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Google: Prices of new smartphones aren’t so important to Malaysians

When it comes to buying a new smartphone, everybody seems to have a different set of criteria. You’ve got your spec junkies, your bargain hunters, you’ve got those that will always stay with that one operating system or brand, as well as a whole range of other specific needs or wants.

Google and Ipsos recently collaborated to conduct a study into the smartphone buying habits of Malaysians, and certain aspects of the study are pretty interesting to consider. The main aim of the study was to pin-point how Malaysians are choosing their smartphone purchases, with the report also delving into the purchasing triggers for new smartphones, the journey each buyer takes before arriving at a decision, and consumer profiles for the typical Malaysian who buys a smartphone.

Breaking things down for us was Su Ann Lim, Industry Head for Tech and Telco at Google Malaysia.

Other “phone factors” are more important than price points

One of the key findings of the study is that the price of a new smartphone isn’t really the most important factor when it comes to Malaysians. In fact, affordability/budget only comes in as the 4th most important factor to consider—the top three cited by Malaysians in the study are: battery life, operating system, and internal specs; 64%, 64%, and 62%, respectively.

61% of respondents consider affordability to be an important factor, while the performance of a smartphone’s camera is also relatively important (61%), according to the study. The numbers were also broken down into categories of gender, and prices: the number one factor that male respondents considered was the operating system of a smartphone, while the camera of a smartphone was considered to be the most important factor for female respondents.

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Those between the ages of 18–35 years of age found that battery life and operating system were the factors most important, while the older segment (36–55) regarded affordability as the most important aspect of a new smartphone.

The report also found that for smartphones priced above RM2,070, the operating system of the device was the biggest contributing reason to choose a specific model. Expectedly, for smartphones below that price point, the affordability was the factor most considered by respondents.

And despite what the public perception may be, the numbers show that only 37% of the respondents considered brand loyalty to be a factor when choosing their smartphone. This, according to Su Ann, underlines the importance of attaining a certain profile of customer’s loyalty relatively early on—which brings us to the next point.

Smartphone Buyer Consumer Profiles

Google and Ipsos also broke down consumers into several profiles. The majority of respondents fell into 3 profiles: The Avid Researcher (46%), The Brand Loyalist (22%), and The In-Store Decider (10%). The remaining respondents were classified into categories of Bargain Hunter, Auto Pilot, In-Store Advice Seeker, and Impulse Buyer.

With a large percentage of respondents being avid researchers, the study pin-points the key consumer need of this profile as the availability of information. 4 out of 5 Malaysians were influenced by “online touchpoints”, with online smartphone reviews searched on Google being the top activity prior to purchasing a new phone (59%).

Other top activities include visiting branded stores (49%), comparing prices on e-commerce websites (45%), and watching smartphone review videos on YouTube (39%). On average, Malaysians in the study completed 8.3 activities (including watching ads, research, visiting stores and websites) before purchasing a new smartphone.

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“Malaysians are increasingly conscious and deliberate”

The study indicates that the average Malaysian is certainly more conscious about the smartphones they purchase—despite the saturation of the market, especially in the mid-range segment.

Consumers in the rural areas of Malaysia have also been shown to be increasingly empowered by the rise of e-commerce, with the study showing that 27% of rural dwellers have bought their smartphones online in the past 3 months. This certainly makes sense, given that physical stores aren’t as prevalent in rural areas as they are in urban areas. This has also contributed to roughly 1 in 4 smartphones in Malaysia being purchased through online channels.

However, it’s worth noting that the sample size of the study is 929, which Google says is a large enough size to account for the general population. The methodology behind the research was a mix of face-to-face interviews, along with online surveys. Another relevant point is that 24% and 14% of respondents were based in Selangor and Wilayah Persekutuan respectively, which may have also had an effect on the findings.

”Malaysians are becoming increasingly conscious and deliberate about their smartphone choices given innovation in the smartphone industry and higher access to information. Online research is arguably the most important part of the purchase journey and where Malaysian consumers spend the most time on; but once all the factors are weighted and considered there’s still room for retail sales to play a part.”

– Su Ann Lim, Industry Head for Tech and Telco at Google Malaysia

We asked Google if the full report would be made available to the public, as the above is based on a breakdown of the study. However, a representative has informed us that there are no plans to make the report public by both Ipsos and Google.

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What is the most important factor to consider before buying a new smartphone? Leave your thoughts in the comments section.