APAC consumers prioritise financial health as they become more vigilant about value and purchase with purpose


  • 54% reassessed their outlook on life due to COVID-19 
  • 48% increased e-commerce usage but 75% will shop less impulsively
  • 70% expect brands to act responsibly, transparently and honestly

Singapore, April 12, 2021: In the 12-months since COVID-19 instantly changed the world, consumer sentiment across APAC has changed rapidly. According to the latest Kantar Consumer Sentiment Survey of nine markets (Japan, South Korea, Australia, Singapore, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia and Vietnam) over half of people (54%) have re-assessed their view of life and revalued their needs, wants and priorities in the last year. And despite differing stages of response and recovery across the region, three in five (59%) are confident that life could ‘return to normal’ within a year.

Four in five people say the pandemic has impacted their income (54%) or expect it to in the future (25%)
Overall, APAC consumers are less concerned about their health (-12%) and finances (-11%) than they were a year ago, but financial security (63%) is currently a bigger worry than their physical health (44%). COVID-19 hit regional household incomes hard, especially for younger consumers aged 18-34 (58%) compared to people aged 35 and above (51%). A disproportionately higher impact is being felt in developing Asia – especially in the Philippines with four in five (79%) Filipinos already experiencing the effects of COVID-19 on their household income. Uncertainty over personal finances is expected to prevail across the region in 2021 as one in four people not currently affected financially by the pandemic expect this to change in the year ahead; while more than three in five say that the pandemic is driving them to become more proactive in personal financial planning.

Safety and hygiene are still important, but people are embracing e-commerce and more vigilant about value
As e-commerce continues to surge across APAC, financially conservative consumers are placing an increasing priority on value as 2020’s high anxiety scenes of panic buying, and stockpiling have waned (-15%). People are now taking more tangible steps towards building immunity and maintaining hygiene (although pandemic-induced illness concerns still linger in Japan ahead of the postponed Olympics). Two-thirds are increasing usage of contactless payments and over half (56%) are asking for brands to provide safe and hygienic products and services – a top priority in Japan, South Korea and Australia. And while e-commerce is surging (+48%) – most evident in Singapore (+68%), South Korea (+61%) and Malaysia (+58%) – overwhelmingly three-quarters (74%) say they’ll be less impulsive in their shopping and more aware of what they buy, while over three in five (62%) are actively seeking out brands to help them via discounts and promotions.

People are purchasing with purpose by choosing brands leading through provenance and sustainability
Purpose and provenance are here to stay as 70% of APAC consumers say they will give more value to brands that act in a responsible, transparent and honest way. Seven in 10 will also pay more attention to initiatives related to the environment and to the origin of the products they purchase – with search trends showing a +157% increase in the term ‘sustainability’ in Indonesia alone, while a recent sustainability study in Australia finds that half (48%) of people there believe that buying sustainable products shows others who they are and what they believe in.

Brands must be clear on how to connect with newly digitalised, purpose-driven consumers in this new normal
APAC consumers are playing in an increasingly fragmented digital media environment with two in five now consuming more TV on-demand/streaming​ (40%) and podcasts/streaming music (38%). And with new digital platforms entering the market, “it is imperative for brands to build a clearly defined channel strategy to navigate this new media ecosystem to connect with people effectively and efficiently,” says Poonam Kumar – Head of Brand, APAC at Kantar.

“Agile brands that adapt quickly to rapidly changing demands playing out differently in each market play a vital role in helping consumers across the region navigate the pandemic. With purpose very clearly linked to brand growth, getting the balance right in this increasingly fragmented digital world is critical.

“At this time, it is essential that brands inspire hope and optimism that will heal the psychological scars that the pandemic has caused,” adds Kumar.

“Consumers are looking towards brands and businesses to lead them towards better times. In the latest Edelman Trust findings, businesses were more trusted than NGOs, government and media. It is therefore a responsibility as well as an opportunity for brands to be beacons and transform the scarcity consumers feel to a mindset of abundance.”


Notes for editors

For more information
Poonam Kumar is available for interviews about brand strategy and purpose.
Valencia Chia is available for interviews about the survey data and further detailed country insights.

About the Kantar Consumer Sentiment Survey
A total of 1,350 online interviews between 22 February -1 March 2021 across nine markets in APAC: Japan, South Korea, Australia, Singapore, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam.
Download the infographic

About Kantar
Kantar is the world’s leading evidence-based insights and consulting company. We have a complete, unique and rounded understanding of how people think, feel and act; globally and locally in over 90 markets. By combining the deep expertise of our people, our data resources and benchmarks, our innovative analytics and technology, we help our clients understand people and inspire growth. www.kantar.com

Media Contact
Jeannie Duhigg | jeannie.duhigg@kantar.com | +61 405 946 559