Changes in consumer behavior are changing the world. Those changes are driving massive growth across industries. And they hold the promise—if business recognize and capitalize on the opportunities—of lifting the entire global economy.
The vast majority of consumers today are networked. They are almost always “on”—never far from an Internet connection that will put them in contact with companies; sometimes to buy, sometimes to offer advice, sometimes to praise or to criticize. They are also quick to use the tools of social media to connect with companies from which they buy.
Furthermore, consumers are increasingly independent. They may want products that have been customized to meet their specific desires. They often prefer renting to buying, or second-hand luxury to first-hand average.
Consumers are also more conscientious than ever before, expecting businesses to actively protect the environment and to promote social causes.
Why does this matter to business leaders today?
Because it points to the truth that companies cannot be content to focus on the “where” and the “who” of selling. They must give new attention to the “how” and the “why” of consumption. The networked consumer is the new “how,” and the independent and co-operative consumer is the “why.”
In order to help achieve high business growth in many of today’s slow-growth economy, companies need to recognize how consumer behavior is changing and create strategies to capitalize on new opportunities.
Accenture undertook extensive research to understand how companies can achieve high business growth in a slow-growth economy. The answer lies in recognizing how consumer behavior change is generating significant growth in a wide range of industries. Armed with that knowledge, business leaders can create the toolkit, mindset and organizational structure that companies need to succeed in meeting expectations—including their own—for rapid growth.
As part of this study, Accenture surveyed 600 business executives and 10,000 online consumers in 10 countries across the world. We found:
Market expectations of company growth (as shown by enterprise value multiples of the S&P Global 1200) have returned to pre-crisis levels.
Non-financial companies in the S&P Global 1200 need to achieve US$5 trillion of revenue growth every year to meet analysts’ growth expectations.
Eighty-two percent of executives are confident in their business’s ability to grow profitably over the next two to three years, but 44 percent of the world’s 3,000 largest listed (non-financial) companies failed to grow both revenue and net income over the last three years.
More than four in five executives (83 percent) recognized the opportunity in responding to changing consumer behavior, but nearly equal numbers (80 percent) said their companies were not fully taking advantage of those changes.
Fast-growth companies (those whose revenues grew by six percent or more in the last year) are more likely to see business opportunity in changes in consumer behavior
Emerging-market business leaders possess greater belief in their understanding of consumer change
On the whole, the extent of changes in consumer behavior is greater in emerging markets than developed markets.
Forty percent of business executives said that the “inherent unpredictability” of consumers is the main barrier to understanding them better.
Business executives cite the slow internal pace of change as the most likely barrier that prevents them from realizing growth opportunities, with more than one-third (35 percent) stating that this is the case.
The market size for industries associated with consumer behavior change is projected to more than double from 2012 to 2016 (from US$2 trillion to US$4.5 trillion).
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Out of the 3,000 largest listed companies worldwide, Accenture identified those companies whose median revenue growth most exceeded their industry peers: the “industry growth leaders.”
By focusing on the set of highly successful companies that had succeeded in markets built on significant changes in consumer behavior, we were able to identify three common elements that kept them closer to changing consumers and enabled them to achieve dramatic growth.
Our analysis shows that industry growth leaders:
Use technology to observe and respond to changes in consumer behavior: Leaders use powerful new technologies to identify and bridge gaps between their businesses and consumers through better understanding. For instance, the analytics program of a leading media-rental company enables it to recommend movie and TV titles based on an individual consumer’s preferences and rental history.
Recognize and exploit market disruptions to enhance their business models: Leaders approach disruption as an opportunity rather than a threat. First movers proactively shape their industry’s long-term direction, instead of merely reacting to it. For example, global car-rental company replicated the business model of new players offering hourly rentals. By meeting disruption head-on, the company has been able to use its scale and scope to reduce the threat of new competition while improving customer service.
Organize to scale their responses to consumer insight rapidly: Leaders rapidly scale offerings after identifying a driver of consumer change. For example, a US-based grocer understood at an early stage consumers’ growing emphasis on healthy living and carried out numerous mergers and acquisitions to become a global leader in natural foods.
Our research comprised four individual studies. Each study was designed to answer critical questions that started with the individual consumer and ended with implications for the global economy:
Is consumer behavior really changing—and if so, what patterns or trends can we discern to help businesses grow?
Are business leaders aware of these changes, and if so, how are they responding?
What are the best examples of companies that are capturing the benefits of changing consumer behavior, and what can other companies learn from them?
What do changes in consumer behavior mean for the global economy as a whole, and can higher growth be stimulated by greater understanding of these changes?
For the global consumer behavior survey, Accenture surveyed 10,000 online consumers from 10 countries—Brazil, China, Germany, India, Indonesia, Japan, South Africa, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States—to assess and quantify the extent of consumer behaviour change.
We conducted a factor analysis on the results of this survey to derive the 10 dimensions of consumer change discussed in this report.
For the global executive survey, Accenture surveyed 600 business executives from the same 10 countries, across many industries.
Approximately half of these respondents were C-level executives; the remainder were directors and other senior managers.
In our industry growth leaders analysis, Accenture assessed the world’s top 3,000 listed companies by market capitalization and identified those that had achieved the greatest median revenue growth compared to their industry average over three-, five- and 10-year periods.
Accenture conducted a macroeconomic analysis in conjunction with Oxford Economics to assess the impact of changing consumer behavior, identifying the effect of an increase in consumer expenditure on the economy as a whole. In addition to the four studies listed, Accenture conducted interviews with client account teams and technology specialists.
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