NEED DRIVEN INNOVATION
How Asia is staying ahead in global technology adoption
As a precursor to the annual IFA consumer electronics trade show in Berlin (1-6 September 2017), the IFA Global Press Conference is usually held months ahead, and is an event for organizers Messe Berlin to wax lyrical about the state of the consumer electronics industry. The usual charts are shown on how there’s still a positive trend even during these times of economic turbulence; how consumers today are willing to purchase higher priced, better equipped appliances; and how tech innovations are constantly creating new products and new market segments previously unavailable to the average consumer.
Think of really mundane things that you never knew you needed technology to do for you, such as connected toothbrushes with embedded sensors and an app to tell you if you’ve missed a spot, or automatic nail printers that promise to make nail bars obsolete.
It’s no surprise that the industry has mostly been inward looking. Consumers are often force-fed innovations labeled ‘the next big thing’. Most of the time they aren’t—think 3D TVs, a trend that never really took off. And sometimes, through over-engineering, technology ends up complicating things that should have been simple without. The most recent culprit you may have heard of is the unnecessarily high-tech Juicero juicer.
So, it was quite interesting that Gerard Tan, GfK’s APAC Director of Digital World presented that Asia isn’t just leading the world in technology adoption, but that content has been essential to drive innovation and market growth.
eSports, for example, is pegged as being
responsible for creating demand back into the sluggish PC market, with the APAC region showing a total spending of US$3.4 billion on gaming PCs and peripherals last year, a 77-percent increase from 2015 to 2016.
Asia is also boasting the largest wearable market on the planet, with a 51-percent growth rate in 2016. Out of the 42 million units sold in 2016 though, 55 percent were of health and fitness trackers, and only 17 percent were smartwatches. This reinforces the point that innovation should fill a need as smartwatches have yet to find their purpose.
Smartphones, however, have long proven themselves as being the wunderkind of modern technology. The tipping point of embracing the digital world comes in a 2017 GfK Consumer Life report where smartphones (95 percent) have finally surpassed wallets (94 percent) as the one item that young adults cannot leave home without.
Beyond standard e-commerce and even gig economies, Asia is a hotbed for e-services and social commerce experiments where digitization is rampant and the smartphone becomes a hub in solving localized issues. GoJek, a motorcycle taxi app helps zip past the standstill traffic conditions in Jakarta, Indonesia, but Go-Jek isn’t just another Uber, it offers all manner of services that rise from local needs, from goods delivery to home services such as cleaning and massages.
In China, WeChat has grown beyond a messaging platform into an allpurpose app with a built-in e-wallet to do everything from calling a cab to paying your utilities bill. Over the course of the Lunar New Year in 2017, it has been reported that 46 billion digital red packets, ‘hong baos’, were exchanged over the platform, a 43-percent rise over 2016.
Another recent mobile development sweeping through China include station-less bike sharing, where one can locate a nearby bicycle through GPS, unlock and pay for the ride through the app, and literally park it anywhere after you’re done. As a social experiment, it’s one that supposedly helps solve last mile transport in areas not accessible by vehicle, or to promote a healthier lifestyle. However, the system is rife with potential abuse with the need for better regulation. Yet, the bike-sharing boom has yet to abate. Major players such as Mobike and Ofo have expanded beyond China into other Asian countries.
As long as there’s a need or problem to solve, Asia is spearheading and embracing digital solutions faster than ever. And that’s a good thing for innovation.
Gerard Tan, Director APAC, Digital World, GfK presenting about the rapid adoption and transformation of Asia Pacific consumer tech landscape at the IFA Global Press Conference 2017 in Lisbon, Portugal.