Finweek English Edition - - COVER - BY GLENDA WIL­LIAMS

Busi­nesses may be on the back foot from an in­creasi ngly evolved con­sumer whose ac­cess to tech­nol­ogy has shrunk the world, ac­cel­er­ated the speed of change and shifted the bal­ance of power their way. In­no­va­tion in the dig­i­tal space means that we are worlds away from the time where it took 75 years for the tele­phone to reach 50m users. Re­cently it took lit­tle more than a month for An­gry

Birds to reach that same num­ber. Not only are con­sumers now po­ten­tially a step ahead of the busi­nesses who chase them, but their ex­pec­ta­tions have also evolved to the de­gree that they re­quire not only the en­gi­neer­ing of great prod­ucts, but an out­stand­ing cus­tomer ex­pe­ri­ence as well.

EY’s in­ter­na­tional sur­vey Con­sumers on board: How to co-pilot the mul­ti­chan­nel jour­ney re­veals how the behaviour of the smart con­sumer is evolv­ing and the size and na­ture of the task that lies ahead if busi­nesses are to pros­per.

“Our pre­vi­ous re­port painted a pic­ture of con­sumers who wanted prod­ucts and ser­vices to be de­signed, sold, de­liv- ered, ser­viced and pur­chased in a way that suits them. To­day, they are even more knowl­edge­able and self-con­fi­dent, do­ing more re­search be­fore buy­ing than ever be­fore,” says Derek En­gel­brecht, re­tail and con­sumer prod­ucts sec­tor leader at EY.

“Change on this scale de­mands at­ten­tion. In the age of the smart con­sumer, it’s vi­tal to re­alise that con­sumers con­sider them­selves as ‘co-pi­lots’ when set­ting off with the intention of buy­ing. We see ev­i­dence of ac­tive co­op­er­a­tion be­ing of­fered in the devel­op­ment phase for new prod­ucts in ev­ery cat­e­gory we looked at.”

Growth in the dig­i­tal space means that the vast ma­jor­ity of peo­ple are now dig­i­tal con­sumers, ra­tio­nal and adept at us­ing tech­nol­ogy to fil­ter in­for­ma­tion and make pur­chas­ing de­ci­sions. In­dian and Chi­nese In­ter­net users are lead­ing the way in buy­ing on­line, with a 75% and 70% dig­i­tal share re­spec­tively while South Africa comes in at 64%. This fig­ure falls to 63% and 50% in the UK and the US re­spec­tively, with pur­chas­ing in-store gen­er­ally more preva­lent in ma­ture mar­kets.

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