The next 1.7 billion consumers and digital GUMmies – Forbes

You have a strategy for China, India, and perhaps even Africa. But what’s next? What’s the next big consumer play?

The world’s Muslim consumers number 1.7 billion. They are twice the number of consumers in Africa and account for nearly 30 percent of the emerging market total. For all the current political issues, it’s hard for any multinational to claim they are truly international if they don’t have a strategy for selling to the Muslim world.

But it also means checking our assumptions. This isn’t just a halal story. It’s a story about digital GUMmies and marketing strategies.

How so? The problem is those billion-plus consumers are spread across more than 50 countries, each with their own local preferences; many are also found in low-income countries. In short, they are a more complex commercial opportunity than selling to China, India, or even multi-country Africa.

I spoke a few weeks ago on the subject at a global summit in Kuala Lumpur and was joined by experts and business owners from around the world. I was struck by how digital technologies have turned the debate upside down and how quickly strategies are evolving. Four points stood out.

GUMmies are the first step in a large, but fragmented, market

Most exciting are the opportunities selling to global urban Muslim consumers (or GUMmies for short). Incomes tend to be higher among this group. But more importantly many have studied abroad at universities in the U.K or U.S and so share similar buying preferences, whether Emirati or Indonesian.

Digital strategies are critical given the segment’s geographic dispersion. Take Alchemiya.com, an on-demand video platform screening Muslim lifestyle programs which crowdfunded $1 million in 24 hours; or consumer site Zilzar.com, the online retailer aiming to be the Muslim world’s Amazon.