Editor’s Note: Articles in the Blog tend to focus on either North America or Europe. This post, by Kaysha Yonehara, brings much-needed perspective on important consumer trends in Asia. Readers should think about how these trends compare to those in their own markets, and what this means for “global” research programs.
Consumer preferences are changing faster in Asia than in the rest of the world. With an expanding middle-class and rapid advances in technology, Asian consumers are seeking out ways to enhance their lives. One key way they are doing this is by improving their shopping experiences.
Here are the trends that we think affects buying decisions of Asian consumers.
1. Share-Worthy Moments
As social media and technology continue to evolve, so does consumer behavior. Social media penetration has risen significantly in the past few years with no end to the growth in sight. Asian consumers want to – and like to – share what they’re doing in real-time. Given this, brands, end-clients and retailers should focus on content with a high likelihood of going viral.
This would mean increased focus on mobile content as Asian consumers are more inclined to browse social media on their phones.
The word インスタ映え (Insta-bae), meaning Insta-worthy/ Insta-grammable was voted one of the words of the year for 2017, which is why Japanese companies have focused their attention and marketing efforts on this growing trend. The phrase has gained traction late last year and shows no sign of slowing down. Japanese media has also chalked up phrases centered on being worthy of sharing online such as “Videogenic”/ “Movie-genic” / “Photogenic”.
2. Playful/Relatable Packaging
Consumers tend to share something on social media if it looks good. Given this, consumers will be more aesthetically sensitive to package designs, picking more relatable or “cute” ones over normal packaging.
Consider the success of global company Coca-Cola in Asia. From printed names on packaging to cute bow-tie finishes, the American beverage giant gave its product a more interesting look which translated in a boost in sales.
3. Little Indulgences to De-stress
Self-care and stress reduction have been echoing out in the past year and we expect it to resound further into this year.
High-pressure environments have produced overworked employees and students in desperate need to de-stress. The main ways Asian consumers deal with this stress is through mobile games – a growing market all over Asia- and small “indulgences” for happiness.
In Korea, there is the term 탕진잼 (Tangjin-jam), meaning “Wasting money is fun!” Younger consumers are more willing to spend if it makes them happy.
Because of this, the Korean mobile games market is expected to grow to US$2,117m by 2020.
Likewise in China, the largest mobile game market in Asia, 67% of 20-24-year play online games as a means to reduce stress.
For brands, this means that younger consumers are more willing to spend money on their happiness.
4. Mobile First
Asia currently has the highest mobile penetration rate in the world.
In countries like China and South Korea, young consumers are more inclined to brands with mobile options over those which do not.
In recent years, especially in South Korea, many shows and programs made for TV moved to online platforms like YouTube and other video hosting sites in response to their target audience veering away from TV.
Popular online shopping site, Lazada, has also launched an app to reach more customers faster. Lazada has become the #1 shopping site across several Southeast Asian countries.
In Japan, flea market mobile application Mercari has seen great success, leaving other flea market applications to catch up. The application started on mobile but has since expanded to the desktop as well.
5. Being Here, Being Me
Now more than ever, Asian consumers are looking for outlets for self-expression. Due to this, many are looking to “live in the moment”, “experience life” and “seek ways to make themselves happy”.
This could be due to the prominence of social media in Asia, especially in Japan, Korea and numerous APAC countries. Many consumers have come into alternative jobs like “v-logging” which provides the opportunity to be themselves.
In China, 73% of Chinese consumers aged 19-25 are more interested in experiences than material gain. The same goes for South Korean consumers.
6. DIY – Rising C2C Market in Asia
As the mobile and application markets grow in Asia, many consumers have gone DIY.
With the rise of handmade goods and flea market applications in Japan, we see consumers want more control in their buying and selling. In APAC regions, countries like Taiwan has developed a steadily growing C2C market.
For many participants in these markets, “the human touch” or sense of intimacy is the main factor in their involvement in C2C marketing.
7. AI x Apps
With the growing idea of self-care in Asia, many are turning to apps for assistance in enhancing their quality of life. Consumers have embraced technology related to AI (Artificial Intelligence) and machine-learning to learn more about and better themselves.
Such is seen in popular health apps like Japan’s Sleep Meister and China’s Snail Sleep. Both apps focus on analyzing sleep data of the user to give insights on how the user can improve their own sleep habits.
In the coming months, we expect to see a rise in health apps like these as consumers show a growing interest in improving themselves through technology.
8. E-wallets & Bitcoin
Last year has given way to many discussions on cryptocurrency. “Bitcoin” has become a hot topic particularly in Japan and South Korea with many Korean companies having given them out as part of their bonuses but have since stopped due to its volatility.
Japan has also started to embrace cryptocurrency with the increase of apps that allow users to handle their own bitcoin accounts.
In the APAC region, the focus is on e-wallets. Sites like AsiaPay have grown in this region due to the increased use of e-commerce.
As we unfold the remaining months of 2018, we look forward to the increased integration of technology in consumers’ daily lives.
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