What Do Asia-Pacific Consumers Want from Design in 2011?

With Asia-Pacific consumers now at the forefront of spending, many of them have unique and increasingly sophisticated needs that are changing the way companies create, design, and market products. Will Asian consumers want products and services that are different to those preferred by their counterparts in the West? Which ‘green’ components do they want from design?

Key trends

  • Bring on the dragon;
  • I can be fashionable with a heart;
  • Designed for a sustainable future;
  • Not leaving silver consumers out;
  • Living design: My life under one roof.

Commercial opportunities

  • Visitors to this year’s Geneva Watch Fair (SIHH) and Basel World, two of the most important events in the global watch industry, will have undoubtedly noticed that many of the world’s top watchmakers are emphasising retro designs this year. Swiss watchmakers created these lines in an overt attempt to target Chinese consumers as wealthy Chinese still prefer more conservative designs in comparison to their Western counterparts;
  • Asia-Pacific consumers tend to pay attention not only to the products, but also to the materials the goods are wrapped in. For manufacturers in the food, personal care and household goods categories this is one of the most crucial points and the major field for innovations in eco-friendly design.

Background

With regional consumers increasingly savvy and liberal with their spending, many are developing a taste not just for expensive products but also products with a unique design edge, particularly those featuring design reflecting their identity and roots. “The typical luxury consumer in China has an average age of 39, is exposed to an international lifestyle and is increasingly proud to be Chinese. With these dynamics in play and in particular for those sophisticated consumers who seek to feel unique rather than regard luxury as a show of wealth, embracing a unique and differentiated brand of the highest quality and craftsmanship are more important factors than country of origin,” observed Brenda Wang, founder of Hong Kong-based consultancy Brandexcel, which advises luxury and fashion brands planning to enter the Chinese market.

In the wake of climate change and natural calamities, Asia-Pacific consumers are also seeking out design that carries a social conscience. According to Tetsuya Honda, CEO of marketing and PR specialists Blue Current Japan Inc., consumers will look for services and products that ameliorate their anxiety about the future and also eradicate the image that consuming is wasteful. “Post March 11th, Japanese have a new mantra, the 3Ss—Social, Sustainable, and Shareable. Wealth won’t be defined by how many ‘things’ you have, but by how those ‘things’ make you feel.”

Bring on the dragon

Luxury consumers in China are beginning to seek out goods that emphasise China’s culture rather than just Western heritage. John Kwok, an advertising executive in Hong Kong, recently spent thousands of dollars on a traditional-style Chinese jacket at luxury retailer Shanghai Tang’s Pedder Street store. Shoppers such as Kwok represent the future for Chinese luxury goods buyers, with local brands tapping into growing demand for goods that have “Chinese DNA” or promote local culture and design. “Luxury means heritage and it takes generations to build heritage,” said Sunny Wong, managing director of Hong Kong-based Trinity Ltd, an investment holding firm retailing high-to-luxury end menswear in China. “The Chinese customers want heritage brands – they want the story, they want the history.”  Shanghai Tang’s executive chairman, Raphael le Masne de Chermont, sums it all up: “This part of the world is becoming the centre of the economic strength of the world. Why on earth should it keep on absorbing creations from the West and not invent its own?”

Real Annual Disposable in China: 2007 – 2011

US$ billion

What Do AsiaPacific Consumers Want
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