COVID-19 and the Emerging-Market Consumer

Related Expertise: International Business, Emerging Markets, Marketing and Sales

Edition 1: COVID-19 and the Emerging-Market Consumer—Five Trends to Watch

By Aparna BharadwajKanika SanghiNimisha JainDaniel AzevedoCinthia ChenIvan KotovLara Koslow, and Patrick Witschi

COVID-19 has raced around the globe without regard for borders or the background of its victims, yet the pandemic is affecting consumers in emerging markets differently from their counterparts in mature markets. Emerging-market consumers are both fearful and guardedly optimistic. This yin-and-yang tension is shaped by the character of these markets, with their swelling numbers of middle-class and affluent consumers (MACs), exposure to other economies, sprawling city clusters, limited health care, and smartphone-influenced digital habits.

Emerging markets beyond China have lower rates of infection than other nations, but their consumers are bracing for the virus’s arrival and its exponential growth. They overwhelmingly recognize the dangers and have changed their lifestyle, often by government decree.

Even so, these consumers retain an enduring optimism about the future of their economy after the crisis and still plan to increase spending in far more categories compared with shoppers in mature markets. In particular, MAC consumers are still buying an expanding basket of goods and services. Emerging-market consumers are also rapidly increasing spending in e-commerce, even among older consumers who had in the past favored traditional stores and markets.

But consumers worry about the second-order effects of the virus, such as rising prices for essential goods and their personal safety during lockdowns.

About the Barometer

BCG’s COVID-19 Consumer Sentiment Barometer seeks to understand the pandemic’s effects on spending intent, attitudes, and daily routines across 13 mature and emerging markets. New research will be published periodically on the basis of responses from more than 20,000 consumers altogether. The mature markets are France, Germany, Italy, the UK, and the US. The emerging markets are Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Russia, and Thailand. The survey covers nearly 50 categories in financial services, consumer products, durable goods, entertainment, retail, telecommunications, and travel. Each edition will likely focus on a subset of the data.

There are also similarities between emerging and mature economies in this new world. In both types of markets, a new normal is emerging, where consumers expect to buy more fresh food, household care items, and preventive health care products while cutting back on travel as well as luxury and fashion merchandise. It remains to be seen whether this state of affairs will persist beyond the pandemic.

Our first edition covers five trends common to these eight emerging markets. France, Germany, Italy, and the US are shown for comparative purposes. Explore the slideshow below.

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