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Marketing and selling in tough economic conditions

Market trends for 2011

Prasanna Perera, Marketing and Management Consultant, Chartered Marketeer, CIM U.K.

Prasanna PERERA- Marketing and Management Consultant, Chartered Marketeer, CIM U.K.

During 2010, the Sri Lankan marketplace has been transformed and energized, with many industrial sectors recording substantial growth. Many brands have been re-launched successfully and other new brands introduced. What is in store for 2011? I will endeavour to share some of my thoughts.

Consumer trends

The following are the key trends that I envisage in 2011.

A greater need for convenience in everything. The consumer is fighting for time and hence convenience goods and services will have great success. For example fast food restaurants, laundries and home cleaning services.

A greater demand for vegetarian food, due to health and religious reasons, vegetarian restaurant and sales of vegetables are likely to increase.

A greater demand for smaller and cheaper packages. (Mainly food, beverage and personal care products). Brands will be able to penetrate the lower income segments by following this trend and satisfying it.

A rapidly ageing population that demands health foods and specialized services. For example food products with low salt and sugar and services such as homecare, doctor on call and other medical services.

A decline in the child population due to late marriages, aspirations for higher education and economic reasons. Products and services that are targeted towards children will find that demand is sluggish. Adult segments may have to be targeted by these products and services.

Sri Lankans are becoming more and more fashion conscious. Hence, clothing, lifestyle products and services and footwear will continue to grow. Western attitudes and perceptions are being observed across the country.

With smaller families the housing and real estate sector will record significant changes. Apartments and flats will be preferred to houses. In the case of houses, smaller ones will be demanded. (two to three rooms maximum). A good demand will prevail for value-for-money, middle class housing.

A shift is observed towards self service stores across the country. Hence supermarkets, hypermarkets and convenience stores will continue to have growth. The traditional trade (kade's) will continue to decline, specially in major cities and towns.

A greater feeling towards Sri Lanka and products that project the Sri Lankan identity. "Be Sri Lankan, Buy Sri Lankan" is a slogan that has emotional connections. Hence, Sri Lanka origin brands will have great potential.

A boom in the market for all types of transport vehicles. Small cars, vans and buses. Since all sectors of the economy is growing, the vehicle market will grow in all market segments.

Sri Lankan marketeers' response

I believe that Sri Lankan Marketeers should get onto the "top gear." It is now imperative that this is done and no holding back please.

Those who hold back, will lose market share and possibly never recover.

My mandate to Sri Lankan Marketeers is as follows:

* Be aggressive in developing marketing strategies. "Growth" is the name of the game.

* Explore new market segments within Sri Lanka. Rely on research inputs for this purpose.

* Aggressively launch new products and services in keeping with the market trends and lifestyles.

* Introduce smaller and cheaper packages to target price conscious consumers, as well as the "singles" market.

* Simplify service processes, in order to improve service response times, accuracy and customer satisfaction.

* Build brands by prudent investments in innovation, marketing communications and customer equity.

* Avoid unnecessary sales promotions, that do not add value but destroy margins. Instead introduce loyalty programs and if promotions are required, they should be carried out very selectively.

* Do not unnecessarily incentivise the distribution channel members. Maintain the balance of power between manufacturers and retailers. Presently, manufacturers are paying more attention to retailers than consumers! In the long run, consumer loyalty and demand will be the winner. (As the modern trade grows).

* Be accountable for all marketing budgets. Rely on research inputs, as well as your executive judgement. Key campaigns should be measured in terms of effectiveness and efficiency. Shareholder value should be delivered at all times.

* Marketing Plans are a must. Don't just keep muddling about! Without plans, there is no direction and valuable resources are wasted. Please remember the saying "Failure to plan, is a plan to fail."

In this brief article my endeavour was to educate marketeers in Sri Lanka about the changing landscape of the marketplace. There is no lack of opportunities, provided insight, creativity and common sense is applied. The North and East of the country are virgin markets that offer great scope. My message is "Go to the market aggressively and reap the benefits." The moment is now!



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