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Nowadays, when companies struggle with high levels of competitiveness in saturated markets like Europe, the US or Japan, new opportunities arise from rapidly emerging economies.

Current emerging markets, usually identified as BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, and South Africa), commonly have huge, younger populations, as well as a fast growth rate which makes them attractive for businesses.

People usually generalise by grouping all emerging countries together. Of course, they do share some common characteristics. However, each of them has its specificities and requires strong cross-cultural knowledge for localisation. Even if we speak about emerging countries at large, business in India isn’t conducted in the same way as business in Brazil.

Within 10 years, emerging market consumers will represent 4.2 billion people, and they will contribute to an annual consumption of $30 trillion. These figures reveal the potential of these emerging markets, presenting them as ‘the place to be’ for business today.

But, to do business in these markets, you have to be aware of the existing challenges when localising campaigns for those markets. Indeed, it’s trickier than it seems…

A regional approach to localisation 

A key term to describe emerging countries would be intra-national diversity. They’re not only diverse in terms of languages or religion, but also in terms of ethnic cultures. Specific industries also differ across these regions, with the development of infrastructure and the economy varying, and the landscapes and the climate playing different roles in each region. 

With that in mind, consider these tips to help you adopt the right localisation strategy:

  • Think about a regional approach: 

Select and list two or three of the most important aspects of your local brand strategy. This could be a specific type of consumer to target, the industry your brand takes part in or the resources you’d need locally. Then analyse each region of your target country and choose strategic areas most suitable for your business.

  • Consider midsize cities seriously: 

Over the past few years, there’s been a “modern exodus” within these regions, where people come from the countryside to mid-size cities, rather than to the capitals and huge cities (eg: Suape in Brazil, Vladivostok in Russia, Raipur or Puducherry in India). These midsize cities present the best opportunities due to a massive rise of the population but also thanks to less competitiveness between businesses compared to big ones (for example, Sao Paolo is a saturated market).

  • Anticipate explosive growth: 

Be prepared for growth either in time or geographically, identify hot-zones and chill-out-zones (trends usually follow an S curve). 

  • Get cross-cultural knowledge: 

Look for information about business customs in your target country. Create a business etiquette document which clearly explains and summarises the dos and don’ts of business in that region. 

  • Build relationships on trust:

In emerging markets, trust is a fundamental aspect of business, even more than in European and US societies. Indeed, knowing and trusting your audience and stakeholders is key to doing business in emerging economies.

Two key points to keep in mind:

  1. Build strong relationships with business partners (with local suppliers, local distributors etc.) Business relationships in emerging markets usually work on a fair’s fair basis. Based on reciprocity and trust, the Guanxi concept in China is one of the most significant examples of this. 
  2. Emerging economies are usually characterised by very large, young populations. Over the past few years, the middle class has grown rapidly, and now represents the most important part of emerging market populations in terms of the amount of people with purchasing power. By 2030, the growing middle class will represent 1 million people in India. 

The challenge for marketers?

Across these emerging regions, the middle class is increasing meaning more and more people are gaining purchasing power. But, they’re still novice shoppers. Marketers need to reach them through cultural message adaption.

As young populations, however, they are very responsive to marketing, especially to certain marketing channels.

Social media and mobile devices use: don’t miss the boat

People in emerging markets mostly access internet through mobile devices rather than desktop computers. In order to reach more people, make sure to adapt and configure your website for mobile.

People in emerging markets use social media regularly and are really responsive to information and marketing they can get from this channel.

Although global social media accounts are used, local ones are just as popular, sometimes even more. In Russia, for example, Facebook is not used as much due to access restrictions but also due to cultural trends. Russian people have their own national social networks which are more relevant for marketers to use, to use since they have make much more impact locally. In Russia, VK (originally VKontakte), is much more popular than Facebook. 

Word of mouth

Word of mouth is an important and efficient marketing behaviour in emerging countries. Culturally, people in these regions tend to live very close to family and friends. They usually count on peer networks to influence their purchases and to select what brands to trust.

Generating positive word of mouth is crucial in reinforcing brand recognition. In South Africa, 49% of people agreed their purchase decisions were influenced by the recommendations of friends and family, whereas this percentage falls down to 29% in the UK, demonstrating the necessity for strong brand awareness.

Some tips?

  • Identify your most efficient ‘word of mouth sources’, asking new customers how they heard about you for the first time. Then push advertisement towards the 5 or 10 most relevant sources.
  • Reward customers who recommend your brand, generating word of mouth through loyalty programmes.  
  • Consider unsatisfied customers and find alternatives to change their vision of your brand. Negative word of mouth can strongly damage your brand image.
  • Be visible, participating in strategic popular events through sponsorship for instance. It will also demonstrate your local involvement and make you closer to your audience.

Email and SMS marketing

Compared with European customers who have already reached saturation point in receiving promotional messages, email campaigns can actually be an effective means of communication in emerging markets. Both SMS and email marketing seem to be viable strategies, enabling a significant ROI. Despite the time it costs to implement such strategies, it permits you to reach many people and it’s an affordable and direct way to communicate. 

  • Around 51% of emerging market audiences are willing to receive advertising messages by SMS.
  • Almost 45% affirm that they would open promotional emails if they received them.

Last but not least: translation

All information and messages you can deliver to your customers will have much more impact on them if they are in their native language. In fact, 55% of customers state that they give more importance to information in their native language than the price of any product of service. The perfect balance between global brand consistency and local relevance is reached during the translation and transcreation process. Sometimes global marketers neglect the translation and transcreation process, but if we consider that 60% of people from non-English speaking countries would never purchase products with English only advertisements, then translation becomes an imperative step in the localisation process.

We hope you’ve found our 3-step guide to marketing in emerging economies useful, get in touch if you’d like to know more about our localisation services. 

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