Detailed look at today’s consumer journey and what it means for Malaysian brands

Photo source: Brooke Lark // Unsplash

The following is an op-ed submitted by Yap Chee Weng, the Head of Media Brands at Dentsu Aegis Network Malaysia. If you’d like to submit your opinion on any marketing industry topics, email and if we think our readers can benefit from your thoughts and research, we’ll run it! The necessary attributions will be stated clearly; this is a platform that welcomes opinions, as long as you can back up your claims!

Chee Weng tracks the media landscape like a hawk. As the President of Malaysia’s Media Specialists Association, he spearheaded the first industry-wide initiative to compile Malaysia’s Digital Advertising Expenditures annually and recently lobbied Putrajaya for the exemption from the Sales and Service Tax (SST) on advertising services. In this piece, “Marketing ― Today’s Consumer Journey and What it Means for Malaysian Brands,” he talks about consumers’ shifting behaviours online and what advertisers can do to future-proof themselves in this economy.

Mid-year results are in; finance departments are re-forecasting earnings and some marketing departments are re-evaluating advertising expenditures as they reposition for recovery. 

As they make pay-off evaluations on Returns on Ad Spend, they must be painfully aware that consumer behaviour has fundamentally shifted ― the COVID-19 pandemic has altered both their relationship to digital technology and in their expectations of brand trust.

The question isn’t whether clients demand more, the question is whether brands are ready for it.

The MCO saw Malaysian consumers embark on round-the-clock digital journeys of gaming, streaming videos, e-commerce searches, social engagement, and consuming newsworthy information.

For the first time, people relied on technology and brands to provide reliable solutions to keep their lives running as normal, sought subscriptions for new stay-at home conveniences and expected reassurances from customer service such as flexible returns or cancellation refunds. 

Source: Techlash or Techlove? Connecting beyond the Crisis – Dentsu Aegis Network

Two-thirds of consumers surveyed by Dentsu Aegis Network now expect brands to ensure their use of technology benefits society as a whole and provide products and services that support their well-being.

Even though we’ve come out of the lockdown, it is really still a crucible period for brands, given that 57% of people believe the pace of tech change is too fast and may encourage broad inequalities.

Consumers are especially careful now about endorsing brands with their marketing dollars. Companies not set up to deliver great personalised experiences at scale and not savvy enough to serve authentic messages risk suffering greatly. 

There will be winners and losers in an era of “tech-love” v.s. “tech-lash”

People in Malaysia have a more intimate interaction with technology than ever before as a result of this pandemic. Baby boomers embraced online shopping to lower their risk of getting infected and used technology to stay in touch with family and friends. Generation X juggled Work from Home while supervising their children’s online education. Millennials sought healthcare apps and online up-skilling courses. Generation Z took to social media as an outlet for their reactions to the world. 

Figure 1: Emotional Impact Nuanced By Generation
Source: Navigating Covid-19, an Essential Guide for Marketers in Malaysia – Dentsu Aegis Network Malaysia

According to a global value-exchange study, millennials see more value in personalisation and expect to get more from agreeing to share their personal data than consumers in other age groups.

Source: In Brands We Trust: iProspect x Microsoft – iProspect

Companies smart enough to invest in both online marketplaces and people-based marketing are reaping the benefits and well-positioned for sustainable growth. On the other hand, companies that violate users’ online data security and focus only on tactical sales over empathetic brand engagement risk seeing revenues decline.

Imagine listening and responding to customers on their terms, post-pandemic and beyond

During the lockdown, 42 million visitors flooded the largest marketplaces in Malaysia per month, leaving reviews attesting to whether products and delivery services lived up to expectations. Customers compared prices in real time across stores online and knew who was price gouging. 

Their demands of e-commerce, low-touch solutions went through the roof: 90% took out online shopping subscriptions for the future. 45% have started using e-wallets in lieu of cash payments. 84% looked for mobile-friendly, self-serve solutions such as navigation apps and auto checkouts. TV viewership was at an all-time high and entertaining, user-generated content on social media went viral as they kept everyone from boredom.

Figure 2: E-Wallets Is The Big Winner, Tech Transformed Consumption
Source: Covid-19: Navigating the Shifting Retail and Consumer Landscape in Malaysia – Nielsen

This confirmed what we’ve been realising for a long time: the traditional way of marketing is kaput. Top down pushed messages that do not consider customer inputs except for narrow focus groups at maybe two points in the customer journey do not foster trust. 

In a post-pandemic world, the companies need to listen to customers at every step of their digitised customer journey and relentlessly innovate to improve their customer experiences. The opportunities go beyond engaging customers at every step of the sales process with information they want about your offering. 

It’s about embracing their values and collaborating with customers proactively. Customers who get to contribute ideas to the development of your products for example will be willing to pay more for them. Authentic promotions and referrals by happy customers will go over better than staged messaging. Serving up content and resources that puts their wellbeing first will go a long way in customer retention and referrals.

To win the customer experience battleground, brands need both CRM and Online Marketplaces

According to my colleague, Andrew Turner, iProspect Chief Business Officer, the shift in online shopping has generated a positive forced change towards a stronger user journey in terms of both communication and data. 

“Integrated dashboarding offering realtime reporting across multiple platforms have allowed for clearer snapshots of marketing spend throughout the funnel. CRM and conversion rate optimisation of stores have also increased, increasing efficiency, helping squeeze even more online sales out of marketing dollars.”

Smart companies that are riding a positive wave in this economy all have this in common: they integrate their CRM, Data and Customer Support platforms. From barely generating leads at point of sales, a truly transformational CRM allows them to be obsessively customer centric. Deliberate by design, the right marketing technology setup allows them to have the right conversation, with the right message, on the right channel, at the right time with customers.

Figure 3: Smart Companies All Have One Thing in Common: Integrated CRM, Data, & Customer Support Platforms
Source: CRM in A Nutshell – Consider iProspect Malaysia

Moreover, they have to establish their presence on online marketplaces, which collectively have more audiences than individual e-commerce sites and higher conversion rates. 

Our clients, who are already operating in online marketplaces, witnessed an increase of between 15-25% on their ROI and share similar sentiments.

Malaysian customers would visit branded websites to research and find out about products, but they go to online marketplaces to check out reviews, make a purchase, and save on delivery costs on all the other items they want to buy. 42 million monthly visitors browse about 10 pages per session over 9 minutes on average and conversion rates are 3-5%, or nearly 15% during peak sales periods.

Figure 4: Snapshot of Malaysian Marketplaces
Source: Marketplace X – Dentsu Aegis Network, Malaysia
Figure 5: Average Store Conversion Rate % on Marketplace by Industry
Source: Marketplace X – Dentsu Aegis Network, Malaysia


“In Brands We Trust: iProspect x Microsoft-Global consumer research into the Intersection of Privacy, Customer Experience and Brand Loyalty ” – iProspect

“Covid-19: Navigating the Shifting Retail and Consumer Landscape in Malaysia” – Nielsen

“Techlash or Techlove? ​Connecting beyond the Crisis” – Dentsu Aegis Network

“Navigating Covid-19, an Essential Guide for Marketers in Malaysia” – Dentsu Aegis Network Malaysia

“Marketplace X 2020” – Dentsu Aegis Network Malaysia

“CRM in A Nutshell” – Consider iProspect Malaysia