5 MAY 2020, SINGAPORE – As the world faces its most significant challenge in 2020 with the sudden spread of the novel coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), one of the apparent impacts is the economic recession that is currently faced by businesses across the globe. Realising this, Dattel initiated the COVID-19 Insights Circle (CiC), a data-driven business support group for companies to get insights and collectively collaborate during these uncertain times.
Dattel had previously launched a pre-COVID-19 study to understand the consumers’ state of mind in the early year of 2020. It is later followed by a weekly longitudinal study, to understand the current and possible consumer behaviours, as well as trends due to the spread of the pandemic. Dattel also leverages its Consumer Intelligence console – Dattel Voyager, to enrich the COVID-19 study. In the study, Dattel starts with the premise that the consumers have insecurities that would affect their priorities, which will then have a direct influence on their behaviours. Hence, insecurities are taken as a marker for understanding the new normal.
Keeping the spirit of CiC, which is about sharing, experiential and collaborative, Dattel shared the findings in the webinar called “Reimagining Consumers: Insecurities & The New Normal in ASEAN”. The webinar, which garnered participation from more than 200 industry players, was moderated by Ashran Dato’ Ghazi, Dattel’s Chief Executive Officer. The panellists of the webinar include the President Director of Dentsu Indonesia, Shubhabrata Sarkar, as well as the Regional Head of Client Engagement of Dattel, Noorhaina Mohd Noor.
“We need to recalibrate our lives, reflect on how there are aspects of life that changed because of the virus. 4 aspects have become highly critical, and they are personal change, social change, business change and change of expectation and delivery in governance. At the core of all of these, certainly, the personal change would be the key influencer as change always begins within the capacity of close family and friends first,” Shubhabrata shared as the webinar started its session.
During the webinar, it was emphasised that the session would anchor around 3 aspects of insecurities, i.e. family, health and personal finance. It also addressed uncertainties in consumption and shopping behaviours during this period.
One of the critical findings discussed was the confidence of consumers whether they should continue their existing plans considering the global outbreak. In Indonesia, optimism prevails for purchase plans, but it could worsen over time. According to the report, Indonesians remain on the path towards ownership, but they are more inclined to give up social activities and gatherings. For Malaysia, the general population have no desire to spend on high worth items or social events for the next 3 months. Malaysian consumers intend to focus on day-to-day needs and activities that keep physical contact to a bare minimum. This pattern points to a slow economic recovery. However, the trends appear to defy consumer confidence expectations in Thailand. Subsequently, the Thais’ demand for products and services of automotive and property remain relatively buoyant. It is established that confidence generally higher in Indonesia, and the lowest in Malaysia. Businesses are reminded to factor in local cultural nuances into business plans because they can have a significant impact on how consumers perceive the near future and their current state of health and financial comfort.
In a surprising breakthrough, it was discovered that across the 3 countries, adoption towards non-cash payment method during this period is relatively low. Most of the purchase made by consumers are still cash-driven, as compared to the belief that people have migrated to online shopping due to COVID-19. It was further elaborated that more than 90% of consumers still depend on physical stores. While it is no doubt that online shopping has reached 30% adoption by consumers, 70% chose mainly physical stores to do their shopping. It paints the reality that the majority of the people are not ready to make the jump towards a fully online shopping method. Hence, switching into the world of e-commerce would still require consumers to embrace the non-cash payment method.
Another outlook from this study is that non-essential spending has slowed down, such as leisure and entertainment. This is only natural since all government in each country has enforced travel and movement restrictions; citizens are no longer taking the opportunity to go out lightly. The inability to visit places and the permission to go to only specific areas has made visiting physical stores become extremely important. Another viewpoint to this discovery would be as the current situation warrants that using cash would give consumers better control of their finances. However, it is imperative to note that online shopping will continue to grow once the situation becomes better than it is now.
At the end of the webinar, the panellists agreed that considering the challenging circumstance that the society is facing right now, businesses need to recalibrate their business strategies. Companies need to understand the change in dynamics between essential and non-essential products. More importantly, household products in the market that have common usage will become more stable, while products for individual indulgence are less likely to thrive. Hence, companies are recommended to reassess on the importance of value in consumer’s daily life, and they are not necessarily on the price war. Next, healthcare investments such as insurance coverage will see a rise, especially those with short-term benefits.
Additionally, the use of vanity products for conspicuous purposes such as garments, shoes, travel, fine dining, and accommodation is likely to slow down. However, these products and services may see an immediate spike when the movement restrictions end. On the other side of the business, companies should reassess internal HR policies to become more healthcare-oriented. And finally, re-orientation of budgets should be taken into high consideration – companies should adopt an approach of reducing profit margins rather than cost-reduction to get through 2020.
Dattel’s CEO, Ashran Dato’ Ghazi, said that Dattel’s Consumer Intelligence team is currently tracking the possible new normal of consumer behaviours by looking into the changes in the state of mind monthly and patterns of consumer behaviour weekly. “CiC is a community. Our role here is to share data and a perspective of insights so that as a collective, we can support each other. I am happy to see that it has proven to be beneficial by virtue of the interactions by the attendees. We are optimistic, more useful and unique insights will be shared across soon when we have our webinar session next.”
COVID-19 Insights Circle (CiC) is open to businesses that want to get empowered by the latest data on consumers. It is supported by corporate partners Dentsu Indonesia, BritCham Indonesia, Malaysian Global Innovation & Creativity Centre (MaGIC), Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC), MIX Marketing Communications, Media Prima Digital, Marketing Oops! and Malaysian Retail Chain Association (MRCA). Circle members will receive copies of the full report, get 1-month complimentary access to Consumer Intelligence console – Dattel Voyager and are eligible to provide inputs for topics to be included in the continuous study. To sign up at no cost, proceed to cic.dattel.asia.
Dattel is a leading Consumer Intelligence company that gathers and provides omnichannel consumer data for a holistic understanding of ASEAN consumers. With Dattel’s suite of products and services and the expertise to provide behavioural and attitudinal data across 10 lifestyle verticals, Dattel empowers businesses with a holistic and nuanced understanding of ASEAN consumers that allow them to add value to their existing and new customers.