Multicultural consumers key to post-pandemic recovery

A survey shows South Asian and Chinese communities are more likely to buy big-ticket items and respond to in-language media.


New research finds that to strengthen their post-COVID recovery efforts, brands must bolster their understanding of multicultural markets, especially those in the real estate and financial services sectors.

Multicultural marketing agency Ethnicity Matters conducted a survey of 900 respondents, finding that South Asians are twice as likely as those in the general population to buy a house or condo before the end of the year (14% versus 7%). The numbers are almost as high for Chinese Canadians (12%). South Asian and Chinese people living in Canada are over-represented in all kinds of home buyers, including those looking downsize, up-size, flip or buy their first home.

It’s an opportunity for companies in a particularly hard-hit sector to offset COVID-related losses. The Canadian Real Estate Association said May 2020 had the lowest volume of sales for the month since 1996.

The Ethnicity Matters survey also finds that when it comes to home renovation plans, South Asians say they’re slightly more likely to do so this year (22%), followed by Chinese Canadians (21%) and the general population (20%). While the numbers are only slightly higher, the fact that they are roughly in line with the general population means they represent significant business for retailers in the space.

“The real message is, if you’re Lowe’s or Home Depot, you should be speaking to that community, as they are consuming media in different languages and different outlets than mainstream messaging,” says Howard Lichtman, partner and co-founder of Ethnicity Matters.

While people who have come from India and Pakistan are often already fluent in English, Lichtman says they often put more stock into media and influencers who speak in different languages, something marketers need to take note of. This is partly due to a broader consumption of media spurred by concern for loved ones abroad. Another stat to take note of, Lichtman says, is data showing nearly one-fifth of Chinese people in Canada are not fluent in English.

Lichtman adds that South Asian and Chinese communities “will be key to our recovery,” and brands across categories will benefit if they recognize and celebrate the distinctions among different multicultural communities. Those include other big-ticket categories, like tech, but also more high-frequency categories.

According to the Ethnicity Matters findings, financial services brands can benefit from outreach as saving, investing, and insurance-buying patterns are significantly higher for South Asian and Chinese communities, and that both groups are also more concerned than other Canadians about management of online banking services.

Grocers and food producers should pay attention too: South Asian and Chinese Canadians are quite specific about what household and grocery items they prefer and plan to buy, meaning targeted ads reflecting specific products can be more effective than ones geared towards the general population. South Asian consumers in particular over-index on specific items such as coconut water, rice, and hot tea, and also spend more on groceries than the average Canadian household, supplementing mainstream banner buys with independents.