Anticipating the next middle-class move

And it’s customers from Asia that need to be wooed

PUBLISHED : Friday, 08 July, 2016, 4:07pm
UPDATED : Friday, 08 July, 2016, 10:52pm

By 2030, 85 per cent of predicted growth in the middle class worldwide will come from Asia and the region will account for more than half of global middle-class consumption, according to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Accenture analysis indicates that within the next five years, up to 40 per cent of total growth in consumer goods and services will come from just five countries in Asia – China, Thailand, Indonesia, India and Singapore.

What this means for managers of any company that deals with consumers is simple: you need to woo this increasingly affluent Asian market.

How do managers make sure this happens? Today, most customers simply expect companies to provide what they want.

By 2020, they’ll be expecting to get what they want, how they want it. And by 2025, they’ll expect smart assistants that can provide what they want, before they want it.

Transformed by digital, it’s a journey that is placing increasing amounts of control at consumers’ fingertips.

And managers need to pivot their companies to this new world order.

That means embracing connected devices, wearables, virtual reality, 3-D printing and advanced machine learning – these are the mechanisms that will empower consumers to seek even greater control along the path to purchase. Some companies are already on board.

For example, Amazon, FedEx and Google are using drones to speed up their delivery times beyond their competitors.

With augmented reality, Ikea’s customers can see products in their homes before they buy them.

Consumers can watch the “Hilfiger Collection” runway via 360-degree 3-D virtual reality before shopping the collection online.

And Mondelez stores can now display products on smart shelves with sensors that analyse faces and behavioural characteristics for consumer profiling.

According to the Accenture Tech Vision global survey, 86 per cent of the executives anticipate the pace of technology change will increase rapidly or at an unprecedented rate in their industry during the next three years

Alibaba has steadily expanded its offering. From incorporating online payment services and launching an online marketplace, to adding monetisation platforms and developing a cloud computing platform, Alibaba put in place a future-focused infrastructure for e-commerce.

According to the Accenture Tech Vision global survey of more than 3,100 IT and business executives, 86 per cent of the executives anticipate that the pace of technology change will increase rapidly or at an unprecedented rate in their industry during the next three years.

And many companies, already reeling from the impact of technology and the changes they need to make in response, find themselves temporarily overwhelmed – some even paralysed – as they absorb the magnitude of the tasks ahead. That’s understandable.

So what do managers need to do to keep apace?

• Embrace artificial intelligence, robotics, big data and digital – inside their company or through their ecosystem - now.

• Invest in scalable platforms that enable you to expand and contract as needed.

• Train up staff: as you move to a more digitised business platform you will need staff to support it, continues education is key.

• Be flexible: many of the skilled staff you want to attract want to work on their terms: as freelancers, consultants and from anywhere.

Managers need to stay ahead of the game – predict what their customers will want – and provide it for them or they risk being left behind by competitors who already anticipated the next move.

Gianfranco Casati is Accenture’s group chief executive of growth markets

This article has been amended to remove a repeated paragraph