KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysian consumer behaviour has changed as a result of economic and political turmoil and brands must act quickly to respond, new data has revealed.

Insights from Dentsu's SenseAsia, released exclusively on Warc, show that ongoing economic hardship is taking its toll not only on spending habits, but also on the optimism of everyday Malaysians who are feeling increasingly overwhelmed.

Nearly half of Malaysians don't expect their financial situation to improve in the near future and are tightening spending significantly. Many high spenders have suddenly found themselves back in the middle income zone and are now holding onto their cash – a particular concern for high-end brands.

With imported products now more expensive across nearly every category, spending on 'nice-to-have' products has dropped. 

Purchase intent for luxury goods is down 22% and travel down 32%, with that spending redirected into more immediate needs: Malaysians are saving for higher priority items such as buying a new house (up 34%), a new car (up 6%), or renovating their home (up 6%). 

Malaysians are also less likely now to consider new brands – there's been a 20% decrease in those who enjoy discovering new products.

But the data highlighted one key opportunity for brands: value-added services. 

Brands should look to 'service' as an important ancillary value in maintaining revenue during challenging times. For, example, managing the stresses of daily life is compounded by economic uncertainty – 22% more Malaysians are finding it hard to fit everything in their day. 

Convenience in particular is now a major driver of spending: 6% more Malaysians are willing to spend more money if it means saving them time.

They're also spending more time at home, with the number preferring this option to going out for entertainment or dining surging 29%. Consequently, brands may find success with branded content or targeted ads in social media or mobile ad channels that consumers will see even if they are at home. 

Warc subscribers can read more on what advertisers need to know about the Malaysian market in 2016 here: Advertising in Malaysia: Behind the headlines, opportunity beckons in 2016.

Data sourced from Warc