2021 In A Snapshot: How Southeast Asia’s Consumer Behavior Uniquely Adjusted To The Pandemic

Year 2 living of the pandemic is about to come to an end. In 2021, people have adjusted to the new normal where the internet is even more essential to our daily lives. 

We’ve gotten used to working, going to school, and even hanging out online. Hence, consumer behavior today has also become more unique than ever. 

In the course of the year, iPrice has released a series of studies that reveal notable changes in online consumer behaviour. Here’s a quick recap of some of the most interesting shopper insights in 2021.

What were the most browsed items in 2021?

Laptops and smartphones have been the most popular items in online shopping in Singapore, Malaysia, and the Philippines. With 2021 considered as an extended lockdown in some countries, many have potentially purchased these aforementioned items to enhance their work/study from home experience. 

In the Philippines, cakes ranked second with the bakeshop brand “Red Ribbon” as one of the most sought-after items. Shoppers could deliver cakes in celebration of vital moments such as birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, and other significant events while at home. 

In Singapore, many have searched for air conditioners to potentially deal with the hot weather in the island republic. Items such as luxury watches & bags were popular with Singaporean shoppers as well. With internal travel restrictions loosened in certain parts of 2021, people were definitely prepared to look sharp in public. Singapore’s restrictions have also been much looser this year compared to 2020.

Similarly, luxury watches were highly browsed by Malaysian shoppers as well. While many were getting ready for the outside world, Malaysian shoppers were also highly interested with home entertainment items. Data reveals that LED TVs ranked amongst the top five in the most-browsed items in Malaysia.

NoItemsItems Items
3Air conditionersTabletsRefrigerators
5BagsLED TVsBicycles

How different were shoppers in 2021 as compared to the previous year?

The second year of the pandemic has seen many interesting consumer trends as lives are starting to adjust to it. We know for sure romance isn’t dead in 2021 as there was a 57% increase (between January 2020 & 2021) in searches for romantic gifts during the pandemic. Though many were physically separated, they weren’t deterred from sending romantic gifts for Valentine’s Day.

While some are on search for love, others sought other remedies to deal with the pandemic. Google searches for pets doubled in 2021 as compared to previous years. Countries such as the Philippines Googled “dogs” nearly 5x more than “cats”, potentially proving there are more dog lovers than cat lovers in the country. 

Another remedy were chocolates. In SEA, Malaysians have the biggest sweet tooth as they have the highest increase in searches for chocolates as compared to the previous year. No wonder Malaysia ranked #2 in diabetes prevalence, according to International Diabetes Foundation & Diabetes Atlas’ data.

2021 also saw shoppers being influenced by brand collaborations with popular K-pop bands such as BTS. Countries such as Malaysia saw a 46% increase in searches for McDonalds’ BTS meal. This was evident as orders swarmed the website, app and caused massive, long lines at McDonalds restaurants. This was similar in other countries in SEA such as Singapore, Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand & Indonesia. 

On a more serious note, the pandemic has also caused the highest suicide and domestic abuse rates. For instance, Malaysia’s suicide rates have almost doubled compared to last year and 2019, amounting to an average of three deaths per day. Other countries experienced a similar statistic, such as Thailand with its suicide rates up by about 22% compared to 2019.

In iPrice’s recent study, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Malaysia had the highest surge in Google searches for mental health services in the first five months of 2021 compared to the same period in 2019. The three countries’ searches increased by 231%, 128%, and 109% respectively. Indonesia and the Philippines also had the highest increase in the first year of the pandemic (80% and 44% respectively) and continued to grow further as the coronavirus continues to spread.

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