HO CHI MINH CITY: Vietnamese consumers exhibit a high degree of caution when shopping, being significantly more likely than other nationalities to research products and read labels, according to new research.

These findings emerged from a global survey by market research company GfK, which included around 1,500 consumers in Vietnam, looking at attitudes, behaviors and values across a range of topics.

Some 55% of Vietnamese consumers said they spent quite a lot of time researching brands against 43% globally. And when they subsequently got to a store 62% said they always read the product label before buying, considerably higher than the global average of 41%.

Where and how a product was made was also an important factor for 68% of consumers in Vietnam. In this respect they were far ahead of the rest of the world, where only 35% bothered themselves with such matters. There were, however, particular reasons for this.

"Vietnamese tend to be more careful, especially in the area of food safety after a series of health scares which took place earlier this year," said Van Tran Khoa, managing director of GfK in Vietnam.

"Relative to other countries, people in Vietnam seem to be showing higher levels of anxiety towards issues related to health and security," he added.

On that particular count, 75% of respondents said they were always concerned about their safety and security. And a similar proportion (76%) indicated specific worries about contaminated food and drinks. Once again these figures were far higher than the respective global averages of 58% and 36%.

In addition, there was almost universal interest (90%) in food and drinks that had proven medical/health benefits.

All these considerations mean that Vietnamese consumers tend to be more brand conscious than elsewhere. More than three-fifths (63%) said they bought only from a trusted brand, while a similar level (60%) agreed that it was better to buy well-known brands because they could rely on the quality.

While this would seem to indicate that brand marketing should focus on hard facts that can reassure consumers, an ESOMAR conference in Ho Chi Minh City earlier this year heard that ad literacy in Vietnam was still developing. Shivkumar Moulee of Millward Brown argued that the need was not just for rational information, but that there also had to be an engaging context to draw consumers in.

Data sourced from GfK; additional content by Warc staff