It seems to the naked eye that the European economy is recovering from its long struggle. Unemployment figures are still very high, and Eurostat trends (click here to see more) show these are unlikely to experience any radical reduction in the near future.
Most companies that restructured early and focused strongly on exports have kept their margins throughout the crisis. But the uncertainty that characterised the European market is now present in most high growth regions. Brazil’s growth is choppy, and is highly driven by large infrastructure projects, China’s real estate bubble is more obvious by the day, India’s growth forecast has just be cut, and Russia’s economic growth forecasts have recently been slashed, again.
With emerging economies accounting for a third of all sales of European goods, this uncertainty has a significant impact on company’s medium to long term plans.
At Almeida, we are looking at trends that will influence European markets, but also, establish what is likely to be the best market positioning for our customers. And there are two major trends, which combined, will lead to very significant market landscape transformation: changes in European demographics, and expansion of industry transformation led by internet and e-commerce.
Demographics: Getting Older
Western populations are getting older. And in Europe, for the first time in history, the age pyramid is projected to become inverted by 2025 and stay like that for at least 20 years. This will lead to a massive transformation in society, but also to a major shift in consumption habits. End consumers are more aware of the need to lead a healthy life, and are working longer in life, with healthcare systems, lifestyle industries, human resource and knowledge management, insurers, FMCG, and pension funds, all being exposed to seismic changes in consumer behaviour. And in this transition, the ability to correctly address ageing is a massive opportunity for new entrants and for established companies to develop new product lines.
Creating and positioning new product lines requires a good understanding of these trends. There are detailed published studies from Europe, US and Canada, from both academia and national statistics offices. And there are significant differences across different European countries, which emphasise the need for research and careful preparation of localised marketing. We have researched, curated and analysed hundreds of information sources regarding ageing related trends, in support of customers’s strategic planning.
The end of the Sales Department, due to the internet, always the internet
Now that all information is global, consumers will hear about a bad service experience in Australia quicker than they hear of a good service from the dry cleaners down the road. And this is putting additional pressure on SMB owners to sing their praises online, engage and manage relationships online. From the bakery to the car repair shop, all are having to move online. On a review of the performance of high street retail, retail self-professed specialist Mary Portas, released a report, which shocked for completely ignoring the use of internet and social media channels in retail. Long gone are the days when a bricks and mortar business could survive without an active e-commerce strategy. In the words of Matt Desmier, a respected consultant in the trends of creative economies, and lead organiser of the Silicon Beach conference: “Once upon a time, customer had a scarcity of choice. The Internet changed all of that. But now there exists a scarcity of attention.“
And this is where the most interesting change is likely to happen next. The role of sales is becoming a lot less relevant. Buyers, both corporate and individuals, have reached a level of such sophistication, that sales people are facing unprecedented difficulties in influencing sales cycles. Such transformation is putting customer support and marketing at the heart of customer acquisition. Selling is becoming a lot less about selling, and a lot more about managing relationships (Ben Chestnut, CEO of MailChimp puts it very clearly on his recent article on funnels).
Agility and quick adaptation in an ever changing competitive landscape; yet, creativity, the ability to stand out, engage with customers and manage relationships, is, contrary to what many believe, the most effective route to manage your growth. In today’s markets, customers like to be treated as individuals, with unique needs and contexts, not patronised consumers. And in part this has always been true. The Internet is just accelerating it.
Feel free to get in touch for discussing how we may be able to help you taking advantage of these and other trends relevant to your business.