traditional retailers appear to be inferior; their small stores seem dirty and cluttered and possess limited stock. It is assumed their proprietors rely on informal, even illegal, operating practices, such as the evasion of taxes and labor laws, to prop up their otherwise unproductive business model. Their customers are seen as cash-strapped, unsophisticated shoppers.

Our study found these assumptions regarding low-income Latin consumers and the viability of Latin Americas small-scale retail models to be faulty. Although large supermarkets have made significant inroads in the region over the past decade, traditional retailers are holding their ground. Small retailers not only are meeting the needs of emerging consumers; in many ways, they are serving these consumers better than modern retailers do. Furthermore, informal business practices are not the main driver of the traditional stores competitive strength.

To reach these conclusions, we analyzed not only what and where emerging consumers are buying, but also why they make their choices. In the process, we discovered significant myths about the mind-set and behavior of emerging consumers, and lessons that large companies producing and distributing consumer goods for this region can learn from the success of the small-scale retail trade.

Selling to emerging consumers is no small challenge for major consumer-goods retailers and manufacturers, especially those unfamiliar with Latin Americas distinctive retail terrain. To accelerate their penetration of these markets, and to sustain profits over time, these companies must offer emerging consumers different value propositions, modify their distribution and marketing strategies, and achieve global scale and local focus. They must do all this without compromising the value and profitability of their offerings for traditional customers. And, when possible, they must seek to decrease their costs. Until companies better understand the needs of emerging consumers and adapt their business models to serve them more efficiently and effectively, their growth will be limited.

Myth #1: Low-income consumers spend little on material goods.
Truth: Although these consumers are poor, proportionately they spend more of their income on consumer goods than those in wealthier segments.

Myth #2: Low-income and subsistence-level consumers needs are simple.
Truth: These consumers buy premium-priced branded products and are sophisticated shoppers.

Myth #3: Emerging consumers are overwhelmingly attracted to the lowest shelf prices.
Truth: Emerging consumers are sensible shoppers who take into account many factors other than price in calculating their shopping costs.

Myth #4: If they did not face budgetary constraints, emerging consumers would prefer modern supermarkets.
Truth: Emerging consumers are satisfied with traditional retailers, and dont necessarily aspire to shop in modern supermarkets.

Myth #5: Emerging consumers are highly dependent on credit.
Truth: Emerging consumers use credit to extend their purchasing power.

Myth #6: Emerging consumers all belong to one segment, the popular class.
Truth: There are many meaningful subsegments of emerging consumers. Their differences, based on lifestyle and attitudes, have a significant impact on shopping behavior.

Lessons from India’s Elections

The fourth and final phase of the elections is set for Monday, with counting taking place on Thursday. Shekhar Gupta of The Indian Express writes about how the Indian voters have become smarter than the politicians and what it means for Indian politics:

1. The arrival of the smart voter

This voter does not allow himself to be swayed by either charisma (in this case Vajpayees), or hype, as over India Shining backed by testosterone-laden advertisement campaigns. The lesson is, no matter how much media you buy, how well you misuse the media you own and how much noise you make, this voter will not vote on the idea of feel-good unless he is really feeling better than before. This is where the NDA went wrong in confusing the malls of Gurgaon, the software parks of Bangalore and Hyderabad, cheaper housing loans and easy gas and phone connections for some huge trickle-down effect of ten years of reform that might translate into a high index of voter satisfaction. It forgot that for an overwhelmingly large number of Indians these things are merely in the realm of fantasy, their lives are still untouched by the comforting winds of reform. That kind of a deep, and wide, feel-good wave would require five years of robust reform in economy and governance, not just one year of 8 per cent growth. This election marks the rise of this smarter voter who checks out your claims and he will redefine our politics.

2. Decline of negative politics

This campaign will mark the decline of several negative issues that have dominated our electoral politics for nearly a decade and a half: Bofors, Ram Mandir, reservations, national security, a leaders foreign origin and even the old leftist notions of pristine secularism. Actually, except Sonia Gandhis Italian origin, none of these issues has even been raised seriously by any side in this campaign. Even there, the BJPs senior-most leaders were careful in keeping away from the foreign origin issue and concentrating on their own track record instead…The 2004 election is setting us firmly on the road to a durable bijli-sadak-paani agenda. Hopefully, as we become more intelligent, less cynical and thereby more demanding, we will add education and health to this.

3. Mixing foreign policy with domestic politics back-fires

One opportunity the BJP has totally failed to exploit in this election is peace with Pakistan. Nothing else would have created greater optimism and comfort…But two weeks into the campaign most of its campaigners were not even mentioning peace with Pakistan. Why did they so quickly give up the one creative idea and part-achievement that even the Congress or the Left could not have questioned? The BJP blundered by using this simplistically to seek Muslim vote. Its initial idea, that better relations with Pakistan were essential for better Hindu-Muslim relations here, is not fallacious. But it was wrong to say this in the elections. It angered the Muslims. Was the party making peace with Pakistan to make them happy? It confused many Hindus: Was the BJP making concessions to Pakistan to get Muslim votes? Either way, the BJP squandered a great opportunity. The lesson is, do not enmesh issues of foreign policy and larger national interest in partisan, or worse, divisive domestic politics.

4. The business of electioneering has changed

The era of the massive election rally has been long over. People now have work to do. This election was fought more in the media than in the streets. Television is now the new electoral battleground and, as with more developed democracies, will increasingly replace public meetings and door-to-door campaigns as the mode of campaigning. A recent India Today opinion poll had clearly shown that a large majority of the voters now make up their minds on political issues on the basis of what they learn from the media. So, much as they detest us, our politicians will have to learn to live with that reality. This voter is becoming more literate, smart and questioning. That is why, irrespective of which pollster is proven wrong or right, this election will mark a happy break from the past in our politics.