7 min read
Ardini Insyirah - Aug 13, 2021

Consumer Trends in 2021 Driving Growth in Asia

The Asian market is one of the most promising players in the growth of retail sales with an expected acceleration of nearly 45% of the total growth.

By now, most of us should know the power Asia holds and have seen its trailblazing journey as it takes dominance in the global consumer scene. Some may even go to the extent to describe it as the benchmark for the consumer sector.


With Asian eCommerce giants like Alibaba and JD.com redefining the consumer and wholesale channels, it is no wonder that Asia produces one of the world’s most innovations for eCommerce and logistics.


A study conducted by the McKinsey Global Institute reveals that Asia is expected to drive 40% of the world’s consumption and lead the rest of the world in global flows of trade, capital, talent, and innovation, all by 2040. With their emerging industrial capabilities and ability to produce more sophisticated products, they are becoming less reliant on foreign imports of materials and goods. The report continues to mention that the question is no longer about how quickly Asia will rise, but rather how Asia will lead.


The growing capabilities of the Asian market alone should be enough to convince you that it is a force to be reckoned with. Considering the economic climate that has taken the world by storm, there have definitely been shifts in consumer behaviors. As such, here are some of the key trends among Asian consumers this 2021.


Social Media: Where the Purchasing Journey Begins and Ends

To address the elephant in the room, the COVID-19 pandemic sure has put limitations on consumers everywhere, forcing a shift in their shopping behaviors both online and offline. As such, being homebound for the past year or so has turned eCommerce into the holy grail for Asian consumers and businesses alike.

Bain’s 2020 report shows that since the pandemic started, 47% of digital consumers have decreased their offline purchases and 30% increased their online shopping. This trend suggests that the eCommerce industry has seen improvements in the number of users within the past year.


Social Media Integral Part of Consumer Purchasing Journey in Asia

Online shopping behavioral shifts since the COVID-19 pandemic.


Social media and eCommerce come hand-in-hand. 85% of Southeast Asia’s social media shoppers find it ‘quick and easy’ and most (84%) of whom say that they will make more purchases on social media over the next few years. It is clear that social media is an integral part of a consumer’s decision-making journey, not only in the early stages of the marketing funnel but also at the later stage where conversion takes place.


From consumers heeding peer recommendations to sharing their purchases online, there has always been a communal element to shopping. Interactive social media features kept online shopping an exciting activity for consumers. In fact, Google’s 2020 report titled A Peek Into Your Consumer’s Future reveals that more than half (51%) of all online Asia Pacific (APAC) consumers treat videos and live streams as a way of connecting with friends. This adds a human touch to the digital experience, keeping the audience engaged.

Bonus: Want to learn how to conduct social media monitoring and optimize web pages in this pandemic? Check out this guide ‘Optimizing Web & Social Media Monitoring during the Covid-19 Pandemic’ to find out!


Increasing Support for Local Brands

Asia Pacific Consumers Showing More Support For Local Brands

Consumers have been showing more support for local brands rather than global brands.


With their emerging capabilities to not only match but also outperform their western competitors, the Asian market has found its place in the industry. Across Asia, local businesses are booming now more than ever; where we observe more consumers turning to homegrown brands, resulting in a shift in shopping preferences.


According to NielsenIQ’s recent report, 62% of FMCG sales in Asia come from local brands. The survey shows that Asians prefer buying local to support their country’s brands (49%), emphasizing values such as being better priced (49%), more fresh (44%), and more trustworthy (41%). These figures show that local brands make up the majority of the source of sales, suggesting that consumers are making more purchases from local brands compared to international brands.


Additionally, a Kadence International study revealed that 42% of consumers in Asia plan to continue supporting their local brands, after adopting this behavior during the pandemic. The study suggests that the support for local brands spiked during the height of COVID-19 when both consumers and businesses recognized the help they received from each other in such challenging times.


These trends suggest that while the support for local businesses has observed some growth due to the economic climate, consumers are expecting to maintain these purchasing behaviors even after the pandemic subsides.


Higher Receptiveness Towards the Sustainability Message

From fast fashion to travel to food, the Asian consumer base has had a mindset shift and is moving towards more environmentally-friendly options. Alternatives like Impossible Foods and YCloset that emerged from Asia are a testament to the acceptance of the sustainability message within the market.

For example, over the past 5 years since the 2020 Google research was conducted, the search for “zero waste” has increased by 3 times in Australia, 4 times in Singapore, and 5 times in India. In Vietnam, the search for “used goods” also saw remarkable growth by 7 times. It was stated that more than half of all the online Millennials and Gen Zs in APAC believe that pre-owned products have better value than new items.

Asian consumers are factoring environmental values into their purchasing decisions

69% of Asians would switch to an eco-friendly brand with the same price and quality.


Be it buying pre-owned products or renting them,  51% of urban consumers in China are happy to do so as it is good for the environment. Furthermore, more than half of APAC’s online consumers claim renting helps them save money that they would have otherwise wasted on a new product. This results in an upward trend in consumers who are increasingly willing to pay for more sustainable alternative products. 


With this growing need for sustainability options, brands need to be able to adapt and find ways to cater to such consumer needs. This helps your brand to better resonate with your audience, gaining their trust and loyalty.


Bonus: Build a deeper understanding of your consumers’ needs and discover how you can engage with them better with our consumer insights and market research toolkit. 


Staying Ahead of Your Consumers

With Asia’s diverse profile of consumers coming from various cultural backgrounds, their consumer behavior has always been diverse even before the COVID-19 pandemic. These behaviors are constantly evolving and the key to tackling them is in identifying and adapting to these changes

Social listening tools, like Digimind Social, allows you to identify online conversations and rethink brand messaging with your consumers in mind. This can result in a more strategic and meaningful approach to cater to the ever-changing consumer needs. In these trying times, the goal is not just to survive, but to thrive. By achieving that, you would learn the role that consumers play in your business journey. 

Unlock key insights and trends around Asia Pacific's "New Normal" based on post-lockdown conversations, with a top brand analysis on e-retail, online entertainment, and fitness industries.

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Written by Ardini Insyirah

With a background in writing and public relations, Ardini's passion for stories drives her journey in marketing and communications. After hours, you can find her chasing sunsets, staying active, or socializing.