19 Nov 2018
Accessing the ASEAN Consumer Market: Houseware and Small Home Appliances (Marketing)
For Hong Kong houseware exporters to expand into Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia, formulating an optimal marketing strategy is essential for a successful launch and brand building. Apart from the traditional marketing options, Hong Kong companies should also pay attention to the prevalent online marketing channels in the region.
When purchasing houseware and small home appliances in major cities, consumers have plenty of choices. Branding is important for a new product to stand out from the crowd. The key of a great household product brand is being able to tell a story – like a Dyson purifying fan, Nespresso coffee machine, or Wedgwood dinner set. Effective branding elevates a product from being just one commodity amongst many identical commodities, to become something with a unique character and promise, creating an emotional resonance in the mind of the target consumer. A strong brand identity will allow a business to move into a new ASEAN market more easily.
A Hong Kong-based company, Lexington Limited, a manufacturer of a wide range of tableware and kitchenware products, has invested heavily in rebranding. The company’s rebranding split the brand into three sub-brands: Lexliving for table top items, such as kitchen tools and bakeware; Lexngo for lunch boxes, containers and utensils; and Lexnfant for products for babies and children, such as placemats and baby food mashers. The rebranding gave each of its product lines a distinctive and memorable identity. With its strong brand identity and continued product innovation, Lexington expand its sales footprint into the ASEAN market and remain competitive in its key markets in Europe and the US.
Reaching Millennials through Storytelling
The millennial generation is the largest consumer group in ASEAN. Aged between 18 and 32, many of the local millennials have married and some have become parents. Engaging the millennial generation and building trust with them a key for successful houseware brands and marketers. Millennials are early adopters of technology, engaging this group of audience requires a smarter approach to communication. Brands have to reach out to them through relevant content and storytelling.
Millennials do their research to seek brands that are authentic and honest. They look for products that match their values and attitudes and resonate with their aspirations. They do not only want a functional product, they want a product with a story. If they know the coffee table is made from recycled wood, the cushion is woven with wool from a family-operated sheep farm, or the sleek, decorative vase is made by a potter living in the rural foothill of the Drakensberg mountains in KwaZulu-Natal, they can become more attached to the product and the brand.
Millennials also care about causes and are concerned with social issues relevant to their communities. They are more likely to show a preference for companies that support a cause they believe in, even if it means paying a bit more for those companies’ products. Corporate social responsibility initiatives, such as partnering with a local school and offering mentorship, donating goods to charitable organisations, or giving back to the communities through employee volunteering, can help companies effectively connect with millennial audiences. Brands that are socially conscious can cultivate a dedicated consumer base.
Attending Trade Fairs to Meet Prospective Customers
Exhibiting at a trade show allows brands, suppliers, and traders to meet prospective customers or partners or reconnect with former clients. There are plenty of exhibitions and trade fairs relating to home living, housewares, and small home appliances held in major cities across the region.
In 2018, the 33rd Hong Kong Houseware Fair and the 9th Hong Kong International Home Textiles and Furnishings Fair, both organised by the HKTDC, welcomed a total of close to 49,000 buyers from 112 countries and regions. An on-site survey indicated that buyers continue to favour Hong Kong as a trading platform, as the survey found that 46% of buyers polled expected to source an increased volume of products through Hong Kong, while 62% of exhibitors expected to sell an increased volume of products through the city.
The Business of Design Week (BODW) – A flagship event organized by the Hong Kong Design Centre since 2002, each year, BODW brings some of the world’s most outstanding design masters and influential business figures to Hong Kong to inspire the regional audience on creative thinking and design management. In addition, it also provides a valuable platform for participants to network, exchanges ideas and explore business cooperation. Today, BODW enjoys a reputation as Asia’s leading annual event on design, innovation and brands.
International Furniture Fair Singapore (IFFS) - IFFS 2018, along with the co-located ASEAN Furniture Show (AFS) and NOOK Asia, attracted 19,196 trade professionals from 89 countries. The shows served industries such as interior design, architecture, property, retail, distribution, and hotels. Visitors were able to explore a wide range of categories, including furniture, bathroom and kitchen solutions, flooring and carpets, art and décor, tableware, kitchenware, pottery, and handicrafts.
My Home Grand Furniture & Reno Expo – The annual expo attracts a large crowd of home lovers to see new product launches and thousands of furniture, furnishing, interior design and other exhibits. Products showcased include a wide range of home goods, such as wall coverings, flooring materials, decorative items and home essentials, like locks, grilles, laundry systems and induction cookers.
SingaPural– Organised by the Singapore Furniture Industries Council (SFIC) since 2012, the event was conceived as a common platform to connect designers with the industry.
Singapore Indesign – The event offers architects, interior designers, specifiers, industry professionals, students and designer hunters a one-of-a-kind opportunity to engage and connect with the industry.
Kitchen and Bathroom Indonesia – The event is a procurement source for international and local buyers, distributors and retailers. The trade fair gives visitors a glimpse of the latest trends in modern living style. A wide spectrum of products is showcased in the trade fair, including kitchen furniture and equipment, kitchen electrical appliances, kitchen and bathroom décor, smart home control and solutions, as well as green home technologies.
HOMEDEC Malaysia – Since 2003, the award-winning HOMEDEC exhibition has become a major trade event thanks to its abundance of variety and design innovations for creating dream homes. This is a huge marketplace where hundreds of exhibitors can meet interested consumers. Soaring demand has led to the exhibition opening across four main states in Malaysia – held bi-annually in Kuala Lumpur and Penang, and annually in Johor Bahru and Sabah.
In October 2017, HOMEDEC launched an extension from the main exhibition – HOMEDECshop, Malaysia’s first home décor and designs-related online shopping platform. Consumers can buy home products and professional services on HOMEDECshop, so home shopping can continue beyond the exhibition dates.
Modern Home Fair – The event was conceived as a common platform for manufacturers, dealers, suppliers, and home and living products and services vendors to reach shoppers under one roof. Modern Home Fair Kuala Lumpur features home entertainment and electrical products, kitchen cabinets and appliances, home renovation services, flooring and lighting products etc.
Malaysian Furniture & Furnishings Fair (MF3) – The event claims to be the most effective furniture fair in Southeast Asia. It focuses on home products, such as doors and window, curtains, lighting, wallpaper, flooring, decorative items to home appliances, living room furniture, bedroom furniture, kitchen furniture. MF3 aims to inspire creativity and innovation for home owners and exhibitors alike. This event is an ideal platform to kick-start the furniture product lines for it is consumer and market oriented.
Malaysian International Furniture Fair (MIFF) – From top-quality modern and contemporary furniture to tried-and-true classics, the MIFF gathers over 500 international and Malaysian exhibitors to showcase their latest designs for bedrooms, living areas, kitchens, bathrooms, children’s rooms, offices, hotels and outdoor living.
Thailand International Furniture Fair (TIFF) – The exhibition takes place twice a year in Bangkok in March and October. The most popular product categories are household goods, home decorations, handicrafts, interior design decoration items, furniture, and furniture parts.
Thailand Furniture and Houseware Fair – This nine-day Bangkok expo features furniture, sanitaryware, bathroom furnishings and home decorators under one roof, enabling consumers and trade buyers to see the latest trends in home design.
Thailand BIG+BIH – One of the region’s most reputable fairs for gift and home decorative industries and a prominent and aesthetic event in Asia, the event is attended by 13,000 buyers and professionals each year. Exhibiting is an ideal opportunity for houseware brands to strengthen their presence in the region and boost their brands’ visibility on a global scale.
Hosting a Pop-up Shop in Retailers’ Stores
Besides attending trade fairs, suppliers and designers can also seek opportunities to test their products in a retailer’s store to see how consumers react. Most retailers may welcome new ideas for extra customer traffic to their stores. Designers can approach retailers as a conversation instead of a pitch. They can ask to have a few minutes of time to talk about their latest line and seek their advice on how to improve it. Retailers may agree to a meeting and designers can propose a pop-up shop in the retailer’s store.
Designers can pay the retailer a commission on any sales made during the event or pay the retailer a flat fee for the use of their space. When the retailer agrees to a display, designers should invite all their contacts to the event. They can also introduce their line of products to the retailer’s regular customers and passers-by for feedback and potential sales. Retailers may be interested in a long-term collaboration if the event is a hit.
Hosting a pop-up shop is a great way to not only introduce a designer’s line to a retailer, but it is a good vehicle for sales and gaining feedback to improve the products. More importantly, the experience of dealing with a retailer can increase the success rate when approaching other retailers.
Social Media Marketing
According to HKTDC’s ASEAN Middle-income Consumer Survey, ASEAN middle-class consumers are multi-channel shoppers, with their purchasing decisions heavily affected by online reviews. At least 50% of respondents have made purchases online or used both online and offline channels. More than 50% also reported that social media platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, had influenced their buying decisions.
Today, consumers are constantly craving lifestyle-related digital content, not just to inspire their choices, but also for entertainment. Many retailers have started to act more like media brands – fusing the worlds of shopping, entertainment, and social media.
Facebook would be an ideal promotional tool for houseware and kitchen supplies. It offers a wide variety of advertising and post types for advertisers to choose from, as well as the option to target specific demographic groups. Facebook’s behavioural targeting allows advertisers to target users that are more likely to purchase based on their past behaviours. Cooking tutorials videos, meal ideas or recipes may be effective, but they have to be interesting enough to attract consumers.
Social media is all about three things: connections, relationships, and engagement. Customers who experience positive interactions with a company on social media are more likely to recommend the brand. When they make a recommendation on social media, it has a much greater reach than if they just tell a few friends.
Brands need to make sure that their social media content is timely and engaging, and that the content resonates with the target market. They can make use of video, or live streaming video to better engage the target audiences. Alternatively, they can consider buying paid ads or sponsored posts on social media, such as Facebook and Instagram, to boost visibility.
Influencer marketing is another way to gain immediate access to the right customers. Connecting brands with a suitable influencer, a Hong Kong-based start-up, Advwhere Limited, builds a self-served and data-driven platform called Cloudbreakr to match brands with the right influencers in different markets. These platforms connect brands with the most influential content creators, who will turn the brand message into a steady stream of compelling stories, photos and videos. For more details, please refer to: www.cloudbreakr.com.
However, as easy as social media has made it to connect and interact with customers, it does come with a few drawbacks. It is hard for marketers to control public response in social media.
Before jumping on the social media bandwagon, brands can make use of the analytic tools on popular platforms like Facebook and Twitter, to plan ahead for specific targets, such as page views and the number of followers. More importantly, brands need to create a content strategy and guidelines that matches not only the brand’s social media objectives, but also the company’s brand image.
 The survey interviewed more than 1,400 middle-income class consumers in Jakarta, Surabaya, Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi and Manila.
 Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, and Snapchat all have live streaming capabilities.
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