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Published October 25th 2022

How is The Cost of Living Crisis Affecting the APAC Region?

Consumer behavior is changing quickly. What are the latest consumer trends and how are people adapting to rising prices? Read on to find out.

Grocery shopping has become a serious business in the last few months. Sticking religiously to my shopping list and buying my favorite brands in bulk when they’re on sale is key to not spending more money than I planned. Well, I’m also German and we aren't exactly known for spending a lot of money on food. 

Changing buying habits can be seen worldwide as inflation rates increase. How are people adapting to rising prices in different countries? What is changing in the APAC region? Let’s find out. ​​

With the help of Consumer Research we analyzed over half a million online conversations on the cost of living from January 1 to October 15 2022 in the APAC region. We looked at the discussions online to find out what people are talking about when they mention the cost of living crisis, which emotions they express the most, and how they’re planning to change their behavior.

Let’s look at online conversations and what they can tell us about consumers’ concerns. 

The cost of living crisis raises a lot of emotions

Unsurprisingly, the cost of living crisis conversation is an emotional one. 94% of sentiment-categorized mentions are negative. The top emotion is sadness, with 49% of emotion-categorized mentions expressing sad feelings. Anger and disgust come in second and third place.

People in Indonesia talk more negatively about this topic than the other analyzed countries in the APAC region. While 95% of mentions from Indonesia are negative, only 78% of mentions from Thailand are negative. Of all the analyzed countries, Thailand's people talk the least negatively about the cost of living crisis. 

How do the expressed emotions in online consumer conversations differ from country to country? When splitting the conversations into different countries and emotions, we see some interesting variations:

  • People from Malaysia express the most sadness in their online discussions.
  • Online conversations in Singapore are angrier than conversations in other countries.
  • The most fearful mentions are coming from Australians.
  • New Zealanders show more disgust in their mentions than people from other countries.

As we can see, the cost of living crisis is emotional. Let’s look at what drives these conversations. 

Rising food prices are a main concern

The rising cost of living influences plenty of areas in our lives, but nothing gets us talking as much as the rising grocery prices. Grabbing the same yogurt, cheese, bread, and luncheon meat as always and suddenly spending significantly more money doesn’t happen without people noticing. I’ve noticed. And so have people online.

Grocery prices are the main topic in all analyzed APAC countries. On average, conversations have grown by 178% in 2022 compared to 2021. People worry about inflation, poverty, food shortages, and supply issues. “Struggling” is one of the commonly-used words in negative mentions. So it’s not surprising that fear is the emotion that has increased the most in conversations around groceries and the cost of living (up by +370%).

What products do people discuss the most? Let’s have a closer look at the grocery shopping conversations.

Meat is by far the most-mentioned food item. The most expressed emotion in those discussions is disgust. In fact, as much as a third of emotion-categorized mentions express disgust. Consumers say meat products are becoming too expensive, especially the price of chicken and fish, and they worry they can’t afford to buy meat in the future. 

However, not all conversations are negative, and people try to stay positive and have a sense of humor about it. This tweet about picky penguins in a Japanese Zoo is one of the most retweeted tweets in the cost of living conversation from the APAC region:

The second most discussed grocery item is wheat. Since the war in Ukraine, the price of wheat has jumped on international markets and the APAC region is no exception. In third place, we have alcoholic beverages. While consumers mainly talk negatively about the other analyzed products, the conversations around alcohol show a different picture. Interestingly, only 49% of sentiment-categorized mentions about alcohol are negative. 

One reason is that when people mention alcohol it's often part of treating themselves. It’s less of a necessity. Consumers like to talk about their positive restaurant experiences. They address the rising prices, but say the great food, beverages, and service made it worthwhile. 

Looking at the conversations in different countries, there are some interesting insights: 

  • Australians talk more likely about vegetables, dairy, eggs, or household items.
  • People from Indonesia are more likely to mention vegetable oil.
  • Rice products are discussed much more in Singapore and Indonesia.
  • New Zealanders mention fruits more than other countries.
  • Consumers in Malaysia talk more about meat products.
  • People from Thailand mention alcoholic beverages more often than other countries.

The high fuel prices is curbing mobility 

Fuel prices are also important in the rising cost of living discussions. People talk about soaring prices, government actions, and taxes and looking for ways to save money. It’s not a positive topic. Out of all the analyzed topics around the cost of living, fuel conversations have the highest percentage of sadness. 57% of emotion-categorized mentions express sadness. Car drivers, especially in rural areas, are deeply dependent on their cars and often aren’t able to switch to alternatives.

The topic of mobility has become more critical over the last few weeks. Conversations increased by almost 120 % from Aug 16 - Oct 15 2022 (compared to June 16 - Aug 15 2022). Electric cars are a big topic in the conversations around cost of living and mobility.. People discuss the availability and affordability of EVs (electric cars) or how and where they can recharge them. With rising energy prices, recharging EVs is increasingly becoming a concern for consumers. 

In terms of changing their behaviors behind the wheel, consumers say they are looking for ways to stop driving or drive less. They want to switch to public transport or try to find ways to limit their car usage. 

People are looking for ways to save electricity

Electricity bills or bills in general are one of the most talked about topics in the rising cost of living conversations. In fact, it comes in third after groceries and fuel prices. Looking at the mentions in the last two months (Aug 16 - Oct 15 2022) we see that electricity discussions have increased by 78% (compared to June 16 - Aug 15 2022). 

With winter approaching in countries in the northern hemisphere, there are a lot of discussions about how to reduce energy consumption to compensate for exploding prices. In conversations about what changes people are planning to make, saving on electricity is the top priority. People talk about this way more than taking colder or shorter showers, asking for a raise, or turning down the temperature.

Energy efficiency is the main topic in saving electricity conversations. Consumers are discussing how efficient electrical appliances are and if investing in a new device can save them money in the long run.

The cost of living is a big topic in 2022 and that will probably continue in 2023. What we see is that people express their emotions and talk about their concerns on social media. They ask for advice or discuss how they are planning to make adjustments. These conversations contain valuable information for brands on how consumer behavior is changing right now. As a brand, it helps to be up to date about these changes so you can adapt quickly and stay ahead of your competitors. 

Learn more about consumer conversations and the rising cost of living

If you want to find out how consumers in other countries of the world discuss the rising cost of living, check out our latest report ‘Cost of Living and Changing Consumer Behavior’. We’ve covered the latest consumer trends on shopping, mobility, and how people are planning to change their behavior as a result of the crisis.

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