The Pandemic Effect: How COVID-19 Is Reshaping Retail in APAC

Jennifer Keck By Jennifer Keck Sep 30, 2020

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve seen all kinds of new trends as both consumers and industries adapt to the new normal. While some industries have flourished as people try to fill their extra hours at home, others have (expectedly and understandably) struggled. As we well know, retail has been one of the hardest hit, especially in the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region. To gain deeper insight into the current landscape, Braze partnered with Wakefield to conduct an 8,000-person global survey. The survey includes data from Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, and Thailand, and compares consumer behaviors against those in the US and Europe.

The survey found that COVID-19 has had a major impact on APAC consumers’ shopping decisions, with 57% reporting that they spent less on non-essential items. At the same time, 50% said they bought items online that they usually buy in-person. When they do shop in-person, 37% buy from local businesses to support the local economy. Another blow to retail in the region? Less holiday spending. APAC countries are expected to see the biggest decrease, with 60% of consumers reporting that they plan to slightly or significantly decrease spending.

If brands want to drive purchases in the region, they’ll need to refocus their retail marketing strategies based on these trends. Here are a few key shopping trends we found among APAC consumers, along with the strategies that will help brands tackle a challenging holiday season.

Fewer Consumers Are Trying New Brands

While 33% of US consumers tried a new brand during COVID-19, only 15% of APAC consumers did the same. However, among those who are open to trying a new brand, 95% said they’re very likely or somewhat likely to buy from that brand in the future. That means opportunities to acquire loyal customers still exist, if you know how to reach them.

The top reason APAC consumers repurchase from a brand? Better quality. As you develop your messaging, focus on quality over value or availability to keep your customers coming back.

In-Person Shopping Remains Divisive

As stores reopen, consumers in APAC countries have widely different views on whether it’s safe to shop in person. South Koreans are by far the most likely to return to stores, with 63% reporting that they feel comfortable doing so. In Singapore, 47% of consumers said the same, followed by 46% of Malaysians. However, 16% of Australian and 13% of Indonesian consumers said it will take more than six months to feel comfortable shopping in-person—more than double than many other APAC countries.

Given lower consumer confidence, it’s vital that you carefully craft any messaging around the pandemic. Address fears they have about returning by communicating the steps your stores are taking to keep them safe.

Online Shopping Continues to Rise

Ecommerce is booming in APAC countries. Overall, 40% of consumers plan to do more shopping online following COVID-19, compared to 31% in the US and 18% in EMEA countries.

Once again, South Korea leads the way with 53% of consumers reporting that they’ll shop online more. In Indonesia, 45% said the same, followed by 27% in Thailand.

This growing popularity of online shopping presents a major opportunity for retailers who are willing to invest in mobile and ecommerce marketing. To keep mobile users engaged, consider developing an in-app messaging strategy or a cross-channel campaign that drives push opt-ins.

Boosting Sales in Uncertain Times

Overall, APAC consumers are spending less and trying fewer new brands. However, when they do shop, they prefer doing it online. In order to attract new customers and improve retention rates, brands will need to strengthen their cross-channel marketing strategies. Email, in-app messages, mobile push and other online communications are essential for driving sales in the region.

For more insights into the retail landscape and the lasting impact of COVID-19, check out The Future of Retail: Opportunities for Brands in the New Normal.

Jennifer Keck

Jennifer Keck

Jennifer Keck is a copywriter and founder of Keck Marketing. When she isn't writing, you can find her watching B-horror movies or exploring hiking trails in upstate New York.

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