Facebook unveils 4 key trends Identified for Southeast Asia’s emerging middle classes

Facebook Thailand released a consumer study focused on emerging middle-class people in Thailand and Southeast Asia, highlighting how digital technology is shifting their behaviour and purchasing patterns. The study, encompassing Khon Kaen, Maha Sarakham, Surat Thani and Ban Na San, highlights the growing importance of Thai emerging middle-class individuals and provides Thai businesses with fresh insight to support their go-to-market efforts.

Four key trends Identified for Southeast Asia’s Emerging Middle classes:

Choosing Identities

  • Unlike previous generations, digital technology gives access to new spheres of information, allowing the emerging middle class to choose a modern identity despite being tied to traditional cultural values.

Choosing Communities

  • The online space allows people to unite via interests or hobbies, unrestricted by physical location. Online communities also now shape attitudes, behaviours and world views.

Choosing Dreams

  • Socio-economic status previously restricted potential. Whereas the online space allows ambitions to turn in to dreams.

Choosing Joy

  • The emerging middle class is sophisticated in what they buy, and how. They prefer items that bring pleasure: beauty, travel, experiences and branded goods.

Today, digital exposure has opened a world of opportunities. Emerging middle class have growing disposable income, and they care about what they buy. People in this region have significant economic potential. To grow alongside this demographic, businesses should pay attention to how they are evolving and how they can help them do so, said John Wagner, Managing Director, Facebook Thailand.

“What makes this study unique is the personal stories. The local and cultural context may be different in each country, but connectivity has given people power they never had before – the power to choose. People are expressing that in a variety of ways,” explains Wagner.

Thailand, with a middle class of 49 million, is a central part of Southeast Asia’s swift middle-class growth. By 2022, there will be 350 million middle-class people in the Southeast Asia region with USD 300 billion of disposable income – representing a 50 million increase from 2017 to 2022. Technology is enabling people in provincial areas in SE Asia to participate fully in the digital economy with mobile payments expected to reach USD 30 billion and E-commerce logistics to grow to USD 7.5 – 9 billion in 2022.

When it comes to the businesses serving emerging middle-class consumers, while 77% of interviewed business leaders across the region believe the emerging middle class will be a key growth driver for their businesses, only 15% believe they have the necessary go-to-market strategy (product, marketing and sales/distribution) to serve them.

To create the study, Facebook worked with Bain & Company and engaged ethnographic specialists Quantum to survey 12,000 consumers across Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Philippines, Vietnam. The foundation of the study was 80 in-depth interviews conducted in the homes of people across Southeast Asia and 160 additional interviews with consumers in groups. The comprehensive approach encompassed 16 cities across Southeast Asia.