In this briefing you’ll find a selection of recent Asian innovations that are changing consumer expectations across the region. They represent the five big consumer trends shaping Asian consumerism in 2017. And each of those trends is an actionable innovation opportunity for you.
Understanding these trends will help you answer the question, ‘what will my consumers want next?’. And that will empower you to create innovations – new products, services, campaigns and business models – that customers will love.
The five trends in this briefing didn’t come out of the blue. They are emerging new directions inside a Bigger Picture – the 16 mega-trends shaping consumerism at large today (more on that below). But each one is also a killer opportunity to take to your team right now.
So: read, think, debate. Then get going with building brands that matter, products that delight and campaigns people can’t stop talking about!
Enough has been said on the subject of establishing brand purpose and personality, of going beyond social media chatter, yada yada yada… The million-dollar question: what’s the next thing brands can do to remain relevant and loved this year?
In 2017, brands that BUTT-IN on social conversations and current events, and respond with real action, in real-time, will stay relevant and win love.
Social media gave brands a platform to reach consumers better, both in scale and speed. And countless brands have used social media to extend the coverage of their offline stunts consumer engagement campaigns.
However, after 53,987,654,321 Twitter conversations and Facebook videos, consumers are jaded. So while your social media war room might have entertained consumers in 2014, extra effort will be required to impress them in the coming months.
It’s relatively easy to reply to tweets or post cute GIFs online. Which is why consumers desensitized to brands’ online clutter will appreciate those that complement their online responsiveness with offline initiatives.
*kaypoh definition here!
October 2016 saw Singapore-based pop singer Nathan Hartono make it through to the finals of popular Chinese singing contest Sing! China. He joked in an interview that, should he win, he’d rent Milo vans to give out free iced Milo drinks to Singaporeans. Milo Singapore then responded on its Facebook page – ‘Nathan, win or lose, Milo will support you all the way! No need to rent, also can. Just tell us where, we bring the van.’ Within a week, Milo vans were deployed in various spots in Singapore. The first van at Plaza Singapura attracted thousands of fans who came to wait for free drinks and support the local singer, with Milo prepared to give away over 15,000 cups of iced Milo during the day.
A Filipino bakery has been kept to its promise – made on social media – to deliver six years’ worth of free cakes if a particular candidate was elected in the National Elections. Comments on Quims Cake‘s Facebook page have resulted in free cake-sampling twice a month, starting in Q3 2016, for the first 50 people to register. Participants also need to email their name, age, address and contact number to the company to reserve their slots.
This trend can go beyond mere fun and see brands respond in real-time to serious social conversations and current events.
In May 2016, torrential rain caused flooding in several areas of the Sri Lankan capital Colombo and other locations across the country, affecting hundreds of thousands of people. In Colombo, Uber partnered with Colombo Municipal Council and the Sri Lanka Red Cross Society on a scheme that saw citizens donate garments and supplies to flood victims. Citizens could select uberCARE in the Uber app, and then pack a bag containing items they were willing to donate. An Uber driver would then pick up the bag free of charge, and drop it off at the offices of the Sri Lanka Red Cross.
The way to better engage consumers in 2017 isn't by reaching more people online or replying faster to customer complaints on Facebook. Cut through the clutter and set your brand apart by showing genuine online awareness through offline responses.
This trend, and its examples, might seem fun and even frivolous, but it forces an important question: is your brand actually responsive and adaptable? And again, we don't just mean how fast you can reply to a tweet online. How can you build a culture of agility in your company? Are your staff equipped and empowered to carry out BUTT-IN initiatives on the go?
Ready, set, go – BUTT-IN on some current events this coming year!
Who said business had to be boring?
Despite the ease of connecting to others online, there remain barriers to many offline interactions. On a micro level, this shift covers day-to-day social interactions. Chatting up that attractive stranger on Tinder? Totally acceptable. Striking a conversation with the person beside you on the bus? Entirely weird. See SOCIAL SERVANTS for actionable opportunities around that.
On a macro level, the implications are broader. Yes, the world is digitally connected. Yet consumers can remain isolated within their own national and cultural silos.
So, one actionable opportunity? In 2017, brave brands will take baby steps towards creating a world of truly global citizens, initially by fostering real-world connections across national and cultural borders.
The background here? 2016 saw arguments on locality escalate across Asia. In Singapore, the first-ever Olympic gold medal win by local athlete Joseph Schooling raised new debates around nurturing homegrown vs. ‘imported’ talent. In Indonesia, events surrounding the race for the re-election of Jakarta governor Ahok, a Chinese Christian (and thus a ‘double minority’), inspired fresh racial and religious debates. Elsewhere, disputes around the South China Sea and the India-Pakistan borders remain unresolved.
Can you help consumers address divisions and forge new connections outside their own silos? Do it well, and you’ll win love and respect!
Harbin Beer‘s July 2016 Happiness Without Borders campaign saw the brand organize a series of games between China and five of the 14 countries it shares borders with – in those border areas. The Chinese beer company organized the friendly games event over a 30-day period, serving beer to participants competing in sports such as biking, soccer and basketball. The aim of Harbin Beer’s initiative was to encourage friendly competition between countries.
It doesn’t always have to be about nationalism or culture. For some consumers, pragmatism is all that matters. Think about how you can facilitate connections between borders with practical solutions around commuting and mobility.
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.
Sometimes the hardest borders to breach are cultural and ethnical ones, fueled by age-old prejudice and stereotypes.
In October 2016, PETRONAS unveiled an ad aiming to promote racial tolerance in Malaysia, focusing on the stereotype of Indians living the country and carrying out criminal activity as gangsters. The Malaysian oil company’s clip leads viewers to believe that the Indian people shown on screen are part of a gang – with them buying tools which might be weapons and seeming to behave threateningly. The clip eventually reveals that the pair are actually helping with an individual’s garden and tidying up to celebrate the religious festival of Deepavali, showing the message ‘Let the light in our hearts guide our judgment.’
This campaign was shared more than 15,000 times within a couple days of its launch; to date it has over 1.8million views on YouTube.
Yes, this trend deals with some serious issues. The good news is that consumers understand that. Brands aren't expected to become policy experts or ease regional tensions overnight. The point, then? Small steps and small initiatives can go a long way.
This trend also presents various opportunities, dependent on the borders that exist in the consumer societies your brand serves. These can be cross-country, spanning issues as sentimental as cultural ignorance to those as practical as inefficient cross-border commute. Or, as the PETRONAS example illustrates, as Asian cities become increasingly diverse, the borders you need to breach can often be cultural, racial or ethnical.
Want to take this trend a step further? One consequence of rising tensions is an increase in negative media coverage. News from the Philippines? Dictators! News from India? Violence against women! Breach narrative borders by telling real stories that celebrate a locality and its people, in the place of all the usual negative press on dispute, dictatorship, and disasters.
What borders are you breaching in 2017?
local love —
Why 'local' will be forever loved.
The sharing economy, peer-to-peer, and the rise of access-over-ownership businesses in Asia have radically re-calibrated consumer expectations around resource maximization. In an arena where customers are increasingly comfortable (or at least aware of the ability to) renting out their spare room, wearing clothes from a shared wardrobe, paying for cars by the minute and more, ‘traditional’ business practices start to look ever less efficient.
Smart brands are realizing that the key to sustainability doesn’t lie in million-dollar CSR projects or charity drives. Instead, it’s in maximizing organizational resources, eliminating waste, and reaping additional benefits from your processes.
One course of action for you? In 2017, maximize the benefit consumers get from your offering by unlocking new sources of value in your existing products, services or even campaign collaterals.
This trend goes beyond zero-waste or recycling initiatives, which are simply about waste management. CAPACITY CAPTURE initiatives embed extra value into products during their service-life. Remember: Asian consumers will always appreciate more for less ;)
Some points of inertia are still hard to overcome, even when consumers’ lives depend on them. See how CAPACITY CAPTURE-inspired initiatives can help.
March 2016 saw helmet manufacturer Tanizawa Seisakusho launch the +MET Project across Japan – a country prone to regular earthquakes. Aiming to turn protective equipment into useful home accessories, the company developed a lamp and plant pot that can be used in the home but also function as safety helmets during an earthquake. Tanizawa plans to extend the line with other products that can be incorporated into the office and home.
Put a smart twist on an every-day product and allow consumers enjoy the benefits of the lifestyle they aspire to, without the hassle of substantially changing their behavior.
A plate designed to address the high obesity rate in South East Asia was unveiled in May 2016. Created for the Thai Health Promotion Foundation, AbsorbPlate has 500 holes in its base, draining up to one and a half teaspoons of oil, or around 30 calories per meal. The easy-clean plate was inspired by the capacity of sponge to absorb liquid.
This trend applies not just to your product offerings, but to every touch-point – including campaign collaterals.
In July 2016, Vodafone fitted its billboards in the Indian city of Pune with tanks that harvest rainwater. The advertisements store up to 2,000 liters of water in U-curved aluminum sheets that can be distributed to drought-affected farmers, and water sensor technology alerts collection teams who transport the rainwater to rural farms. In April 2016, the Indian government revealed that about 330 million people across the country were affected by drought.
Yes, the sharing economy is a key driver of CAPACITY CAPTURE. But if you think this trend doesn't apply to you because your business doesn't sit in that arena, think again! Customer expectations around efficiency, resource maximization and value have been reshaped by the sharing economy. Those expectations will spread to your door.
So take action. Look at every area of your brand and ask yourself if any of the sharing economy's business models could inspire you (or your customers) to generate positive value from untapped surplus.
This includes areas where consumers are aware of the negative impact of their consumption, but are still unwilling to substantially change their behavior and forgo indulgence or convenience. Get inspired by AbsorbPlate and +MET – can consumers outsource responsibility to your brand?
And remember: don't just think in monetary terms. The best CAPACITY CAPTURE initiatives will creatively rethink the purpose of all unused assets!
better business —
Why 'good' business will be good for business.
As of Q3 2016, TripAdvisor had grown to over 435 million reviews. Nearly 2,600 new topics are posted to the site’s forums every day, and more than 85% of questions posted on the English-speaking boards get a reply within 24 hours.
That’s just one tiny snapshot showing how much information is available to today’s consumers. Online reviews have heightened consumer expectations around transparency, and businesses have responded in recent years by being more open about their products and processes.
Meanwhile, services such as Uber have accustomed consumers to tracking aspects of their engagement with brands in real-time.
So what’s next? In 2017, consumer expectations around information will accelerate further. That means end-to-end information about the products they buy, and real-time information about the services they use.
This isn’t just about transparency. It’s also about how consumers are getting more involved in production and delivery processes. Fueled by the rise of gig economies, P2P marketplaces and more, boundaries between producers and consumers are becoming increasingly blurry. That’s why consumers won’t expect to passively receive information – they’ll expect their consumption to produce information that helps your brand improve what you do.
In September 2016, Naomaohu Lake Farm in China began shipping melons to over 1,000 customers who had bought the fruit at the beginning of the growing season. When purchasing the fruit in May, buyers were given a unique code corresponding to ‘their’ honey melon. After entering the code online, customers could follow the growth of each melon, from planting and fertilizing to harvesting, via surveillance cameras installed on the farm. Each order cost CNY 68 (USD 10) for a two to three kilo melon, exclusive of delivery.
Can you also give consumers access to information showing the impact of their consumption?
Double A’s 1Dream 1Tree initiative allows people to support sustainable consumption. From May 2016, the Bangkok-based paper brand commissioned farmers across Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia and Korea to plant one tree for every pack of Double A 80gsm paper purchased. Packs feature a QR code, which can be scanned in order to activate the tree planting, with consumers then receiving a digital certificate of their tree, plus its GPS coordinates.
This trend isn’t just about delivering information, but also about increasing consumer involvement. One actionable step? Give consumers an exclusive sneak-peek and facilitate conversations with the people behind the experience.
Available to download from April 2016, Juggernaut is an India-based mobile app aiming to reshape reading and publishing. The publishing house produces mainly mobile-first books, generally at a shorter length than regular novels – with a maximum of 30,000 words. Readers can rate each book in the app, and any author published via Juggernaut is contractually-bound to answer users’ questions. Books are priced between INR 49 and 149 (USD 0.75 – 2.25), with payments made in-app via a mobile wallet system.
We're not saying that, in 2017, all consumers will demand to track their detergents and potato chips. But if you're still thinking that simply pasting information labels on your products or offering a factory tour is enough to keep your consumers happy... think again!
STALK YOUR STUFF is all about involving consumers, giving them access to information and integrating that into the entire consumption experience. Evaluate your entire production process and pick out the points that consumers would love to have access to. How can you let them be more involved?
Identify what consumers would want access to as well – sometimes it might not just be information, but connection and access to the people behind the product or service you are offering. See how Juggernaut connects readers and authors.
Why consumers' voracious appetite for (even more) information will only grow.
Asian consumers are no strangers to messy markets, informal processes, and disorganized systems. For the sake of convenience and efficiency, for ‘getting things done’, consumers have always ‘hacked’ the system, finding loopholes, and doing things that are borderline illegal. And so far, businesses and institutions have turned a blind eye.
2016 was the year of ORGANIZED MASS, with throngs of start-ups standardizing informal economies all over Asia, creating proper systems and marketplaces that did not previously exist. In an arena where there’s an app to hail ojek and a directory for street food vendors, consumer expectations around informal market processes – and what businesses can do to make them more convenient and organized – are accelerating.
The next evolution of this trend? In 2017, consumers will embrace brands that give them legal alternatives to the informal hacks and loopholes they have been exploiting. Initiatives that let consumers have the efficiency and convenience they get from hacking the system, but in legal ways, will win much love.
So sit down with your team and discuss – where are your customers currently ‘breaking the law’? And more importantly, what can you do to help them stay within the line, whilst enjoying the conveniences they are accustomed to?
Holiday season in Indonesia can result in traffic jams that extend to more than 24 hours. As a result, it is common practice for people driving to their hometowns to bring along spare fuel in cans or plastic bottles, often obtained from unauthorized dealers.
In preparation for increased travel following the end of the religious holiday in July 2016, an initiative by state-owned oil and gas supplier Pertamina saw fuel provided to residents of Jakarta in carry-out cans. Around 35,000 liters of 92-octane Pertamax fuel was available in the Central Java area, where fuel consumption can rise by up to 218% in the last three days of the annual Idul Fitri exodus. As part of the initiative, drivers were also offered free water and snacks.
November 2016 saw the Indian government attempt to combat counterfeits and black money across the region by rolling out a policy to demonetize INR 500 and 1000 bank notes. As a result, Indians have been scrambling to swap their old notes, banks have been struggling to keep up with the demand, and grocers have resorted to charging ten times the normal goods price in exchange for accepting the demonetized bank notes.
Businesses are stepping in to help consumers navigate the transition without resorting to questionable practices. Singapore-based Shopmatic released a service for small business owners to skirt the demonetization consequences by helping them go cashless. The platform, Shopmatic Go, allows shop owners to transition seamlessly into the digital space, get their own domains, accept online payments, and get reports on successful sales.
India-based ride-hailing app Ola also started installing POS machines in selected vehicles to allow customers to withdraw cash. The scheme is the result of a partnership between the app, State Bank of India and Punjab National Bank. Taxis carrying the machines will offer the service in busy areas such as Chandni Chowk Metro Station in Delhi, and Esplanade Metro and Rashbehari in Kolkata.
The main reason why most consumers resort to life-hacks and loopholes? The alternative options 'officially' available in the market require twice the effort and are triple the price. Offer an alternative that's as convenient as the usual consumer hacks, or risk missing the whole point.
Local context is also key to a successful LEGAL LIFEHACKS initiative. Take time to understand the local environment and usual practices. The best LIFEHACKS ideas can often simply be taking what consumers have been doing and thinking about how you can replicate the same thing in a legal way.
And while this trend deals mostly with practices that have been around for years, there are also opportunities to implement LEGAL LIFEHACKS in response to current happenings. Get inspired by what businesses are doing to help Indian consumers navigate the demonetization policy – are there recent changes in your market (regulatory, economic, or more) resulting in potential inconveniences for consumers that you can cater to?
human brands —
Why personality and purpose will mean profit.
The not-so-secret secret to spotting trends (including the five you just read)?
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. If that sounds like your thing, you’ll find the end-to-end guide to our complete methodology in our book, Trend-Driven Innovation.
But your next question might be ‘how do we process the thousands of innovations out there?’. Well, it helps to have a Trend Framework…
Too often, professional trend watchers imply they have an inherent gift that enables them to divine the future. Now, we don’t want to be the ones to spoil the party, but the five trends you’ve just read didn’t just emerge from a top-secret, caffeine-fueled brainstorming session.
We map all the expectation-changing innovations we spot against our Trend Framework: 16 mega-trends – the big, slow-moving currents – that, taken together, form our complete picture of consumerism today and where it’s heading.
Having a robust and comprehensive Trend Framework allows us to assess the implications of the hundreds, if not thousands, of innovations we see on a daily basis and that we receive from tw:in (TrendWatching’s global network of spotters) every day.
Indeed you’ll now understand how, while tracking sustainability-focused initiatives as part of our BETTER BUSINESS mega-trend, identifying a cluster of innovations which disrupt customer expectations around utilization and waste led us to the CAPACITY CAPTURE trend.
The 5 trends featured here are important, but they represent just a small fraction of the consumer landscape. Clients of our TW:Premium service get full access to all the 16 mega-trends, 120+ trends and 15,000+ innovations in our online platform, as shown below.
Note: the visualization below only contains innovations added in the last 3 months. But you get the idea :)
While it’s our job just to watch trends, ambitious business professionals should read these trends with only one thing in mind: how to apply these trends and create compelling new innovations that will delight your customers (and win new ones!).
We can help with that too!
Yes, customers have never been more demanding. Yes, there’s never been more competition. Blah blah blah. None of this is going away in 2017 (or 2018, or 2019…). However, trends are the secret weapon that help you turn this overwhelm to your advantage. But you already knew that ;)
So, take our CONSUMER TREND CANVAS, a free one-page guide to analyzing and applying trends. Dive into its simple, practical, step-by-step process to creating innovations that are deeply grounded in what customers want, desire and expect. Then win.