Tune Into Buyers’ PreferencesNovember 28, 2011 By Apala Lahiri Chavan
It's clear that the strongest growth in the global economy in the coming years will take place in the BRIC countries. While the acronym originally stood for the emerging economies of Brazil, Russia, India and China, it now includes other industrialized countries such as Mexico, Turkey, South Africa, Thailand, Vietnam and others.
For Western companies to be successful in conducting online trade in the BRIC nations, it's essential that they're aware of these countries’ unique cultures and customs. As a result, they'll discover the tried-and-true Western model of dot-com retail may not always work. Each BRIC country is unique; it's those Western businesses that do their homework that will succeed.
Multiple Buying Preferences
While retailers may develop a strategy to increase online sales in BRIC countries, what they really need is a collection of strategies specific to each market. A common mistake is assuming that there's one online model that will work for all BRIC countries. For example, consider how hierarchical each country is. Is it collectivist or individualist? Russia is the most hierarchical, meaning that status markers are very important in its society. Brazil, India and China are less so, but all of these cultures are much more collective than in the U.S., where individualism reigns and class distinctions are temporary.
In China it's especially important for consumers to blend in with their purchases. It's not a coincidence that the business model for Groupon — consumers receive a great bargain only if a certain number of people agree to participate — originated in China.
Among most BRIC countries, buying for the family outweighs shopping for the individual. The online space needs to resemble a trip to a brick-and-mortar store. It's important for consumers to have the ability to chat or post a comment about their purchases, which reinforces the approval of their purchases among a broader group. Purchasing a certain brand — or avoiding one — identifies consumers with a certain group or segment of society. Contrast this with the American society and the typical dot-com model in which individualism and freedom of choice are the rule.
Failure to be aware of local ecosystems in the BRIC and other emerging nations prevents marketers from getting a competitive edge that will differentiate their brand from others. For example, First Flight, an Indian logistics/courier service, provides a service called “emotional bond” on its website. Customers using this service can select from a variety of prepackaged Indian cookies and other traditional desserts along with a greeting card to be sent to friends and family for special occasions celebrated in the country. Similary, EMS China provides a “Mooncake Delivery” service for the Chinese New Year.