An Asian Twist on Foods and Shopping

October 22, 2010

Asians are the most prolific comparison shoppers in the online world.

Asians are the most prolific comparison shoppers in the online world. If you think your cousin Ned or your sister-in-law Sue is a whiz at finding deals, either or both could be rank amateurs when stacked up against Asians and Asian-Americans. So suggest findings of the new Global Retail Index research of 19,000 consumers in 17 nations, commissioned by Microsoft Advertising and Aegis Media.

Data show that 96% of shoppers were affected by the recession, which raised value-seeking behavior. For consumers in Asia, the use of social networks often launched the purchase journey – in groceries (43% of consumers), fast food (41%), home electronics and apparel (both 40%). Consumers in Asia discuss the products they’re thinking of buying. “There’s a level of connectivity and trust in social relationships that plays an important part in the purchase decision cycle,” said Richard Dunmall, vice president, Microsoft Advertising Greater Asia-Pacific and Americas.

The eMarketer site predicts that by 2012, four out of 10 people online globally will be from Asia vs. two of 10 from North America.  

This is likely changing both their relationships with brands and purchase criteria, believes F3, which pinpoints why this dynamic matters to United States retailers and CPG. The rise of omni-channel shopping pressures stores and brands to excel in this environment.

Just as the growth rate, spending clout and academic excellence of Asian-Americans is finally putting them on the radar of U.S. stores and brands, their leadership habits in searching before/during/after shopping are bound to have a profound influence on marketing strategies in the U.S. As they raise families here, they may well share habits of their brethren abroad. The Microsoft-Aegis study says that:

  • 59% of Asians use the Internet pre-purchase vs. 28% of U.S. consumers
  • 45% of Asians use a mobile phone during in-store purchase vs. 25% of U.S. consumers
  • 19% use digital media post-purchase vs. 12% of U.S. consumers.

Perhaps Asian-Americans have represented too much work and too little scale for retailers and brands to pursue. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the approximate 15 million Asian-Americans break into 24 separate nationalities who speak 56 languages. That’s complex. But it seems as if they could be worth the effort.

Their U.S. population is forecast to grow from today’s 5.1% share to 9.2%, or 40.6 million by 2050. By that time, they’ll account for 9.6% of the U.S. working age population, the Census Bureau added. 

Their buying power is projected to rise from $509 billion in 2009 to $697 billion by 2014, noted the Selig Center.

Retailers and brand marketers that pursue the Asian-American market have a few clues as to the broad spectrum of their relationships with food.  In bi-coastal markets such as New York City, the Asian-owned own greengrocers populate urban corners and ply fresh foods with speedy service – for a price. Also, Asian supermarkets such as Hmart find abundant fresh produce, seafood and meat at value prices, amid a sensibility that foods prepared at home outweigh any pre-packaged meals that may be more convenient. Further evidence: the Asian Diet Pyramid emphasizes plant foods, grains, fish and shellfish.