How behaviour of Thai consumers are evolving amidst COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has taken the world by storm as governments implement social distancing measures in efforts to curb the spread of the virus. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), Thailand has 2,613 confirmed cases and 41 deaths at the time of writing. In the past two weeks, both Phuket and Pattaya have went into lockdown that will last until the end of April. Under the lockdown, people and vehicles are not allowed to enter or leave the area, and the public is urged to stay at home.

While the pandemic may take months to recover, Sora Kaitkanarat, chief strategy officer of IPG Mediabrands Thailand said it could probably set new beginnings of consumers' demands and behaviours. This change may also become the "new normal" even after the pandemic. Kaitkanarat foresees eight ways that consumer behaviour in Thailand might change post-pandemic due to the adjusted lifestyle consumers will adopt during this period of social distancing. He termed the new consumers as "DISTANCE" consumers, with each letter of the word "DISTANCE" representing a specific behavioural change in Thai consumers in the coming days.

1. Digitised purchases

Consumers are staying at home more due to social distancing measures, and turning to digital services to carry out their chores or errands. This ranges from purchasing household products, foods, and other daily necessities from online platforms and having them delivered. Kaitkanarat said that FMCG products have broken the eCommerce barrier during this pandemic, as he foresees majority of consumers will continue to do online purchases for their daily needs, and contribute to eCommerce sales.

2. In-home in style

With consumers staying at home, social life has become personal, daily routine-centric, and has extra authenticity without additional beautification. Kaitkanarat said the demand for "Instagrammable" food delivery with disposable packages will become the new normal for food pictures posted on social media, as well as the presentation of home-cooked food from large families. He also expects a shift in shopping behaviour, where consumers will purchase more items at one shop, causing a decrease in the number of shops visited or delivery costs.

3. Sanitation of five senses

Businesses will have to adopt new levels of cleanliness moving forward. The stamp of hygiene for shops will be in demand to enhance the level of trust at point-of-sale. Kaitkanarat said using sanitising products will continue to be the norm, and retail outlets will be expected to provide hand sanitisers. There could also be an emergence of contactless services in shops to maintain hygiene, such as using voice-command features for shops selling luxury goods.

4. Tech-finance literacy

More consumers will use tech-finance platforms due to their increased consciousness to be hygienic, as well as their need for convenience, according to Kaitkanarat. Consumers will use more digital features such as digital banking, e-wallet, and cashless payment. The rise in adoption of tech-finance will also boost the eCommerce sector. 

5. Anxious about health

It is also expected that consumers will be more anxious about their health, and the rise of preventive health care will be fast-tracked in the country across all generations. The demand for immunity enhancement food will continue to rise at the cost of anxiety, while the search for symptoms will be on top of daily self-observation. These behavioural changes will widen the petition of telemedicine, especially now that nearly all generations are digitally literate. Online consultation in both physical and mental health will also step into the new era of digitised health and wellness.

6. Nouveau trust 

Thai consumers will re-evaluate their trust in established brands, products, and services as hygiene becomes fundamental to brand equity. They will also have more appreciation for brands that do good. Additionally, the demand for the accuracy of information and content will continue to rise, especially in social content. Food delivery services will also experience additional demands of recyclable and hygienic packaging, as well as sealed personalised packaging. 

7. Conversion of media appreciation

The demand of a hygienic world will drive physical engagement media to adapt to the next level of sanitation. Theatres, events, and product-testing will operate in a hyper hygienic environment. Meanwhile, in-home screens consumption will continue to rise due to the adjusted behavior. Social power will be much stronger than ever before with less polarisation, as the sole purpose has shifted and expanded from personal agenda to be more for the collective purpose of the society, which will also dilute the possibility of fake and misleading news. The level of data signals will be much more in-depth, with geolocation related, and with more consents from individuals for the better good, and sustainability of the healthy quality of life.

8. Evolving of home and duty

Weeks of work-from-home has demystified the new level of productivity and work-life balance, work-life harmony. Consumers or employees will continue to urge the home-at-work and work-at-home experience in order to manage their lives in more efficient and effective ways. This is aligned with the future potential of home-schooling. According to Kaitkanarat, the physical reconnection of the family during social distancing measures has shaped the new demand of togetherness between family and duty, especially in a family with younger children. 

"The elevation of DISTANCE consumers can potentially bring forth the next era of physical connectivity and digitised life-facilitation, which we at IPG Mediabrands Thailand are observing closely in order to be one step ahead of any changes that the future may bring," Kaitkanarat said.

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