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12 power points about the evolving Sri Lankan consumer that will shape your brand and biz


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By Dilini-Jayasuriya and Abhishek Hariharan


 

  • Identified by MullenLowe Sri Lanka and Breakthrough Business Intelligence identify​

 

As Sri Lanka steps-up to middle income status, Sri Lankans are stepping up to new opportunities and challenges. Based on their experience in working with brands and interacting with consumers on a regular basis, Breakthrough Business Intelligence Ltd. Executive Director Dilini Jayasuriya and MullenLowe Sri Lanka Associate Vice President and Head of Planning Abhishek Hariharan spell out some of these interesting changes that will impact your brand

 

 

1. Blurring of the differences between segments

Well-established segmentation norms of education, occupation or lifestyle markers are losing their potency. Easy finance schemes, trade -in offers and accessible prices mean that so-called ‘premium’ products and services are now a whole lot more accessible. Trips abroad, high-end electronics and appliances are just some of the categories that are seeing changes in their usership profile. Brands need to be mindful about this change in the axes of segmentation and its impact communication and brand building activities.

 

2. Reduction in domestic migration 

The big city is no longer the only place to pursue ambition and chase opportunity. Sri Lankans are not finding it necessary to shift their base to a bigger city to make it big. Earlier people sought out opportunity, now thanks to inclusive growth and the rise of technology opportunity seeks people. Brands will have to account for this when it comes to planning their distribution, positioning and media strategy. 

 

3. Money is no longer just ‘ours’ – now it’s yours and mine

Women are now increasingly contributing to the family finances through their own incomes and part-time jobs. They have started to take a stand on all things financial. There is a clear segregation in the monetary assets. Couples now choose whose money they will spend when. This increase in women’s spending their own money for big ticket family purchases means they will emerge as decision makers in many more categories.

 

4. Emergence of small fin-tech organisations

The development of many fin-tech organisations bringing loans to your fingertips offering micro loans to mobile based insurance highlighting technology and convenience. These loans provide a solution to the youngsters’ FOMO (fear of missing out). This means that there will be an increasing number of consumers who have access to easy credit to fund their desired lifestyle. However, there may be certain regulatory issues that could crop up.

 

5. The emergence of social commerce

Social media is helping novice online shoppers deal with apprehensions about trust and quality that conventional eCommerce poses. Digitally savvy entrepreneurs are using social media as a nearly zero-cost direct sales and consumer engagement channel. The presence of a human touch on social media means that social commerce may emerge as a more trusted alternative to eCommerce.

 

6. Consumers place their trust in house brands

As purse strings tighten, consumers tend to reduce experimentation on unknown brands. We see more consumers placing their trust in the house brands of their preferred retail outlets. Retail brands have already won the trust of the shopper and now can look to cash in on it by offering products that are low in price, but not necessarily lower in quality and value as perceived by the consumer.

 

7.  Increasing brand vulnerability

Even well-established brands are increasingly vulnerable to losing their image and equity they have built up over years. A few vocal dissidents or a post on social media can undo years of effort and investment. Brands will find that the traditional ideals of trust and heritage may not be enough to meet the high expectations of consumers.

 

8. Sense of built up frustration

With economic difficulties, racial tensions and political uncertainty all being a staple of the news headlines – it isn’t surprising that Sri Lankans’ inherent sense of optimism and national pride may get replaced with a sense of frustration that has been building up over the better part of the past year. Brands can help alleviate this sense of frustration, by bringing forward stories that rekindle Sri Lankans’ faith and optimism.

 

9. Return of Swadeshi 

Consumers no longer blindly believe that foreign is better. The changing macro-economic scenario and emergent sense of pride mean that the conscious consumer may choose to buy local for the feel-good factor. We will see a rise in the emergence of brands that talk about their local roots and connections. 

 

10. Healthy habits as a status symbol

Looking lean and fit is the way to be and more consumers are starting to realise the benefits of a good healthy lifestyle. But being healthy for its own sake isn’t enough. ‘Gym-fies’ that show off muscles, bragging about your 10K running time or showing off your healthy breakfast on Instagram time are fast becoming commonplace. What’s the point of healthy habits if you can’t brag about it?

 

11. Merging of the distinction between E/S/T

With English being the go to language online, traditional languages around the world are starting to feel the pressure and Sri Lanka is no exception to this. Hashtags and emojis are developing into a universally language of their own. We also see that the neat distinction between English, Sinhala and Tamil is blurring and the emergence of mash-up language in brand communication

 

12. Experience seeking on the rise

Whether it’s cup of coffee, an everyday purchase or even a visit to the bank – everything is expected to be an experience today. Increasing competition has made differentiation nearly impossible. From movie halls to retail stores to shopping malls, brands are trying to stand out by creating unique experiences that engage the senses in a surprising manner. And of course, bonus points for it being Instagram - worthy.

 

(Jayasuriya is the Executive Director Breakthrough Business Intelligence Ltd. Hariharan is Associate Vice President and Head of Planning at MullenLowe Sri Lanka. They can be reached at: dilini@breakthrough.lk and abhishek.hariharan@mullenlowe.com respectively.)


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