Customer Experiences in Emerging Economies

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Customer Experiences in Emerging Economies

by George Smith


Stats that highlight the benefits of CX are around every corner. They emblazon every PowerPoint presentation. For example:

  • 86% of people will pay more for a better customer experience.
  • $1 billion companies will earn an additional $700 million within three years of investing in customer experience.

However, these stats omit something important—they refer to 86% of people and $1 billion companies in America. Does the same principle hold true in the Middle East or Asia Pacific? Is the impact of customer experience universal across developed and emerging economies?

I have lived and worked across Europe, Middle East and Asia. During my time in different countries and economies, I’ve been fascinated by which digital strategies are common across cultures—and which are unique. I even started a podcast interviewing CMOs and CIOs across the world for their point of view.

The "America minus n-years" hypothesis

In this recent conference presentation, I argue that most people I speak to tacitly assume the “America minus n-years” hypothesis. Where every country is on the same linear progress path—and hence your CX is defined by how many years your country is behind America. As such, I often hear people advocate for doing things in the Middle East that were successful in America three years ago.

The America minus n-years hypothesis

This simply isn’t true. Just because CX offers a competitive edge in every country doesn’t mean it’s a linear progression. The same tactics won’t necessarily work for every customer’s culture or context.

The “America minus n-years” hypothesis glosses over fundamental differences between cultures. For example, immigrants account for 88% of the UAE’s population, while just 13% of America’s population is foreign-born. That’s a major cultural difference.

Chart showing the estimated foreign-born citizens of the UAE in 2017, making up 88% of the population.

The difference between developed and emerging economies lies in what consumers want. A customer’s context, culture and community are different—not linear. So is their preferred CX.

Regional Managing Director, MEIA | George Smith

There’s no substitute for learning about your customers in their context.

Cutting corners won’t do you any favors. There’s no substitute for understanding your users in their context, in their culture. Hence, brands should build a marketing laboratory that allows them to rest, measure and learn about their unique customers. In the same way that culinary desires differ from culture to culture, customer experience can any brand a competitive advantage anywhere in the world. But each culture’s unique CX demands will always differ.

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