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Social distancing and long days spent working at home have altered people’s lifestyle dynamics. Now, as several Asian markets start to lift lockdowns, consumers are gradually adapting to a world where the COVID-19 virus may well be here to stay for some time yet.
The early signs are that weeks of enforced inactivity without human interaction are encouraging younger consumers to refocus on personal health, fitness and well-being. As a result, brands are asking three key questions: Which self-enhancement trends have been accelerated by lockdown? Which ones may fall by the wayside? And, what new trends may emerge in the coming weeks and months.
Here are five high-potential outcomes:
COVID-19 has caused consumers to reappraise their human vulnerability, and that of their families and friends. Greater personal caution and enhanced attention to health and well-being are being displayed at home, at work and when shopping or socializing.
A good example is facemask wearing, which has long been common during Northeast Asia winters but somewhat sporadic in the tropical climates of Southeast Asia. Today, facemasks are mandatory in many Asian markets. So, too, are hand-sanitizing and QR code health screening scans to enter malls, hotels and offices or take a flight.
While affordable, disposable masks are widely used, fabric versions are popular for extra comfort. Fashion designers in various markets like Japan, South Korea, Malaysia and Vietnam are designing bespoke and limited-edition facemasks to appeal to health-conscious style mavens.
The daily visibility of anti-virus health and safety measures, billboard notices, television and online ads are always persuading consumers to keep COVID-safe hygiene products top-of-mind whether they are in-store or searching online.
Skin care and beauty products that blend naturally sourced ingredients and eschew parabens and chemicals have been growing in popularity for some time. The pandemic has triggered a demand for more products formulated with plant and fruit-based ingredients; ranging from pumpkin to rice to Tasmanian pepperberry.
COVID-19 has also accelerated the appeal of “beauty snacking” whereby consumable products are coveted as skin tonics. A powerful overlay to this trend is the worsening air pollution in many Asian cities. Beauty-conscious urban consumers are aware of the different toxins that can penetrate the skin.
To mitigate the effects, they are seeking organic cosmetics, health supplements and even natural drinks that cleanse, nourish and beautify the skin and hair from the inside out.
Beauty and skin care are moving rapidly along a “back to nature” route and consumers are looking to integrate organic cosmetics, nutrition supplements, health drinks and foods into their daily beauty routines.
One of the early consumer outcomes of COVID-19 in Asia appears to be a concerted effort for self-improvement. Lockdowns gave consumers time to reassess their life goals. As a result, beauty, wellness, nutrition and especially fitness are viewed as the keys to unlocking a more enjoyable and fulfilling life.
Asian millennials and Gen Z consumers, especially, want to break out and feel special again. Lifestyle-oriented brands, ranging from health and beauty products to yoga and fitness centers and travel and tourism providers are tapping into this emerging “a life not yet lived” sentiment.
To reinforce their “fit and fabulous” messaging and to engage directly with the targeted consumer, more brands are teaming with social media influencers. These key opinion leaders are carefully chosen based on their active lifestyles that they write and blog about on their status feeds.
Brands that pair empathy with imagination can use co-branding and partnership promotions to inspire consumers whose wellness goals may continue to shift in the post-pandemic era.
Live streaming has emerged as China’s hottest sales tactic for consumer products. Celebrity live streamers shift items at an astonishing pace and volume. During the COVID-19 lockdown, skin care and beauty brands turned to live streaming as conventional sales plummeted.
In some cases, the brand founder became a live-streaming figurehead, while staff were incentivized to live-stream to their local and regional networks to boost sales. It is often argued that live stream selling works in China because of the scale of its consumer market.
Another noted China factor is a desire for “fast-decision” products that generate immediate demand through the power of a live streamer’s personality. Whether this approach can be replicated in smaller Southeast Asian markets remains to be seen.
Live streaming is a powerful direct-to-consumer tool. While brand marketers may be suspicious of its applicability elsewhere, visually powered home-shopping channels are popular in parts of Southeast Asia. Brands should be alert and ready to respond should this trend expand and adapt to regional markets.
Modern men are looking more frequently in the mirror and brands from shampoo to hair gel and male make-up to nail treatments are tapping into new marketing niches. Aesthetic wellness clinics are also witnessing a shift in their client profiles.
An example is Vietnam’s X-Men brand, which uses masculine imagery to sell its shampoos, shower gels and fragrances. It aligned with the inaugural Vietnam F1 Grand Prix by sponsoring a race car and producing aspirational F1-related video content even though the race was postponed due to COVID-19. A different approach is used is Korean brands that often tap into the chiseled, youthful look of the nation’s popular boy bands.
Male grooming products and aesthetic treatments rank among the region’s fastest-growing wellness segments. While Northeast Asian markets are taking the lead, Southeast Asian males are starting to allocate more spend to the way they look.