Retail in Asia


Meet four types of APAC consumers driving physical retail’s comeback

With the last of Asian markets opening up borders and lifting pandemic measures, the region is set to embrace a return to normalcy. And while economies in the US and Europe fend off a recession, analysts anticipate moderate to strong growth in Asia.

A new report by trend forecaster WGSN predicts consumers will drive a return to shopping in-real-life (IRL), unlocking new possibilities for brand engagement – and new consumer profiles to observe.

SEE ALSO: Southeast Asia businesses must prioritise customer retention

In keeping pace with the evolution of consumer behaviours, businesses have an opportunity to transform physical retail experiences into journeys that are both indulgent and relevant to customers. Get to know some of these shoppers:

‘Sensory Adventurers’

Making up for lost time is on the agenda for Asia-based consumers who have largely conducted their lives online in the last three years, and enhancing the in-store experience is key.

As consumers in APAC drive a physical comeback in store, expect the rise of ‘sensory adventurers’: those “seeking in-person events and craving in-real-life, sensory and engaging experiences, after spending an increased amount of time online,” says Jess Tang, APAC senior consultant at WGSN.

A 2022 study  reports three out of four Singapore consumers enjoy shopping in a physical store. Vietnam’s largest mall operator, Vincom, also reported a 30 percent increase in footfall in August 2022 as parts of the country emerged from Covid restrictions.

‘Thrifty Indulgers’

Another cohort on the rise: ‘thrifty indulgers’.

“As inflation and the rising cost of living impact APAC shoppers, the ‘thrifty indulgers’ will look for creative solutions that allow them to retain a sense of lifestyle, and enjoy little moments and things that bring them joy,” Tang says.

The rise of “Buy Now, Pay Later” in Southeast Asia in recent years enables consumers to invest in non-essential purchases while looking for alternative ways to fit them into their budget.

Also gaining ground is the resale market, which has seen luxury players such as Yoox Net-a-Porter and Mr Porter launch pilot runs, while secondhand e-tailers like Vestiaire Collective continue to attract a following.

Offering value for money and building an emotional connection will need to be top-of-mind as thrifty indulgers look to retailers that warrant repeat visits and purchases.

SEE ALSO: 5 resale platforms in Asia Pacific to know right now

Image credit: Shutterstock

‘Present Hedonists’

On the other end of the spectrum, ‘present hedonists’ will also emerge in the region, carrying the “you-only-live-once” mindset.

“We see a growing desire among APAC consumers to make the most of the present and enjoy life to its fullest post-pandemic – finding respite in luxury shopping and experiences by purchasing feel-good items during the pandemic,” Tang says.

“In Malaysia, there has been a mindset shift among consumers post-pandemic and there is an increasing number of shoppers seeing out physical retail experiences for their wants rather than necessities.”

A “live now, pay later” model is also on the rise.

‘Mindful Reassessors’

Younger cohorts in APAC are of the view that there is no return to normalcy.

“The pandemic has impacted their perspective on priorities, and they are looking to change the way they live, work and play,” Tang says.

This is seeing the rise of a new consumer, ‘mindful reassessors,’ “who look to slow-moving lifestyles and are often introverted, needing more space to mentally process, and embracing a more drawn-out shopping journey to unplug from sensory overload in the search for deeper connections.”

‘Mindful reassessors’ covet moments of calm in the retail experience, whether through hyper-curated selections or sanctuary-like spaces.

Image credit: Shutterstock

While Asian consumers are ready to shop in physical stores, e-commerce won’t go away anytime soon.

Despite returning to in-store shopping, Tang says, “APAC consumers have also grown accustomed to contactless self-services. They are able to move seamlessly between online and offline channels, and expect brands to also have tech at hand to respond to queries regarding the availability of products, help troubleshoot issues during checkout journeys, and provide the quickest way to place orders and receive what they are looking for.”