The three consumer trends that will shape success for Asian startups

7th Apr 2016
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As competition and diversity continues to grow within Asian startup markets, founders would be wise to pay close attention to rapidly changing consumer trends in 2016. For startups that have yet to firmly establish themselves, it's critical for founders to understand the changing patterns in consumer behaviour and leverage them to their benefit. Here, we'll look at a few of the major trends shaping the future of consumerism across Asia.

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Digital messaging goes mainstream

It's no secret that all over the world, digital messaging systems have exploded in popularity. Millions of users have selected from the plethora of messaging apps, and have integrated these systems into their daily lives. In Asia, the most widely-used messaging apps are: 1. WeChat, with about 650 million users, 2. LINE, 3. Hike, and 4. KakeoTalk, which averages about 48 million users. As you would expect, this has opened up a variety of opportunities for brands to showcase themselves, reach new audiences, and garner new customers. Many of the apps allow for direct shopping, live streaming of certain events, and even the ability to make doctors’ appointments.

As these messaging apps team up with brands, it's clear that they have grown far beyond their initial function, playing an intimate role in millions of individuals' daily lives. No longer are these simply messaging apps for friends and family members to chat. Now, they've expanded into vast hubs of entertainment and communication, where businesses can make new connections with consumers and nurture brand awareness slowly but surely.

The need for digital detox

While it may seem counter-intuitive to list both digital messaging and digital detoxing as growing trends, both are legitimate and show signs of growth in 2016. Perhaps the difference lies in the demographics – some are becoming more immersed in technology and the app-driven lifestyle, while others are growing weary and pulling back from it. Even among the massive group of digital messaging folks that have no plans of stopping, there is a push to at least monitor technology usage and keep it from becoming excessive. One study by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government revealed that 63 percent of parents in Japan were concerned about their children becoming addicted to smartphones.

For social butterflies and workaholics alike, a complete digital detox may feel impractical or even impossible. Thus, brands are swooping in to save the day, providing unique opportunities and reminders for consumers to stay active and escape from their smartphones once in a while. Several apps like Flipd, Moment, and AppDetox help users track and monitor their phone-time. Interestingly, many of the brands you'd expect would be keeping consumers glued to their devices are actually recognising digital fatigue and finding other ways to reach their audience -- like creative physical products and advertisements, and events/contests that require people to act in the physical world. In a technology-saturated culture, these brands are providing a memorable breath of fresh air.

The fashion industry experiences mega-growth

As income levels within Asian households gradually climb, there's more money to spare. China has experienced rapid income growth over the past few decades, and while it is finally slowing, the country's middle class has already grown considerably. It's expected that by 2030, the middle class will make up 93 percent of China's urban population, creating new opportunities both at home and abroad. Chinese economists predict that this new-found expendable income will create a dramatic increase in consumption, including consumption of “discretionary goods and services, automobiles, telecommunications, real estate, education, recreation, medicines, medical services."

Studies have also shown that a chunk of this expendable income seems to be going toward textiles and footwear. Affordable clothing brands are opening stores in smaller cities, where luxury brands do not yet dominate. The Gap is expanding in China, Japan, and Hong Kong, with the expectation of tripling Chinese revenue in 2016. Meanwhile, Uniqlo is expanding in Taiwan and South Korea. Thus with a growing youth population and increasing awareness of Western fashion, brands must take advantage of this golden opportunity to expand across Asia.

So what does all this mean for startups in Asia? Essentially, startups will want to keep these strong currents in mind when making strategic marketing decisions. The growing hold technology has over Asian culture, as well as the resistance to it, gives brands an interesting opportunity to experiment both on and offline. Surely, there is still much to learn about how consumers want to be approached, and how effective branding can be executed in the digital and physical world. But by observing these widespread trends, brands can at least get an idea of the direction to take.

(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)

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