The following content was originally published on Forbes Vietnam, on 3rd August 2022.
Media trends in Vietnam have changed. During the pandemic, many brands were flexible in accelerating their digital journey and in changing their approach to media and communications. But are these just short-term, situational changes, or will they become a trend that completely changes the way brands approach their consumers?
More than two and a half years since the first lockdown, our society is now moving towards a post-epidemic life. Due to the direct impact of social distancing and economic changes, many aspects of life have changed over the past 30 months, particularly in terms of consumer behavior. Therefore, brands have had no other choice than to adapt and change the way they connect with customers.
Changes in consumer behavior
The pandemic and the negative effects on the world economy have affected the income, expenditure, and shopping behavior of most Vietnamese consumers. Lazada’s March 3, 2022, survey in Vietnam showed that up to 81% of respondents said that buying online has become a habit. 85% said that they have been spending more on online purchases since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. In parallel, 66% of survey respondents said they are always looking for the best price incentives when shopping to save on living expenses for their families.
Brand’s values were put to the test in recent months. Product prices have faced adjustments to balance the rise in material and shipping costs, which means that consumer-centric brand values have come under the microscope. Some brands have directly adjusted prices; for example, the March 2022 price increase of most beers; or some have chosen to change their production capacity and find the capacity to manage costs.
Notably, many brands are now focusing on creating more emotional value to engage with their customers, in order to overcome price-sensitive barriers. For instance, leading the ranks of the most influential campaigns on social networks in April and May was the race between beer brands: Bia Việt, Tiger, Saigon Beer, and Bivina.
Besides price, health and sustainability have also become factors that consumers seriously weigh on the scale and directly affect their purchase decisions. In a study published in 2021 by Kantar Worldpanel Division, the health sector received the most attention from Vietnamese consumers, followed by food safety, family income, and stability at work.
Mental health has also become more of a concern after the pandemic. Interestingly, from 2020 to 2021, “loneliness” was one of the most searched terms on Google, with “weight gain” as a concern that got the most searches.
In June 2022, Vero and Decision Lab published a study on the change in the eating habits of Vietnamese people, showing new trends. For example, consumers have formed the habit of taking vitamins and supplements holistically as an integral part of their daily health care routine. 23% of the respondents take them every day and 24% use them 2–3 days a week. Taking vitamins and supplements is now considered part of a healthy lifestyle and a way to protect against epidemics.
FMCG brands are also beginning to change and improve their products to better suit the needs of consumers, such as the addition of beta-glucan to C2 green tea products or KUN yogurt milk to boost immunity. Although it is still quite early to be certain of what consumers need and want, during this time, brands can take advantage of the signs of categories with the same segments and audiences as a reference model to keep up with new consumer trends.
Direct selling on social media
Going back 12-months to the quarantine period, when direct in-store purchases were limited and eCommerce platforms were also restricted in terms of transportation, Facebook groups, fan pages, and Zalo chat groups were created spontaneously and quickly and became go-to platforms to directly connect between buyers and sellers without the need for the eCommerce website.
Now, most of the big social media platforms have launched their commerce features. While the features are all standardized on these platforms, each brand has its own applications based on its consumers’ behaviors. For example, instead of posting an ad with a purchase link as before, Durex Vietnam customers can buy directly after watching the brand’s promotional video.
A rather special feature of users in Vietnam is that 3 out of 10 users buy goods through direct conversations with the store (conversational commerce) – using chat applications such as Messenger or Zalo. Understanding this sentiment of wanting to buy quickly and conveniently, Kiehl’s used the Messenger feature for their campaign to ensure a quick response to customer inquiries, seeing rising sales through direct consultation.
From January 4, 2022, TikTok also launched a commerce solution on its online social media platform for both buyers, sellers, and content creators, bringing a comprehensive, seamless eCommerce ecosystem right on TikTok – from uploading products to the platform, order management, delivery, and payment.
For most brands, social commerce may only be experimental in addition to the investment in today’s eCommerce platforms. However, according to a survey by Facebook and Bain & Company, more than 53% of online purchases of Southeast Asian consumers come from product discovery instead of searching for certain products. This is the biggest difference between the two platforms that brands can consider based on their business purposes.
Technology – the old and the new
Ca Mau Petroleum Fertilizer, which belongs to Petrovietnam, has been proactive in digital transformation at all stages of operation, sales, and experience. In 2021, this company launched an AI Consultant based on the available agricultural data source to help answer and enrich information for consumers. The use of digital influencers is now also more accessible for brands and media consultants with Virtual Avatar technology from many platforms.
For example, Clear Head’s Campaign using Virtual Influencer Tóc Tiên is based entirely on real data, from language usage to social media behaviors. Tóc Tiên Clear Head is programmed not only to comment on the statuses of Facebook users, but it also knows how to communicate via chat, and respond when tagged in a post.
However, in the past year, many campaigns that used traditional methods of directly reaching consumers did have success. By using the right messages and stories that touched the hearts of the audience, traditional marketing techniques can still be effective. For example, Baemin’s series of outdoor commercials (OOH) with pickup lines poems or Gojek’s with OOH “Talking Billboards” were inspired by cries of traditional street hawkers. So, the core of a successful marketing and communication campaign still lies in understanding the target audience, building the right story, and choosing the right communication channel.
Today’s customers are very different than before when traditional marketing was in vogue. They are a lot more proactive in finding information, actively delivering it, and even creating it. That is why now brands cannot ignore digital platforms, digital transformation, and social networking platforms that attract consumers while building their own brand story and capturing the change in user behavior after the pandemic.
To read the article in Vietnamese click here.