As global companies work to connect with consumers in emerging economies, they have to be more cognizant of different buyer behavior in countries like India and Brazil. At McKinsey Quarterly , Yuval Atsmon , Jean-Frederic Kuentz , and Jeongmin Seong point to a few areas where these companies may need to shift their approach. The emerging consumer classes in the BRIC nations, for example, are influenced much more widely, the author's argue, by word of mouth: An important explanation for word of mouth’s outsized role is that in a land of consumer “firsts”—more than 60 percent of Chinese auto purchasers are buying their first car, and the comparable figure for laptops is 30 to 40 percent—few brands have been around long enough to ensure loyalty. Seeing a friend use a product is reassuring. Indeed, the less a consumer knows about a product and the more conspicuous the choice, the more the consumer is likely to care about the opinions of others. “The more people I know who are using a product,” consumers reason, “the more confident I can be that it will not fall apart, malfunction, or otherwise embarrass me.” The presence (or absence) of that confidence shapes the group of brands that consumers choose to evaluate. It is particularly influenced by the postpurchase experience of friends and family, along with their loyalty to a brand. Often, word of mouth is a local phenomenon in emerging markets, partly because of the simple reality that emerging-market consumers generally live close to friends and family. In addition, word of mouth’s digital forms, which transcend geography and are growing rapidly in emerging markets, still have more limited reach and credibility there than in developed ones. According to our annual survey of Chinese consumers, just 53 percent found online recommendations credible—a far cry from the 93 percent who trusted recommendations from friends and family. That same survey showed that only 23 percent of Chinese consumers acquired information from the Internet about products they bought. For food, beverage, and consumer electronics consumers in the United States and the United Kingdom, that figure is around 60 percent. Word of mouth’s relatively local nature means that companies in emerging markets are likely to reap higher returns if they pursue a strategy of geographic focus than if they spread marketing resources around thinly (targeting all big cities nationwide, for example). By attaining substantial market share in a cluster of cities in close proximity, a company can unleash a virtuous cycle: once a brand reaches a tipping point—usually at least a 10 to 15 percent market share—word of mouth from additional users quickly boosts its reputation, helping it to win yet more market share, without necessarily requiring higher marketing expenditures. The authors go on to outline two other key factors in emerging market consumers' behavior. Here is a look at how they interact: Read Building brands in emerging markets here .
Filed under: mckinsey quarterly, global business, marketing, brand building, india, Brazil, China, brands, emerging markets, McKinsey & Company, word of mouth, consumer class, Yuval Atsmon, Jean-Frederic Kuentz, Jeongmin Seong