Post-lockdown trends Malaysian brands should keep an eye on

Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin recently announced to commencement of the Recovery Movement Control Order (RMCO) on 10 June, nearly three months after the country first went into lockdown on 18 March to curb the spread of the pandemic. As businesses gradually reopen and consumers begin heading out once again, brands are gearing up for life post-lockdown. Of course, this is an important time for brands to be where consumers are.

According to a recent report by M&C Saatchi Malaysia's consumers insights and research company The Source, the three platforms which brands should consider targeting consumers post-lockdown are online, TV and, open channels. With online being the place where consumers started spending more of their time, be it for leisure, business or learning, it is no surprise that brands should double down their efforts in this area. The report added that national brands should maintain their media presence on national TV to show strength and maintain relevance. Meanwhile, they should also provide consumers with easy ways to ask questions and start a conversation. This can be done via calls, online chats, and WhatsApp.

Besides the channels, brands should also focus on carefully structured messaging in the areas of reopening, regulating, reassuring, and rewarding. For reopening, the report said brands should provide consumers with information on when and where they can find the brand. Businesses should also be clear on what the standard operating procedure should be like for the company and the wider category. Brands should also outline the measures they are implementing to protect consumers and employees, as well as show appreciation for loyalty through messaging or even gifts or vouchers. To succeed, brands should diversify income streams, innovate to remain relevant, and make money online, the report said. Here are some of the sectors that the report touched on:

1. FMCG

As consumers cut down on luxury, FMCG brands must tap into emotional benefits to become "must haves" in smaller, curated baskets. Post-lockdown, items that are likely to be in consumers’ baskets are hygiene products, healthy choices, cheaper protein, basic personal care, cooking staples, as well as kitchen equipment. According to the report, items that will not be in consumers’ baskets are expensive proteins, cosmetics, fashion, and unhealthy food.

2. Entertainment

It goes without saying that those in the entertainment sector would need to think about of the box to draw consumers. Cinemas, for example, can diversify their offerings by focusing on luxury experiences, expanding their vintage film offering or even have drive-in movies or home streaming. Malls can create new missions to encourage footfall, the report said, minimising risk and disruption for shoppers. While a health-conscious population presents an opportunity to gyms, the report said that the worth of gym assets must be proven and this can be done via online physical training or classes, as well as equipment sales.

3. Tourism

Airlines play an important and emotive role in reuniting Malaysian families, facilitating the opening up of domestic tourism and maintaining interstate health controls. When it comes to international tourism, the report said that airlines play a role in vouching for the safety of destinations, aircraft and other passengers, as well as protecting the borders as others arrive in Malaysia. According to the report, the post-lockdown travel journey must be on profitability for lower passenger and visitor numbers, with extra commitments needed at all stages of the journey.

The extra commitments include a more comprehensive online process, with considerations around dates, costs and destinations. Assurances on destination and enforced changes or cancellations vital before flyers commit will also be needed. Check-ins will also be automated as much as possible, health checks, distancing and careful crowd management.

4. Telecoms

A kinder, more caring telecoms is needed to take advantage of the emotional shift, the report said. This includes prioritising customers and not profit, eg. Providing free extra data, tailored offers, and rebates on bills. Companies in this sector should also have richer, more emotive messaging by having insight-led resonating communications and address benefits of their services over features.

5. Finance

Enabling older generations in online usage remains key for those in the finance industry, with building trust vital to help create new behaviour patterns. According to the report, there has been a slow uptake of ewallets in the past due to a lack of a clear consumer need underpinning usage in a crowded marketplace. The acceleration of online and hygiene concerns driving contactless payment have therefore provided this missing impetus.

Dan Harrow, managing partner at The Source Malaysia said the pandemic and the resulting lockdown is reframing the world and acting as a positive force in Malaysia. Harrow added that the pandemic will accelerate changes towards creating a new online economy, building a safer and hygiene-conscious country.

"It will also increase a sense of responsibility by the government, businesses and individuals who will make collective efforts to protect the country and the environment by reducing the impact on their friends, family, colleagues and fellow Malaysians," he said.