The explosion of digital devices and proliferation of internet have shaken the path to purchase as consumers have, and are still in the process of altering the way they shop. The changing trend is particularly evident today in emerging markets in Asia Pacific—forecasted by GfK to be the fastest growing region in the world for smartphone sales in 2016.
A recent study by GfK revealed that 85 percent of consumers polled across Asia Pacific have purchased a consumer electronic item in the last 12 months, with half of them having made the purchase over the internet. Across the 10 markets surveyed, the smartphone was the most bought item both online and offline. India, Vietnam and Indonesia had the highest incidence of smartphone purchases during this period.
“Within the APAC region, developing countries like India, Vietnam and Indonesia have been strong drivers of consumer electronic sales in recent times,” noted Jake Shepherd, Head of Retail, APAC. “The huge, yet largely untapped potential of the e-commerce industry in these markets is now growing rapidly at the back of deepening internet penetration and adoption of connected technology.”
According to survey findings, although all product categories reported some online sales, offline sales still tend to dominate for most product categories. For instance, while 69 percent of Vietnamese consumers bought a consumer electronic product in the last 12 months, only 20 made the purchase online—suggesting a high conversion opportunity for the remaining majority of consumers to take their transactions online.
Two key areas where online have significantly surpassed offline transactions are the travel and bill payment categories. While half (50%) of all consumers bought a travel product online in the past year, only one in five (20%) used the offline channel. The highest incidence of travel-related sales was seen in Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia at 69, 68, 67 and 67 percent respectively.
“Consumers tend to prefer acquiring tangible products at a brick and mortar store due to the ‘touch-and-feel’ factor, and travel is a unique category that is unlike physical products,” explained Jake Shepherd. “Besides, the availability of a wide range of reputable online travel agents offering competitive pricings at the click of the mouse makes it even more compelling for consumers travel bookings online.”
The consumer purchase journey generally involves seeking information from various sources to help them in the decision making process. With the developed internet infrastructure in many markets today, going online emerged as the most popular platform used by over two in every five (44%) consumers in the region when purchasing a smartphone, with majority checking out online customer review sites and the manufacturer or brand’s website. Talking to family, friends or colleagues ranked next on the list as one of the most influential information source—especially so in Hong Kong and Taiwan where one in four consumers claimed this helped them make their decision.
Less than a fifth (19%) of the consumers made their decisions based on in-store experiences, such as by comparing the physical form of the different brands and talking to the electronics professional at the retail outlets which presents a potential challenge to some traditional retail formats.
“Consumers are exposed to multiple touch points all along their journey to purchase—from actual experience with the product, to messages from the various forms of media, to own research done on the internet as well as in-store displays, etc,” commented Jake Shepherd. “It is important for businesses have a good understanding of this entire path to purchase to effectively formulate their future shopper strategies,” he concluded.