Industry experts from across POCO business partnerships gathered with regional and local media in Bangkok to provide their insights into the evolving nature of the habits and preferences of South East Asia’s Gen Z mobile users. The POCO Partners Southeast Asia Forum 2023, provided a significant opportunity to explore the rapidly changing consumer environment driven by both the evolving usage and preferences of the region’s “mobile first” Gen Z generation.
Quanxin Wang, the General Manager of Xiaomi Southeast Asia, Anne Wang, Head of Marketing at POCO Global and Angus Ng, Head of Product Marketing at POCO Global joined with top executives from Lazada, MediaTek, PUBG, Shopee, and TikTok Shop, debate the evolving tech trends and data-driven insights in e-commerce, gaming, chipset and smartphone markets in Southeast Asian countries.
Gen Z is “changing the game” in consumer mobile phone usage habits and preferences, with striking changes in the last five years, the results of a new survey, released at the Forum event, have revealed. The study of usage habits of 18-40-year-olds across Southeast Asia, conducted by global public opinion and data company YouGov on behalf of consumer technology company POCO, has shown how even more integral smartphones have become in their lives, with around 50% of respondents experiencing a significant uplift in the amount of time spent across all mobile-related activities.
Mobile the new ‘hub’ of entertainment
The survey itself covered 2,500 consumers targeting Gen Z and Millennials in five Southeast Asian markets, Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam who play games on their mobile devices at least once a month. The study showed, that fueled by the recent pandemic, mobile phones have become core entertainment hubs, and that younger Southeast Asians’ mobile activities have dramatically increased over the last three years, with surges in mobile gaming (53%), online shopping (51%) and video streaming (48%) activities.
Entertainment drivers such as watching videos (81%) and playing online games (60%) rank highest in daily activities, with only just over half (56%) using their phones for daily voice calls and under half (47%) for taking photos and videos on a daily basis. When focusing on mobile activities conducted throughout the week, almost nine in ten played games (87%) with photo and video taking activity increasing (80%).
Angus Ng, Head of Product Marketing at POCO Global expressed enthusiasm about the opportunities this presents for POCO, particularly in positioning the brand to focus on specific market needs and working closely with partners to adapt their product offerings. “POCO’s intention is to steer in a new direction”, he explained, “the company aims to concentrate on the essential elements of gaming, a rising trend in Southeast Asia. By focusing on the roots and fundamentals of mobile gaming, POCO aims to perfect each segment between price and product, targeting the unique needs and preferences of the younger generation in the region.”
Gen-Z the mobile-first generation
As a ‘mobile first’ generation, Gen Z spends more hours engaged in mobile activities. They spend more hours per week than their Millennial counterparts for all online leisure activities, such as messaging and social media interactions, and intend to spend even more time on their mobiles in the future.
In the immediate future, around four in every ten also say they are likely to actually increase the amount of time spent each day on mobile-based activity, with social media (53%), browsing the internet (56%), and, interestingly, work-related tasks registering as the high-growth usage activities. Indeed, with changes in flexible working post-pandemic, utilizing mobile devices for work and business use is seen as the significant area of highest future growth (59%). The growth in entertainment activities is set to continue, with some four in ten respondents anticipating to spend even more time gaming, streaming video, and shopping online.
Speaking at the forum, Liang Shuang, Head of Shopee Regional Electronic Cluster said, “For smartphones that are designed for Gen Z, I’d say they’re all about being seamless. Gen Z is used to using mobile devices and they want phones that make everything online easy. This includes things like having engaging interactions with one another, sharing fun moments or playing exciting games within their community, or keeping track of their health and knowing ways to improve their lifestyle.”
Tony Yuan, Senior Vice President at POCO partner Lazada, one of the largest e-commerce operators in Southeast Asia, noted that the young generation’s online surfing habits, including increased interaction and reliance on online reviews and comments, present exciting opportunities and intricate challenges. “While this behavior offers new avenues for engagement, it also complicates the creation and measurement of consumer experience,” he explained. “Lazada recognizes the importance of staying ahead in this dynamic environment, acknowledging the younger generation’s preferences and needs, and employing technology to connect with them more effectively.”
Mid-range phones on the rise
With these shifting usage trends, consumers are also rethinking their choice of mobile device. An overwhelming majority agreed that, compared to five years ago, they now have a preference for a mid-range brand phone over the bigger more established brands. More than three-quarters (76% strongly/somewhat agree) agree, and over a third (37%) strongly agree, they now prefer mid-range phones. This preference is being driven by an increased confidence in mid-range brands, with 79% stating they are either much more or somewhat more confident in mid-range phones compared to five years ago.
This increasing confidence is centered around preference drivers including budget-friendly affordability (57%), the balance of price and performance (57%), and fulfilling their mobile needs without the need for excessive features (50%). With almost half (46%) of respondents intending to replace their current mobile phone before the end of 2024 in SEA, affordability is a top motivator dictating young consumers switch to a mid-range brand for almost half of the respondents (42%), with enhanced performance from faster processors, longer battery life and larger storage capacity cited as primary considerations for both Gen Z and Millennial consumers, all strong attributes for mid-range mobile devices.
Chunyan See, Country Sales Manager, Thailand, MediaTek, explained that designing, studying, manufacturing, and integrating a chip takes three years, involving extensive research, development, and collaboration. “The company ensures the design’s power efficiency and performance align with customer desire and the ongoing commitment to innovation means MediaTek is involved in a continuous process that requires releasing a new chip every year, reflecting modern consumers’ evolving needs and expectations,” he said.
Gaming capability and performance is a key factor in this next new phone purchase decision, with 44% of those surveyed stating it as a “very important” factor and an additional 36% as “somewhat important” with the emphasis on long battery life, high-performance processors and larger storage capacity largely driven by gaming considerations.
“The overall conclusion of today’s Forum is that clearly, a phone’s gaming capability, balanced by affordable price points is setting the agenda, led by the next generation of young consumers to change the consumer game-play in widening the brand playing field,” explained Ng. “This is presenting exciting new opportunities for POCO and the world of mid-range phone brands.”