Asia Pacific consumers are driving global growth in both physical and online retail settings, but there are significant changes occurring in their buying habits. Many consumers are curbing their spending, though the reasons vary. Some have become more frugal due to the pandemic. Some want to protect the environment. For others, shopping is no longer a source of happiness. To remain current amidst this shifting landscape, brands must ensure the digital experiences they offer are aligned with their customers’ values.
This article explores various approaches for pinpointing what matters to APAC customers, including using lean research, abandoning behaviour metrics and delving into subconscious motivations. The insights acquired can then be proactively applied to create customer experiences that set the brand apart from the competition.
Lean research completes the picture
If understanding customers can be thought of like a painting, trends may be the broad strokes, but customer input is what defines the image. Gaining knowledge about a brand’s customers is especially crucial in APAC where the diversity between countries and markets is notable. For example, while customers across the region are becoming more selective about their spending, that trend doesn’t extend to China, where the growing middle class are expected to continue purchasing non-essential products.
Quality research is critical to helping brands see beyond the trends and acquire a perspective on the extent to which their specific customers are driving or deviating from those trends. While research endeavours can often seem arduous and expensive, brands can opt instead to use lean research, which can garner insights that are equally meaningful, but for a fraction of the effort and expense. Lean research usually consists of interviews where customers can openly express their sentiments or experiences with a brand and they can be conducted with as few as five participants. Any more than that tends to provide diminishing returns. However, if the findings require further validation, they can be supplemented by a wider, quantitative survey with around two hundred people, which should provide adequate statistical significance.
Behaviour metrics aren’t a crystal ball
There is often a tendency for brands to dig through their abundant data in search of explanations for their customers’ behaviour. But data only explains the past and when it comes to consumer behaviour, the past isn’t always the best predictor of the future since customer demands are constantly fluctuating.
Rather than relying on behaviour metrics, brands should look at the attitudes motivating customer behaviour. This adjusts the focus from what customers are doing… to why.
This powerful distinction allows brands to design digital experiences that best meet their customers’ wants and needs. For instance, sustainability has been identified as a key driver for modern customers in APAC, with the majority taking measures to protect the planet. But precisely how those behaviours manifest differs across markets. In Japan, consumers opt for meat substitutes, whereas Australian consumers aren’t giving up meat, but are instead buying ethically-labelled food products. Consumers in both regions are devoted to saving the planet, but they’re going about it in different ways, and those behaviours will be motivated by separate attitudes about eating meat. This likely explains why the ground-breaking food company, Next Meats, flourished in Japan and went on to supply the world with an array of meat alternatives. Their customer experience matched their customers’ attitudes.
Customers’ true values are subconscious
Since the vast majority of thinking occurs in the subconscious, it’s worth venturing beneath the surface to uncover what really motivates customers. Unearthing customers’ subconscious values can be hugely beneficial when building digital solutions meant to be both satisfying and engaging.
Methodologies like Appnovation’s Value Index can help brands gain an in-depth appreciation of their customers by exploring their values on multiple levels:
Transcendental values move people and typically offer a sense of hope or inspiration.
Emotional values stem from people’s needs and often include desires to reduce anxiety or connect to others.
Functional values represent people’s more tangible wants, such as quality or saving time.
Discount retailer, Aldi, realised that consumers were considering prices more seriously before making buying decisions and responded by opening more stores across Australia. Wanting to save money is technically a functional value and rarely the real reason people make purchases. However, during the pandemic, spending responsibly was also a way for people to protect themselves from uncertainty, which is an emotional, subconscious value.
Once brands have identified their customers’ values, they don’t need to try and meet every single one. Excelling with even one or two can propel a brand to the forefront of a market.
Customer insights become exceptional CX
APAC customers are embracing digital experiences and are constantly weaving between the facets of the omnichannel. More than half of people now do their grocery shopping both online and offline. This increased comfort with the virtual realm means customers expect digital experiences to be on par with physically visiting a store, which is to say free of glitches or errors. A Bain survey in Australia found that website issues accounted for a significant amount of customers’ dissatisfaction with a brand.
To maintain steadfast loyalty, brands should take a proactive approach with their digital solutions and solve any potential problems before customers are even aware they exist. By leveraging the brand’s knowledge about its customers’ values, it can assess where there may be gaps or obstacles in the customer’s journey and then fix them before they’re encountered.
Regardless of how smooth a brand’s digital experience is or how advanced its technology is, at the end of the day, it must serve the customers’ needs. South Korean brand, Shinsegae, has developed futuristic stores designed with virtually every automated solution available, but while the services may be carried out by robots, the company hasn’t forgotten that its customers are still very human.
To keep pace with customers, brands must get to the root of what they value. It requires going beyond trends and data, to interacting directly and meaningfully with customers, and then using what’s learned to deliver digital experiences that excite, delight and differentiate.
Author : Debbie Ng, Associate Director, Experience Design, Appnovation
*Disclaimer: The views and opinion expressed in the article belong solely to the original author and do not represent the views, opinions and position of Retail in Asia.