Personalities remain true to tribal colours

Marketers aiming to crack the growing retail sector in Asia should avoid targeting consumers by individual territories and focus on the four brand tribes identified by recent research.


Shopping on the high street might be the norm for European and US consumers, who are increasingly turning to the world of online retail to escape what many see as a mundane chore.

But in key developing Asian markets, the novelty of the shopping mall and supermarket has yet to wear off. Asian shoppers are enticed, engaged and excited by the array of choice that can be found on the high street.

The retail outlet is therefore a crucial area for experiencing new brands and products, according to marketing agency Grey, which has just released its 2010 Eye on Asia Retail study. This means there are opportunities for marketers to give a new lease of life to traditional in-store marketing and experiential techniques.

But in doing this, marketers should look to understand Asian consumer mindsets, and not just target this sector by geographical markets, advises Grey Asia Pacific chief strategy officer Bindu Sethi. To maximise the success of new product launches, brands should appeal to a particular “tribe” of Asian shoppers that Grey has identified as part of its study of 2,100 consumers from China, India, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Vietnam and Australia.

Four tribes have been identified to distinguish how different types of shoppers make decisions about what they buy in store.

“Engaged info seekers”, “loyal listers”, “whim indulgers” and “passive value fans” are the four personality types identified in the research. Sethi says that developing marketing collateral with these tribes in mind will help give businesses “a clearer vision on how to gauge the effectiveness of in-store communications, which will enable microtargeting of in-store messaging based on the tribe they intend to reach”.

“Messaging can be developed based on the tribes’ propensity for list making, information gathering, in-store promotional sensitivity and purchase frequency,” she adds.

Engaged info seekers are the largest Asian shopping tribe identified in this survey, with 28% of the respondents classed as this type of shopper personality.

These shoppers want product knowledge to be presented to them in store to help them to choose which brands to put in their shopping basket, says Sethi. “In-store information that builds a stronger sense of value and highlights key product benefits is most likely to influence their decisions.”

This tribe is most prominent in China, where 55% of consumers are classed as engaged info seekers. In South Korea 44% of shoppers fall into this category, compared with 34% of consumers in Malaysia.

There is, therefore, a big opportunity for brands to use in-store sampling to satisfy the needs of this type of Asian shopper. “One of the key insights is a demand for trial packs to introduce consumers to new categories,” explains Sethi. “We are seeing the opening of the food space in India and China for the first time. People are saying they want to try, test and taste – they are willing to explore new things and be adventurous,” she adds.

The desire to spend time trying new things is also resulting in Asian shoppers spending a long time browsing stores. Korean and Chinese shoppers spend an average of 65 minutes in a supermarket, while Indonesians spend as much as 85 minutes in a store, Sethi points out.

Overall, 73% of brand choices are made in-store, according to the study, highlighting how consumers in these markets are open to new brands, and are influenced most at the point of purchase.

However, the next largest Asian shopper tribe is the loyal lister, making up 26% of the whole group surveyed and coming largely from India, Indonesia and Vietnam. This group meticulously plans their shopping trips by looking for recommendations from family and friends and has a roster of trusted brands that they would pay more for. Sixty-one per cent of Indian consumers are most likely to be this type of shopper, along with 42% of Indonesian consumers and 29% of Vietnamese shoppers.

Discount promotion deals may have the biggest appeal to the loyal lister in Indonesia, Vietnam, Malaysia, Korea and Japan, but Sethi warns that marketers should not over-rely on this tactic: “Promotions are popular but a lot of consumers in Asia are wary of constant price promotions – if a product is always on offer they will question its quality.”

However, the price promotion, combined with sampling, could tempt the whim indulger, which makes up 24% of the study’s respondents.

The whim indulger enjoys the experience of shopping to the extent that they class it as a hobby. Seeking new discoveries and living for variety motivate these shoppers. Forty-four per cent of Japanese consumers in the study are classed as whim indulgers, alongside 37% of Indonesian consumers and 29% of Koreans.

“The whim indulger is very exciting for marketers because this tribe allows supermarkets to offer suggestions for people looking for dinner options to take home,” says Sethi.

However, marketers should resist the urge to provide too much information and stimulation to Asian shoppers. While 77% overall said they were seeking product information while shopping, they warned that they did not want to be approached by intrusive staff.

Word of mouth

Communication from brands and retailers that reaches consumers before they step into a store is most valuable for “passive value fans”. This group tends to have low participation in store, but seeks detailed information on the products they buy prior to their shopping trip, either through word of mouth, or catalogues and newspapers. They are well informed of what daily promotions are offered by their preferred stores so they get the best deals, Sethi adds.

Australians and Malaysians have a core tribe of passive value fans, with 22% of consumers in the report hailing from these countries. A surprising 51% of Australian participants in this study are deemed passive value fans, along with 32% of Malaysians.

As a mature market, Australians might have more money than their true Asian counterparts, but Sethi says: “My sense of Australian consumers is that they are very practical – they know the truth about marketing and advertising and can’t be easily convinced by hype, which is why they are largely passive value fans.”

The challenge for marketers, then, is to get the right balance to appease the whole spectrum of shopper tribes.

Brands could play to different characteristics of these individual shopper tribes during a launch, Sethi suggests. For example, marketers could use newspapers and store catalogues to entice passive value fans and loyal listers to enter a store. Brands could then use the in-store environment to target engaged info seekers, while in-store promotions could attract whim indulgers.

While the recession has hit much of the Western world, Asian markets have continued to grow. However, Sethi says marketers have yet to fully explore the mindset of Asian consumers.

The ability to segment consumers into behavioural mindsets would enable marketers to better understand what motivates Asian consumers. The different tribes that have been identified are not just relevant to retailers but can be applied to all industries that operate in the territories surveyed in this study, including music, the restaurant trade and tourism, she says.

But at the moment marketers are focusing on the geographical markets, argues Sethi. “A lot of the data that marketers have is very sales oriented, and not so much about what the consumer is thinking in their steps towards making a purchasing decision.

“The landscape is changing dramatically in Asia and marketers need to ask what are consumers’ attitudes towards this change and what are their behaviour patterns?”


The frontline



Tim Hadley, corporate communications director Omnifone, parent company of music download service Musicstation

The Asian market is completely different from Europe so it is essential to keep in touch with trends in both consumer behaviour and music tastes. Omnifone’s Asia Pacific headquarters, which is based in Hong Kong, uses local marketing teams with experience across the local markets. We also work closely with trend firms like Branded and Synovate, which commission specific research on Asian music consumer habits.

Keeping tabs on growth trends is also important as different markets respond to different business models. Mobile rather than PC is the key driver for music in Asian markets, but operators are rapidly morphing into “multiplay” broadband and mobile providers and services are converging.

As a service provider, being in tune with consumer trends and growth across Asia enables us to deliver services that meet local consumer requirements for portability, with anytime anywhere access and competitive pricing, as well as being aligned with local music tastes.

There are many differences between Asian and European consumers that we have noted in terms of how we offer our service. Consumers in markets like Korea and Japan are more influenced by trends than in Europe; this includes music that crosses over from TV and film from those markets.

Asian consumers’ taste in music differs greatly from European consumers; 80% of music consumption in Asia happens in local repertoire. Asian consumers also like to sing, so ballads and melody tend to be more important than rhythm.

And Asian music is quite fragmented; Chinese artists are often popular in China and Singapore but less so in Hong Kong, because the language in Hong Kong (Cantonese) is a different dialect, for example.

The repertoire we license in Asia is dominated by local labels, though we still offer content from the big European and international labels. This means promotions are focused on local labels and acts, and our charts are mostly filled with tracks by local artists.

The structure of the MusicStation service is tailored to be in tune with local tastes. For example, we have K-pop (Korean pop) and J-pop (Japanese pop) sections, as well as Top Male and Top Female artists as this is how Asian consumers often look for music.

Mobileis also very important as a delivery medium across Asia and our service has been mostly mobile-based rather than PC-based across the region at the point of purchase.


David Ringer, general manager UK and Ireland, retail marketing consultancy TCC

We have a good deal of experience working in all of the countries that Grey has covered in its research, working with health and beauty retailers, grocery and convenience retailers and shopping centres. Our feedback and learnings are that, with the exception of Australia, all of those markets show similar behavioural patterns.

Like the study by Grey, we have noticed how Asian consumers largely regard shopping as a form of entertainment. The dwell time, especially at weekends in a retail store, is very high – probably the highest we have experienced around the world. People are prepared to spend the day shopping and they want to make considered purchases and be entertained. They will take the time to make sure they are properly informed before making a purchasing decision.

In terms of in-store promotions, they have to be relevant and captivating. Our promotions in this region have to be exciting, enticing and make the shopping experience more entertaining. Asian shoppers love to take part in promotional activity – if it’s not just a bog-standard promotion, which they will see through. If it is genuinely engaging they really will respond well – I think this is one of the points Grey is making in its research.

Because shoppers have more time to make purchasing decisions, there is an opportunity for marketers to educate them on better product knowledge and information. There is a good opportunity to convey differentiation messages to these consumers so they understand the brand more.


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