We usually think we can only learn from the most developed markets and not from any other market like undeveloped ones. But, Can we take advantage of what we know from consumer behavior in emerging markets?
Let me expose 3 clues you (marketing professional or brand) can learn from emerging markets:
1. Shortcuts in product lifecycle can be positive. Brands use to spend long time and efforts to exhaust their current products, but sometimes they should go one step forward and launch what is really new and needed (instead of doing the same again and again). Now working for a mobile telephone company all around Africa, we’ve seen that mobile service is their door to information, to relationships with others and to enjoy life without the experience of previous devices.
Africans have moved from using radio as a device «to connect with the world» to doing from mobile phone. The developed markets moved from radio to television, and PC / laptops to tablets and mobile phones. Africans have taken a shortcut where the mobile phone has become their window to the world. Listening to the radio, following their religious doctrine, watching TV, connecting to social networks, reading newspapers, etc. are done through the mobile phone. They have saved a long way. Marketing in emerging countries often involves not following the same steps we do in developed countries because the product life cycle can be radically different.
2. The future is not 2 or 5 years away, the future is tomorrow. Some of the populations and emerging markets we are studying don’t have a horizon far beyond tomorrow. They live for today and maybe for tomorrow but they don’t know what is going to happen the day after tomorrow. Their main worries are staying healthy and having something to eat today and next week, not in 10 years’ time. So they don’t plan and they don’t think about products that cannot have a daily consumption. For example, paying with a mobile phone.
In some emerging countries, banks are only for a small segment of the population, not because of their income but the uncertainty of what will happen the day after. As we said, they cannot live beyond two days plan. For this reason they do not have bank accounts or contracts with utilities companies (gas, electricity, telephone, television, etc.). Their relationship with the mobile company is prepaid (average 90% of users are prepaid), not contract.
That’s why they use mobile payment services for everything and have no bank account. The remaining balance they have is used to make their daily payments, or send money to family and friends.
Having money in their mobile phone instead of the bank gives them this feeling of accessibility and closeness that they need.
3. Maslow’s pyramid of needs fits much better than in developed markets. They don’t care about the price as much as we (developed markets) do. Because they need to live securely before they worry about what to buy.
One of the most basic needs is security. Their security is not anything happening today or tomorrow. It is security that your family will be fine; they will not be drown somewhere. In relation to mobile phones, network coverage is a very important feature. In developed markets, coverage is seen as a «given» attribute but in emerging markets is one of the most popular and demanded features that cannot always have. Because they need security at all times and everywhere, moreover we cannot ignore that emerging markets are growing and coverage is always in demand.
With these 3 examples we only want to point out that nothing is what it seems to be in terms of consumer insights in emerging markets. Nevertheless, it changes the marketing strategy and tactics.