It’s summer in Europe. Years ago that meant that businesses were closed for most of July and all of August. ALL OF THEM. For nearly 2 months. I remember when I first moved to France (way back in 1999) how odd this was to me — it challenged everything my American business values stood for (the client is always right, 24/7 service is normal etc). I couldn’t understand how a company could just shut down for such a long time. And no-one seemed worried about this at all — on the contrary, the break was totally normal and even celebrated as being a time for workers to completely disconnect. In some ways, I do agree with that of course, and over the years I have certainly come to accept certain anomalies I once found difficult about living in France.
However, I have also seen a shift recently that has caused me to believe that Europe is now starting to change. Things are not quite so dead in the dead of summer, and actually this year, I’ve noticed a clear resurgence of activity which, to me, signals shifts in business priorities. Could it be that the global economy is finally pushing businesses in Europe to change their ways?
For me, the most important and noticeable transformation revolves around how marketing strategies and tactics have shifted in EMEA and aren’t “off” over the summertime as they once were. Other factors are also pushing European businesses to adjust their focus on new priorities in order to remain competitive.
Here are my top five ways marketing is changing in EMEA so that you too may be able to better position yourself accordingly:
#5. Technology pushes people to stay in tune
Fact of the matter is that 10 years ago, people weren’t glued to smartphones and tablets at all hours of the day and night. Our natural dependency on mobile devices has oozed over from our personal lives into our professional ones (and visa versa) and this naturally has pushed people to remain “on” even during their vacations. Working vacations has not yet become a major trend in Europe, but maybe that’ll be next. Clearly the change in the way we access content has implications for the marketing world. The need for mobile-friendly websites and optimized content for easy mobile accessibility is no longer a “nice to have,” but a “must have” if you want to be a serious player in the marketing arena.
#4. Brexit and national pride make localized content more important than ever
While there has been a bit of back and forth over Brexit and nationalistic, decentralized European sentiment, one trend that has clearly stuck is the need for localized content in EMEA. Just because more people in Europe seem to be adopting Anglo-Saxon work ethics doesn’t mean that they all understand English perfectly. Targeting prospects in their local languages is widely appreciated as a sign of respect and will certainly help to distinguish global players with strong local presence from those that just don’t bother.
#3. Social media is on the rise
Europeans may have been slower to adopt the use of social media but they are quickly catching up to their American counterparts. In a study carried out by Eurostat in 2015, it was found that 79% of EU-based businesses reported actively using social media channels (including social networks, blogs, content-sharing sites and wikis) in order to build their brand image and market their products. It is expected that this figure will continue to rise (their next study is scheduled for release in March 2018). Since enterprises attach a great deal of importance to their online presence, their websites are increasingly interactive and linked with social media outlets.
“In addition, 26% of enterprises using social media expect customers to be involved in product development or innovation; these enterprises accounted for 10% of all EU enterprises. They might approach communities of customers for new innovative ideas and actively involve them in developing new products based on principles of sharing, joining in and acting globally.”
That’s pretty revolutionary if you think that as little as 10 years ago, there were practically no European businesses present on social media whatsoever.
#2. The Dominance of the Customer and the Importance of Women
As is true elsewhere, customer-centric marketing is now dominating outreach programs. This is a big shift for France let me tell you! I remember when I first came to France, the general business attitude was “if you don’t like it, go somewhere else.” Because so many people did (and also started to complain about it openly online), businesses have had to rethink their strategies to focus more on their customers. Providing good customer care by inventing new service methods (leasing or renting products that used to be purchased, “Everything” as a Service including Software-as-a-Service, Video-Surveillance-as-a-Service, online memberships, automated product order renewal services and same-day delivery) have revolutionized buying patterns in Europe.
And because of this, the consumer is also savvier than ever. In addition, across Europe women represent 46.1% of the active workforce(and 51.1% of the active population, which is a pretty good ratio), with some countries (like Sweden at 48%) reaching the highest percentages we’ve ever seen. Women’s influence on marketing and their buying patterns (whose choices are increasingly made by reviews online and in an effort to make their daily lives easier across the board) are a non-negligible force to be reckoned with. In fact, Great Britain recently passed legislation banning gender stereotypes in all advertising, which goes to show the power women now have when it comes to marketing. Gender-neutral messaging and imagery should be deployed as a standard best practice for businesses large and small alike.
#1. GDPR and the use of personal data
As the use of Big Data for marketing purposes is also a dominating trend at the moment, GDPR compliance is another hot topic for businesses in Europe as the countdown to compliance has begun. This new legislation will shape how marketing campaigns are carried out across the zone, as stricter rules will govern who you can contact, what you can communicate with them, when, how and why. Since companies outside of Europe are equally concerned by GDPR (as long as they are handling data on people residing in Europe) as those based within the EU, global companies will also need to rethink their marketing strategies and their data collection methods.