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3 Trends FMCGs Can't Ignore to Grow in Asia As multinational FMCGs seek to carve out a share of Asian markets (notably India, Indonesia and China), many are finding that smaller, local brands are tough adversaries

By Ara Gopal

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Fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) companies have a tremendous growth opportunity in the Asia-Pacific region. Nielsen's latest figures pointed to strong FMCG and GDP growth in Asia-Pacific at the end of 2018; however, global economic uncertainty may be threatening to GDP growth in the short term. Over the next decade, Deloitte anticipates that continued economic growth in the region will increase consumer spending abilities – particularly as the middle class widens and the demographics of the region's population continues to skew younger. Experts estimate that one-third of the world's consumer packaged goods growth between 2018 and 2023 will come from Asia, accounting for nearly 35 per cent of global industry share by 2022.

For FMCG operating in Asia today, the imperative to find a formula for growth intensifies as these companies face unprecedented changes to distribution models and channels, the emergence of new regional e-commerce players and competition with entrenched local brands for customer loyalty. These three trends are essential areas that FMCG executives in Asia need to think about before developing market strategies in the region.

Evolving Channels and Routes-to-Market

The most disruptive change FMCGs are experiencing is the emergence of e-commerce, as people across the region begin to gain access to the internet and purchase mobile phones in huge numbers. Internet and smartphone penetration is expected to reach 59 per cent and 44 per cent respectively by 2021 and over one billion people in Asia will shop online. This growth in internet and smartphone users presents a valuable opportunity for brands to target and deepen relationships with customers.

Consumer packaged goods companies also have an opportunity in evolving distribution models. Today traditional trade shops are the dominant distribution channel for brands – accounting for three-quarters of all sales. Traditional trade shops pose difficulties for companies operating in the region because they are challenged to gain a foothold in each of the distinct markets. Despite the slow growth of modern trade models (e.g., hypermarkets or big-box retailers) as a share of the market in most Asian countries, McKinsey notes the importance of serving this segment well with a strong emphasis on, "disciplined spending, strong relationship management, and internal collaboration." These goals can be achieved with the adoption of technology-enabled platforms to enable decision-making on actionable strategies. The benefits to business outcomes include alignment of business priorities across the organization, greater revenues, and cost management.

E-commerce Players Gaining Momentum and Claiming Market Share

Locally-based e-commerce marketplaces have grown in popularity across Southeast Asia, and investor dollars are fuelling their expansion. These retailers are becoming such an important part of shopping that large retail chains and consumer goods companies are pursuing partnerships with these platforms across the region. Online-only companies such as Lazada and Shopee are differentiating their offerings by tackling logistics and supply chain – a key challenge in Southeast Asia. FMCG brands, as a result, are realising the need to make their products available on the various channels consumers are using to buy products. This complex network of distribution channels requires close management of supply across various online retailers and in stores.

In order to manage a successful operation with this level of complexity, FMCG companies need to leverage the power of technology to implement a connected planning strategy that digitises decision making processes and drives collaboration across business units. Connecting data, people, and plans in every part of a business to drive faster, better decisions requires a single enterprise-wide planning platform that can enable cross-functional decisions.

Squaring Off With Local Brands

As multinational FMCGs seek to carve out a share of Asian markets (notably India, Indonesia and China), many are finding that smaller, local brands are tough adversaries. Research indicates this is primarily due to their effective hyper-targeting, flexible distribution capabilities, and better use of social media and customer engagement. To remain relevant in these markets, it is essential for multinational companies to have an understanding of the opportunities and risks in each market or category and be prepared to apply differentiated commercial strategies to drive growth. By holistically evaluating all aspects of the commercial strategy – trade spend, marketing, pricing, assortment - companies can better understand the major drivers of success in each market. This holistic approach, combined with advanced analytics and scenario planning capabilities will give companies the agility they need to react to market changes as rapidly or faster than smaller local brands.

As these three trends continue to transform the way FMCGs conduct business and engage customers, brands must look for ways to gain competitive advantage through better use of technology. Platforms that enable faster, smarter and cross-functional decision making connect siloed teams and provide decision makers with a holistic view of brand performance across markets, channels and categories. The result is shorter target setting cycles, higher revenues, and faster evaluation of investment options and trade-offs. It can be an important first step toward success in today's fiercely competitive environment.

Ara Gopal

Head of Solutions - Consumer Products & Retail at Anaplan

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