Retail in Asia


What are the current and future drivers of Asia Pacific Consumer Markets?

The Asia Pacific economy is expected to rebound in 2021 with real GDP growth of 7.1 percent, fastest of all regions, on the back of improved consumer and business confidence. The path to recovery however remains uneven across countries.

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Uncertainty continues to reign given recent uptick in infections in parts of Asia and the region still months away from herd immunity. Tapping into the demand from Asian consumers will thus be key to the growth of multinational companies in the years to come.

Today’s consumers demand unforgettable positive experiences from digital engagement, tailored narratives to a frictionless, efficient service with wellness and empathy at its core. By putting the customer at the heart of strategic thinking, businesses can give consumers what they want as well as build trust and loyalty, and ultimately strengthen brand image and grow sales.

In Euromonitor’s latest report Current and Future Drivers of Asia Pacific Consumer Markets, 5 key themes are identified that transformed consumer behaviour in Asia Pacific in the world beyond the pandemic.

Digital Living

Asia Pacific enjoyed the strongest acceleration in e-commerce in 2020, recording the highest value sales compared to other regions at USD538 billion, particularly through mobile commerce.

Digital living became more embodied in Asian consumer lifestyles during the pandemic and across all demographics. Acceptance among Generation X was boosted almost as much as for Millennials and Generation Z, particularly when considering ease of payments.

To address this trend, 80 percent of professionals in the retailing industry explored alternative ways of doing business during the pandemic. E-commerce ecosystems’ immediate focus on the younger cohort of Millennials and Gen Z must not ignore older generations. 55 percent of professionals in Asia Pacific responded to say they will invest in digital strategies also for the older consumers.

Rethink Wellness

COVID-19 has heightened the consumer focus on hygiene and safety in Asia Pacific. The focus on immunity is benefiting not only ingredients traditionally associated with immune support but the narrative is changing to include holistic health behaviours.

The holistic wellness mindset that ties in body and mind provides abundant opportunities to consumer brands. Taking greater ownership of one’s health is forcing innovation as consumers look to buy products to support their wellbeing goals, expanding from supplements to functional food and beverages such as vitamin C juices, calming teas or CBD packaged snacks.

On top of the current trend for immunity boosting, heart health will become a key focus. Since consumers are increasingly into the concept of “holistic health and wellness”, food and beverages that can enhance heart health are likely to shine.

Sustainable Living

COVID-19 highlighted the huge role that individual actions can play to make a difference to the world, with stay-at-home orders providing time to rethink consumption habits. This has led to a great behavioural reset with consumers looking for brands that have a great sense of environmental and social responsibility to help make the world cleaner, healthier and more equitable.

The pandemic saw a surge in brands responding to the health crisis with a social purpose due to elevated consumer awareness around social issues alongside environmental concerns. With consumers increasingly demanding companies to play a greater role in protecting not only the planet but also society, companies need to invest in social actions to protect the health and wellbeing of their workforce while also helping local communities and the planet.

Euromonitor’s Voice of the Industry Sustainability Survey 2021 shows that more than 70% of businesses plan to invest in the development of sustainable products, recycling initiatives, as well as employee support programmes over the next five years.

Make My Life Easier

The disruption caused to people’s daily lives with COVID-19-related restrictions and home seclusion led many households to turn to digital alternatives while sitting in the comfort of their homes, while also craving the convenience, ease and flexibility they enjoyed in the pre-pandemic world.

According to Euromonitor’s Voice of the Consumer: Digital Survey 2021, there is increasing adoption of virtual and voice assistants across the region as this helps consumers multitask and make their daily routines easier. Millennials shows the highest acceptance of technology, with 79% of Asian Millennials willing to use technology to improve their lives, whereas older generations are more reluctant.

Improving the consumer journey and user experience is considered the most important commerce-specific development. The surge in demand for e-commerce puts pressure on brick-and-mortar stores which must embrace an omnichannel strategy by using multiple distribution channels in the physical and digital space to create a cohesive, convenient experience for consumers on any platform, at any time.

Search for Experience

Slow rollout of vaccinations and decreased trust in countries’ general health and hygiene standards mean that the home will remain a hub for Asian consumers much longer in comparison to their Western counterparts.

This paradigm shift puts hometainment at the heart of newly formed routines and consumer habits building an experiential home for the long term around working, socialising, shopping, and exercising at home which is indeed the new normal for Asia.

Digital technologies are expected to redefine consumers’ relationship with brands in the years to come and hence tech spending will be key to deliver experiences on a par with consumer expectations. 26 percent of Asia Pacific consumers seek personalised and tailored shopping experiences versus 17 percent in Europe and 15 percent in North America.

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It is important for businesses to identify the future consumer and challenges and to build flexibilities. Pinpointing where to invest and planning with long-term priorities are keys to stay relevant, to build on existing brand equity and to create future resilience.