What a difference one year can make. Following the successful release of its inaugural Asia Lifestyle Consumer Profile study in 2021, retail experts Bluebell Group have revealed their second Asia consumer survey findings for 2022.
The survey, which took place in March, interviewed 2,100 18 to 45-year-old Asian shoppers across several different markets. To participate, respondents had to have registered a EUR 1,200 (USD 1221) minimum spend on lifestyle products in the previous 12 months.
Looking at the findings, some consumer trends and types continue on from 2021, while other behaviours are shifting as 2022 moves forward.
“Last year we launched the first edition of the Asia Lifestyle Consumer Profile to understand the differences and commonalities in consumer outlooks across Asia”, said Bluebell Group President and CEO, Ashley Micklewright.
“With this second volume, keeping in mind the different post-Covid policies in each market, we explore the evolution of these trends and of the main consumer personas in Asia, and dive deeper into some of the biggest opportunities for lifestyle retail, from Instagram preferences to the growing appetite for niche brands, second-hand products and eco-conscious desires.”
Much like the 2021 survey, Asian consumers remain increasingly interested in niche brands that fewer people know about, but that offer great style and quality. By market, year-on-year increases in consumer interest for this brand category were found in China (+34 percent), Taiwan (+31 percent) and Japan (+31 percent).
Likewise, second-hand products are also slowly winning people over, again with a year-on-year increase in consumer openness across all markets, by the largest increase in interest from Japan (+22 percent) and Taiwan (+26 percent).
Meanwhile, demand for brand experiences (through events, tech, entertainment, gaming) continues to grow, with the highest year-on-year increases in consumer interest in Japan (+27 percent) and Hong Kong (+8 percent).
Points of difference across Asia were seen in the interest in home entertainment and home spa products, which gained traction in Japan (+7 percent interest year-on-year), while losing ground in South Korea (-11 percent) and South-East Asia (-8 percent).
Finally, interest in products associated with a healthy and active lifestyle is down overall in Asia, with the biggest year-on-year decreases in interest in South Korea (-8 percent) and Taiwan (-6 percent).
Summing all the findings up, here are the five Asia consumer types redefining retail in 2022.
Experientalists want a full immersion experience from brands when it comes to shopping. From culture to entertainment and content, experentialists want to feel part of a brand’s universe, whether it be through events and technology or entertainment and gaming elements.
The interest in experiential retail is strong in Asia with 87 percent of shoppers saying they would choose a new premium or lifestyle brand that offers immersive experiences in retail. China topped the ranks with 95 percent identifying as favouring experiential retail, followed by Taiwan and Hong Kong, with 91 percent and 90 percent of shoppers saying they seek added experiences in retail, respectively. Japan was the lowest market to favour experiential retail, according to Bluebell’s survey, but saw the biggest rise in interest, with 74 percent of shoppers saying they now are interested in experiential retail, up 21 percent on last year.
However, not all brand experiences in Asia are seen as equal. Consumers from China and South Korea show more interest in retail experiences in the metaverse, especially the concept of brands establishing metaverse retail stores, allowing consumers to buy digital fashion to dress avatars. Contrastingly, NFTs are perceived as more a marketing gimmick and tend to lack credibility, with Asian respondents admitting NFTs are very on trend but are released with no financial “safety” for luxury shoppers once purchased.
Furthermore, attitudes are divided when it comes to wanting to feel part of a brand’s universe, including subscriptions to a brand’s newsletter, Instagram, or WeChat account, which offer consumer personalisation through these channels.
Some 93 percent of Chinese shoppers seek this kind of brand immersion, followed by Taiwan shoppers (87 percent), Hong Kong (85 percent), and South Korea (75 percent). Japanese and Korean consumers are least interested in being a part of a brand’s universe, though interest in Japan increased 10 percent last year, the report added.
The search for originality is increasingly on the rise across Asia, as maturing consumers take more ‘risks’ with their consumption choices. And that is seeing a rise in the Neophilist: those shoppers drawn to originality, including niche brands, mix-and-matched styling, and the preowned market when shopping for luxury.
In 2022, some 83 percent of Asian shoppers say that luxury is more about the niche brands that fewer people know about, but that offer great style and quality.
In the last 12 months, interest in niche brands grew anywhere from 16 percent to 34 percent year-on-year, with consumers in mainland China (89 percent), Taiwan (88 percent) and Hong Kong (88 percent) most keen on niche brands. Southeast Asia (82 percent) and Japan were the least interested in niche brands.
As for mix-and-matched products, or purchasing both high-end and mass market items, respondents in South Korea (91 percent) and Southeast Asia (88 percent) show the biggest year-on-year growth, up 9 percent and 17 percent, respectively, while Japan (70 percent) and China (78 percent) show the lowest interest in mix and matching.
Finally, Asia shoppers across the board are more interested in second-hand luxury than in 2021. Taiwan (79 percent) and Japan (70 percent) experienced the biggest yearly rises in interest among respondents, up 26 percent and 22 percent, respectively, with Hong Kong and Korean shoppers equally keen in preloved items at 72 percent. Chinese shoppers are the least interested in used luxury, according to the Bluebell report.
Unlike the neophilist or niche perception of luxury, traditionalist consumers look for classic items and experiences when it comes to luxury including big names, in-store customer service and increased status from purchases.
In 2022, some 84 percent of Asian consumers say the reputation of a premium or lifestyle brand is key when considering purchase with China (94 percent) leading the way, followed by Hong Kong (89 percent), and Taiwan (84 percent). South Korea (82 percent) and Japan (72 percent) are the least concerned about brand reputation when it comes to luxury, while Southeast Asia (83 percent) showed the biggest increase in brand reputation, up 12 percent on last year.
Approximately 80 percent of Asian shoppers choose luxury brands based on status and self-reward, according to Bluebell, with Chinese shoppers leading the way (93 percent). Hong Kong shoppers (83 percent) are also big on brand status, followed by Taiwan (82 percent) and South Korea (80 percent). Southeast Asian and Japanese shoppers are the least in status when it comes to luxury, with 71 percent and 73 percent admitting status importance.
Finally, in-store shopping for luxury remains popular, with 80 percent of Asian shoppers enjoying the human experience provided by luxury sales associates. Taiwan and Hong Kong lead interest across Asia after experiencing strong year-on-year growth (20 percent and 10 percent, respectively) compared to 2021. South Korea and Japan show the least interest in offline retail. However, across the board, shoppers believe categories like jewellery and watches require in-store shopping compared to shopping for beauty which is more likely to be done online.
Idealists are all about attaining the ideal when it comes to shopping. They want to feel good about their purchases and seek brands that offer responsibly sourced products, in addition to promoting good ethics and values.
According to Bluebell, over 80 percent of Asian consumers in all markets (except Japan at just 62 percent) agree that they will make sure a brand’s products are responsibly sourced.
However, the majority of consumers – 83 percent in Taiwan, 81 percent in China, and 79 percent in South Korea – believe that the lifestyle promises a brand offers are more important than if their products are natural or sustainable.
Moreover, over two-thirds of consumers said that sustainability would not be in their top-3 decision making factors when purchasing premium brands, with Taiwan and Hong Kong caring the least about sustainability, the report showed.
Comfort-me-ists pay attention to clean and natural options when shopping, in a bid to feel healthier and more comfortable in a post-Covid world, though interest in these product characteristics, compared to 2021.
From the house to the body, some 84 percent of Asian shoppers surveyed said they want to spend more on products that let them enjoy a healthier and more active lifestyle. Chinese shoppers lead the way with 95 percent of those surveyed seeking healthier options, followed by Southeast Asia (88 percent), Hong Kong (87 percent) and Taiwan (83 percent). However, South Korean and Japanese shoppers are the least interested in healthier options, at 80 percent and 71 percent, respectively.
Interestingly, all markets surveyed, except for Southeast Asia and Hong Kong registered less interest in healthier lifestyle alternatives in 2022, compared to the same markets surveyed by Bluebell in 2021.
The interest in home spa essentials is also weakening in Asia in 2022, with all markets except for Japan (62 percent) and China (86 percent) registering a drop in the desire to spend time at home and relax. However, respondents are increasingly interested in ‘natural choice’ brands, be it ingredients or fabric, with China leading the way at 94 percent. Taiwan is next at 91 percent, followed by Hong Kong (90 percent) and South Korea (85 percent), which also showed a 7 percent increase in natural choice products compared to 2021.
Gourmet food, and in particular premium chocolates, also emerged as a point of high interest among respondents across Asia, mostly for self-consumption – although respondents from Hong Kong and Taiwan focused more on gifting, the survey showed.
*Retail in Asia is part of the Bluebell Group