What’s changed? Insights into a different, but hopeful Chinese New Year


This post was done in partnership with Google Malaysia.

Falling on the 12th of February, and with only a week to go, uncertainty continues to hang in the air for those who celebrate the Chinese New Year. Despite the current outlook, a sense of renewed hope and anticipation continues to grow in Malaysia.

That being said, celebrations as we know them, have changed for sure. Just how much has the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic affected consumer expectation and behaviour, especially in regards to the upcoming CNY – and what can brands do to stay top of mind? Joseph Yeow, analytical consultant at Google Malaysia, answers those questions by diving into some key trends that have emerged over the past year.

High anticipation: Malaysian Chinese are expecting to spend more online, but at more attractive prices

With last year’s celebrations, including Raya and Merdeka being unexpectedly disrupted due to social distancing and the new norm, many Malaysian Chinese are now placing their hopes on a joyful and celebratory CNY. In fact, searches for CNY 2021 have been exceptionally high and continue to grow, surpassing other celebrations such as Christmas last year.

google feb 1

There is also high anticipation for online spending among Malaysians, but as the lockdown continues within the country, consumers have begun to become more price sensitive to their purchases in order to weather tough times – causing value deals to be more important than ever. Yet in spite of it all, Malaysia has seen the largest surge in new online shoppers compared with other Southeast Asian countries such as Indonesia and even Singapore.

google feb 2

Considering how Malaysians have spent about RM8 billion* annually on CNY over the past couple of years, this increase in online shoppers could mean an even higher spike in spending this year, even as consumers become more price conscious.

*Malaysia Department of Statistics (2019), United Overseas Bank Malaysia (2017).

google feb 3

Staying in is the new out: Connecting with others through online entertainment and games

Malaysians have spent an unprecedented amount of hours online, especially watching YouTube videos during this COVID-19 period. In fact, 2020 saw a more than 35% increase in YouTube watch time. While this interest in online videos is expected to grow even more, an increase in YouTube watch time is not actually new – as Malaysians had developed a growing love for YouTube before the pandemic.

google feb 4

Casual gaming has also seen a boost in popularity since the implementation of the Movement Control Order in March. Social games such as Mobile Legends and Among Us provide Malaysians with a virtual avenue for socialising and connecting with others in a time where face-to-face meetings and large gatherings are prohibited, creating a new channel for advertisers to reach consumers.

What does this mean for brands?

Build your brand presence early and consistently. With CNY-related searches typically starting to begin as early as three weeks prior, it’s a necessity for brands to start preparations weeks beforehand. Though searches and purchases tend to peak closer towards the main days of CNY, consumers have been seen placing items into their carts much earlier.

google feb 5

In fact, for categories such as groceries and large ticket items, including consumer electronics and home furnishings, consumers begin their surveys as early as a month to three weeks prior to CNY before making a final purchase much later. This means, your brand presence isn’t just important pre-CNY, it’s also important to consistently stay top-of-mind for at least two weeks after.

For smaller items such as apparels, beauty and personal care, and finance-related purchases, consumers tend to research and make purchases closer towards CNY, with purchases often being made on the spot.

As consumers search for items and your brands online, they are essentially walking into your store – and capturing this intent with a positive brand presence, attractive deals or appealing visuals is key in closing that desired purchasing loop.

Engage with your consumers by being relevant and helpful. From producing creatives that share a core value with the community, to providing solutions that help consumers celebrate and connect with others – supporting consumers with services that are helpful ensures a lasting impression. One example is through the combined use of multiple Google Ads platforms that help you stay engaged with your consumers by enabling you to be there when they need you, and ensuring information about your goods and services is seen and readily available.

Takeover Chinese New Year. Invest in marketing mediums that allow you to take over channels throughout the festive shopping period. This will help you reach your desired audiences at speed and ensure your brand stays top-of-mind despite the heavy competition. Here’s how:

  • Be there: Drive online and in-store sales by reaching your target audiences with a collaborative mix of Google ad platforms such as Dynamic Search Ads, Discovery campaigns, Trueview for Action, and smart display campaigns using a shared goal and budget.
  • Convert: Capture brand and product demand on Google Search via both text and shopping.
  • Accelerate: Build rich audience lists across each event to re-target interested consumers.

The writer is Joseph Yeow, analytical consultant of consumer product goods at Google Malaysia.