Digital habits on the rise in Southeast Asia as the new normal approaches: Mastercard study

SimplyGo, the new payment mode for buses and trains. Commuters tap the fare gantry with their Mastercard or mobile phone. Mastercard adopted a drive into digital commerce many years before COVID-19 to maximize options and convenience for consumers in how and where they shop and pay.
JUNE 23, 2020 - 1:41 PM

EVEN as countries in the region start to ease restrictions and prepare for a "new normal", Mastercard Impact Studies says some of the trends and habits formed in response to the pandemic - including the rapid adoption of e-commerce, home deliveries, and digital and contactless payments, are expected to remain for the long-term. 

Based on input from consumers across 10 markets in the Asia Pacific region, the report found that 40 per cent or more of surveyed consumers in Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand reported relying more on home delivery services in April than in March. 

Meanwhile, nearly half of the consumers surveyed in Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand reported an increase in their online shopping during the same period. 

The majority of consumers in all Southeast-Asia markets also reported a significant decrease in cash usage - 67 per cent in Singapore, 64 per cent in Malaysia and the Philippines, and 59 per cent in Thailand - since the beginning of the Covid-19 outbreak. 

Various contactless payment methods also saw their usage increase. In Singapore, 31 per cent of respondents reported more use of contactless credit cards to pay while mobile and digital wallets saw the greatest uptick in use among all contactless payment methods in Malaysia, the Philippines, and Thailand. 

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“Covid-19 has impacted everyone and every country in some way or another. Many consumers and businesses have been quick to adapt to the digital world and cashless payments in order to stay safe and maintain a sense of normalcy in these extraordinary and uncertain times. Even as organisations and markets prepare for recovery, consumer concerns over their safety and well-being will be at the forefront of any strategy—and this is evident in the way that consumers in Southeast Asia are now shopping and transacting," said Safdar Khan, division president, Southeast Asia emerging markets at Mastercard. 

The report found that up to 83 percent of Filipinos remain cautious about Covid-19 infection, while the figures are 70 percent in Malaysia, 55 percent in Singapore, and 41 percent in Thailand, and there are broad concerns held across the region about how the pandemic is affecting household finances.

The uncertainty has also led to consumers across the region holding off on making big-ticket purchases—80 percent in the Philippines, 75 percent in Malaysia, 74 percent in Thailand, and 65 percent in Singapore—all higher than the APAC average of 59 percent.

While concerns about the pandemic continue, there is great confidence among consumers in how the situation is being managed in their respective countries. For instance, in Singapore 88 percent and 68 percent of respondents respectively felt positive or neutral about how the government and banks are helping them through the crisis. This confidence has led to 20 percent of respondents indicating they believe they will increase their level of investment over the next few months.