Nearly four out of 10 financial executives from the world’s leading global consumer companies expect their revenues to be lower in 2012 than 2011, yet many say they’re still planning to invest in new markets, products and mobile commerce to grow market share, according to KPMG International’s annual Consumer CFO Survey.
Even with growth projected to be slow in the US and Canada, 43.6 percent of respondents believe those two markets will provide the greatest opportunity for growth over the next two years, with China and Brazil ranking second and third, respectively.
“Surprisingly, even with the bulk of new consumers coming from Asia and India, and fragile consumer confidence in developed markets, the majority of respondents globally see North America as a great growth opportunity, at least in the short term ,” said Willy Kruh, KPMG Global Chair of Consumer Markets.
Notwithstanding, more than two-thirds of respondents say they are increasing their budgets over last year in preparation for expansion to new markets--with over 80 percent saying that marketing to new middle class consumers in emerging high-growth markets will drive long-term success. Respondents from the Asia Pacific region are most likely (44 percent) to be increasing this year’s overall budgets than other regions as they target neighboring markets.
Even with tempered optimism for growth and expansion, however, the biggest threats according to survey respondents continue to be economic uncertainty for 44 percent, followed by political instability (27 percent) and sovereign debt crises (21 per cent).
Product innovation leads the growth strategies that companies are pursuing this year with over 40 percent of respondents in North and Latin America, Asia Pacific and the Middle East /Africa saying they will adapt products developed for their home markets to meet the needs of others. European companies, however, were more likely to sell their products unchanged in other markets, adapting only the labeling, packaging and/or instructions.
“The overall goal among respondents is clearly one of growth,” said Mr. Kruh. “Which strategies companies pursue depends on the maturity of a given market. We’re seeing that in emerging markets, product innovation has the most potential as a growth strategy. But most important, as many of our respondents have remarked, it’s always critical to determine how well an opportunity aligns with a company’s core competencies and if there’s willingness to wait for the ROI.”
Sustainability continues a steady climb up the corporate agenda. Nearly three quarters of the respondents cite sustainability as a tool for competitive positioning, innovation and brand reputation. Moreover, over half say that sustainability has had a positive impact on their operating costs and increasingly on sales and market value.
This year, over a third of respondents will use mobile technology to maximize sales, outranking both the internet and e-commerce. Customer relationship management (CRM) placed second behind mobile as the technology most likely to positively impact sales.
“The growth picture for consumer companies is quite divergent and this year will be a turning point for them,” commented Mr. Kruh. “Those that successfully make the right trade-offs between investing in developed and emerging markets, are attuned and responsive to the continuing price sensitivity among consumers, and grasp the ongoing importance of product quality and perceived value as well as service localization should see their efforts rewarded.”
In a survey ranking regions in terms of expected growth in the next two years, 6.1% of the respondents chose Russia, and the top three regions were America and Canada (43.6%), China (23.6%) and Brazil (19.1%).
George Pataraya, Head of Consumer Markets at KPMG in Russia and the CIS, commented: "The Russian market for consumer goods remains relatively attractive for foreign investment. The investment appeal factors mentioned by the respondents included market capacity, economic growth potential, the relative stability of consumer purchasing power, and the strong interest in new products."
"As far as we can see," added Mr Pataraya, "competition in the Russian market is only going to get stronger."
Most of the respondents from Russia believe that their revenue growth in 2012 will mirror growth in the industry as a whole. In addition, none expect a fall in revenue compared to last year.
In terms of expected trends in the near future, the respondents named the use of mobile technologies and customer relationship management (CRM), which should help to increase retail sales in the next two years.
The survey showed that companies see political and economic instability as the main sources of risk for their business in the next two years.