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The economic rebalancing of the world from West to East has become the biggest story of our time. Economists are looking to a new emerging-market middle class for the next age of prosperity, and there are enough in this group to go around: Goldman Sachs estimates that by 2030, two billion more people will belong to this bracket.
Middle class consumers live almost entirely in large urban centres, and the world’s fastest-growing cities in the 2000s have been predominantly located in the Asia-Pacific and Africa. This momentum is expected to sustain itself, with the urban Asia-Pacific population set to grow by 21.4 percent over the next decade.
Asia already accounts for around a third of the world’s retail sales.
By 2030, more than eight of every ten mobile phones will be owned by people in the developing world. In addition, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) estimates that Asia will drive 80 percent of global middle-class spending growth, which is projected to rise from US$21 trillion in 2009 to US$56 trillion in 2030.
Asia’s consumers today may be unleashing new energy at the checkout counter, but do marketers understand them? The problem, as stated best by Martin Roll, author of Asian Brand Strategy, is that:
“Most of the consumer behaviour models that are used in Asian boardrooms today were developed in a handful of Western countries. Marketers still do not know very well how marketing techniques and theories can be applied to non-Western contexts.”
Consumers’ priorities are different in Asia
as interpersonal relationships, social interactions, and status are generally valued more highly than in the West.
In addition, in light of a common emphasis on ‘face’, Asian consumers are said to share a continent-wide obsession with luxury goods, electronic gadgets, beauty products, jewellery, and fine dining.
Moving beyond such regional generalisations, the challenge lies in understanding ways to translate these customer concerns into effective marketing strategies. Given the unique Asian consumer profile, how can and should companies innovate in terms of their products, services, branding, and marketing efforts to meet differing needs on both the local and regional level? The first step is to gain a better understanding of Asian consumers.