MALAYSIAN online shoppers spent the most on travel last year, a recent survey has revealed. They spent an average of RM865 (S$364.85) per person on online purchases of airline tickets, RM475 on travel accommodation and RM465 on online travel agencies in the past 12 months.
Malaysians also ranked No. 3 in Asia in terms of amount spent shopping online.
According to the survey by Visa, 82 per cent of Malaysian respondents said they purchased airline tickets over the Internet, while 72 per cent reported having purchased travel accommodation online.
The findings from the 2010 Visa eCommerce Consumer Monitor were based on 3,516 online interviews with regular Internet users aged 18 and above in Malaysia, China, India, Indonesia, Taiwan and Thailand.
Visa Malaysia country manager Stuart Tomlinson said booking airline tickets and purchasing financial services or electrical appliances online were becoming as common as paying a visit to the mall.
"In fact, many Malaysian shoppers who buy via the Internet feel it's a more convenient way to shop than going to the store because they can compare the prices easily and shop at a time that's convenient to them from the comfort of their home.
"From the survey, it was found that 35 per cent of Malaysian respondents rated payment security as the most important factor when transacting online.
"Visa provides cardholders with an added layer of security via its Verified by Visa procedure using one-time passwords.
"Consumers can make online purchases with their Visa card with the reassurance that their data will be processed securely, regardless of whether they shop via local or overseas websites."
Convenience seems to be the key motivator for online shopping, followed by bargain-hunting.
Malaysian respondents said they shopped online because it allowed them to shop at any time (83 per cent), compare prices to save money (81 per cent) and find products easily (79 per cent).
Eighty-one per cent of the respondents said they shopped online to save time.
As for their online shopping experience, 79 per cent of Malaysian respondents said they were most satisfied with the convenience it provided. Respondents also rated the ease of online payment (73 per cent) and the speed of transactions (69 per cent) favourably.
It's all about brands
Malaysian shoppers are a brand-conscious lot and loyal to their favourite brands.
A recent study revealed that they tended to go for branded items more compared with shoppers in other Asian countries.
Malaysians ranked only second to Indian shoppers in terms of brand- consciousness.
They will also stick to the brand they have in mind before entering a supermarket or hypermarket.
In its recent 2010 Eye on Asia retail study, marketing communications agencies Grey and G2 found that 95 per cent of Malaysians bought at least one of the brands they already had in mind.
Of the six countries surveyed in the category, including Malaysia, India, China, Vietnam, Indonesia and Australia, Vietnam was at the bottom of the list with only 77 per cent sticking to a brand they had in mind.
Grey Group Kuala Lumpur group planning director Remona Duquesne said if people were not affected by a "name", there would not be such emphasis on brands.
"If a name wasn't so important, people wouldn't care if they were carrying a Louis Vuitton or any other bag, or driving a car versus a BMW."
She added: "However, a lot of people automatically think brand equals logo or brand equals product. Actually, it's so much more than that.
"One of the most respected men in advertising, Jeremy Bullmore, believes that people build brands as birds build nests, from the scraps and straws they chance upon.
"This leads to one of my favourite definitions of 'brand': the sum of what a consumer experiences or feels, whether it's about a product, service, organisation or even person. For instance, Madonna is not just a person, she is also a brand.
"So, logo and product are certainly the ingredients of what constitute a brand. However, they don't define what a brand is."
Branding and brand-building, Duquesne said, was all about management and consistency.
"While most, if not all, of the multinational companies are focusing on branding, maybe only 20 to 30 per cent of Malaysian companies actually practise it.
"Basically, brand-building is the art and science of actively managing all the different aspects of what a person experiences and shaping them into how the brand wants the person to feel.
"Managing these experiences needs to occur across all the relevant touch-points the brand exists in, from how it is portrayed in advertising to point-of-purchase in store and to the product experience itself, and all these must be consistent.
"When it's done right, it keeps companies competitive. There have been countless reports that demonstrate the added tangible value proper branding brings to a product, service or an organisation.
"Plus, it makes people feel good. For example, someone who uses a product from the Body Shop can feel she's contributing to a bigger cause compared with when she uses an ordinary bar of soap, which still does the job but doesn't make her feel in a particular way."
Duquesne said successful brands had a few things in common.
"Fame is one of the most common similarities among the strong brands. If a brand is to enjoy genuine celebrity, it also must be known to a circle of people that far exceeds its target audience.
"What's the point for the five per cent rich to own a BMW if the rest of the 95 per cent don't know what it is?"