2021, in the Chinese Zodiac, is the year of the Ox, described on the upside as cautious, hardworking, calm, strong and reliable. On the downside, Oxen are slow to decide, and are often described as close-minded, stubborn and agitated.
But after the ups and downs of 2020, the hope is that 2021 will be more calm due to hopes that COVID-19 vaccines will be widely available so that the world will go back to “normal”.
The pandemic, however, has likely led to some permanent changes or shifts that will shape the present and future buying behavior, motivations and decision making of Filipino consumers.
Millennials will fuel economic activity, complemented by the younger Gen Z. More and more boomers, born between 1946 and 1964, will take a back seat with only a fifth possibly remaining active in the workforce. While the Generation X, also known as the sandwich generation takes over from the work and economic activity left vacant by boomers, this generational cohort is much smaller in number compared to the boomers and millennials.
Generation Alpha, a new generational cohort, takes on consumer identity. Sociologist Mark McCrindle first coined the term Alpha. Born from the year 2011, this generation is the first to be born entirely in the fourth industrial revolution manifested by highly advanced technology, digitization, artificial intelligence, crypto currencies, etc. While previous generations in their infancy to toddler years held on to rattles, pacifiers, crib mobile toys, trikes, lego, dolls, etc , the alphas took to smart phones, tablets, gamification, voice assistants much like ducks take to water. The internet and social media are commonplace in this alpha generation. Most have become instant social media celebrities as family fandom upload and post their pics all over Instagram, Facebook, Viber chatrooms and YouTube among others. Young as they are and with unlimited screen time for many, alphas are mesmerized by the internet and YouTube personalities. Many of the older alpha generation grew up with YouTube sensation Ryan’s World, formerly Ryan Toys Reviews. Now eight years old, Ryan’s vlogs and toy reviews are all child friendly and family content without the dangerous stunts.
The alpha generation is projected to be of the same population size as the boomers, or probably even more as lockdowns continue or are implemented every so often. In the Philippines, the Commission on Population and Development (Popcom) projects the country’s population will rise to 110.8 million by end 2021, possibly even more, from the previous 109.4. Related to this, the University of the Philippines Population Institute (UPPI) reveals that there will be up to 750,000 new births in 2021 related to the quarantine. This entire generation is bound to consume technology and digital products and services much like they consume basic necessities.
Cocooning. Coined in 1981 by futurist Faith Popcorn, the term became ubiquitous because of the growing human need to stay indoors or in a private space occasionally, instead of socializing publicly, to protect oneself from all sorts of perceived danger. With the pandemic, cocooning has become a necessity. Confined by force or by choice, the pandemic has opened a plethora of consumer behavior and spending. Cooking and baking equipment and essentials for the newly discovered chef in the family, interior designing and household furniture upgrade led by mom and dad, buying and updating mobile and technology equipment for online schooling and work from home arrangements, organizing the clothes cabinet and reselling preloved clothing and fashion accessories via apps like Etsy, Caroussel, Real Real, Facebook marketplace, among others and granny, yaya or amah filling up the pantry, storage and kitchen cabinets to the fullest with food and daily essentials to assure the paranoid self.
Health is wealth. Personal health and well-being is an important motivation for all age groups. But millennials and Gen Zs lead the pack when it comes to consumption of healthy food, fitness video streaming content and health and fitness gadgets like the fitness tracker, air bike, kettlebell, smart rope, etc. For example, while older generations preferred sumptuous desserts, gift giving became healthily exciting as millennial and Gen Z health fanatics gifted each other with Instagram discovery Prost! (@prost_mnl), a fully loaded superfood with chia seeds, acai berry and cacao nibs.
Survival of the fittest. The pandemic has brought a lot of gloom to mankind, triggered by social alienation, economic recession, declining performance or closure of some businesses, loss of jobs, among others. Yet, a glimmer of hope shines bright and opportunity continues to emerge for those who are able to retool themselves or their businesses. For example, some furloughed Qantas pilots have become bus drivers, paramedics and tram drivers in Australia. Repatriated Filipino overseas domestic workers, laid-off store attendants, baggers and the population of unemployed, unskilled workers may find gainful employment among local households instead of solely relying on “ayuda.”Culture reset. The pandemic has put everything on reset mode. First, globalization versus deglobalization or protectionism. Due to the pandemic, countries can ban foreign travel at any time and hamper or delay global trade and movement in the supply chain. The opportunity is to foster domestic growth rather than rely on international growth. Second, the availability of expert manpower supply. The pandemic has caused many older professionals to put their work and career in the back burner, relying mostly on technology but more often, solely on their savings. For example, the most seasoned medical professionals, previously all over the hospital, are now less sighted than younger medical doctors. Third, women empowerment is at risk as women take natural leadership in their households. Affected by layoffs, absence of household help, growing young children and a pregnancy during the pandemic, women are likely to reset their roles back into their homes. Fourth, a declining literacy caused by the digital divide in education triggered by economic capability. Online education or distance learning works only with a stable internet connection, high powered laptops and for some, smartphones. Not to mention, content made for online use intended to keep the students attention onscreen for a lengthy period. Without the appropriate equipment and internet connection, online education cannot happen. Literacy counts as one of the factors needed to move a country up the social mobility ladder. Fifth, the decline of the middle class. The middle class, divided into lower middle, middle middle and upper middle look up to the wealthy and rich. The middle income want the trappings of the wealthy. With ubiquitous opportunities during pre-COVID times, the number of nouveau riche has risen. Hence, the middle class was segmented into three. However, the pandemic reset is likely to reduce the number of families that belong to the middle income and simply divide the economic segment into the haves and have nots. This is where the survival of the fittest mindset becomes an important strategy to avert poverty.
Information onslaught like never before. The pandemic brings to the fore the good side and bad side of securing and conveying information. Millennials, Gen Zs and the alpha generation are faced with a lot of choices as to where to secure relevant and honest information. Over the top media, social media, chat rooms, the internet, etc. are just some of the sources. Interestingly, assessing which is fake news or not is something that the alpha generation raised in the internet and digital world will be adept at while remaining skeptical all the time.
The writer is Chief Brand Strategist of MKS Marketing Consulting and is an alumna of Oxford University’s SAID Graduate School of Business Strategic Leadership and Strategic Marketing Executive Education Program and Stanford Graduate School of Business Strategic Marketing Executive Education. De Asis is also an alumna of the Ateneo Graduate School of Business and a PhD graduate of the De La Salle Graduate School, Taft Campus. Reach the author who is also a member of the Global Strategic Consulting Network at [email protected]
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