Precious Time – Consumer Trends at Join the Dots

At Join the Dots, our Singapore and UK Consumer Trends teams are working closely to develop and identify the trends and drivers that are best suited to understanding consumer needs and behaviours in Asia. In the middle of development, we noticed that while there are intrinsic differences between Asia and the West, several key needs do overlap. Current overlapping happiness drivers include: the need for positive emotions, engagement, achievement, relationships, and the search for meaning and purpose. These are the needs that drive human happiness across the board.

Our existing framework shows how happiness is influenced by external factors, and also by the basic human desire for something new – the idea of hedonic adaptation. Trends are affected both by external factors and the evolving environments in which we live. The intersection between the human desire for something new and changing external forces is where trends emerge.

These external influences are beyond our individual control and originate from many different sources, such as macro forces (globalisation, the economy), innovations (technological changes), and/or influences from establishments and societies (such as governments or NGOs). However, it is insufficient to understand trends by only accounting for global macro factors against humans’ desire for something new. It is necessary, rather, to develop a ‘cultural lens’ for each country or region to enhance our insights into the similarities and differences between countries, as responses to external factors and the desire for something new are often culturally shaped. Cultural contextualisation is therefore required for brands to forge deeper relationships with their consumers, so a cultural setting is a key element of our intercultural trends offering.

The desire to maximise time is ubiquitous as a fundamental lifestyle value that humans seek. With the European Union’s economy projected for a ‘modest’ recovery, coupled with the fear of global terrorism and prolonged migrant and refugee crisis, consumers in Europe are now looking to scale back and refocus their energies on seeking out more exciting and unexpected experiences, so maximising quality in the time they have available to them. In Asia, the region’s rapid development means that the  people are constantly caught in flux. The need to maximise time drives them to seek convenience and speed, cramming as much as they can within a finite space of time. Life in fast-paced Asian cities like Singapore, and the socio-cultural pressures in South Korea for speed, efficiency, and performance often add an overwhelming amount of stress, while China’s rapid economic growth and political fluctuation in the past decade add another dimension of pressure on its population. People in Asia are seeking to stretch the quantifiable value of time – they are looking to maximise efficiency of how they use their time, seeking convenience so they gain back time to do other things.

This rapid pace of development and change has also encouraged consumers in Asia to reconsider what they are looking for and what matters to them. Increasingly, they are seeking to increase the experiential value of their time, find quality, and enhance the precious little time they have available to them. To most Asian cultures, time is relationship related – it is also subjective and relative. Time is no longer just calculated in monetary terms – it is also about experiencing moments; this is experiential value. The growing trend of uniquely themed cafes in cities like Singapore call out to visitors to slow down and take the time to savour the moment and reconnect. The desire to increase the quality of time emphasises its importance, allowing people to have more control in deciding that how to value time and use it to experience quality moments. Understanding the preciousness of time means that convenience and speed allow consumers to achieve more and so gain time back. On the other hand, it has also meant that this desire is now to stretch its intangible value. The pursuit of ‘precious’ time is about making moments for the things that truly matter.

Holiday Inn in China vividly captured this sentiment with their ‘moments of joy’ campaign in 2015. The now abolished One-Child policy and the growth in the number of dual working parents in Chinese households means that children are often missing out on precious moments with their parents. The lack of interaction between the busy mother and the child seeking her attention brings a feeling of emptiness to this relationship. Holiday Inn’s campaign aims to create a space where mother and child come together to foster the mother-child bond and savour the preciousness of time.

As more people in Asia and the rest of the world continue to seek opportunities to stretch the quality of time and maximise the experiences they have, brands can help people reconnect and remind them of the moments that truly matter. In the old adage ‘time is precious, don’t waste it’, consumers are becoming increasingly aware that time is something to be savoured.