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Consumers more concerned about rising prices than the pandemic

THE majority of Southeast Asian (SEA) consumers are more concerned about rising prices of goods than the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, according to research firm Ipsos.

“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,” Ipsos said in a statement, following the release of its “SEA Ahead” survey results.

The survey covered the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. It found that 71% of SEA consumers were confident with the current COVID-19 situation in the country. In the Philippines, the figure is 68%.

However, the COVID-19 pandemic dropped to third among SEA consumers’ top concerns, with personal finances and inflation ranked as the top two concerns.

In the Philippines, the top three concerns are personal finances, the COVID-19 pandemic, and rising prices or inflation.

According to the study, the majority of Filipino consumers say they are “very impacted” by the rising prices of goods.

“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 the Philippines, savings are being made in food, gasoline, and personal care,” Ipsos said.

In July, Philippine headline inflation quickened to 6.4% year on year, its fastest pace in nearly four years, driven by soaring prices of food and higher transport costs.

“Inflation is yet another hurdle we are facing. While Filipinos have exhibited resilience and optimism over the years, it is apparent that both the COVID-19 pandemic and inflation are points of concern all must address,” Vicky V. Abad, Ipsos country manager in the Philippines, said in a statement.

“As Filipinos adapt to the supply chain disruptions and rapidly evolving market, there is a call for both government and private sectors to work on their empathy muscle and develop a true understanding of Filipinos’ needs to better support them and bounce back as one,” she added.

Despite this, 54% of SEA consumers say their economic outlook remains positive and 56% seem hopeful that their personal finances will be better.

Meanwhile, the study found that most countries were eager to start socializing amid more mobility. In the Philippines, consumers were comfortable visiting family and friends (77%), dining in restaurants (70%), and participating in gatherings (46%).

“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,” Ipsos said.

It reported that 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.

Ipsos Southeast Asia Chief Executive Officer Suresh Ramalingam said that with most of the region transitioning to an endemic phase of COVID-19 and coping with inflation, it is more important 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,” he added. — Luisa Maria Jacinta C. Jocson

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