November 18, 2019

Report Examines How Asia's Millennials Are Shaping the Digital Economy

"The world's millennial generation is a major driving force behind the digital economy," asserts a report by The Economist Intelligence Unit (The EIU). "Their consumption patterns and preferences underpin the growth of new interconnecting ecosystems of recreation and commerce."

Commissioned by the Singapore Economic Development Board, Asia's digital millennials: Mobile, social and borderless examines the ways in which the consumer behavior and digital habits of millennials in Asia converge or diverge from those in other parts of the world. This report is the first of a two-part research program that explores how millennials are shaping the digital economy through their use of online and mobile technologies for recreation and commerce. This post focuses on the second part of the research program.

The report importantly notes: "Relative to millennials in Europe and the US, those in Asia are unique in that they are both digital and mobile natives, with many in the more recently developing markets of South-east Asia and China having gone online first through their mobile phones." To highlight the differences in their consumption habits borne out of this unique experience, The EIU surveyed 826 millennials across 12 countries in Asia and the West. They found that Asian millennials are much more likely than their Western counterparts to:

Be heavier users of chat/messenger services and use those and other social networks to influence their purchasing decisions and those of others. "The importance of chat to Asian millennials underlines its growth as a platform beyond messaging. This offers opportunities for companies to engage them through more advanced features, such as chatbots, both those driven by artificial intelligence (AI) and those with real staff. The readiness of millennials to share their experiences provides opportunities for businesses to convert millennial customers into influencers."

Have adopted mobile e-payments faster, selecting it as their favored means of payment (over debit cards, still the most popular method in the West). "Millennials' comfort with mobile payments offers opportunities for businesses to build better mobile experiences for their websites, and integrate both website and app with a smooth hand-off to a broad range of payment options that encourage the mobile user to complete a purchase on the phone."

Photo: The EIU
Have deeper and broader tastes, stretching from local and global, making their preferences both complex and unpredictable. "This embrace of international content and products offers companies in Asia a chance to both expand the range of internationally sourced goods and services they offer, and to reduce the friction and cost for obtaining those products. South-east Asian millennials, for example, are just as picky about the cost of shipping as their Western counterparts (51% said it was very important in both groups), suggesting that there's room for businesses to find cheaper ways to ship goods around the region."

The report produced the following conclusion:
Asia's millennials have grown up in a world that has changed more rapidly than that of their counterparts in the West. The rise of mobile communications infrastructure has transformed connectivity in much of the region, providing services and goods potentially more advanced than those in more developed countries.
This report adds to the growing evidence that Asian millennials are much more likely to be regular international online shoppers in the next three years—62% of South-east Asians and 72% of East Asians agree or strongly agree, versus 47% of Westerners. Similarly, they're much more likely to use their mobile phone for cashless transactions in the next three years: 73% of South-east Asians and 79% of East Asians agree or strongly agree, versus 57% of Westerners.
At the same time, they have absorbed and adapted a much broader range of influences—local, regional and global—compared with their Western counterparts. An Indonesian millennial is likely to be as comfortable with South Korean messaging apps as with Facebook, and to buy from a Chinese vendor as from a Western one. This has created a discerning generation with an advanced grasp of technology and sophisticated tastes, matching and often surpassing their Western counterparts in the devices they own and what they do with them.
Asia's millennials are also more likely to consume e-books, online newspapers and magazines, mobile gaming apps, music streaming and podcasts, and social media, than counterparts in the West. The leapfrog in connectivity has created a generation eager to consume more, if their needs and tastes can be understood and catered-to by today's globally minded businesses.
How is your business capturing the opportunity to satisfy the demand of Asia's millennials?

Aaron Rose is a board member, corporate advisor, and co-founder of great companies. He also serves as the editor of Solutions for a Sustainable World.

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