Asia Pacific survey: How digital shapes the customer journey

With the escalating penetration of smartphones and improving internet infrastructure across the Asia Pacific region, the mobile device has become consumers’ primary gateway to the Internet. According to a recent GfK study, accessing the internet via the smartphone has become a daily activity for 83% of online users across eight key Asia Pacific markets, led by the Chinese (93%) and followed by the Thais (89%), Indonesians (88%), Singaporeans (87%) and Vietnamese (81%).

“The smartphone gives an unparalleled reach to today’s connected consumer, which when compared with the different mass media, perhaps rivaled only by the TV, but even that is being challenged in a few of the markets,” highlighted Karthik Venkatakrishnan, APAC Director for Digital Market Intelligence at GfK.

Messaging apps: Becoming remote controls for day-to-day living

Messaging apps are used more than any other smartphone apps across most Asian countries, with Indonesia, India and Singapore taking the lead. Over 80% of users in each of the respective countries say they use it at least once a week. At the opposite end is Japan, where only 39% use messaging apps on a weekly basis.

“At the rate which messaging apps are reportedly being used in this region, it is not surprising that a high proportion of connected consumers actually text more than they talk on their smartphone,” said Venkatakrishnan. “The top APAC countries where most consumers agreed with this statement were Singapore, Australia and India at 72, 64 and 64 percent respectively.”

Interestingly, the Chinese still prefer to talk as much as they text – only slightly over a third (37%) agreed with this statement.

Social media: From simple networking to customer service and e-commerce

The Indonesians, Thais and Indians are the most avid users of social apps, with 86%, 82% and 81% of these connected consumers using them on a weekly basis.

“Today’s social platform has changed over the years to now cover a much broader range of audience—not just the younger crowd who were the predominant users at the beginning,” said Venkatakrishnan. “They have also evolved from its original purpose of simple networking to now being heavily utilized by brands and businesses to engage their customers and to further their business agenda.”

For instance, nearly two-thirds of connected consumers in India (64%) and over half of those in Indonesia (54%) said they have some level of engagement with at least one brand on social media in the past week – making them the group of consumers in APAC who are most open to being engaged by businesses online. These are also the top two markets where consumers said they have watched online videos/advertisements by brands.

Shopping: Connecting online and offline journeys to reap rewards

With the proliferation of e-commerce, shopping apps are also gaining popularity across markets. Such apps are used most often in India (54%) and China (48%), with around half of the online population using a shopping app more than once a week. Consumers in Singapore and Indonesia also reported a fairly high usage incidence (37% and 35% respectively). Only the developed markets of Australia and Japan are still very much conducting their online shopping activities on their PCs.

According to GfK findings, the categories on which consumers do the most research and make final purchases over the Internet are airlines, hotels, music, apparels and smartphones. In the bigger cities of certain markets like India and China, purchasing smartphones online is quickly catching up with offline methods.

Mobile payment is another area that is likely to encourage the growth of online shopping. For instance, a significant percentage of connected consumers in India (72%) and Indonesia (60%) agree that using the phone to send/receive money is easier than sending cash, and that paying for their shopping online is more secure now than it was before.

“As society’s reliance and usage of digital technology continues to deepen, businesses that do not have a strategy targeted at digital and social platforms will only get left behind; especially when more and more consumers in the less developed markets eventually get connected online,” Venkatakrishnan said. “The consumer purchase journey is no longer linear—brands need to be available at each touch point at moments where their consumers are present, integrating their offline and online experiences so that they are ever ready for their customers when they are wanted the most,” he concluded.

These are findings from the recent GfK study: The Connected Asian Consumer, which was conducted in May this year among 8000+ smartphone owners across eight Asia Pacific markets.