5 actions brands can take to reach customers in SEA today

This post is sponsored by MetrixLab.

How are Southeast Asian markets coping with the impact of COVID-19? How are consumer habits adapting, and what are the implications for brands? And finally, how can brands be a force for good as people navigate the long road ahead? These are some key questions being addressed in an ongoing Understanding the New Normal consumer insight tracking program (running April 2020-March 2021 by MetrixLab).

According to this data, consumers in Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam, in particular, look up to brands to make a positive impact more so than consumers from the rest of the world.

Most people believe that businesses should focus their resources on helping people during this time, and the brands that succeed will be those who can authentically demonstrate that they are doing their part to engage and support consumers throughout the changes in their lives and the road ahead.

For many Southeast Asians, the biggest triggers of change are that home-based activities are the new norm and that consumers are really valuing healthier and more convenient solutions when it comes to food and lifestyle.

Leveraging this tracker data (including survey data, social insights and external sources), here are five tips for brands to make sure they can best support their consumers in Southeast Asia and be a force for good as these changes take root while we ride out COVID-19.

1. Digitise and build an online presence

With lockdown measures still in place for many SEA countries, people have adapted by taking part in more home-based activities (general cleaning and tidying, watching films and TV series, reading, working from home and homeschooling) and by purchasing items from many categories online. It may seem like a given, but as consumers are staying home, it’s crucial to digitise your platform and touch-points and build an online presence in order to reach them.

2. Support changes in consumers’ habits

Beyond making sure your brand presence carries through online to reach consumers at home, helping people adapt to lockdown measures in other ways will help them ease into the changes to their habits and lifestyles.

One huge trend for consumers in SEA is a renewed focus on health and convenience when it comes to food. While convenience is a top priority, SEA consumers are also placing more importance on preparing healthier meals and being more creative with their food.

A large majority of consumers report that they enjoy trying new recipes and being more creative with food, as well as attaching importance to having foods in the house that help them prepare quick meals. Brands can help by sharing simplified cooking hacks and meals or simplifying the purchase and usage journey.

3. Educate consumers to make smart and healthy decisions

With Southeast Asians valuing healthy eating more than ever before (72% report they are much more conscious about their daily nutritional intake compared with 50% globally), brands can also play a big role in educating and supporting people in making healthier choices. Over half of SEA consumers expect that brands provide information on how people can improve their health these days.

Lifebuoy, for example, launched a campaign in Vietnam with a dancing mum and her two children that serves as a public awareness campaign about the importance of stepping up good hygiene practices. It features a six-step handwashing dance to educate children positively to wash their hands the proper way.

Meanwhile, 82% of SEA consumers report they have learned more about staying healthy and plan to keep these new habits in the future, so there is a big opportunity for brands to accompany people on that journey.

4. Seek partnership opportunities that are complementary

Brands can support the messages they send by being on the lookout for partnerships that add value in helping consumers through the pandemic. As people’s lifestyles today are marked by spending more time at home or online, and with a renewed focus on health, some brands have partnered with or are leveraging online streaming platforms to push creative and convenient food recipes for a win-win combination.

5. Celebrate small wins and spread positivity with consumers

Another way brands can leverage digital platforms is by spreading positive vibes by celebrating small successes via social media platforms. By encouraging people to try new recipes or reach other health and wellness goals, brands can engage directly as a way to show consumers they empathise and that we’re still in this journey together.

Maybelline Thailand used augmented reality to launch its new #SpreadGoodVibes campaign to spread positivity digitally during the pandemic while lockdowns are still in place. The brand recruited five influencers to create make-up looks that are in line with the brand’s pillars of “strength, passion and positivity”, and at the same time, to take care of consumers’ emotional wellbeing at home.

In the past months, the world has seen both consumers and brands respond to the changes and challenges brought on by COVID-19 with flexibility and resilience. Southeast Asian consumers in particular are embracing more creative at-home activities such as cooking, and taking this opportunity to make healthier food and lifestyle choices. The brands that serve them can follow suit by adapting alongside them to provide the messaging and support that reflect these shifts.