NEW YORK: Brand owners are adapting their strategies in volatile economic conditions, but most believe the financial crisis will continue to have an impact on shopper habits.

Bain & Co, the consultancy, surveyed 1,230 senior executives around the world, and suggested "prudent risk-taking" seems to be the appropriate approach at present.

In all, 59% of respondents from large firms, with revenues topping $2bn, stated the downturn would alter consumer behaviour for at least another three years, measured against 75% in an equivalent study from 2009.

Over 60% of organisations are going to place greater emphasis on growth in the next three years, up 10% compared with 2009 and the highest score since 2001, and almost half said foreign markets will set the pace on this metric.

Indeed, 80% of the panel agreed innovation was more important than cost-cutting in the long term, and 68% asserted taking care of customers and staff should take precedence over shareholders.

Two-thirds of contributors concurred their company was leaving the recession in a better competitive position, while less than half did so in 2002 after the dotcom bubble burst.

Open innovation, scenario and contingency planning and price optimisation are the most popular tools executives intend to start using in 2011, each logging a 30% increase in uptake year on year.

Elsewhere, 56% of firms expect to leverage social media, climbing from 29% in 2009, although considerable uncertainty was observable about determining the effectiveness of platforms like Facebook.

Darrell Rigby, a partner at Bain & Co, said: "They need to invest enough to make it successful and they should have a plan to measure whether they are receiving the desired return on investment."

North American companies were most keen on social media, ranking it eighth out of 25 management tools assessed by Bain & Co, from outsourcing to mergers and acquisitions.

CRM has seen the strongest penetration in North America, a status assumed by benchmarking in Europe, while Asian firms are particularly focused on knowledge management and sustainability.

The tactics achieving the best satisfaction ratings are strategic planning, mission and vision statements and customer segmentation, whereas downsizing and social media yielded below-average totals.

Data sourced from Bain & Co; additional content by Warc staff