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Who is the Asia Pacific consumer?

Via LinkedIn : With the current stock market tailspin, a new question is suddenly on everyone’s mind, and it’s one I get all the time: What are consumers like in Asia Pacific?

On the surface, it’s a fair question. In a mature market with relatively stable performance, readily available, high- quality data and reliable survey respondents, the answer can be relatively obvious.

In Asia Pacific, this is not so.

Sixty-one percent of the world’s population live in Asia Pacific. That’s a large market … about 4 billion people to be exact. It includes 22 countries with the largest being China, home to 1.3 billion covering a land mass that’s approximately the same size as the United States. That’s 3.7 people to every one person in the U.S. The wide ranging diversity of the Asia Pacific destination markets across population, maturity, cultures and languages make it both a marketer’s dream and a nightmare. In my company, we have hotels in 12 countries spanning nine brands and growth that will double our size and breadth in a matter of a few short years.

The most predictable thing we know in Asia Pacific is that every year, we should expect the unexpected.

To add complexity, our source markets span the world and are seasonal depending on the type and location of our hotels (urban, resort, business, luxury, etc.) and the fluctuating economies, political instability and disaster-related events create a whole additional level of unpredictability. A currency crisis in one country, even outside of Asia, can affect next season’s resort demand in SE Asia. An election season in many of our countries can affect a company’s desire to hold an event in that market due to fear of an uprising and the safety and security of the guests. In addition, a transportation disaster or disease outbreak can affect the psyche of a country’s population for a long time.

Being flexible, nimble and close to ground is key. The most predictable thing we know in Asia Pacific is that every year, we should expect the unexpected. There will undoubtedly be something that throws one of our countries into a tailspin like we have now, but luckily, the upside of growth sits with us too, helping offset uncertainty.

That isn’t to say you can’t see some universal trends:

  • Forty-two percent of the APAC population is Gen Y with India and Indonesia leading the way. The Gen Y and Post-90s generation in China are highly aspirational and inspired to see and embrace the world. They are setting a tone for entrepreneurialism and innovation. It’s a population that’s constantly in discovery mode, willing to try new things, and not too wedded to specific brands. Luxury brands yes, — and international brands have always been at the top of the list — but national brands like Xiaomi are emerging fast, especially in the technology space.
  • If you work in this market you also know that two things move people — good food and a good deal. The way to a consumer’s heart here in APAC is food. Food is culture; it’s how relationships are established, how deals get done and how things are celebrated. And good food drives reputation. This is clearly played out in how many food pictures are posted in social media. The way to a consumer’s wallet is a good deal. Consumers here care a lot about value. They are not necessarily price sensitive but they love bargaining and they revel in getting a great deal.
  • There’s no better place for innovation. Mobile functionality is evolving at lightning speed and Chinese companies like Alibaba and Tencent are quietly and rapidly innovating for their consumers in China. And with a market of 1.3 billion, they don’t really need anyone else … but, no one should be naïve — they are coming after your customers, too.

Approximately 2 billion people across APAC are using mobile devices and 1 billion are on social media. Targeting consumers on social media means understanding where consumers live in the digital space in each country: WeChat and Weibo in China; KakaoTalk in Korea; Line in Japan and Thailand; Facebook in India and Indonesia; Instagram in Australia; WhatsApp in Hong Kong and LinkedIn spanning many markets, especially those with expats.

Most fascinating, I think, will be how the consumers and innovators in APAC begin to affect and shape the rest of the world. Doubling the size of Chinese outbound travelers in just a few years will undoubtedly change the landscape around the world and it will take more than just tea and slippers to capture this young and aspiring market.

Are you a marketer in APAC? I would love to hear your POV.

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