10 innovations that are shaping consumer expectations from Bangkok to Beijing!


Staying ahead of Asia's innovation curve can feel impossible.

Hundreds of innovations are popping up around the region, even as you read this Briefing. Keeping track of them is an uphill battle. And then when you DO spot an innovation that's really interesting, there's another challenge: working out what it means for YOU.


That's why analyzing emerging expectations is the key.

Spotting innovations is great fun but, taken alone, they won't give you actionable insights on your next move. For that, you need to start analyzing the new customer expectations that these innovations create.


When it comes to customer expectations, the only constant is change.

And by change, we mean acceleration ;)

Innovations – new products, services, campaigns, experiences, business models – keep pouring into the market. Why should you care?

Because game-changing innovations create new customer expectations. And once created, new expectations spread across markets, industries and demographics. Eventually, they’ll spread all the way to your customers – and to your door!

In the first half of this year, our content teams and TW:IN, our network of trend-savvy spotters, have captured thousands of consumer-facing innovations from all over Asia.

And now we’re about to look at ten of the most expectation-raising among them. Your job is simple: for every innovation, remember to look beyond what, and think: what does it mean? Strip out the underlying lessons about changing customer expectations and consider how they will impact YOU.

And yes, we’ll be providing some ideas of our own!

Remember, this isn't a list of the most successful Asian innovations.

We're not saying these are the ten innovations that will rake in the most profit or gain the most market share in Asia in 2016. Rather, we've chosen them because the expectations they're helping to create WILL shape Asian consumerism for the rest of the year and beyond. So remember, keep thinking expectations!



Meet your competition in the race to exceed customer expectations.



Fully autonomous taxi fleet to be trialed in Singapore

Self-driving cars are well established as a tech trend set to reshape our cities and our economies. But when people hear about the world’s first fully autonomous taxi service, that will only accelerate their expectation that every brand should use technology to make their service easier, faster, more frictionless.

April 2016 saw nuTonomy announce plans to trial a fully autonomous taxi service in Singapore. During the pilot, participants will be able to request a self-driving car via a dedicated mobile app, enter their destination, and be dropped off – all without interacting with another person. The pilot was announced after a driverless nuTonomy taxi passed its first ‘driving test’ by navigating a custom obstacle course without incident. US-based nuTonomy is part of MIT and, in January 2016, the startup received USD 3.6 million in seed funding.


Longhua Funeral Parlor

Funeral parlor unveils 3D printing service

Some of the innovations you see around you each day may seem niche or downright bizarre. Remember, it’s not about YOUR preferences; it’s about customer expectations. With that in mind, here’s a brand using new technology to transform a very traditional service…

In March 2016, Shanghai’s Longhua Funeral Parlor introduced 3D printing to repair damaged bodies in preparation for funerals. In the first instance of its kind in China, 3D printing is used to lay down successive layers of plastic, with the technology being used to create realistic hair or facial features. Prices start at CNY 4000-5000 (USD 618-773).


JWT Bangkok, Samsung and Thammasat University

New braille ink can be used in conventional printers

Rising numbers of consumers already expect brands to use technology to make life better. This innovation raises a more specific question: what is your brand doing to ensure it is truly accessible to everyone?

Touchable Ink, a tactile printer ink benefiting the visually impaired, was created by ad agency J. Walter Thompson Bangkok, Samsung and Thammasat University. Intended for use with ordinary paper, the ink expands in specific thermal conditions resulting in an embossed effect that can be felt with the fingertips. Touchable Ink can be used in conventional printers, dispensing with the need for specialized braille machines. Testing began on the ink at the Thailand Association for the Blind in Q2 2016.

Hong Kong


Fast food chain unveils edible nail colors

Searching for new forms of status display, some consumers are playfully embracing loud and public declarations of brand fandom. KFC are serving their brand fans; are you serving yours?

May 2016 saw KFC announce the launch of two edible nail polishes for customers in Hong Kong. The polishes are made with natural ingredients and come in two varieties and colors: Original and Hot & Spicy. Once consumers have applied the polish and allowed it to dry, then can then lick their nails again and again to enjoy the flavor of KFC chicken. The fast food chain invited consumers to vote and select their favorite flavor to go into mass production in Hong Kong.


Kuala Lumpur City Hall

Abandoned vehicles reported via WhatsApp

Rising numbers of people are looking to brands to help make the world a better place. The smartest brands will make as easy as possible for consumers to contribute to this effort. Is that you?

In March 2016, Kuala Lumpur City Hall announced an initiative to help identify abandoned vehicles in the Malaysian city. Members of the public are invited to send an alert to the local council via messaging app WhatsApp, including the location and details of the vehicle. Previously, people could communicate with the council via phone call only.


United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Philippines

Web browser button builds awareness of refugee crisis

One role that consumers increasingly expect brands to take on is to help them do good – for themselves as well as for society and the planet.

April 2016 saw the launch of a digital innovation intended to help raise awareness of the refugee crisis in the Philippines. Created by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Philippines, the UNHome Button can be embedded in a range of local websites and blogs, and when clicked, it offers users the option of learning more about the refugee crisis and how they can help, or continuing to the homepage of the site they are on.


Starbucks, Dairy Queen, and more

Brands reward citizens for voting in national elections

Yes, consumers are looking to brands to make the world a better place. But they’re also looking for brands to push everyone to be better. And when customers see this simple play from Starbucks and others, they’ll wonder how engaging with your brand helps them become a better person.

In May 2016, multiple brands in the Philippines offered rewards to citizens who voted in the national elections. Dairy Queen gave customers a free upgrade from a regular to a medium Blizzard on certain flavors, while Starbucks offered a buy-one-take-one promotion on selected beverages. Consumers needed to show their ink stained index finger on the day of the election to prove that they had voted.


Chitato and Indomie

Brands partner up to create iconic noodle-flavored chips

Sometimes the key to delighting your customers is striking the right brand partnership. What unexpected partnership can lead you towards your next winning innovation?

In February 2016, potato chip brand Chitato partnered with instant noodle brand Indomie on Indomie Goreng Chitatos: a special packet of limited edition chips. Priced at around IDR 8,000 (USD 0.60), the chips were flavored with the taste of Indomie’s iconic fried noodles, which has an international following and on numerous occasions been given the title of best fried instant noodles. Both brands are owned by Indonesia-based food manufacturer, Indofood.



Company links unmarried couples with hotel rooms

Old social norms are being challenged in even in the most traditional societies. Now, many consumers are looking to brands to support and empower those who are living life on their own terms. And when your customers see some brands doing just that, they look at you with new expectations…

New Delhi-based StayUncle partners with hotels to offer unmarried couples hotel rooms on an hourly or nightly basis. When the company originally launched in 2015, it catered to travelers looking for stays of under 24 hours. In 2016, StayUncle turned its attention to unmarried local couples seeking privacy, with rooms available at over 30 hotels in New Delhi and Mumbai. Young unmarried couples in the city have been subject to attacks by conservative residents who are against public displays of affection.



Skincare brand's campaign challenges idea of 'leftover women'

Rising numbers of consumers are looking to brands to empower women to achieve full equality. It’s a trend we’ve been tracking for a while now ;) So when consumers see this Chinese skincare brand taking on a sexist stereotype with a film that is genuinely subtle and touching, how will they feel about your current marketing?

April 2016 saw luxury skincare brand SK-II launch a campaign in China challenging the term ‘leftover women’ (a derogatory name often used to shame unmarried Chinese women in their mid-twenties). The campaign included a four-minute film that highlighted women who refuse to conform to social pressure, celebrating those who are independent, self-sufficient and proudly single. The campaign featured on a popular Chinese matchmaking forum where parents can exchange details of their unmarried offspring. The video notched up more than 11 million global views.


When it comes to understanding new customer expectations, a little context goes a long way...

The Trend Framework

16 mega-trends that provide context and structure when tracking and spotting innovations in the market.

So we’ve looked at ten innovations and the emerging expectations they are giving rise to. But each innovation is just a single dot that makes up a far bigger picture: that is, the continuously evolving Asian consumer arena.

At TrendWatching, we view new innovations – and the expectations they fuel – through the lens of a our 16 mega-trends. These mega-trends are the big, slow-moving currents in the consumer arena and, when taken together, they form the Trend Framework: our complete picture of consumerism today and where it’s heading.

This Framework helps us make sense of what each innovation means. What trend(s) is this innovation riding? How will this innovation – and others like it – push those trends to evolve? What does this mean for customer expectation, and for brands?

Grab a glimpse of the Trend Framework below (clients of our Premium Service have full access).


See what these innovations mean...

Each of our mega-trends captures the evolution of an aspect of consumerism. Via YOUNIVERSE, for example, we track the evolution of expectations around personalization. In INFOLUST we look at the on-going consumer quest for increasingly perfect information.

And we will keep tracking how these themes evolve over time, as we receive more innovations through TW:IN – our global network of trend-savvy spotters.

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Time to start MEETING some expectations.


Take these expectations and IDEATE!

We've highlighted ten innovations, and glimpsed the new customer expectations they are helping to create. So grab your team, brew some coffee, set aside and morning and start ideating! Why not choose the innovation that speaks to you most and ask: how could WE innovate to meet this emerging expectation?


Want to tie it all together?

At our upcoming seminars in Singapore, Sydney and Chicago, you'll hear about the trends that these innovations - and others like them - are informing. And come away armed with the full trend-led methodology that will allow you to prosper in the EXPECTATION ECONOMY.


New expectations can come from anywhere!

And today, customer expectations cross geographical borders faster than ever. So why not broaden your (G)LOCAL trend sources and subscribe to our free Global, South & Central America and Africa Trend Briefings?