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Digital habits rising in Southeast Asia

Covid-19 has driven momentum toward the digital economy in Southeast Asia by necessitating the rapid adoption of e-commerce, home deliveries, and digital and contactless payments, according to the latest Impact Studies by a leading Financial Services company.

Even as countries in the region start to ease restrictions and prepare for a “new normal,” the report indicates that some of these trends and habits formed in response to the coronavirus pandemic are expected to remain for the long term.

Gathering input from consumers across 10 markets in the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region, the report examines the effects of extraordinary events on attitudes and behaviours among consumers and business professionals.

The recent results indicate a rise in online shopping in the region, with 40 percent or more of surveyed consumers in Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand reporting they relied more on home delivery services in April than in March.

Meanwhile, nearly half of the consumers surveyed in Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand reported an increase in their online shopping during the same period.

Alongside these changes in purchasing habits was a region-wide shift in payment methods, with the majority of consumers in all Southeast Asia markets surveyed reporting a significant decrease in cash usage — 67 percent in Singapore, 64 percent in Malaysia and the Philippines, and 59 percent in Thailand — since the beginning of the pandemic.

Meanwhile, various contactless payment methods saw their usage increase. In Singapore, 31 percent of respondents reported more use of contactless credit cards to pay, while mobile and digital wallets saw the greatest uptick in use among all contactless payments’ methods in Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand.

With regard to consumer sentiment in the region, up to 83 percent of Filipinos remain cautious about Covid-19 infection, while the figures are 70 percent in Malaysia, 55 percent in Singapore and 41 percent in Thailand, and there are broad concerns held across the region about how the pandemic is affecting household finances.

The uncertainty has also led to consumers across the region holding off on making big-ticket purchases — 80 percent in the Philippines, 75 percent in Malaysia, 74 percent in Thailand and 65 percent in Singapore — all higher than the APAC average of 59 percent.

While concerns about the pandemic continue, there is great confidence among consumers in how the situation is being managed in their respective countries.

For instance, in Singapore, 88 percent and 68 percent of respondents, respectively, felt positive or neutral about how the government and banks are helping them through the crisis. This confidence has led to 20 percent of respondents indicating they believe they would increase their level of investment over the next few months.

The Division President, Southeast Asia Emerging Markets of the company stated that Covid-19 has impacted everyone and every country in some way or another.

Many consumers and businesses have been quick to adapt to the digital world and cashless payments in order to stay safe and maintain a sense of normalcy in these extraordinary and uncertain times.

Even as organizations and markets prepare for recovery, consumer concerns over their safety and well-being would be at the forefront of any strategy — and this is evident in the way that consumers in Southeast Asia are now shopping and transacting.

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