While Malaysians are highly connected online, they are also very sceptical of social media content, according to a new global survey.
MC Lai (pic below), who is Malaysia managing director of global research company Kantar TNS, said high connectivity in Malaysia has not equated to an easy ride for brands and companies trying to engage Malaysians through social media.
Lai explained that the finding came from Kantar TNS' survey of 70,000 people across 56 countries, which includes 104 in-depth interviews as part of a 2017 Connected Life study.
"Malaysians spend a large proportion of their day online," he continued. "We're constantly connected to the internet thanks to our mobile devices and ever-improving data costs and speeds."
"However, marketers need to realise that Malaysians are not easy targets in this digital world," Lai added. "In comparison to other less developed countries in the region, consumers here are more mistrusting of what they see online, and are more uncomfortable with brands collecting their personal data."
Some of the top findings are that:
- Only 17 percent of connected consumers in Malaysia believe content on social media is reliable
- Under half (41 percent) trust global brands
- 51 percent are concerned about the level of personal data brands hold on them
Malaysian government agencies are driving eCommerce development as one of the vital cogs in Digital Malaysia. Most recently, there has also been the establishment of the Digital Free Trade Zone (DTFZ), which is a collaboration between MDEC and China's Alibaba Group headed by Jack Ma. Ma has also been appointed as Malaysia's Digital Economy Advisor. [See - Computerworld Malaysia's "Deep Dive with Jack Ma on Malaysia and the Digital Silk Road"]
The DFTZ - a joint undertaking between Chinese eCommerce conglomerate Alibaba Group and the national ICT agency Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) - was launched by the prime minister, with MDEC's chief executive officer Dato' Yasmin Mahmood in attendance.
High levels of suspicion
Delving deeper into the data, he said the research set out to explore consumer trust in brands underpinned by four themes: technology, content, data, and eCommerce.
Lai said that while Malaysians spend 7.2 hours online every day, the opportunity for 'brands to engage with them there is under threat, as consumers are mistrusting of online content and are sceptical of brand motivations.'
He confirmed that the research showed how sceptical Malaysians are when consuming online content. As noted above, just 17 percent of connected consumers consider social media content to be reliable. "This contrasts markedly with other Southeast Asian countries such as the Philippines and Indonesia, where 59 percent and 61 percent respectively trust this content. Almost one in three (31 percent) also have concerns about how much control the social media networks have over the content that they see on their feeds."
Lai added that the study also showed that trust in brands varied "significantly between markets. In Malaysia, consumers are moderately cynical, with only 41 percent of the connected consumer population trusting global brands. This trust level falls significantly in other markets such as Australia (19 percent), however in emerging markets such as Vietnam, 54 percent of consumers remain trusting of these brands."
He said the findings demonstrate that despite the benefits possible when sharing data, Malaysians are "cautious about how much of their personal data they share online. 38 percent of consumers in Malaysia object to connected devices monitoring their activities even if it makes their lives easier, compared to 15 percent in Indonesia.
In addition, Lai said, "more than half (51 percent) of Malaysians showed concerns about the amount of personal data that brands have on them, compared to 33 percent across the region. Malaysians are becoming increasingly aware of the price they are paying for their connected lifestyles, and many feel on the losing end of an unfair exchange."
Efforts to ease resistance include the use of emerging technology to help brands present an enhanced, smoother customer service experiences, but poor deployment or a failure to meet basic needs can erode consumers' trust and confidence in brands.
For example, Malaysians are unsure about chatbots - "while 38 percent say that they would accept interacting with an AI-powered machine such as a chatbot if it meant their query was dealt with more quickly, a similar number (30 percent) would object to using one. This year's findings also showed that while advances in technology aim to make consumers' lives simpler and easier, people feel increasingly distracted and harassed by it: 38% of 16-24 year olds in Malaysia think they use their mobile phones too much."
Other technology examples include the use of 'buy buttons' in social and mobile payments to try and present a smoother eCommerce engagement, said Lai. However, despite the mature digital ecosystem in Malaysia, less than one in three (29 percent) "Malaysians say that they are willing to pay for products using their mobile phone. What's more, 39 percent would object to doing so. Cash is still king in Malaysia, so innovative solutions that make people's lives demonstrably easier are needed before consumers are convinced to move onto newer payment options."
Michael Nicholas, global lead of Connected Solutions, Kantar TNS, commented: "Trust is fragile. Brands in emerging countries see higher levels of consumer trust today than those in developed ones but they shouldn't take it for granted. To build and protect trust, brands need to put the customer first. That means understanding their motivations, understanding the right moments to engage with them, respecting their time as valuable, and being more transparent about how and when they collect and use their personal data. Above all, that means putting the customer first - something that many marketers have forgotten to do."
Secrets of engagement
So what are the secrets of better engagement? "Brands that want to successfully engage Malaysia's connected consumers need to focus on three key area," Lai told Computerworld Malaysia.
"The first consideration is the platforms they use to connect to Malaysians," he said. "Each platform in the digital space has its own distinct role, and marketers therefore need to understand how the brand should fit within it so that it does not feel out of place."
"We know that 81 percent of Malaysians are on Facebook daily keeping up with news and live events, so that's a more appropriate place for brands to update about new products and services," Lai said
"Then secondly, there's content," he continued. "Creativity is vital when engaging consumers - the most popular campaigns are always the ones that are creative, short and simple and leave a lasting impression. Brands should not underestimate the need to land on an overarching creative that speaks to the audience, but then to invest time in tailoring the execution across channels."
Lai then went to the last key. "Lastly, brands need to earn trust. Transparency is key here. Cautious consumers want to know that any personal data shared with a brand is safe, and that it is being used in a way that will benefit them, for example through tailored suggestions. Trust takes time to build, so brands need to ensure they are doing all they can to develop the relationship with consumers or risk alienating them in the long-term."
To see some other eCommerce and Internet behaviour news, visit:
- Malaysia's DFTZ wins international award, 25 government agencies boost eCommerce 'explosion'
- Malaysia's battle plan for digital disruption: part 1 of an exclusive with MDEC's Datuk Yasmin
- Disrupting the disrupters in Malaysia: part 2 of an exclusive with MDEC CEO Datuk Yasmin
- Here's what happened in Malaysia's IT industry in the first three months of 2017
- MDEC adds another master cog to Malaysia's Digital Economy
- What's really in store for Malaysia's IT industry in 2017?