Enabling global FMCG brands to gain an edge over the local competition in Southeast Asia

It used to be relatively simple for multi-national fast-moving consumer goods corporations to be successful in Southeast Asia. However, the marketplace has changed irrevocably, and these brands are too often unprepared for today’s realities. While many regional brands are benefitting from an erosion of brand loyalty, an understanding of consumer preferences and behaviours, and the ability to be nimble in the face of change, numerous global corporations continue to grapple with how to adapt to the rapidly changing paradigm.  Where a blanket distribution approach may have worked in the past, now global brands are challenged to create market strategies to ensure that products are available where, and how, consumers in the region’s countries want them.

What will set these multi-national corporations (MNCs) apart in this competitive market is not just their products, but also how they bring those products to market. For example, various local brands throughout Asia – in partnership with leading local retailers such as 99 Speedmart in Malaysia and Alfamart in Indonesia – are seeing impressive gains because these brands are “more attuned to the emotional and functional needs of consumers,” agile in their business models resulting in better price accessibility and more convenient (and therefore top-of-mind) for consumers. While MNCs in general are dealing with these issues, companies in the fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) categories, such as fresh and packaged food, beverages and home care products, are facing stiffer competition for share of consumers’ wallets. In some instances, Southeast Asian consumers are showing greater preference for certain local items than other global markets. In 2018, 20 of the top 50 FMCG brands purchased by customers in the Philippines were local.

How do MNCs stand out in Southeast Asia?

Without a clear understanding of the implications and sensitivities associated with a local market strategy, it is difficult to adequately prepare for mildly—or wildly—disruptive business environments. Today’s MNCs need to fully test their business model, with consideration for potential fluctuations in each market, and explore the “what-ifs” to understand the outcomes of specific conditions on operations and the bottom line. When teams are able to identify the factors influencing market conditions and collaborate across teams with insightful, data-driven information, MNCs will be better prepared and more confident about competing in uncertain and changing environments.

In order to achieve this state of operations internally, executives need to have a winning strategy for operating in each market that doesn’t take months to create. The first step towards organisations achieving this capability is with the adoption of technology-based solutions to connect business units in an enhanced planning experience.

FMCG executives understand the importance of planning to improve revenue, manage costs and ensure the wellbeing of the organisation. However, based on a recent survey commissioned by Anaplan, a significant number of companies in the region are using antiquated methods – such as spreadsheets – to develop plans that take several weeks or even months to put together and are infrequently put to action. The intensity of competition in the region and pace of digital transformation makes it increasingly important for these companies to consider a technology upgrade. This will allow executives to streamline processes to plan in a shorter timeframe, incorporate and analyse the right data to make better decisions faster, and allow users across the business to collaborate more easily and effectively.

Many forward-thinking sales leaders are using real-time, data driven insights to develop powerful go-to-market (GTM) strategies with sales planning software. This software integrates the key elements of sales strategies such as quota planning, territory planning, account segmentation, and sales coverage to dramatically increase sales force productivity and efficiency, reduce attrition and improve the bottom line.

With territory planning, in particular, sales executives can optimise their territories by incorporating the right data, including account potential, regional trends, and individual selling history. Imagine being able to create a market strategy for a new territory with an understanding of all the possible scenarios the salesforce will face? With all relevant data integrated in one place, sales leaders can have a true understanding of the overall sales impact of any proposed strategy to make the right decisions for the business.

This idea can also be applied to assessing resource needs before and during the execution of a market strategy. Planning software gives executives at MNC brands the flexibility, modelling or scenario-planning capacity and data transparency necessary to stay proactive, keep sales reps efficient, and expand opportunities across the market. Brands that make the initial investment in upgrading to technology-based planning solutions, can begin to harness the power of this and other technologies to be better positioned to play competitively in Southeast Asian markets – rather than playing catch up with local brands.