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Mindset shift needed to bridge gap in APAC’s digital mktg maturity

The digital divide between markets and businesses finds mention in various conversations to caution those that are either slow in adopting digital or are not putting the best foot forward. While all countries in Asia Pacific understand the importance and value of digital, no country is taking full advantage of the opportunities it presents, creating a gap in marketing maturity across the region.

The third annual APAC Digital Marketing Performance Dashboard, conducted by the CMO Council in partnership with Adobe, indicates that countries such as Singapore, Australia and India are pulling away with strong executive support and digital champions, while Korea, China and Hong Kong struggle with executive support and skill shortages.

“The 2014 Dashboard uncovers the varying degrees of digital marketing maturity across the region, and highlights the need for marketers to continue to demonstrate value and ROI (return on investment). With customers able to touch any part of an organisation, the role of marketing in transforming businesses is crucial and requires executive support for successful transformation,” said Hisamichi Kinomoto, Vice President of Marketing, Adobe Japan and Asia Pacific.

Organisations need to accelerate their investment in employees’ professional development to close the skills gaps faster and leverage the benefits of digital. In addition, a bolder approach is needed to applying metrics and driving a more compelling case for increased investment.

“There is no doubt that undergoing digital transformation is a complex and challenging process. Adobe has been on our own journey of transformation and we understand the pain-points marketers face as they adjust to a new digital world,” added Mr Kinomoto.

Liz Miller, Vice President of Marketing at the CMO Council said all countries can do more to leverage the vast amounts of data and intelligence that can be gathered at every touch point across the organisation. She noted, “While more marketers in countries like Singapore, Australia and India are using analytics and reporting technologies, no country is truly taking advantage of the huge amounts of data they are collecting. Few see leveraging data as a competitive advantage, whereas globally, advancing the customer experience with deep personalisation and smart adaptive engagements is driving revenue gains and measurable advantage. Opportunities exist for marketers to leap ahead by using data to enrich and guide the customer journey, not just reporting on KPIs or implementing a piecemeal approach.”

Stephen Hamill, Managing Director of Adobe Southeast Asia asserted that a shift in thinking is needed in the region. He said, “In Singapore specifically, and more generally right across the region, more needs to be done to prove the value of digital marketing investment. For brands that do not have ecommerce channels, it’s hard to directly link revenues to campaigns as there’s a gap in the fulfilment process. Hence, there may be a difficulty in convincing stakeholders based on proving financial ROI alone. This means marketers have to be more strategic in showing value. Unfortunately, of the Singapore marketers surveyed, half are using data to merely report KPIs or are not doing anything with it at all. A mindset change is needed, where marketers need to look at data at every point along their campaigns and use the insights to generate improvement for their activities – this is especially critical in a fast-paced market like Singapore where informed business decisions need to be made swiftly. That in itself is already a quick win for proving the value of digital campaigns.”


Senior executive support drives digital marketing adoption
The Adobe APAC Digital Marketing Performance Dashboard identified that those countries with strong support for digital marketing from senior executives are moving to leadership positions. In Australia, Chief Marketing Executive ownership is at 54 per cent in 2014, followed by India (42 per cent), Hong Kong (40.6 per cent), Korea (39 per cent) and Singapore (37 per cent). Having a strong digital champion within the leadership team remained steady across the region at 38 per cent between 2012 and 2014; however, Australia is pulling away with 62 per cent in 2014, followed by Hong Kong (46 per cent), Singapore (41 per cent) and India (39 per cent).

The role of stakeholders in driving digital marketing
Lines of businesses as well as channel partners and sales teams continue to be strong advocates for digital marketing with more calling for increased digital spend across Asia Pacific. Since 2012, the number of lines of businesses who are calling for increased investment in digital has increased from 15 per cent to 25 per cent in 2014. Channel partners and sales teams who are doing so have more than doubled from 15 per cent in 2012 to 34 per cent in 2014.

Singapore is an outlier on this front, with lines of businesses (9 per cent SG vs 25 per cent APAC) as well as channel partners and sales teams (18 per cent SG vs 34 per cent APAC) here being the least interested in pushing for digital programs in 2014.

Some leadership teams are not convinced of the ROI of digital marketing, but are open to learning more. Across Asia Pacific, concern about ROI has risen slightly from 17 per cent in 2012 to 21 per cent in 2014. The Dashboard reveals that in Korea, 50 per cent of senior leaders are not convinced of digital marketing ROI but want to gain a better understanding, followed by Singapore with 22 per cent.

Despite the lack of interest and confidence from stakeholders, the good news is that leadership teams in Singapore are the most receptive (46 per cent SG vs 31 per cent APAC) to piloting and testing new digital channels and programs.

“The results are extremely interesting for us because they show that the lack of interest and confidence is not based on an outright rejection of digital marketing. It is more likely that stakeholders do not have a good understanding of digital and what it can be used for. This represents a golden opportunity for marketers to set the digital agenda and educate their stakeholders on the benefits and value of digital. In fact, with Singapore leadership teams being open to piloting and testing, field-testing could be an excellent way for marketers to demonstrate digital marketing ROI,” said Mr Hamill.

Small improvements in skill levels but leaders pull away
There has been a small improvement in skill levels across Asia Pacific with dedicated digital headcount increasing from 13 per cent in 2012 and 2013, to 15 per cent in 2014. However, gaps are continuing to grow between countries which have a dedicated digital headcount in 2014:

• Australia – 26 per cent
• India and Singapore – 18 per cent
• Korea – 13 per cent
• China – 9 per cent
• Hong Kong – 7 per cent

While 93 per cent of marketers believe digital marketing can create a competitive advantage, differences in execution are evident around the region. Across APAC, use of analytics and reporting technologies has remained generally steady (72 per cent in 2012 and 74 per cent in 2014), but leaders are pulling away. In Australia, 91 per cent of marketers are using analytics and reporting tools, followed by Singapore (79 per cent), India (77 per cent), Hong Kong (73 per cent), China (70 per cent) and Korea (60 per cent).

The 2014 APAC Digital Marketing Performance Dashboard also found that marketers are not moving beyond more basic measurements. Asked whether they are measuring throughout the life of campaigns, only 13 per cent of marketers across Asia Pacific said they were, compared with 14 per cent in 2012.

“The good news globally is that Asia, as a region, is slowly stepping up on the global digital stage. The gap is closing between what has widely been considered to be advanced marketing regions like North America and Europe, as Asia is increasing spend in digital campaigns, analytics and digital automation platforms. But as Asia takes a place as a global marketing leader and not laggard, those regional markets that are falling behind will face increased global pressure to keep pace and serve as examples on the global stage. Now is the time to start making the move to digital excellence. Wait too long and the world will take notice,” said Ms Miller.

APAC Digital Marketing Performance Dashboard included a six-month in-field program comprising quantitative surveys with over 800 marketing executives. The study benchmarked the levels of adoption, traction and success of digital marketing in Australia, New Zealand, China, Korea, Singapore, Hong Kong and India. Senior marketers within the Asia Pacific region from a range of industries took part, with 44 per cent holding a title of Vice President or higher.

Noor Fathima Warsia

A veteran journalist in the Indian marketing, media and advertising fraternity, Noor Fathima Warsia took on the role of Group Editor -– APAC for Digital Market Asia in May 2013. Noor has focussed on tracking trends and developments in the Indian media industry.