The Future of Customer Experience in Asia

Asian consumers want their time curated, not wasted. Here's how.

The Future of Customer Experience in Asia

Asian consumers want their time curated, not wasted. Here's how.

91% of Asia’s connected consumers – over 1.7 billion people! – share updates and photos of what they are doing on social networks (Kantar TNS, October 2016).

More than 140 million hours (that’s 15800 years) of live-streamed content was posted and watched on Taobao Live in 2016 (China EF, 2017).

73% connected consumers in Malaysia, 70% in Hong Kong, 63% in Singapore use Instagram (Kantar TNS, October 2016). In comparison: ‘only’ 32% of internet users in the US use Instagram (Pew Research Center, Nov 2016)

Wave upon crashing-wave of social sharing has already reshaped the consumer landscape in Asia, though the full impact is still playing out. Status has always been an underpinning driver for Asian consumption, but now (shareable, Instagram-able, Weibo-able) experiences are the main currency of trade. In response, businesses are racing to roll out the most captivating experiences possible: on-demand meteor showers, poetry-writing robots, and fireflies as party decorations (thankfully, that was outlawed).

It’s hard to keep up – you have our sympathy! And while new experiences flood the market, consumers’ time, resources and attention span aren’t getting more abundant. 23% of Asian consumers admit to actively ignoring brand content, and 33% feel constantly dogged by online advertising (Kantar TNS, October 2016). Simply bombarding consumers with more experiences and hoping yours will stand out is not the answer.

This brings us to the full Asian picture. Your customer is more invested than ever before in avoiding wasted time (aka opportunity), and curating what they spend their precious attention on.

Feeling dizzy already? Here’s the good news: we’ve analyzed all the best-in-class innovations that are hitting it out of the Asian Customer Experience ballpark, and we’ve got you covered. The rulebook to succeed in the Customer Experience Economy only contains two pages: throughout the entire journey, every aspect of your brand offering has to impress – either by providing ATTENTION-SEIZING experiences, or facilitating more of said experiences through ATTENTION-SAVING initiatives.

Ready to hit a CX homerun? ;)

Attention Saving

Nowhere else are people more obsessed with making life as effortless as possible than in Asia. The mobile on-demand revolution primed consumer expectations around convenience; they need only push a button (or scan a QR code!) to have someone else help them get things done - from buying food to queuing for movie tickets. And today, automation is stepping in. When closets can fold laundry and groceries can bag themselves, one side of the winning CX coin will belong to seamless customer experience initiatives that make day-to-day living as convenient and effortless as possible.

Why Now

What has driven customer expectations around attention saving so high?

  • Rise of Dual-income Couples: Constant economic growth and heightened standards of living mean it is no longer enough for just one person to support the household. The proportion of dual-income couples in Singapore grew to 52.3% in 2016, up from 47.1% in 2010. (Singapore Department of Statistics, March 2016). And it’s not just economic - with recent waves of female empowerment, more women are aspiring to build successful careers as well. With both parties in the household working, there is less time for day-to-day chores.

  • Everything on Mobile: The mobile phone is now a one-stop control center for the average Asian consumer’s life. One indicator? 94% Chinese online shoppers shop on mobile, while m-commerce only makes up 21% of e-commerce sales in the US. (Fung Business Intelligence, January 2017 and ComScore, February 2017). Customers are so accustomed to having services literally at their fingertips, that they will expect all brand touchpoints (even the offline ones) to be as personal, immediate and effective as their favorite mobile services.

  • Data Domination: One snapshot of Asia’s giant tech-fueled ecosystems: one third of WeChat’s 900 million+ users spend more than 4 hours per day on the app, which allows them to do everything from browse lifestyle magazines to pay traffic fines. So many people spending so much time on one platform, in a place where privacy concerns are close to non-existent, means these ecosystems are gathering a massive wealth of rich consumer data. And with the progress of AI, customers increasingly expect you to use their data, to anticipate their needs and roll out contextual offerings.

3 Ways to Save Attention

Mobile Ubiquity

Brands are rolling out mobile-powered touch points, reaching more consumers through contextually-tailored, friction-free access to goods and services.

  • BingoBox — 24/7 staff-free convenience store in China is operated via WeChat

  • WeChat — WeChat Mini Program gives users access to services based on context and location

  • Nurugo SmartUV — Cellphone attachment allows users in South Korea to see sun damage on skin invisible to the naked eye

Intuitive Experiences

Procedures are painful. Typing is torturous. And those call centers with their endless ‘for English, press 1’ prompts? They’re the bane of seamless CX journeys. Strive to make your customer experience offering as smooth and intuitive as possible.

  • MSIG Insurance — Mobile app allows Thai motorists involved in accidents to receive assistant within 60 seconds

  • Samsung Bixby — South Korean AI-powered smart assistant allows users to manage tasks via voice commands

  • Apple — iPhone update allows built-in camera to scan QR codes

Invisible Assistance

Take a leaf off hospitality’s age-old playbook: the best assistance is felt but not seen. Tap into consumer data and use AI to run invisible services in the background, that anticipate consumer needs and deliver tailored solutions.

  • HP Lubricants — India-based crash prevention system detects incoming vehicles and sends alerts via drivers' cell phones

  • Singapore Tourism Board — Personalized travel guides created by analyzing brain waves

  • Alibaba — Chinese E-commerce giant generated tailored storefronts via AI

Where Next

How can your Customer Experience outpace expectations around attention saving?

  • The Human (Customer) Experience: Mobile-powered, AI, intuitive technologies. These are supercharging CX innovations all around Asia. But never underestimate the good ol’ fashioned human touch. Well-trained humans and highly-skilled service staff can still be the ultimate mechanism for delivering supercharged convenience. Or think about how you can combine the seamlessness of a tech-powered platform and the human touch of an in-person delivery to offer consumers the most intuitive and natural experience.

Attention Seizing

Asian consumers don’t go to great lengths saving their precious time and attention to then spend it on mediocre experiences. The rule is simple: each new Story should one-up (or rather, five-up!) the last. But how to keep up with life-sized replicas of the Titanic, or clothing brands that create cross-building zip lines? Here are key insights to the Asian consumers’ experience quest that will see you soar across that pit of should-never-have-been-created gimmicks and roll out real, meaningful experiences that resonate.

Why Now

What has driven customer expectations around attention seizing so high?

  • Ephemeral Escapisms: Most self-respecting Asians have been taught to live straight-laced lives: study well, earn well, marry well, and then settle down… in a coffin. But times are changing. Wider exposure to the global brain means people are starting to espouse different mindsets. 76% Chinese students say that living in the moment happily is the most important thing (Mintel, May 2017). As a result, consumers are increasingly seeking temporary escapes from the typical ‘responsible Asian life’ and looking for out-of-the-ordinary experiences.Asian millennials go on more short trips as compared to their counterparts in other regions - they travel on average for 4 days per trip, to places less than 4 hours away.

  • Self-Expression: The move towards breaking off conventional lifestyle molds is also driven by the rise of individualism in Asia. More people are looking to express themselves, and while social media is allowing consumers to personify their aspirational selves, the pressure to stand out is ever higher. With 1.5 billion people on social, ‘one-in-a-million’ still means there are 1500 others just like you. 😞 The result? Consumers are now looking to collect more novel and unique experiences, which will let them be different and express their individual tastes, preferences and lifestyles.

  • Status Sandcastles: Thanks to the rise of disappearing-content social apps (think Stories, Snow, and more), Asians are increasingly sharing bite-sized, ephemeral social content in pursuit of status. Now, consumers don’t have to wait for that once-a-month champagne brunch (in a space with plenty of natural lighting!) to post a perfect photo on their social feeds - every mundane little thing can be a moment to Insta-story. Everyone is constantly building and rebuilding their status sandcastles, requiring them to collect a new share-worthy experience every second.

3 Ways to Seize Attention

Urban Playgrounds

Brands are creating urban spaces where Asian city-dwellers can gather, unplug and unwind, meet like-minded people, learn skills and share experiences, and simply have fun.

  • Adidas — Urban running race across streets of Tokyo dictated by traffic signal data

  • Changi Airport Singapore — Airport unveils canopy park with a 40-meter indoor waterfall in latest terminal

  • Xiamen City — Longest elevated bike path in the world opens in China

Taboo Bombshells

One way to seize attention? Address issues people aren’t comfortable talking about. This might earn you raised conventional eyebrows, but your brand experience will let consumers express their non-traditional mindsets and preferences more freely.

  • Amnesty International — Hong Kong-based pop-up bookstore sells only censored books to highlight lack of freedom of expression

  • Dear Zindagi — Mainstream Bollywood movie highlights mental health issues, an area still largely taboo in India

  • Lyceum of the Philippines University — University installs gender-neutral restrooms to promote gender equality

Reinvent the Feel

Re-imagine and re-invent your brand offering or business model in unique - and sometimes counterintuitive - ways, to deliver a novel experience to consumers.

  • Autobahn Motors — Used car seller opens luxury car vending machine in Singapore

  • Maxis — Chinese New Year envelopes in Malaysia made from plantable seed paper

  • Thai Health Promotion Foundation — Fortune teller booth offers health checkups

Where Next

How can your Customer Experience outpace expectations around attention seizing?

  • Whole Package: To truly seize attention, go beyond campaign-based experiences. Your product, packaging, price points, and pre- and post-purchase services can all contribute to one attention-seizing experience for the consumer. Be inspired by how US Autos Singapore tweaked its showroom to give consumers a novel experience of buying cars.

  • Branded Brands: Strike surprising partnerships to delight consumers and deliver the ‘stuff of their dreams’. AirBnb gave fans the chance to stay in Korean superstar GDragon’s apartment, Chitato came up with Indomie Goreng-flavoured chips. What other (iconic) brands do your customers love? Can you partner those brands and deliver products, services and experiences customers will fall heads-over-heels for?


Before you hit that home run…

Bursting with inspiration already? We hope so – after all, we didn’t want to seize all your attention and then let it go to waste ;)

If you want more insights, make sure to give our global briefing a read, and find out how the Future of CX is playing out worldwide. From there you can download the full free report, take it back to your team, start a brainstorming session, and launch your own winning CX strategies. Good luck!

About The Author:

Acacia Leroy

Acacia is Asia-Pacific Trend Strategist for TrendWatching, responsible for trend thinking and content in the region. She conducts lively trend sessions, as well as cultivating the TrendWatching Insight Network (TW:IN) across the region. Acacia's Asia trend bulletins have been featured in various publications such as CampaignAsia, ABS-CBNnews, and mUmBRELLA.

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