Pandemic concerns recede, while rising prices drive value-driven purchases across SEA

The Ipsos SEA Ahead survey ran across Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam in May and June 2022.

Ipsos SEA Ahead 2022 survey

The majority of Southeast Asian (SEA) consumers are less concerned about COVID-19, with 71% saying that they are confident with the COVID-19 situation in their country (81% in Vietnam). However, inflation has overtaken the pandemic as their biggest worry despite most economies performing better compared to 2021, a new Ipsos survey reveals. 

The Ipsos SEA Ahead survey ran across the SEA markets of Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam during May and June 2022. 

Ipsos SEA Ahead (1)

SEA has experienced strict and lengthy lockdowns, low vaccination rates, and a disrupted supply chain for the past two years. But now, SEA citizens are more eager to socialize with increasing vaccination numbers and the tourism rebound. The majority have expressed confidence in dining in restaurants (74%), visiting family/friends (77%), and participating in cultural gatherings/events (77%).  

While most citizens start to revert to their pre-pandemic ways, some behaviors adopted during the pandemic persist including being more health conscious and using online shopping. More people are shopping online with only 39% claiming to shop at a supermarket/hypermarket once a week or more, and in Vietnam the figure was 37%. 

Across SEA (87%) proactively manage their health and wellness through food and beverage choices, while 85% buy products that support their physical and mental health and wellbeing. For example, 40% are using less e-cigarettes and 35% consuming less alcohol. In Vietnam, 46% intend to consume less cigarettes, and 51% intend to consume less alcohol. 

In line with the rest of the world, concerns have shifted away from the pandemic in Southeast Asia. The COVID-19 pandemic now ranks third in consumers’ top concerns, with personal finances and rising prices or inflation now ranked as the top two concerns. In Vietnam, the current top three concerns are health concerns (23%), rising prices or inflation (21%), and the COVID-19 pandemic (21%). 

SEA Ahead 2022_Inflation

Three in four SEA consumers say rising prices are having a significant impact on their lives. In Vietnam, 94% said they are “very impacted’ or “somewhat impacted” by price increases. Despite this, they continue to spend on necessities such as food, cleaning products, and personal care products and are saving money in other ways. In Vietnam, savings are being made in areas like alcohol consumption, travelling and entertainment.   

Suresh Ramalingam, Ipsos Chief Executive Officer – Southeast Asia, said: “With most of Southeast Asia transitioning to an endemic phase of COVID-19 and coping with inflation, it is more important than ever that leaders exercise resilience and longer-term foresight to adapt to rapid, complex change. Inflationary times are indeed challenging—how are we going to innovate? Adjust pricing strategies? Rethink brand differentiations? Amidst the uncertainties, the way forward requires determining what is right for your consumers, balancing short-term gains and long-term risks, and most importantly, building your empathy muscle to create real connections with them and take relevant actions.”