The spending sentiment of Thai consumers is expected to fall behind neighbouring countries encountering similar pandemic outbreaks over the next six months.
Usana Chantarklum, managing director of Ipsos (Thailand) Co, the world's third largest market research company, said the latest study on the impact of Covid-19 on the region's consumer behaviour in Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam showed one-third of Thai consumers (36%) rate their financial status as "bad", which is the highest ratio in the region. An average of 76% of respondents from all countries feel their current personal financial situation is good or fair.
"Only 47% of Thais think their personal financial situation will improve and they are being more mindful of how much they spend when shopping," Ms Usana said.
She said even though there are no more restrictions on movement, Thais will spend more on food to cook at home, cleaning products and personal care items, while spending less on travel, toys, cultural activities, restaurants and cafes, clothing and footwear accessories, as compared with the period before the Covid-19 crisis.
The survey also found a consistent drop in big-ticket purchases such as houses and cars during the three waves of Covid-19 outbreaks.
"Up to 80% of Thais are still cautious in their spending and half of consumers have a worse mentality than their peers in neighbouring countries because of enduring 18 months of the pandemic," said Ms Usana.
"Though the infection rate is likely to improve because of widespread vaccine distribution over the next three months, the confidence of Thais in activities such as visiting friends, going to restaurants, travelling domestically, going to gyms and using public transport almost ranks the lowest in the region.
"It will take time for Thais to feel Covid-19 is similar to the flu. Though there are signals of an economic recovery after mass vaccination, consumer confidence will not rebound quickly as long as infections are still at 10,000 new cases daily."
Marketers should be careful when launching new products or introducing new brands because it will take time for a recovery, she said. Marketers should gather all the information before investing, said Ms Usana.
The survey found Thais spent more time on social media, bought more items online, streamed content and used cashless payment options at physical stores.
"Some 80% of Thai consumers are familiar with live-stream shopping and 60% of them use this service for fashion, food and beauty products. Business owners should draw more shoppers using live-stream shopping, reduce complicated ordering processes, offer products that match consumer demand, and present clear product messages to them," she said.
The top priorities Thai customers have for the government are to keep everyone safe from Covid-19, control the prices of goods and services, protect and create jobs, and reduce the wealth gap, according to the survey.