Malaysians want regional e-commerce players to step up their game

Credit: Macrovector/freepik

Conducted by leading data content and social research agency Blackbox Research and consumer intelligence platform Toluna, the research report – Into the Light: Understanding What has Changed for the ASEAN Consumer During Covid-19 – analysed current sentiments, expectations and behaviours of 4,780 consumers across Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand, and the Philippines.

Within Malaysia, close to half of consumers (43 percent) said they are less than satisfied with their digital commerce experience, citing delivery time, delivery costs, and product prices as their top three concerns.

Yashan Cama, International Commercial Director of Blackbox Research said the study confirmed a significant change in consumer behaviour in recent months driven by an increasing necessity to shop online. The report found that Malaysian consumers reported a spike in online spending in response to Covid-19, with 59 percent of those surveyed now spending more online, and the total online spend for the average Malaysian consumer increasing by 33 percent.

When it comes to balancing brand use and brand satisfaction, Shopee emerged as the strongest among eCommerce players. The report findings revealed that it not only achieved an 83 percent market share amongst respondents, it had the second highest satisfaction rating.

Meanwhile, despite only ranking as the third most used platform, Grab had the highest brand satisfaction. Cama attributed some of the factors behind these brands’ popularity to their focus on localising their offering, as well as tapping into the purchase motivations and behavioural ticks of consumers in Malaysia, for example leveraging celebrity endorsements.

On the other hand, not all brands that are enjoying high usage rates find themselves with happy customers. For example, while 60 percent of respondents use Lazada, the eCommerce giant’s performance was only rated average when it comes to consumer satisfaction.

Cama said that while brand giants like Shopee are ranked favourably amongst Malaysian consumers, the reception towards brands like Grab and Lazada demonstrated that scale of market usage does not necessarily translate to customer experience, as with growth comes at the cost of greater scrutiny from consumers.

“At the end of the day every platform needs to be on edge – even the likes of Shopee – because consumer sentiment can change overnight if service quality starts to slip. Consumers are demanding and discerning: an experience they have in one industry they expect from another, so this expectation is only going to increase. With 5G technology on the verge of transforming platform capabilities, current market leaders may wake to find themselves no longer at the front of that queue if they don’t address concerns and work to deliver a more frictionless experience.  

The report also identified key trends as a result of the pandemic, notably a shift in consumer sentiment towards local brands. 86% of Malaysian consumers said they were more likely to support local brands in the future, driven by a desire to strengthen their local communities and economy. Notably, when asked to identify brands that they are pleased or impressed with during the Covid-19 crisis, homegrown oil and gas giant Petronas emerged as the top company for Malaysians. “‘International’ might be on the verge of becoming a dirty word,” said Cama.

“The resurgence in national pride can also be attributed to consumers looking to support their own economy, and they are letting their spending dollar speak for itself by choosing to shop local. “This coincides with the Malaysian government’s efforts to increase the promotion of Buy Malaysian Products campaign this year, with initiatives such as creating ‘shopping streets’ around the country dedicated for traders to promote and sell local products. “For international companies to compete with this spotlight on local, they will need to reassess their brand portfolios and seriously consider how they can localise their brands to reflect the values that matter most to Malaysian consumers.”

According to Cama, Covid-19 is not only changing how and where consumers are spending their money, but it is also shifting how people are going about their day-to-day lives, which will have a tangible impact on future consumer behaviour.

“Since the onset of the pandemic, homes in ASEAN have emerged as the headquarters for learning, working and socialising. An overwhelming 94% of Malaysians are happy working from home, and the majority aren’t missing going to the movies or shopping at retail outlets.”

“Consumers are not rushing back to their old habits, so this new sense of life revolving around the home hub means companies need to rethink how they build this into the consumer experience in future. These changes go right to the heart of consumer behaviour and require innovative approaches across the board from property developers, landlords, employers, through to retailers.”

Commenting on the significance of the study’s findings, Cama said, “What the study has shown us is that the pandemic has unequivocally shifted how we identify as consumers. If businesses fail to adapt, the stakes are high. Any negative interaction with a brand – particularly in times of crisis – can have longstanding effects on his or her sense of trust and loyalty.

“In order to build resilience, brands need to keep a real-time pulse on customer preferences, and at the same time reimagine customer experience for a post-Covid-19 world, with care and connection at the forefront. Organisations today have an obsession with data. This is not a bad thing. But only by choosing to value customers as more than digital units or data points, will brands emerge successful.”

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