Driving Asia's $10 trillion consumption growth opportunity

Asian consumers are changing the way they shop and spend, and these shifts are creating a $10 trillion growth opportunity over the next decade. Tiago Devesa, engagement manager in McKinsey's Sydney office, explains what these new consumption patterns are, and what this means for businesses.

Asia is likely to be the consumption engine of the world over the next decade, accounting for half of all global consumption growth. However, the new wave of consumption is likely to play out in a very different way from the past. In our latest Future of Asia discussion paper, Beyond Income: Redrawing Asia's consumer map, we discuss how a combination of social demographical forces and technology change is transforming consumer behavior across the region.

Video

So, what are some of these key behavior shifts? Well, let's start with the way consumers in Asia-Pacific increasingly consider alternatives to ownership. These include the rise of rentals and subscriptions. Countries such as Japan, Australia, and China now have 60 to 90 percent of their online adult population having at least one subscription service.

Rentals are growing too, in domains from housing, to consumer electronics, and even fashion. Even when they do own, Asian consumers are increasingly considering secondhand ownership. In China, for example, the secondhand market is expected to have doubled over the last three years.

Secondly, there's a pervasive shift from physical to digital. Digital media, entertainment, and gaming in Asia are growing at 20 to 50 percent a year, much faster than the broader offline economy. There's a bigger story here around digital lives. Asian consumers are going more and more online. As many as 20 to 30 percent of Gen-Zers and millennials now spend over six hours a day online.

And Asian consumers mostly leapfrog directly to mobile in their online activity. Penetration rates of smartphone in the region often top 70 percent for many countries. This has enabled the rise of a vibrant, local digital ecosystem, which has given rise to the phenomenon of super apps.

These act as one-stop digital shops for consumers to fulfill many of their needs, from finance, messaging, health, entertainment, and even mobility. They originated in China, but they're now prevalent in countries such as India, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, or Singapore.

Shifting our focus to the physical world, there's a third theme, all around sustainability. Across multiple consumer surveys, there's a clear message. Asian consumers are more concerned, and they're acting on their concerns. For example, in a recent poll, 80% of consumers in China, Malaysia, and India have stated that they've made changes to the goods and services they buy over the last few years specifically due to consumers about climate change.

There's a challenge, though. In many countries, income levels are not yet enough to sustain the price premiums that many green alternatives require. So there's broadly three keys to unlocking green consumption growth over the next decade.

First, as rising incomes play out across the region, willingness to pay for green alternatives is projected to rise. Second, regulatory action is likely to play out across the region. And third, supply-side innovation will be required to bring many price premiums down.

What does this all mean for businesses and investors? Well, Asian consumer markets are drastically diversifying. And more than ever, companies need to look beyond what they think they know about Asian consumers, and understand demographic, technological, and behavioral shifts playing out in the region.