Joey Khong
Joey is the Trends Analyst for the SEA region, responsible for writing observations that cover shifts in consumer behaviour and providing support to clients across the region.

The pandemic, economic fluctuations, and local and global events in 2020-21 have caused consumers to form new behaviors, attitudes, and values. Mintel’s 2022 Global Consumer Trends recognize these consumer shifts and share predictions on how brands can prepare for upcoming evolutions in consumer behavior. Here, we explore three of the trends and how they’re playing out in the South APAC region.

‘Enjoyment Everywhere’ trend: Finding and maintaining joy in blended realities

Having endured some of the world’s longest and strictest lockdowns, consumers in the region are looking to break out of those confines and crave enjoyment beyond the ‘usual’, with nearly half of Indian consumers strongly agreeing that they seek fun in all aspects of life. This will be especially relevant in the next 12 months as consumers are equipping themselves with technology and immersing in novel experiences that offer a reprieve and sense of joy.

Embracing immersive escapism will require brands to get creative with the use of technology in order to differentiate themselves. One example is Dom’s Bar & Kitchen in Malaysia which has incorporated AR technology in its menu, allowing guests to scan it and see 3D models of their food and drink options. Dom’s has also transformed its interior wall paintings and brought them to life using AR filters for a more interactive dining experience.

As consumers continue to look for ways to enhance their lives, the intersection between the physical and digital worlds will become even more natural and seamless in the next five years. Consumers will find their own balance between the two, with many turning to slower-paced and real-world activities in pursuit of mindful entertainment and pleasure. This will lead to a greater appreciation for spending time in nature and traditional non-digital pastimes.

In their pursuit of this ‘inward joy’, over a third of Vietnamese consumers say that exploring their spirituality is one of their top health and wellness priorities, whereas half of consumers in New Zealand have participated in outdoor activities, like walking and bird watching, in the past 12 months. Meanwhile, over half of Indonesian consumers are actively seeking ways to disconnect from their smartphones throughout the day. 

Hence, the digital realm won’t be the ‘be-all’ and ‘end-all. It will continue to play a huge role in our lives, but consumers will continue to seek physical, mindful, and meaningful experiences as part of their desire to achieve more holistic well-being.

‘In Control’ trend: Consumers are taking the driver’s seat and brands must pave the way

The uncertainty of the pandemic has put a spotlight on consumers’ need for empowerment and agency over their lives. It is critical for brands to understand what consumers need help with and how they want to receive this help. Consumers will seek alliances from brands interested in the issues that matter to them and look to brands to provide them with tools that will make them feel that they are in the driver’s seat.

This will place a premium on truthfulness in the backdrop of public misinformation. Social media platforms are increasingly taking steps to tackle online misinformation, and today, consumers not only expect brands to provide them with factual information but also to keep their personal data safe, a statement that 80% of Singaporean consumers agree with.

We will also see consumers becoming more self-sufficient through the use of mobile applications and body-tech. From health to finance, they will look for ways to be more independent and resilient. To provide consumers with a sense of control, these technologies and resources must be readily available and easily incorporated into their busy lives.

If anything, the pandemic has also heightened consumers’ awareness of the existence of ‘unknown unknowns’, that they have not planned for. In the next five years, we will see the creation of more sustainable and inclusive technologies that will help consumers feel more empowered and secure. This innovation will also play out in larger uncertainties such as climate change and food security.

‘Climate Complexity’ trend: Saving the planet is on top of consumers’ minds

It is only in recent years that climate activism went mainstream, and consumers are calling on businesses and governments to come up with solutions. Consumers themselves are optimistic and want to make a difference with two-thirds of Thai consumers believing that there is still time to save the planet if we act now. However, in its complexity, there is a wide gap between the urgency that consumers feel around the climate crisis and the agency that they feel when it comes to taking control of their carbon footprint, leading to stress and anxiety on their purchase decisions.

According to my colleague, Elysha Young, Mintel Trends Manager, APAC: “As consumers’ understanding of climate change grows, they’ll become increasingly more direct in their call to action. Over the next 12 months, consumers will also start to demand more transparency on the carbon footprint of the products that they buy. They’ll look to companies to provide them with climate-friendly consumption choices and guidance around how to make climate-friendly purchase decisions.”

For example, Australian-based Young Henry’s Brewery has partnered with climate change scientists from the University of Sydney to use micro-algae to capture the carbon dioxide emitted from fermenting beer and turn it into oxygen. Because consumers are aware that the process of fermentation is actually contributing to carbon emission, they will start to factor it into their choices.

As the effects of the climate crisis become more tangible, so too, will consumers expect tangible benefits from claims that brands make. They will more likely be willing to pay more for basic commodities, for example, coffee products, when they see the premium charged by the brand actually going to more sustainably and ethically produced products. Brands must position their products at the right price point and drive sustainability conversation in the right way without sacrificing the fundamentals such as safety, quality, and usability.

The stakes are already high and failure to innovate in the sustainability space will not be an option. On one hand, we’ll see a reliance on governments to put the policy groundwork in place to facilitate more sustainable practices but the expectation to innovate will fall into brands. On the other hand, it will be important for brands to understand consumers’ competing priorities when making sustainable purchase decisions. Combining sustainability with cost-consciousness will be a key priority for brands.

What we think

The trend ‘Enjoyment Everywhere’ considers issues like urban decongestion, the evolution of virtual reality (VR), and future pandemics (including climate disasters) and how they will impact consumers in such a diverse region. VR – which is one of the technologies that make up the metaverse – has huge potential to enhance consumer experiences, but it must be accessible and easy to use for mass adoption to take place. This race to become immersive, virtual and interactive, will push brands to master the integration of the physical and digital worlds.

At the same time, the economic and pandemic recovery, adoption of technology, and prevalence of misinformation will further shape consumers’ desire to be ‘In Control’. It will be imperative for brands to be empathetic and aware of the struggles of consumers, as well as be truthful and transparent so that they can make the best decisions for themselves.

When it comes to addressing ‘Climate Complexity’, consumers expect brands to be the most responsible for reducing carbon emissions and this presents an opportunity for brands to set the standards. FMCG brands, for instance, are already looking to the future with climate-resilient food and drinks options emphasizing sustainable ingredients and alternative resources. Brands must focus on helping consumers make sense of the environmental impact of their purchase decisions, whilst providing some nuance to this sustainability conversation and how it is being communicated to them.

The volatility of the last few years has affected consumer behaviors and their priorities, and this will continue to be the case in the years ahead. Mintel’s 2022 Global Consumer Trends provide brands with a strong foundation to understand what consumers will want from their products and services, and, most importantly, why.  

You can watch the on-demand webinar here, and read more about Mintel’s 2022 Global Consumer Trends here.

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