Market Insights: Malaysia

In the latest in Croud’s series of Market Insights, we take a look at marketing in Malaysia: exploring the use of digital marketing and sharing key dates for your diary. This insights report was collated with direction from our Malaysian Croudies on the network.

Languages spoken

Malaysia has two official languages, Malay and English. However, in native areas of Malaysia other languages are spoken such as; Manglish (popular language that combines Malay, English, Chinese and Tamil influences), Chinese (popular in southern Malaysia), Tamil (spoken amongst the Indian population), Iban (used in Sarawak) and Dusunic (used in Sabah).

Important dates

Normal business hours in Malaysia are 9am to 5pm Mondays to Fridays, with many businesses and government agencies also open until noon on Saturdays. Malaysian workers are eligible for full-time employment from the age of 14. Legally a working week cannot exceed 48 hours, a maximum of 8 hours per day and up to 6 working days per week. The Malaysian Labour Law also prescribes a minimum of 10 days of paid holiday in a year.

The following public holidays are also observed:


Islam is the official religion of Malaysia and is followed by about three-fifths of the population. Islam in the legally-presumed faith of all ethnic Malays, and no ethnic Malay is allowed to leave Islam. Other religions that are common in Malaysia with non-Malays include Hinduism, Christianity, Buddhism, Sikhism and Daoism.

Business culture

Management focused

Malaysia is a hierarchically orientated country and managers are to be respected – this respect is based more on their personal attributes rather than professional. Therefore a manager should refrain from doing anything that would negatively affect their reputation, especially with their subordinates. For this reason, it’s also common for managers to use a third party for disciplinaries in order to maintain the discretion of their fellow employees. Furthermore, being overly direct is also construed as quite disrespectful and is deemed by peers as uncivilised and uneducated behaviour.


Titles of people are very important, especially when addressing them in formal situations. The sequence that should be used when formally addressing or writing a person’s name is; honorary style, professional rank, royal hereditary title, state title, non-royal hereditary title, Doctor (of medicine or philosophy), Haji/Hajjah (for Muslim men or women who have performed the Hajj) and name.


It is common practice for business meetings to start with quite a lot of small-talk which can be quite time consuming if you’re looking to move things quickly. However, if you’re looking to conduct business within Malaysia, it’s important to remember that the Malaysian business culture prioritises building relationships with their business partners before anything business-related can be discussed, and this process can often take time.

Business relationships in Malaysia are based on loyalty, harmony, non-aggression and respect for the reputation of one another. Therefore, it’s important to also remain calm and diplomatic when speaking to Malaysian professionals and to refrain from being overly animated in both speech and body language.


Business entertainment plays a vital role in the all-important relationship-building process with Malaysian professionals. Therefore, it’s not uncommon to be invited out for lunch or dinner, and it’s often a good idea to try and use the meal as an opportunity to broaden out the topics of conversation in order to develop your personal relationship. It’s also important to remember whenever eating, passing or receiving food, to use your right hand as the left hand is considered to be unclean (even if you’re left-handed).

Religion in the workplace

With Malaysia being an Islamic country, all workplaces are required to have a prayer room or Surau prepared for Muslims to use. In addition to this, Muslims will often take an hour after lunch on a Friday to go for Friday Prayer or Congregational Prayer, and this is accommodated by all workplaces.

Digital marketing: Malaysia

The most used search engines in Malaysia are:

  • Google
  • Yahoo
  • Bing

Most searches are completed in either Malay or English, with PPC being the most predominantly used marketing channel. Both Google Ads (Search and YouTube) and Facebook Ads are the most popular platform used, where most ads are created in English. However, content relating to gambling, pork or alcohol is avoided due to Islamic rules.

In 2019, four-fifths of Malaysia’s population is now online, with 78% of people active on social media. On average, each resident who has social media accounts actively uses four social media platforms, therefore Malaysia has seen a significant increase in time and money spent online by consumers.

Moreover, YouTube, Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram dominate as the most regularly used social media platforms. Additionally, as the country holds a penetration rate of 67% for online shopping, digital marketers should look into the purchasing behaviours of Malaysians in order to understand common buyer personas within the market.


There are over fifty big shopping malls in Malaysia, and greater Kuala Lumpur already has well over twenty malls in total, with most of them concentrated within the Golden Temple (nearby Bukit Bintang) district. Normal opening hours for shopping malls are from 10:00 am to 10:00 pm every day.

Malaysia’s retail industry continues to play a formidable role in the country’s national commercial property market. The following days are crucial for retail in Malaysia:


Malaysia has an estimated population of 32 million, with a population growth rate of 1.5% YoY. The average life expectancy of males is 71 years and for females is 76 years.

Interesting facts

  • You may find some buildings in Malaysia without a fourth floor. They have a ‘3A’ instead. This is because the sound of four in Chinese is similar to the sound of death.
  • A Malaysian woman does not leave the house for forty days after giving birth to her child. At the end of this period, a ceremony called Berchukor is conducted where the child’s head is shaved.
  • The biggest roundabout in the world is located in Putrajaya in Malaysia. It’s 2.2. miles in diameter.
  • Malaysia has nine royal families, the highest number in the world. The Malay king is elected from these for a five-year term as the ceremonial head of state.


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