Jenny Chan 陳詠欣
May 4, 2016

How Indonesia is serving the impatient consumer

ON THE GROUND - INDONESIA: As Indonesians become more cash-rich but also more time-poor, behaviour change is opening up opportunities for change beyond online shopping.


‘Sabar itu subur’ (Patient people thrive) is an adage Indonesian parents have their taught children for generations. And while patience remains a virtue, new cash-rich, time-poor dynamics mean Indonesian consumers now expect brands to come to them, and not the other way around, according to Henry Manampiring, executive director of strategic planning at Leo Burnett Indonesia.

Typical of rapidly developing economies, worsening traffic jams plague urban dwellers who have begun to find it too troublesome to travel within the city areas unnecessarily. “They just no longer have patience to endure being stuck in traffic, resulting in a ‘males gerak’ [too lazy to move] culture,” Manampiring said. 

A shrewd brand taking advantage of this is Go-Jek, a startup that “puts Jakarta’s traditional motorcycle taxi on steroids”, Manampiring said. It is the first company to utilise mobile apps so Jakartans and Surabayans can “order” a two-wheeler from their smartphones while stuck in standstill traffic. 

In gridlock, these taxi drivers, or ‘ojeks’, can work their way between helpless cars or navigate narrow alleys. Seeing other potential goldmines from positioning itself as a time-saver, Go-Jek has expanded into office courier services, cashless payments, food delivery, bus-route planning and even concert logistics.

“Here, impatience translates to money,” Manampiring said.

Go-Jek is part of an “interesting breakthrough with utility applications”, observed VML Indonesia’s head of digital, Piotr Jakubowski. Indonesians also turn to Waze, the crowdsourced real-time traffic update app, in attempts to deal with their turtle-paced journeys.

The chaotic realities of life have at the same time increased consumer expectations for brand responses significantly, pointed out Jakubowski. “Especially when problems or complaints arise, brands can no longer wait to provide responses, and many have beefed up their social strategies to address these issues."

Telkomsel, for example, prides itself on having built the world’s fastest Twitter customer-service team, with a response time of minutes instead of hours.

“Patience is now the virtue of the dead,” said Pradeep Harikrishnan, technical advisor at IPG Mediabrands Indonesia. A truer description for urban upper-middle-class millennials, he said, is “a generation that seeks instant gratification and is in a tearing hurry to accomplish something, be it success at work or acquiring a new gadget launched by Apple." 

So, these consumers tend to shop online and avoid the pain of going out to the stores since traffic and pollution are unavoidable. “Time is a precious commodity for this generation,” Harikrishnan added.

While Go-Jek is a good story for filling a latent need for speed—literally—in the market, there are a few other instances in the food sector that have been successful in being quick. Heinz ABC introduced variants of traditional chilli sauces (see one variant below) that eliminated the chore of grinding the ingredients from scratch. Sosro filled Indonesians’ cups with ready-to-drink tea for those with no patience for long brewing processes.

Over the last two to three years, impatience has also caused a shift in communication themes. “Patience is not completely in line with youth values anymore,” echoed Manasi Trivedi, strategic planning director at McCann Indonesia. Brands in categories ranging from telecommunications, e-commerce to technology are all rallying millennials to maximise their potential with “here and now” themes.

Mizone’s ‘This is the time’ campaign and XL Indonesia’s ‘Now you can’ campaign both ride on “the wave of positivity and confidence in achieving one’s dreams” in the shortest time possible, Trivedi said. This is also reflected in the rise of social-media stars in Indonesia showcasing their talent on YouTube: Isyana Saraswati and GAC (the band) being good examples.

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However, when it comes to gender equality, advertising is playing catchup in Indonesia. “Most ads succumb to showing the woman to be a serving, 'others first', ‘needing permissibility’ sort of a woman,” Trivedi said.

“When you look at history, Indonesia has had female revolutionaries who set the path for education," Trivedi added. "Indonesia has had a woman as president. Women tend to be strong influencers or decision-makers. In some cases, women are the key stakeholders to progress. From being passive acceptors of fact, women should be seen as an instrumental zeitgeist of change in the country."

More and more Indonesian women are internalising this belief, she said, citing Hijab fashion paraded on runways and female entrepreneurs smashing glass ceilings as cultural glimpses of this trend.

While conversations about women are underway, most brands are neither sensitive nor agile enough, Trivedi said. There are opportunities here for marketers, but they cannot be too slow. With nearly 70 million Facebook users, 29 million Twitter users and 4 million Path users, brands must know that each and every Indonesian consumer could become an ally or a critic on these socially enabled platforms, especially on socially charged topics.

One must be careful, too, in believing Jakarta is representative of Indonesia’s population of 250 million. The digital media landscape in this vast archipelago spread across 5,000 populated islands is not yet defined properly, said Harry Deje, director of digital and technology at Burson-Marsteller Indonesia, who clarifies that his statements are his own and not of his employer’s. 

No generalisations can be made regarding media consumption behaviour for all Indonesians in all the various geographies and demographics. This is despite the market being the fastest in technological adoption, he says. “Some people are living in a more advanced ‘stage of anything’ with internet access anytime and anywhere; some are behind on the digital wagon”. 

Hence, Yasir Riaz, managing director at Starcom Mediavest Group Indonesia, advocates marketers hurry up with gathering data around people. “Somehow, we were focusing too much on gathering data around media and brands, and not around the consumer,” Riaz said.

In fact, the speed at which such data is available has made static media planning less relevant and less effective, he notes. “Our clients who understand the value of data have already started DMP deployments at their end to organise their first-party data and enrich it with second- and third-party data sets.” 


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