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Richard BurrageManaging PartnerCimigo
Like many consumers in emerging markets, Vietnam’s younger generation is the most likely demographic to be engaged with digital. Richard Burrage, managing partner of Vietnam-based market research firm Cimigo, spoke with eMarketer’s Dustin Sodano about behavior across age groups in the country, and how to best reach the young consumers.
eMarketer: What is the internet penetration in Vietnam?
Richard Burrage: Nationally, it’s around 48%, and in urban areas, it’s up in the 70s. The older people—over 35—are less likely to be engaged online, but smartphone penetration is changing that as smartphones become less expensive.
The older generations have been far slower to adopt simply because they don’t have the same need or desire to be connected and share experiences.
The younger group is likely to be instant messaging or on a social network, rather than calling someone. The desire to be on the internet used to really drop off over 35. Over 40 years old, the data looked like a cliff. But that’s changing now. [Consumers in Vietnam are] experiencing the online world through mobile.
eMarketer: Looking at young consumers, ages 35 and below, how much time are they spending online per day? What kinds of rituals have they established?
Burrage: It’s quite heavy. The average user is urban and spends over 3 hours per day in an online environment. A big shift is the emergence of the multiple-screen environment. They could be watching TV but still engaged more closely with a mobile phone. As for rituals, young users spend a lot of time on social network sites, primarily Facebook, and some others, like Instagram and [mobile messaging app] Zalo.
Streaming video and playing games are also popular. If you go back 10 years, a lot of the internet access was through internet cafes, and a lot of that internet access was gaming. So there’s still a lot of time spent on gaming.
eMarketer: Among young internet non-users in Vietnam, what’s keeping them offline?
Burrage: I think it mainly has to do with what economic class a person is in. The group at the bottom end of the spectrum might have a feature phone with some sort of internet capability, but might not be upgrading devices or paying for data access. As those people have more disposable income, they’ll engage. It’s really the money that’s preventing them—there’s no lack of desire.
eMarketer: Do consumers in Vietnam trust advertisements on the internet more than traditional media, such as TV and print?
Burrage: TV is still dominant in total advertising dollars, and ironically, it’s still the most trusted. You come from a state environment where there was propaganda. Everyone was required to have a TV so the government could speak to its people. And there’s this sort of naivety that says, “Well, if it’s advertised on television, the government has vetted it for me, so it must be true.”
And of course that is not necessarily the case. So ads on TV are still the most trusted. Online, there’s a lot of uncertainty, and greater scrutiny of messages people see. And there’s a lot of scaremongering in the press about online scams that make people nervous.
Having said that, when you look at the young adult consumer market, they are more likely to search beyond what they see on TV. They look for verification online, look for shared experiences among their peers, read reviews to assess the credibility of what they’re seeing.
And for marketers, the question is, how do you compel the younger group in Vietnam to socially share experiences and how do you convince them to make reviews? Advertising [exclusively] online without social share or review systems isn’t as trusted as television, isn’t as trusted as print.
eMarketer: How much influence do Western culture and English language have on young consumers in Vietnam?
Burrage: TV programming—OTT [over-the-top] or cable—is often foreign content, but it’s either dubbed or subtitled. Essentially people want to watch content in their own language, and they want stuff that feels relevant.
It’s funny; I think a lot of Western brands think consumers in Vietnam aspire to have Western lifestyles—they don’t really. A big genre of programming watched is from South Korea. The stories depicted in those programs hit very close to home, with the hierarchy and issues in the families.
Western culture is sort of obscure. And if you look at the news and sites that are read online, the top ones are definitely available in Vietnamese.
eMarketer: What are some things marketers need to be aware of when connecting with the younger audience in Vietnam?
Burrage: One thing teenagers are really lacking is role models, and they’re looking for guidance. A lot of them are growing up with absent parents, who are out trying to make a better life for their kids. I think clever brands provide an adult-like guidance to [show the difference between] right and wrong, how to live, what’s important and so on. To bring causes and morals to the floor without being boring is a hard line to tread.
Young people are not looking for an idol for trend advice. People still say the person they look up to most is Bill Gates, since his is a rags-to-riches, work-hard story. [They do not look up to] a fancy singer or celebrity, but [to someone who is] far more real and far more conservative.
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