Here we go. If you plan to make waves in Asia in 2019, then consider running with one (or more!) of these five emerging consumer trends:
Asian consumers are solving for happy
Chinese retailers are setting expectations for the best of offline and online
3. ACCESSIBLE ASIA
In 2019, disabled people can no longer be ignored
4. SINGLES NOT ALLOWED
Asian consumers wake up to the urgent issues around single-use products
Irresponsible tech brands and consumers catch up to their E-RESPONSIBILITY
Regular readers can dive straight in. New readers, here’s the deal. The brands and organizations living these trends are already setting consumer expectations. You can too. As you read this report, keep asking yourself: how will these trends shape the expectations of our customers? What opportunities will the new behaviors they reflect present to our organization?
Read. Share. Discuss. But then far more importantly, do something with these trends! Good luck!
DINGLAN EXPERIMENTAL MIDDLE SCHOOL —
School offers additional leave to teachers
January 2019 saw the Dinglan Experimental Middle School, located in Zhejiang province, China, extend its ‘happiness’ initiative to cover all of its teachers. Under the initiative, teachers are encouraged to take two half-days of leave per month to spend time with family. The previous scheme extended benefits only to teachers with children. According to the school’s principal, the scheme is intended to alleviate the stresses placed on teachers, claiming that happy teachers result in happy students.
RIVERBEND SCHOOL AND DELHI GOVERNMENT —
School designed like a village to boost happiness
Plans for the Riverbend School were unveiled in March 2018. Located in rural Chennai, the school’s goal is to teach children how to be happy, rather than offering a standardized curriculum. The school layout was designed to encourage socializing, while facilities like an ideation lab, a meditation room and a test kitchen were included to prioritize emotional intelligence. In July 2018, Delhi‘s government also introduced happiness classes into schools to boost student wellbeing. The classes are free from exams or textbooks, and focus on meditation, relaxation and creativity. According to World Health Organization data, one in four children aged 13 to 15 in India suffer from depression.
JPAN SABAH —
Malaysian Government website introduces free online test for depression
January 2019 saw the introduction of an online test for depression by the government of the Malaysian state of Sabah. Measuring levels of depression, anxiety and stress, the Depression Anxiety Stress Scales (DASS) Test is available online at the Jabatan Perkhidmatan Awam Negeri Sabah official website. The free test takes around three to five minutes to complete and is intended to offer initial guidance, with advice to seek the help of mental health care professionals if needed.
ELE.ME & BILIBILI —
Brand partnership facilitates Chinese youths’ lifestyle
The pressure of progress in China resulted in a segment of its youngest generation feeling apathetic – opting to drop out of the rat race entirely or take ephemeral escapes in the form of mobile games and entertainment. China-based food delivery company Ele.me (owned by Alibaba) partnered with youth entertainment and gaming site Bilibili to offer a deal for this group of consumers. Aimed at video game and anime fans, the plan allowed membership of both platforms for CNY 25 (about USD 3.65) per month and offered significant discounts on food delivery as well as unlimited anime streaming.
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TMALL & INTERSPORT —
Tmall partners with retailer to supercharge the shopping experience
Tmall partnered with European retailer Intersport to open a Beijing store in May 2018. The store utilizes Alibaba’s New Retail infrastructure which covers visitor insights, supply chain management, store technologies, smart logistics and electronic payments. Store visitors can get styling advice from an AI assistant-powered mirror, have purchases delivered to their homes within two hours, and play interactive games. When certain products are picked off a shelf they display info on nearby screens. The store includes a motion-detecting camera that recommends items to passersby based on their gender and age.
Etailer opens its first smart store outside China
August 2018 saw Chinese e-tailer JD open a staffless JD.ID X-Mart store abroad for the first time. Located in Jakarta, the store uses AI, image recognition, RFID and facial recognition to track shoppers’ movements. This is also the first AI-powered store to open in Indonesia. The X-Mart offers beauty, FMCG, and fashion products, which customers can purchase via an unmanned, automatic checkout system.
HUNG FOOK TONG —
Vending machines use AI to predict customers’ ideal tea choice
In September 2018, Hung Fook Tong rolled out beverage kiosks using AI to identify customers’ preferred choice of tea. The vending machines, installed by the Hong Kong herbal tea shop chain, use cameras to analyze the customer’s age and gender in real time, creating a profile to make a ‘personalized’ herbal product recommendation. Created in partnership with IBM partner Tech Data; 20 Hung + kiosks are due to be installed.
Tech-enabled grocery and dining concept opens in Singapore
October 2018 saw on-demand grocery and food delivery service Honestbee launch habitat by honestbee, a tech-enabled grocery and dining concept located in Singapore. Located in a 60,000 square foot industrial building, the space includes a supermarket, restaurants and an event space hosting cooking classes, food workshops and demonstrations. There is also an innovation lab where startups and retailers can trial new technologies and experiences. Cashless features, via the brand’s Bee Pass app or Scan & Go service, and an automated robotic collection point are designed to speed up the checkout process.
DAWN VER.β —
Tokyo cafe is staffed by robots controlled by disabled people
A café in Tokyo opened its doors in November 2018 for a trial run with its new recruits – robots wirelessly controlled by paralyzed people, using tablets or computers. Located in the headquarters of nonprofit Nippon Foundation, the DAWN ver.β café’s robot waiters could take orders, bring customers food and drink and respond
Silicone overlay helps blind consumers use their smartphones
Alibaba have developed a smart silicone overlay to help blind consumers use their smartphones. Placed on top of a smartphone screen, users can press the sheet’s three buttons to access shortcuts for command commands – ‘go back’ or ‘send’ for example. The buttons’ functions change, depending on which app is being used, and the silicone screen allows users to listen to text-to-voice readouts The RMB 0.25 (USD .36) device was developed by Alibaba’s Damo Academy initiative, and will roll out in 2019.
A new packaging with braille for the visually impaired
Global health brand Savlon celebrated World Braille Day in January 2019 with Braille-enabled tubes of Savlon antiseptic liquid. The tubes were distributed to National Association for the Blind centers in India, and the brand pledged to run a series of educative and interactive workshops in select schools for the blind across the country. The initiative built on an October 2018 campaign, which included a national ad featuring a blind man who, after hurting himself while cooking, is unable to locate a bottle of Savlon in the cupboard by touch.
Program Peduli —
Theater piece explores the challenges faced by disabled individuals
A March 2018 performance in Yogyakarta, Indonesia focused on the difficulties difabled people face daily (‘difabled’ is a term derived from ‘differently abled’). The three-act play, which was created by the difabled actors, was followed by a discussion with audience members who were challenged to decide how the story would continue in real life. The performance was the result of a five-day workshop organized by the Peduli Program – an NGO that defends the rights of difabled people across Indonesia – in partnership with a local playwright. Participants included teachers, activists and the unemployed.
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AKYRA TAS SUKHUMVIT BANGKOK —
Plastic-free hotel opens in Bangkok
Opened in June 2018, the Akyra TAS Sukhumvit Bangkok is Asia’s first single-use plastic-free hotel. On arrival, guests are offered stainless steel water bottles, which can be refilled at water dispensers located on every floor. Bathroom amenities are provided in locally-manufactured pottery containers, and biodegradable plastic bags are used in all bins. The move was part of a wider initiative from the Akyra Hotel Group, which pledged to become plastic free by 2020.
Food delivery app launches edible chopsticks
May 2018 saw China-based Ele.me launch edible chopsticks to replace the food delivery app’s usual disposable chopsticks. Made from flour, butter, sugar and milk, the chopsticks are available in three flavors; green tea, wheat and purple sweet potato. The utensils can be eaten or will degrade within one week if thrown away.
JAT Holdings —
Discarded temple flowers recycled as paint
Sri Lankan paint company JAT Holdings has created Petal Paint, which is made out of discarded flowers. Launched in July 2018, the paint aims to reduce waste from flower offerings that are left at Buddhist temples. The pigments of the paint are created using the flowers’ dried petals, and it takes about 200 kilos of dried flowers to make 50 liters of paint.
7-Eleven Thailand —
Store scheme rewards loyalty shoppers who bring their own bags
As of November 2018, 7-Eleven membership card-holders in Thailand earn 10 points every time they use their own bags or refuse bagging when making purchases at the convenience store chain. Members can use their points as payment at the store, with 50 points equaling THB 1 (about USD 0.30). The company also claims it will donate medical equipment to a hospital every time a customer opts out of using a plastic bag.
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WhatsApp & Reliance Jio —
Touring show demonstrates the dangers of fake news
October 2018 saw WhatsApp partner with Reliance Jio, an Indian telco, to use street theater to educate people about the dangers of ‘fake news’. Visiting ten cities, the iconic WhatsApp green wagon played host to five actors who performed a short, funny play demonstrating how spreading misinformation online can stir up mob violence. This was the latest in a series of initiatives to curb fake news spread on WhatsApp. It has previously funded research into the topic, taken out full-page newspaper ads, instigated a multi-language radio campaign, and limited the reach of forwarded messages on the platform.
Government of Papua New Guinea —
Government experiment bans Facebook for a month to research platform’s impact
May 2018 saw the Government of Papua New Guinea announce plans to ban Facebook for one month in an attempt to catch fake users and assess the effects of social media platform on the population. The communications minister announced the scheme following rising concern about wellbeing, productivity and security. Analysts will use the month to collect information about the website and identify fake accounts.
Blockchain platform pays users for sharing personal data
SWIPECrypto (SWIPE) is a blockchain marketplace offering people financial rewards for sharing their personal data and usage habits with businesses. Participants can choose what types of real-time data to share, and businesses partnering with SWIPE reward those users in Ethereum tokens. All information is encrypted, so the identity of each user is not available to companies leveraging their data. In September 2018, SWIPE partnered with brands in the Philippines and Indonesia.
Google rolled out initiatives to curb hoax ahead of Indonesian elections
Ahead of Indonesia’s presidential elections in June 2018, Google partnered with various media platforms to build cekfakta.com (literally ‘check the facts’): a website allowing citizens to verify the accuracy of news information. It also rolled out training programs for 5,000 journalists and local YouTubers to writing and creating quality content, as well as In December 2018, Google allocated a USD 875,000 grant to educate 12,00 students across the country in digital literacy.
The 5 trends featured here are important, but they represent just a small fraction of the consumer landscape.
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As always, we wrap up these annual Trend Briefings with a call to action…
While it‘s our job just to watch trends, ambitious business professionals should read this Briefing with only one thing in mind: how to apply these trends to create compelling new innovations that will delight your customers (and win new ones!).
So, what are you waiting for? Time to make 2019 your best year yet!
Cheers! Proost! 干杯! Salud! Skål! 건배! Santé! Prost! Şerefe! Mabuhay! Saúde! Chok dee!
This Trend Briefing has many hands on it. A huge thanks to the team that pulled this together with such positivity and enthusiasm, especially: Vicky Kim and Nikki Ritmeijer (for design!), and also Maxwell Luthy, Vicki Loomes, Henry Mason, Alida Urban, Harry Metzger, Harvey Gomez, Jareth Ashbrook, Jonathan Herbst and Lisa Feierstein. THANK YOU!