BANGKOK, April 14, 2020 – Technology companies are finding growth opportunities and revenue during the COVID-19 pandemic, and they are poised to gain reputational strength from their performance as more people depend on technology while in social isolation.
A consumer survey of people in Bangkok conducted prior to the outbreak indicates overall positive sentiment towards the technology sector and high expectations among the Thai public for technology companies to improve many facets of life.
The survey, conducted by research firm InsightAsia and public relations and digital marketing agency Vero, reports that 76 percent of Thais expect technology to improve their quality of life, 80 percent expect technology to improve healthcare, and 76 percent expect technology to improve education.
Today, with tech companies stepping up in droves to help society deal with the COVID-19 pandemic, many of these predictions are coming true, and there is a clear opportunity for tech companies to enhance their reputations by serving society.
“This crisis offers a chance for technology companies to live up to their potential by showing how their products and services uniquely enable them to provide tangible benefits to society,” said Brian Griffin, Managing Director of Vero. “Every day now, we are experiencing the tremendous benefits technology can offer in terms of helping us connect to each other, acquire the things we need, and understand the world around us – and tech companies are stepping up to deliver innovative solutions as only they can.”
However, risks such as cyber security threats and fake news remain obstacles for the reputations of big technology firms, as reflected in the fact that 80 percent of Thais surveyed expressed concern for how technology can be used for nefarious purposes. Among those surveyed, 62 percent listed cyber-crime as a concern and 72 percent reported concerns about fake news. In exchange for the support that consumers are giving them, tech companies have a responsibility to keep a close watch on customer satisfaction and data security issues.
“While people seem to appreciate technology now more than ever, fears about harm caused by technology persist, and people want to know that technology companies are doing their best to address some of the potential negative consequences of technology,” said Pattanee Jeeriphab, Chief Operating Officer of Vero, ASEAN. “For technology companies it is important to communicate to all stakeholders their efforts to address issues like cybercrime, data privacy, and false information. If the public perceives that technology companies are not sufficiently addressing the issues on their own, then policy makers will take action, which may be more severe than usual. We are confident that most technology companies recognize the need to continue to address the perceived threats, because they know that eventually this crisis will pass and tech companies will again face greater scrutiny over negative social impacts, despite all the prosocial benefits they are delivering today.”
A desire for authenticity
For technology companies in Thailand, the survey reveals that real-life stories and case studies are the most convincing narratives during the consumer journey. Approximately 40 percent of those surveyed in Thailand said they want to see brands share stories about real people who use tech products and services. Slightly fewer survey respondents said they want brands to provide content that is educational (35 percent), inspirational (22 percent), ethics-based (16 percent), or culture-based (12 percent).
Real-life stories include those told by trusted journalists, bloggers, influencers, key opinion leaders, and other third parties who use a product and report about it in an unbiased manner. Even if the influencer is clearly sponsored to endorse the product, consumers still prefer this type of content because they trust that influencers only endorse products for which they have genuine affinity. Business-to-business marketers, meanwhile, can cater to the desire among Thais for real-life stories with case studies featuring trusted clients and third-party endorsers.
“The research tells us that Thai consumers want genuine content based on how technology is used in the real world,” Griffin said. “The survey tells us there is a powerful need for authentic stories from real people and third parties. The way forward for brands is to amplify case studies, reviews and stories told through trusted third parties to the greatest extent possible.”
Negatives to positives
Among respondents to the InsightAsia/Vero survey, 62 percent reported having overall positive feelings about the impact of tech products on their lives, while only 5 percent reported overall negative feelings.
Common concerns about big technology companies included the usual topics such as cyber-crime, fake news, and job losses due to the advancement of technology. But there were also prominent social concerns, such as technology’s impacts on in-person socializing (49 percent), sense of community (48 percent), and human health (42 percent).
Prior to COVID-19, as many as 83 percent of the respondents already felt that technology helped them perform better at work. But now it has become the essential tool that makes work possible, and people are more likely to re-evaluate any negative perceptions they have towards technology – at least for a while. In addition, technology also helps with stress management with 81 percent stating that it helps them relax and 71 percent claiming that it helps them escape from work stress.
“A lot remains to be seen regarding the role technology companies will play in this crisis, and the coming months are crucial. But we expect that many people are reconsidering the value of technology in our lives,” said Jeeriphab. “Some aspects of technology that once seemed like downsides, such as our growing reliance on digital communication at the expense of physical presence, are now proving to be the very things that allow us to stay safe and connected. For those tech companies that can continue to offer what people need in a healthy manner, it could be their best chance at getting through this with minimal damage – and perhaps even finding themselves in a stronger position when it’s over.”
“From scheduling meetings to delivering meals to hungry millennials, technology companies have always had the power to connect people. With COVID-19, everyone realizes that better now because it is our new reality,” said Barkha Narula, Research Manager of InsightAsia Thailand. “This research, conducted prior to the pandemic, shows how pro-technology many people are despite their persisting concerns. After the pandemic, we expect to see tech industry getting more competitive – fueled by advanced innovations like IoT. Effective market communication and a flexible customer support service may become the new paradigms to promising customer engagement for many tech companies.”
InsightAsia and Vero’s full Tech Consumer Reports for Thailand, Vietnam, and Myanmar are available here: https://vero-asean.com/vero-insightasia-tech-consumer-report/