Shifting Gears in Southeast Asia

How Evolving Consumer Spending is Driving the Future

in Singapore, Indonesia, and Malaysia -


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Shifting Gears in Southeast Asia:  How Evolving Consumer Spending is Driving the Future in Singapore, Indonesia, and Malaysia

Despite global economic uncertainties, Southeast Asia pulsates with an unmistakable dynamism. The region is experiencing a notable transformation in consumer spending habits, driven by rapid economic growth and a vibrant cultural landscape. This dynamism is fuelled by an increasing shift towards digitalisation and sustainability, mirroring global trends towards eco-conscious and tech-integrated lifestyles. 

This optimism is further supported by steady inflows of direct foreign investment and a notable recovery in the tourism sector, a pivotal contributor to the region's GDP. This positive trajectory, with IMF's GDP growth projections for 2024 highlighting 2.1% for Singapore, 5.0% for Indonesia, and 4.3%  for Malaysia, underscores the region's economic vitality and translates to growing spending power, influencing trends such as:

  • Digital dominance: The digitalisation boom, propelled by a combination of the tech savvy population of Southeast Asia, growing spending power and Internet penetration, has brought rise to the digital dominance and economy of these countries within the region.
  • Sustainability shift: The pandemic has amplified environmental awareness, societal concerns over climate change, which coupled with economic factors like fuel price hikes, leads to a strong demand for eco-friendly products such as EVs.   
  • Consumer Confidence and Spending: There's a noted shift in consumer spending with 39% of Southeast Asians reducing their average spend due to concerns about economic stability (63%) and the cost of living (58%). Interestingly, while there is a downturn in spending in categories like alcohol and electronics, expenditure on food, personal care and wellness demonstrates remarkable resilience, underscoring a nuanced consumer response to economic pressures, and shifts in priorities.
  • Re-evaluation of Needs vs. Wants: Economic challenges have led consumers to reassess their spending priorities, transforming what were once considered luxuries into new essentials. This recalibration sees social media and streaming services ascend to top priority across various income levels, indicating a significant shift in consumer perception of “essential” needs.


Case Study: The Electric Vehicle (EV) Industry as a Reflection of Changing Priorities

In response to the evolving consumer preferences indicated above, the emergence of the Electric Vehicle (EV) industry within the region is pivotal in understanding how consumer spending trends are driving the future of sustainability.

Several Southeast Asian countries are increasingly focusing on the EV industry as a key area of growth and innovation, shaped by evolving consumer spending and consciousness, and government policies and incentives play a critical role in shaping this landscape.

For example, in Singapore, the government's approach to boosting EV adoption includes the implementation of favourable policies such as the Early Adoption Incentive, alongside investments in charging infrastructure. These initiatives aim to reduce cost barriers and promote the use of premium EV models in the country. This comprehensive plan by the government is designed to establish Singapore as a leader in EV adoption within Southeast Asia.

On the other hand, Indonesia is strategically utilising its rich nickel reserves to secure a significant position in the global EV supply chain. The government supports this ambition with incentives like tax breaks and import duty exemptions, aiming to achieve a milestone of 2 million EVs on the road by 2025. These efforts are part of a broader strategy to enhance EV accessibility and affordability for Indonesians, who are already suffering the impacts of climate change. 

Similar to its neighbouring countries, Malaysia's focus on the EV sector is geared towards enhancing affordability and accessibility, with the aim of attracting global manufacturers, and developing a robust local EV ecosystem. This includes expanding public charging infrastructure and offering financial incentives, such as tax breaks and subsidies, to encourage EV adoption and alleviate “range anxiety” among Malaysian consumers.


Challenges and Opportunities for the EV industry

However, despite the potential for growth in the EV industry within this region, the EV market faces several challenges, with a significant barrier being the high upfront cost of EVs, and the development of charging infrastructures. However, these challenges are counterbalanced by significant opportunities for innovation, regional leadership in green technology, and the development of a sustainable transportation ecosystem.

To ensure a sustainable and economically resilient future, Southeast Asia must emphasise collaboration between governments, private entities, and research institutions to tackle these challenges facing the EV market. By combining resources and expertise, the region can hasten the growth and adoption of electric vehicles. 

Although the EV sector's progress has been gradual, there is a strong belief in the potential for more rapid advancement, driven largely by automotive industry interest and the development of key components, such as batteries and infrastructure. This collective effort heralds a bright future for the EV market in Southeast Asia, powered by innovation, rising consumer demand, and technological progress.


The Future of Consumer Spending

The future of consumer spending in Southeast Asia is poised for a multifaceted evolution, underscored by the continuous ascendancy of digital platforms across e-commerce, entertainment, and financial services. This shift is propelled by the region's economic expansion and the digital fluency of Generation Z, alongside a steadfast commitment to sustainability that influences choices across a myriad of sectors.

The burgeoning preference for personalised experiences over standard commodities is set to redefine business strategies, encouraging the creation of deeper consumer connections—something which the EV industry brings to the table.

Moreover, the sharing economy is expected to broaden, offering economical alternatives that reshape consumption habits, as seen within the scope of the transportation industry, particularly, EVs. As the landscape takes shape, addressing affordability, endorsing ethical production, and integrating technology into daily life emerge as pivotal for business success in Southeast Asia’s dynamic consumer market.


Strategising with Digital Insights: Navigating Southeast Asia's Market

As Southeast Asia forges ahead in the digital era, businesses are tapping into the region's momentum towards digitalization to strategize effectively. With a populace increasingly embracing online platforms for commerce, communication, and content consumption, companies are leveraging a variety of online research approaches to understand, and also anticipate consumer behaviour. By utilising market research methodologies such as quick surveys, analysing search trends, social media behaviours, and e-commerce activities, businesses can gain a clearer understanding of where the market is headed and what consumers are demanding.

By obtaining these digital insights, companies can craft strategies that not only align with consumer trends, but also anticipate future market shifts. This strategic application of digital data sets the stage for businesses to innovate and adapt in a region known for its rapid technological adoption and cultural diversity.


Customised survey and Business Strategy: Harnessing Digital Insights for a Competitive Advantage

When it comes to converting research into action, market research services such as custom surveys or DIY survey serve as indispensable tools for businesses. Customised survey, such as those offered by GMO Research & AI, provide a swift conduit to consumer feedback, helping businesses to react promptly to market dynamics.

Taking this approach, businesses can analyse patterns and preferences, uncovering deeper consumer insights that translate into enhanced customer experiences and more targeted marketing strategies. This strategic application of survey data is crucial in the fast-paced Southeast Asian markets where digitalization and rapidly changing consumer behaviour demand relevant agility. The ability to quickly harness and act on survey insights can significantly impact a company's ability to refine its approach, fulfil consumer expectations, and ultimately, stay ahead of the competition in a constantly evolving market.



In conclusion, the consumer landscape in Southeast Asia is undergoing a significant transformation, driven by the twin forces of digitalisation and sustainability. The EV industry, emblematic of this shift, presents both challenges and opportunities for Singapore, Indonesia, and Malaysia.  Strategic utilisation of digital insights and market research, including the adept use of customised and DIY survey, plays a crucial role in navigating these changes. By embracing change and fostering innovation, the region can navigate the complexities of the modern world, ensuring a sustainable and prosperous future for its citizens.

Consumer Spending Habits Southeast Asia Digitalisation and consumer spending habit Sustainability and consumer spending habit Climate Change and consumer spending habit Electric Vehicle Industry in Southeast Asia Southeast Asia EV Industry Challenges Strategize with digital insights Market research surveys in Southeast Asia