This article looks at some of the trends and challenges in the Asia-Pacific region and its exciting opportunities for brands that understand it well.With the global pandemic, 2020 was a year of multiple crises. It shook the world like no other in recent memory. As a result, brands have adopted digital strategies, curating well-formulated marketing approaches and adapting to immediate priorities. These new practices will have profound implications on brand activity and consumer spending.
The Asia Pacific (APAC) region is the world's fastest-growing internet market, being home to 60% of the world's population, therefore it is no surprise the increased demand for digital advertising is projected to grow up to 67% of APAC ad revenue in 2025. Moreover, APAC advertising expenditure is forecast to grow at 5.4% CAGR and reach US$245 billion by 2025, powered by growth across key markets such as China, India, Japan, and Korea(1).
As consumers redefine their priorities, several vital trends impact the current state of consumer behaviour. Here's putting some light on the APAC marketing challenges, strategies, and trends that marketers and brands can look forward to in 2021 and beyond.
The Challenges of Marketing in The APAC Region
According to the recent Salesforce Datorama's report, the top challenges identified for the marketers in the APAC region were:
- Disparate Markets – The APAC region is incredibly versatile and diverse. From the language, culture, and the ecosystem's maturity between countries, everything is quite different.
- No Established Playbook – According to HubSpot(2), "Marketers are aware that APAC marketing demands a distinct approach from the Western countries. With time it is believed the APAC market will only grow in terms of importance”.
- Localisation Challenges – The challenge here is adapting to different local cultures and languages in the promotion of the products. It takes considerable work to localise all the marketing efforts to appeal to different markets. Localisation remains a challenge to translate marketing materials into different languages to meet the region's product marketing expectations.
- Choosing the Right Channels – With so many marketing channels available, it becomes a challenge for marketers to decide which ones are right for the business and target audience.
Main Trends in APAC Marketing
Exponential eCommerce Growth Will Continue
This year's quarantine lifestyle led to considerable growth in online shopping. According to the latest reports, Malaysia and Hong Kong saw the highest increase in online sales this year, 600% and 305%, respectively, while Singapore saw a 248% increase(3).
With this shift, it is clear that existing online shoppers are buying more, and new online shoppers are indulging in online shopping.
These new digital shoppers serve as a massive opportunity for brands. Businesses have the power to expand their existing audiences on digital channels and leverage new marketing tools. For example, using retargeting ads to convert the already engaged customers.
Brands Will Increase Investments in Digital Advertising
According to the latest COVID-19 Impact on Marketing APAC survey(4), 35% of brands saw enhanced website sales and bookings since the pandemic, resulting in expedited digitisation of their business processes.
With marketers strategising to spend more on SEO, social media, and content, digital marketing spending will continue to be driven across digital channels.
COVID-19 has radically changed the relationship between mobile users and their apps. The recent Global Apps Survey(5) says that Southeast Asia has the highest app share globally. Also, during the peak COVID-19 outbreak, 55% of shoppers in APAC downloaded one shopping app (retail, food, or grocery/alcohol).
To find other ways to meet new customers, brands need to focus on in-app advertising in the APAC countries as customers continue to spend more time there.
Over-the-Top (OTT) Will Become a Marketing Mainstay
With everyone staying at home, the popularity of over-the-top (OTT) and connected TV (CTV) devices has gained traction. Recent reports by eMarketer1 say that all APAC countries saw exponential growth in digital video viewers in 2020(6), and it is expected to grow with the same momentum till 2024.
Engaging APAC consumers through advertising on these devices will benefit brands and businesses in the coming years.
Brands need to understand that consumers are migrating to OTT. There is a lot of content watched and hours spent on these channels. Brands can use these platforms to target audiences that would be open and receptive to the relevant ads.
Brand Safety is Here to Stay
In 2020, many APAC advertisers became savvy to brand safety issues and began to restrict the ads on their platforms that were seen to be spreading misinformation or misguiding audiences.
Especially with the ongoing pandemic, using words such as COVID-19 or COVID to spread unauthorised information without any genuine source has been blocked by many advertising platforms.
In the coming year, expect to see brands leveraging solutions that will assist them in controlling ad placements in order to safeguard their brand image and stay true to their brand values.
Real-Time Marketing is the Top Priority
To find out how prepared organisations in Southeast Asia are for omnichannel marketing(7), Resulticks surveyed 345 enterprise businesses. Their findings are in this report, 'The Omnichannel Imperative: The State of Enterprise Readiness in Southeast Asia(8)'.
One of the report’s key findings is that enterprises in Southeast Asia put real-time marketing as the highest priority, followed by omnichannel delivery and engagement (both online and offline).
Breaking down these results for different countries, it was discovered that marketers in Singapore topped the list with a 70% focus on real-time marketing.
On the other hand, real-time marketing was less favoured among marketers from Vietnam and the Philippines, with 59% and 57% of marketers listing it as a priority, respectively.
Moreover, 70 % of South Asian marketers believed they follow an integrated customer engagement approach across various channels. They leverage 1st, 2nd, and 3rd party customer data along with technology and processes.
Online Video Market in APAC is All Set to Rule
Over the next five years, the online video market in Asia Pacific is set to double in size, driven by expanded mobile broadband connectivity.
With the rising adoption of mobile and smartphones in the APAC region, consumers are more involved in watching video content than ever. The success of video platforms like TikTok, Instagram Reels, and Xigua Video reflects this trend.
It is estimated that online video advertising and subscription revenues in the APAC region will expand from US$26 billion to $52 billion between 2021-2024.
Some of the other interesting findings of this trend include:
- Online video is set to hold a 25% share of the Asia Pacific video market (excluding China) by 2024.
- With a compound annual growth of 8%, the video market in India will register the fastest CAGR in the APAC region.
- With the increased subscription plans, online video revenue in China is expected to grow by 14% each year, thus reaching $70 billion by 2024.
- Mature markets like Australia and New Zealand are expected to see a CAGR of 5% in the next five years. Making their video market value of approximately $11 billion by 2024.
Hence, these trends are here to stay. Therefore brands should be looking to draw inspiration from them, plan their APAC region marketing strategies, and implement them to leverage their brand's marketing.
Trends APAC Brands Should Leverage in 2021 and Beyond
Focusing On Customer Experience
One in five organisations in the APAC region said that Customer Experience (CX) is the most exciting opportunity for 2021. Many APAC enterprises are improving their efforts to focus on customer experience and stand out from their competitors.
But when it comes to comparing the CX in key countries like New Zealand and Australia, the APAC region is still far behind. Businesses in countries like Australia are excelling at delivering better products, customer journeys, and services across multiple touchpoints.
Coming to China, they are following a different approach. Businesses are striving to stand out via a better design along with improving customer experience.
To sum up, businesses in the APAC region are prioritising the customer journey. They aim to improve their products and services that fulfil customers' demands and engage them. Hence making it easy for the customers in the APAC regions to get to them for the required services.
First-Party Data is Key to Digital Marketing
Many brands in the Asia Pacific region are stepping up their marketing game by delivering both relevant and personalised online experiences.
While creating marketing campaigns, the brands focus on first-party data such as demographics and audience interests, web and app transactions, environmental signals, and CRM data.
9 in 10 APAC brands analyse first-party data as a critical factor in driving effective marketing. As a result, they are frequently using first-party data in most of their marketing campaigns, compared to only 30% of budding brands(9).
First-party data allows brands to make more suitable offerings to their customers and not simply adopt a blanket approach.
However, just 44% of APAC brands believe they're above average at using first-party data. Therefore, there is a fantastic opportunity for these brands to move higher on the maturity scale.
In-Store Shopping Will Becomes More Digital
Despite an uptick in online shopping frequency in 2020 by consumers, only 4 in 10 consumers prefer purchasing from offline stores.
Though eCommerce trends had all eyes focused on them in 2020, in-store shopping remains a priority for many customers.
Consumers in Asia are expected to be inclined towards both online and offline mediums throughout their shopping journey.
This means brands need to sustain their omnichannel presence and ensure that experiences across both online and offline stores are seamless.
The significant change expected in the in-store shopping experience, beyond increased sanitation, is digital payment.
Brands need to be more focused on features where consumers spend less time inside. Digital transactions are one of those features where consumers can opt in to pay digitally and in turn, feel safer along their shopping journey.
APAC Consumers Will Favour Local Brands Over Global
APAC consumers trust local brands more than global brands, says a survey by Marketing Interactive(10). Despite the craze and success of western brands in Asia, the percentage of APAC consumers who said they would prefer a local brand over global brands is nearly 46%.
Contrary to this study, 40% of consumers in APAC still believe that global brands have the potential to make the world a better place, and this belief will be on the rise in the coming years.
More than two-thirds (67%) of consumers believe it can be achieved by spreading positivity and optimism along with brand awareness(11).
Another notable vital factor among 72% of APAC consumers is a belief that creativity is key to success for brands. They also revealed preferring brands that speak to 'everyone' over brands that talk just about themself.
Many uncertainties will still characterise the years ahead, but if one thing is certain, it is that consumers will continue to adapt to new trends as they face unique circumstances.
Brands need to keep up-to-date with these emerging consumer trends and innovate their marketing strategy accordingly. This will help them in staying consistent and grow long after the pandemic is over.
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