The Vogue on Asian Consumerism 2014
(An article I did for Focus Weekly, an avantgarde corporate newsmagazine in Northern Luzon)
2014 is another year of shifting mindsets and exigencies in Asia. Regardless of a much-reported growth obstacle, political mayhems, and island enmity, the continent’s progress continues apace, pushing Asian consumers to reassess the status quo. Simple!
Adapting to Asian consumers’ rapidly changing needs, there are countless opportunities apt for the picking. Brands that give voice to the concerns of the masses and answering them win priceless consumer favor–always how it works. But when brands fail to catch on fast enough, expect a new breed of ‘civic-consumers’ stepping in and showing off their resourcefulness.
With buoyant economies, burgeoning populations, and a fast-growing middle class segment (people in the middle of the societal hierarchy), Asia is ripe with growth prospects and is consequently constantly attracting new players in the product innovation game. Let’s just hope that consumers get nifty in understanding their spending patterns.
Where to begin and how, here’s my interpretation reflecting the Asian change within the next 12 months.
Space-deficiency vs. innovations=opportunities. One result of Asia’s unfettered growth and population explosion is the increasingly scarce space to live, work, and play in. With megacities sprawling in this 2014, every square meter will worth higher and higher premium. Take Singapore as an example. The number of shoebox units (apartments of 500 square feet or less) will grow from 2,400 at the end of 2011 to 11,000 by 2015. (Singapore Urban Redevelopment Authority, September 2012)
In the Philippines, one of the biggest arguments provided by pro-Reproductive Health bill is the influence of overpopulation on the environment, with squatter families in Metro Manila alone magnifying the problem of pollution especially on water resources, exacerbated by flooding due to the indiscriminate dumping of garbage along waterways that also cause waterborne diseases.
Dissatisfied with being space-trapped, 2014 will see many Asian citysumers (experienced and sophisticated urbanites) turn their attention to smaller, affordable, and well-designed brand solutions. Remember that the goal for searching for big opportunities is through squeezing more from less, and making micro-living as efficient, creative, and comfortable as possible.
Hand-me-down trade. Asia’s speedy development has created millions of newly affluent middle class virgin consumers. Ooops, did I say virgin? They are the ever more curious and eager to trying increasing numbers of new products on the global market.
But for many, these rising consumer aspirations are set against traditionally price-sensitive mindsets and still with limited personal purchasing powers; all of which that make buying if not outright unaffordable, stretched. So in 2014, as these first-time buyers move up the consumer pyramid, expect many of them settling for the next best thing: secondhand. Intrigued?
Aided by the proliferation of brick-and-mortar retail outlets and by a host of classified ad portals (Olx.com, AyosDito.ph), watch as Asian consumers more readily trade in and trade up via a variety of pre-used, pre-owned models and offerings in many sectors. Whether buying marked-down luxury items, secondhand fashion pieces, or consumer electronics, these consumers will seek ‘access’, only more affordable and less intimidating price point.
Be reminded though that most secondhanders still lust after the truly new. So while this hand-me-down status grants the user a certain amount of ownership today, these customers may return with the cash hand and confidence to indulge the next day. So be ready!
The modern consumerism faith. In 2014, watch as the aged buying custom reinvents itself for its progressive Asian followers with an entire selection of modern products, services, and media tailored to modern lifestyles, technologies, and expectations.
In the Philippines, many young and affluent consumers are becoming increasingly liberal, try-out-prone, and urbane yet culture remains a cherished part of their identities.
Indeed, brands hoping to remain relevant, accessible, and empathetic should focus on bringing these enthusiastically modern yet committed consumers the relevance, choice, quality and mobile-led convenience they’ve come to expect from all other parts of the consumer landscape.
E-mpowered netizens. Emboldened by the change they can individually effect, younger generations of Asian civic-consumers will no longer casually consent the status quo, and instead, they’ll turn to crowd-cracked solutions–the result of new, tech-fueled consumer expectations converging with long-established cultural mores.
Witness the wave of increasingly netizens as more Asian consumers, from the bottom to middle of the pyramid, gain access to proliferating digital devices and platforms. Forward-thinking socially-minded entrepreneurs will already be working with communities to deliver crowd-powered solutions. Brands too should consider how to foster, support, incubate, include, and, yes, lead enthusiastic consumers.
The accelerating pace of innovation in the consumer arena means everyone is now at times. However, there is no secret formula for successful ideas and certainly nothing that can be protected by patent or contracts. Remember that the path to purchase isn’t always a direct route. You can’t just force a person to buy. The vogue on Asian consumerism is therefore, a long one, as consumers need to understand and evaluate brands.