Big Savers, Big Spenders: A Profile of the South Asian Shopper

South Asians are supposed to be thrifty, right? Well, it’s true…to a point. BrandSpark International released their Canadian Ethnic Shopper Study in 2014, which looked into the buying habits of Canadians from both South Asian and East Asian backgrounds. While the study found that value and savings are an important factor in the South Asian Community, it also found that this is a group that’s apt to splurge on the things they like best.

For example, while South Asians as a group are more likely to shop at Walmart than the average Canadian, they are also huge consumers of high-tech gadgets. Price is rated as the most important factor for 75% of South Asians when it comes to products related to household care. However, 21% (compared to 10% of mainstream Canadians) say that they’ll choose their favourite brands in any category regardless of the price.

Significantly, consumers from all ethnic groups tend to rely on word of mouth and advice from friends and family members when choosing new products. Many speculate that a major reason for this is that advertising targeted to these communities is still sparse. Both South Asians and East Asians tend to get lumped in with mainstream advertising campaigns—although several studies have shown that ethnics are more likely to positively respond to ads that are directed at them.

Targeted marketing is important for any audience—and a major component of wooing the ethnic market is language. According to AV Communications, ethnic Canadians are loyal consumers of ethnic media. Among South Asians, the top three ways ethnic media is consumed is TV, radio, and newspapers. Of those surveyed:

  • 79% reported watching ethnic TV
  • 49% reported tuning into ethnic radio stations
  • 31% reported reading weekly ethnic newspapers

Perhaps most significantly, 60% of South Asian Canadians surveyed agreed that “advertising that is specifically designed for my community makes me feel closer to the brand and products that are advertised” and 65% expressed a wish to see greater representation of their community among mainstream ads.

The overall message seems to be that understanding consumer trends and in-language marketing will become major components for those hoping to gain ground in Canada’s South Asian market.

Sources: 2014 BrandSpark Canadian Shopper Study and AVi Insights 2015