The Role of Local Knowledge and Its Benefit for Asia Expansion


While Asia looks set for significant growth in its CBD market, international brands will still need to strategize well if they want to establish themselves properly and benefit from this blossoming market.

As Asia is such a vast and diverse region, CBD brands will need to tailor their approach to the specific location they plan to expand into. A one-size-fits-all approach will not be most effective, as the laws, regulations, culture, consumer habits, and business environment will vary from one country to the next, and sometimes, even one city to the next.

This is why gaining and possessing local knowledge is critical for CBD brands hoping to expand throughout Asia. In this article, we'll look at the role local knowledge plays, the benefits it offers, and how global CBD brands can utilize it for a greater chance of success.


The Importance of Understanding Local Consumers


Asia is a vast continent with a huge population and many different countries and cultures. Given this diversity, it's essential for CBD brands first to gain a solid understanding of their target consumers before they enter a market.

We all know that having an online presence is vital nowadays, but what social media platforms are most popular among the consumers you're targeting? Which search engines do they use? These things vary from location to location, so information like this is crucial to marketing effectively and being accessible to your target consumers.

Likewise, you'll want to understand whether consumers mainly shop online through eCommerce platforms or in conventional high street retail stores and whether this will likely change in the future. Also, what are their preferred means of payment?

Understanding the habits of your target customers allows you to strategize much more effectively and cater to local preferences and expectations, which should lead to greater success.


The Importance of Understanding Local Laws and Regulations


Each country or jurisdiction sets its own rules for CBD, hemp, and cannabis that must be followed by the local population and businesses operating there. However, these rules can vary greatly, so it's important to have ears on the ground and ways of staying up to date with local developments to avoid falling foul of the law.

Take, for example, THC content. In many places around the world, including in some parts of Asia like Thailand and India, having a trace amount of THC (0.2%) in your CBD products is legal. Yet, if you were to import products that contain trace amounts of THC to Japan or Hong Kong, you would face penalties for breaking the law.

Despite Japan and Hong Kong being CBD-friendly nations, they have slightly different laws in place, meaning only pure CBD (CBD isolate) can be used. Similar dynamics apply to the types of products that are allowed to be sold, as some jurisdictions only allow CBD to be used in topical products, whereas others also allow edible products.

Not only that, but the laws can also change very quickly, as attitudes towards cannabis and CBD are changing, and new scientific research is often being published. Having local knowledge of the areas you wish to or already do business in helps to ensure your CBD brand always operates legally. 


How Can You Gain Local Knowledge?


Now we've looked at some reasons why local knowledge is important for CBD brands looking to expand to Asia; in this section, we'll look at a couple of practical ways you can gain local knowledge.


Hire Locally and Develop Partnerships


For global CBD brands looking to expand to Asia, a great way to gain local knowledge is by hiring locally and developing local partnerships. Doing so means you'll have people on the frontline that can see and notify you of any local developments in real-time. They'll also be aware of local trends and will be able to help you capitalize on local opportunities.

Hiring local talent and having local business partners can also help you develop an effective marketing strategy, get your logistics right, provide quality customer service, and localize many other business processes. In addition, having the right local talent and partners helps ensure your CBD business gets off on the right foot so it can avoid mishaps and start generating sales sooner.

Utilize Key Opinion Leaders and Influencers

Another way to capitalize on local knowledge is by working with key opinion leaders (KOLs) and influencers. People in Asia seem to be more receptive to making buying decisions based on the opinions of the influencers and KOLs they follow. Shopping directly through social media is also popular in some regions. However, people in Asia tend to prefer to follow local influencers, such as those from the same country or district.

Therefore, working with KOLs can not only help you drive sales and build brand awareness in certain regions, but they can also offer local knowledge and insights which can be valuable to your CBD business in other ways. This is why many top brands see working with KOLs not as one-off events but as long-term partnerships.

Working with KOLs and benefitting from their local knowledge and domain expertise is increasingly being seen as crucial for international brands looking to expand to Asia. Some of the most established industries for working with KOLs include health, beauty, and pet care, which also happen to be key markets for CBD brands. Therefore, CBD brands and influencers have plenty of opportunities to collaborate in a mutually beneficial way in Asia.

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More than half of the global population resides in Asia, and economically, it’s the world’s fastest-growing region. And while the emerging CBD market in Asia also looks set for rapid growth, what do Asian consumers actually want from CBD brands and products?


Well, considering that the Asia Pacific is such an incredibly diverse region, it’s important not to overgeneralize here. However, some significant trends are emerging on a macro scale that can help CBD brands position themselves correctly when targeting Asian consumers.


This article will explore these emerging trends and offer some tips for CBD companies looking to gain a foothold in the region. Here are five things Asian consumers are looking for in CBD brands and products.


1. They Want Brands to have a Strong Online Presence


Asian consumers are increasingly tech-savvy, online, and mobile-first. So for CBD brands to do well in Asia, they need to get their online presence right for a whole range of matters, including eCommerce, marketing, customer service, informational resources, and more.


Online shopping is booming in Asia, so it’s essential that CBD brands have their products available on mobile-friendly and reputable eCommerce platforms. In addition, the eCommerce platforms you choose or create should facilitate local digital payments, be available in the most suitable languages, and offer reliable home delivery services. 


Likewise, influencers and key opinion leaders (KOLs) have become a fundamental part of the marketing campaigns run by successful brands in Asia. User verification and customer reviewers tend to be more important for consumers in the East compared to the West, rather than blindly making purchasing decisions based on the opinion of KOLs. However, Asian consumers tend to follow social-media influencers local to them, so CBD brands should keep this in mind when targeting a specific region.


2. They Want Products to be Good Value for Money


Value for money doesn’t mean that products need to be cheap. There will be lots of demand for both budget and premium CBD products in the Asian markets; however, consumers will want to know that the price is justifiable.


Studies suggest that around 60% of Southeast Asian consumers intend to save more money after the pandemic, which is double the rate of consumers in the USA. This means CBD brands will need to clearly explain the benefits of their products, the quality, and the value they bring.


3. They Care About Health, Well-being, and Sustainability


People in Asia are increasingly prioritizing their health and well-being. One study shows that 39% of digital consumers in Southeast Asia say health is a top priority. This is excellent news for CBD brands as most CBD products fall under the category of health and wellness.


Therefore, CBD brands should clearly articulate their products’ health and well-being benefits. This applies to all types of CBD products, including CBD oils, supplements, beauty, body care, and more.


Linking in with this trend is also the preference for natural and clean products. Asian consumers are keen for products to be as natural as possible and free from artificial ingredients, so having your product’s ingredients listed is a must. 


In addition, there is a growing preference for organic materials and sustainability when it comes to packaging and other aspects of your business.


4. They Want to Know that Products are Safe and Legal


Asian consumers want to know that the CBD products they are considering buying and using, such as skin creams or edibles, are entirely safe and legal.


Due to the strict rules surrounding the THC content in CBD products in most Asian countries, consumers will want to know for sure that products are legal and trustworthy so they don’t fall foul of the law. 


Likewise, they’ll want to know that CBD products are verifiably safe for human use or consumption, have been rigorously tested and that brands have robust quality control processes in place.


There are several ways CBD companies can prove to consumers that their products are safe and legal, such as:


  • Provide certification that the products are lab-tested by a third party lab and is THC-free or undetectable. 


  • State where their hemp is sourced and grown


  • Have products certified organic


  • Test products for heavy metals, harsh ingredients and pesticides


5. They Want Brands to Be Reliable and Authentic


Finally, it seems that some Asian consumers are developing a preference for established and trusted brands. This is because established brands have a solid supply chain and a proven track record which means they can be relied upon. This means their products are readily available both online and in physical stores, and they consistently meet high-quality standards.


Authenticity is another important factor for Asian consumers because they desire products from brands that are genuine and credible. This means CBD brands need to be transparent, honest, and consistent with their messaging. When it’s done right, authenticity can help a CBD brand differentiate itself and stand out from the crowd.


Final Thoughts


The CBD market is rising in Asia, and this region is simply too big to overlook if CBD brands want to have a global presence. Today, we explored some of the current trends influencing what Asian consumers want from CBD brands and products in 2022. 


CBD brands that embrace these trends and build effective strategies around them stand a better chance of winning the confidence and loyalty of Asian consumers. Moreover, doing so will help brands establish themselves as leaders in this exciting, emerging market.

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