Serve the accelerating expectations of city-dwelling Asian consumers!


More than 50% of the Asian population will be urban by 2018.

UN-Habitat, October 2015


Asia is home to 17 megacities, more than any other continent on Earth.

UN-Habitat, October 2015


Asian urbanization shows no sign of slowing.

The implications for you? These growing Asian metropolises present a truckload of innovation opportunities!

Rapid urbanization over the past decade has birthed the thriving economic, social and cultural hubs that are Asian metropolises. And with economic growth came higher spending powers and increased consumer sophistication. The movement of people also resulted in the melting pot of ideas and cultural exchanges so rampant in many Asian cities, from Singapore to Shanghai, Mumbai to Manila.

Yet systems and infrastructure are struggling to keep up with this rapid change. Cue common issues riddling Asian cities: improper housing and sanitation, horrendous traffic, safety and social welfare concerns, pollution, environmental damage, and more.

So, welcome to the era of the Asian CITYSUMER – increasingly experienced and sophisticated city-dwelling consumers, navigating urban life and battling various civic and social issues every day. This group is a prime audience for brands and businesses. Serve the unique needs associated with urban living and you’ll win much love.


Discover 10 innovations raising the expectations of Asian CITYSUMERS



Takeout box charges diners' cellphones

One common characteristic of urban-living? The increasing pace of life and jam-packed schedules. Innovations around time-saving will always be appreciated.

June 2016 saw KFC unveil Watt A Box: a takeout meal box that doubles up as a cellphone charger. A detachable Lithium-ion battery slots into the side of the box, which also comes with a USB cable. The limited edition boxes were only available at selected restaurants in Delhi and Mumbai, or by entering a week-long contest hosted on KFC India’s Facebook page.



Ride-hailing platform offers free cross-border rides

Thriving urban economies means more people from the surrounding areas are pouring in to work and play. One consequence? The movement of people becomes even more liquid, and expectations around seamless mobility will accelerate.

In June 2016, Singapore-based ride-hailing platform Grab launched a three-week test of the cross-border GrabHitch Johor Bahru- Singapore Inter-Country service. Designed to transport commuters between the two countries, the service was originally set to cost USD 6-10 (SGD 9-14) but the Land Transport Authority found paid carpooling to be against government regulations.


Didi Chuxing

Chinese taxi company's SOS button protects passengers' safety

Amid all the excitement that liquid mobility brings, safety remains a top priority for consumers. And as technology becomes increasingly pervasive, consumers will increasingly expect safety measures that are seamless and intuitive.

July 2016 saw China-based on-demand taxi firm Didi Chuxing update its app to include an SOS button, allowing passengers to alert the company should they feel at risk from a driver. The new version also includes a function that allows the customer’s friends or family to access automated, real-time itinerary sharing for the journey, as well as masking the contact numbers of both the driver and the passenger. The new safety precautions were introduced in the wake of an alleged murder of a female passenger by a male Didi driver.


Oriental Princess

Lipstick protects women from violence

Remember that Asia is a diverse region; adapt your innovations to local context. In places where tech infrastructure might be less reliable, brands are increasingly expected to build in low-tech options to cater to the same basic needs of safety, security and more.

April 2016 saw Oriental Princess unveil Lip Rescue: a product designed to protect women in Thailand from violence. Following statistics showing that every 20 seconds, a woman is a victim of violence, the Thai beauty brand’s lipstick can also be used as a whistle to alert people nearby. Blowing on the safety whistle-style packaging emits a sound of up to 120 decibels – which can be heard 100 meters away, enabling women to call for help.


MIT Media Lab & Yves Behar

Robotic furniture suite designed for micro apartments

Densely populated cities often mean cramped living conditions. Rising numbers of consumers will look to brands to help them maximize their limited spaces.

July 2016 saw the unveiling of Ori: a smart furniture system developed by MIT’s Media Lab in collaboration with designer Yves Behar. Built for micro apartments (homes with under 300 square feet of space, predominantly found in densely populated urban areas), one side of the system controls a bed and wardrobe, while the other controls a home entertainment and office suite. The wardrobe can move forwards and backwards, freeing up space either side, while the bed slides out from beneath the designated storage space. The settings can be adjusted, or set to a timer via the accompanying mobile app.


Singapore Housing Development Board

Noise-canceling construction materials designed for city apartments

As cities become more crowded, consumers will expect innovative solutions to the challenges posed by high-density living.

In July 2016, Singapore’s Housing Development Board (in partnership with manufacturing company 3M Singapore) announced plans for the research and development of materials designed to absorb, reflect or reduce the transmission of noise between urban apartments in close quarters. The plans are part of a wider scheme to become a completely smart city, with a contract worth USD 10 million; other areas of investment include traffic light sensors to provide officials with real-time data for human traffic to feed into a wider energy-saving drive across the city-state.



Indian company offers on-demand furniture to hire

Brands are increasingly expected to be flexible to better serve the unique needs of CITYSUMERS. As this innovation shows, the access-over-ownership mindset so common among urbanites will only continue to spread to new product categories.

Rentomojo, a India-based company providing city dwellers with on-demand home furnishings to hire, announced an additional USD 5 million in funding in July 2016. The country has a growing property rental market, and getting the right furniture for new tenants can be quite a hassle. Rentomojo caters to this market, equipping unfurnished properties with the necessary amenities before the tenants move in. As of Q2 2016, Rentomojo had 10,000 active users across six cities, with the typical customer paying USD 30 per month for an average of eight months at a time.

South Korea


TV activity alerts carers to elderly relatives' wellbeing

Another consequence of the urban lifestyle? Increased individualism, the blurring lines of familial piety, and concerns around the aging population. How can your brand help busy Asian urbanites stay connected with their elderly family members who need care and attention?

An initiative aiming to tackle the risks of elderly people living alone was launched by South Korean telecommunications company KT in May 2016. Prompted by the insight that over 98% of elderly people have a television that they switch on each morning, a set top box sends relatives or carers an SMS when the TV goes on. If there is no TV activity after 24 hours, a message is automatically sent to a social worker.



Underwear for couples features vibrating function

Asian CITYSUMERS are also more open to the daring, the risqué and the playful. They’ll notice – and maybe even love – brands that dare to be bold!

In May 2016, following three separate investment rounds totaling over CNY 14.5 million (USD 2.2 million), smart underwear brand Cueme began production of vibrating underwear for men and women. Available through Chinese marketplace site Taobao, the vibrating panties, boxers and bras connect via Bluetooth to a free mobile app. Retailing at CNY 354 (USD 53), the vibrating underwear can be washed up to 200 times.



Food delivery service promotes Jakarta's street vendors

For many metropolitan consumers, the city is a place they identify as ‘home’. They will increasingly expect product and services that reflect, celebrate and echo their city’s iconic culture, heritage and quirks.

In March 2016, Indonesia-based food delivery startup PORTER launched a free mobile app allowing people to order street food from around the city. Developed in partnership with government initiative Jakarta SmartCity, the project aims to help vendors increase their sales, as well as promoting Jakarta as a ‘tech-savvy’ city. Around 400 vendors are participating in the project, with no charges incurred for listing businesses.


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


Spotting trends? It all starts with innovations...

The not-so-secret secret to spotting trends (including this one!). Stop watching customers, and start watching the innovations – products, services, campaigns – flooding into the market now. Draw lines between similar innovations, and interrogate them for the new customer expectations they're helping to create. There's much more on our end-to-end methodology in our book, Trend-Driven Innovation. So how do we process thousands of innovations we spot? It helps to have a Framework...


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 expectations-raising innovations serving the unique needs of Asian CITYSUMERS. But this theme is just one of the many shaping the ever-evolving Asian consumer landscape.

At TrendWatching, we view new innovations – and the expectations they fuel – through the lens of 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 expectations, and for brands?

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


See what these innovations mean...

Each of our mega-trends captures the evolution of an aspect of consumerism. The CITYSUMERS trend sits under POST-DEMOGRAPHIC CONSUMERISM, a big mega-trend around the new consumer segments brands should be looking at as ‘traditional’ demographics continue become increasingly irrelevant.

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


It's time to start meeting the expectations of your CITYSUMERS.


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 a 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?



The greater freedom and countless opportunities that come with city living means CITYSUMERS are empowered to construct their own lifestyles and identities. For more on how you can serve this emerging expectation, read our global trend briefing POST DEMOGRAPHIC IMPERATIVES ;)


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?


Want to tie it all together?

At our upcoming seminars in Singapore (sold out!), 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.