Retail in Asia


Forecasting consumer trends for Asia in 2022

You probably won’t be surprised to see that themes around the metaverse, crypto, or sustainable living will be among the top consumer trends for 2022. But what about bast fibres, Chinese liquor, or Koji? WGSN generated a list of this year’s key trends in product development, based on pattern analysis by their proprietary trend classification tools and insights from their global network.

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From a global perspective, the evolution of trends is largely still affected by the ongoing pandemic. Accompanying institutional regulations, new work arrangements, new tech and cultural norms have created distinct behaviours and mindsets, which can differ across demographic and psychographic cohorts.

Trends only make sense if businesses understand the insights and key drivers behind them. Going beyond the ‘what’ and digging for the ‘why’ is fundamental. Trends are always connected to an identifiable consumer desire, and those desires are attitudinal or behavioural responses to what’s happening in the macro context. Here’s what you can expect in 2022.

Back to nature

Indoor trees are a trend from WGSN report that relate to the group of “wellness seekers” in Asia. Lockdowns and travel restrictions have prompted more consumers to seek reassurance by getting closer to nature. They want to have a small or bigger plot of biodiversity at home, and create a benefit for both the environment, as well as their own wellbeing.

Building on the plant parenthood trend from last year, indoor trees will gain momentum, whether in core product offerings or as a part of the brand’s storytelling. Hotels and public spaces have added mature trees in their atriums, and it will likely inspire companies and individuals to put some into their offices and homes too.

There’s a penchant towards sustainability in other trends such as waterless washing, which reduces water usage. During the pandemic, people have started using hand sanitisers mainly out of convenience, but let’s not forget that one in ten people worldwide don’t have access to clean water. One possible solution is a product like Swair, a dry shampoo that doesn’t require rinsing afterwards. Another invention is e-textiles which control the body temperature and should reduce the need for excessive use of air conditioning.

Finding the right products

Trend forecasting is the art and science of understanding and anticipating the behaviour and lifestyles of consumers. The findings have to be validated with data and insights, while the clear objective is to create the right products, and target the right consumers at the right time.

In order to understand the macro context, WGSN uses the STEPIC framework, examining signals in society, technology, the environment, politics, industry, and creativity to collect evidence and data on the evolving shifts in culture and consumption. It’s crucial to identify the innovators and early adopters in a market segment, those who disrupt and transmit new ideas from one group to another.

Facebook, just rebranded into Meta, is refocusing its business towards the metaverse. More relevant to creative and digitally savvy consumers, businesses have started exploring the space and brands are opening shops and designers are customising digital clothing and accessories for avatars. New revenue streams will emerge, bringing about an exciting time for innovation and creativity.

Games and crypto

With “direct-to-avatar” commerce there is already a name for this new form of retail. In 2022, the in-game skins market is going to be a US$50 billion business, according to Juniper Research. In video games like Fortnite, Roblox, or Call of Duty, the average big spender can easily fork out over US$15 per month, according to research by Newzoo.

Meta, the company, floated the idea for its own digital currency as early as 2017, but hasn’t launched it yet. Cryptocurrencies, meanwhile, have taken off and many brands ponder if they should accept them. In 2022, crypto reward systems are starting to replace traditional loyalty systems, allowing customers to earn and spend rewards in digital form and use their crypto for purchases.

Whereas crypto and the metaverse had their origins in America and then conquered the world, other trends originated in the East. There is often a misperception, however, that trends generally flow into one direction. The reality is less binary and straightforward. We believe that now is an exciting time for Asia-based entrepreneurs and businesses to embrace and own their heritage. Mass and niche consumer practices and product trends are currently seeping into markets outside of Asia, increasing cultural confidence, as well as growing economic prowess in Asia.

Not a one-way street

An example is the white liquor Baijiu. A national drink in China, that is forecasted to emerge in Western markets this year, at specialist bars and craft distillers. We see influencers of Chinese heritage excited to lift the drink to the same international status as other spirits like tequila.

What’s beautiful about how trends work is that it’s never a one-way street. Reinvented Baijiu products may come back to the Asian market, disrupted and adapted by innovators and early adopters in the West. When trends have a deep social, political or cultural appeal, they become a mass market preference.

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Trends are never static. Its ever-evolving nature is driven by new contextual factors and how consumers respond. In the world of trend forecasting, tomorrow already exists, it’s just a matter of where to look.

Attributed to Jess Tang, Senior Consultant, APAC, WGSN