Next week, on February 28, I will speak at the ESOMAR Insights Conference in Brussels on 'The Evolving Online Consumer' and I'm currently organizing my thoughts around this topic. Looking at the uptake of the Internet globally, the numbers are impressive: In the past five years, the global Internet population has grown from about 1 billion to 1.6 billion, and this growth isn't about to stop any time soon. The Internet population will increase in every country in the world over the next five years, but emerging markets will grow at a faster pace. In 2014, one-third of Internet users will come from Brazil, Russia, India, or China (the so-called BRIC countries).
Companies that want to capture this growing number of online users — and their growing funds spent online — will need to look beyond the markets of North America and Europe and approach their online strategies much more globally. But emerging markets don’t just offer a lot of opportunities; there are also many challenges to consider. On top of the needs and wants of the consumers in the different countries, their online behaviors, and the way they are being influenced (and are influencing others) in their purchase decisions, companies need to understand the social and economic business environments.