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Is Digital Really the New Normal for the Philippines?

Updated: Jul 28, 2020

The Philippines is on the verge of a drastic shift. With a population that loves to go out and about, we are seeing a change in the daily lives of Filipinos not guided by preference but by necessity. The current pandemic has forced the shift in consumer habits across industries and is causing businesses to pivot strategies. What used to work before, may not be fully working now. What used to be considered as traditional platforms, suddenly are on the brink of being obsolete or even unhelpful. It’s suddenly a battle for survival. If companies have a mix between the traditional and digital platforms before the pandemic, they are lucky enough to keep their heads above water. For those that solely rely on traditional channels, they need to adapt fast. Otherwise, they might be one of the casualties of this pandemic outside of the hospital -- they risk bankruptcy.

With varying degrees of quarantines in full effect across the country, Filipino consumers are being forced to adapt to the pandemic by relying on digital devices and platforms for information, entertainment, and e-commerce. Businesses are doing their fair share by pivoting metrics and KPIs online. Foot traffic suddenly needs to step back to make way for pay-per-click (PPC) and cost per acquisition (CPA) as malls are closed and consumers are ordered to stay at home. Cash as a medium of exchange, although still relevant for the majority of Filipinos, also needs to share the spotlight with FinTech companies offering cashless transactions for sanitation purposes. E-Commerce platforms which are seen to be trendy before became a lifeline for urban areas. All of a sudden, we see a rise in online, cashless, and contactless forms of exchange thus exposing Filipinos to these technologies already being adopted widely elsewhere.

The clues to this paradigm shift have been around for years. The current pandemic only accelerated what is bound to happen in the Philippine scenario. In a nation considered to be one of the most active social media users in the world with a 66% penetration rate, this is not surprising anymore. According to a study by Statista, the number of Philippine mobile internet users in 2019 are at 41.3M and are expected to grow to 50.8M by 2023. We also have a strong base of 69M internet users with 66% penetration rate and the majority of these people are on social media.

With this rise of mobile internet usage, digital platforms along with the Filipinos’ addiction to social media are potential gold mines that brands need to adapt to. Data shows that Filipinos spend an average of 9 hours on the internet, one of the highest in the world, with four hours on social media and three hours using the internet on a mobile device. Filipinos spend longer time on the internet than we spend time sleeping!

So, is digital really the new normal for the Philippines? We would say it already is, we just weren’t paying much attention, until now. The real question is, are brands and businesses fast enough to act on this. To this we say: pivot or go home.

[May 18, 2020]

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