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Customer preference and senior executive support is driving digital transition in APAC
The research findings follow a six-month in-field program comprising quantitative and qualitative surveys. The study benchmarked the levels of adoption, traction and success of digital marketing in Australia, China, Korea, Singapore, Hong Kong and India. About 295 senior marketers from different industries were part of the study.
According to the study, marketers in APAC are exploring digital marketing as they contend with low budgets, lack of in-house and agency skills, and the challenge to prove return on investment.
As per the research findings, regional senior management is widely supportive of the move to digital, motivated by a desire for greater accountability from the marketing functions. At the same time, APAC marketers are struggling with low budgets, skills shortages and other obstacles to effectively execute, and measure return on their investment.
Commenting on the study results, Liz Miller, vice-resident, global programs and operations, CMO Council, says, "The majority of Asia Pacific's marketers are in exploring and testing mode, taking their first steps forward. But they're keen to start running, with the clear goal of meeting the digital expectations of their consumers, and also to catch up to the digital directions of their global counterparts."
The key findings of the study are:
The study revealed that more than 90 per cent of marketers believe digital marketing could create competitive advantage for their company, and 52 per cent felt that digital marketing was crucial in helping create a customer-centric, responsive organisation. More than half of them felt that digital marketing helped boost the effectiveness and efficiency of their overall marketing program. Nearly 63 per cent said that customer preferences were driving the move to digital marketing activities, acknowledging that their audiences now expect and prefer digital engagement.
However, only 6 per cent of respondents said they rated their own digital marketing operations as 'highly evolved'. About 44 per cent rated themselves as still 'evaluating and exploring' whereas 19 per cent felt they were 'followers', and 11 per cent said they were struggling.
The view that digital marketing holds high potential for business value is shared by APAC's executive teams. About 38 per cent of respondents said they had at least one strong digital marketing champion on the APAC leadership team of their organisations. An aggregate 60 per cent of respondents said they had a supportive leadership team; and that the team was receptive to piloting and testing new marketing channels and programs.
However, leadership interest and support comes with clear expectations. Nearly 60 per cent of respondents said the promise of greater accountability from the marketing function was driving their leadership team's interest in digital marketing strategy and programs.
Investment Low, But Set to Rise
The greatest obstacle facing APAC marketers as they make the transition from traditional to digital marketing appears to be low budgets, with 53 per cent of respondents citing budget limitations as a significant factor preventing them from undertaking critical activities such as testing and analysis. Across APAC, 72 per cent of respondents are spending less than 25 per cent of their total marketing budget on digital marketing initiatives; and of that group, 37 per cent are spending less than 10 per cent. This budget definition includes website development and content, email marketing, search engine optimisation, online advertising, social media community management and advertising, and more.
In spite of the current low spend, APAC marketers expect to increase investment in the fiscal year ahead. About 47 per cent of respondents said they would increase allocation to digital marketing to between 10 to 24 per cent of their total marketing budget, and 2 per cent said they would increase spend to 25 and 49 per cent.
Skills shortage also appeared to be a significant issue across APAC. Nearly 49 per cent of respondents said their current marketing teams didn't have the right skills, experience or talent needed to take on digital marketing strategy, and 38 per cent said they had insufficient budget to bring on the right level of senior talent. The right candidates were also not easily found, with 27 per cent stating that they were unable to find the right staff with the right skills. Outsourcing is not the solution, with 32 per cent of respondents saying their agencies' capabilities were limiting their ability to execute effectively.
Widespread Use of Analytic and Reporting Technologies but Challenges in Measuring Return on Investment
APAC marketers understand the urgent need to demonstrate return on investment on digital marketing spend but are hampered by lack of systems and skills to get the data and analysis they need. About 72 per cent of respondents are using analytic and reporting technologies. However, of those actively measuring digital marketing programs, only 3 per cent feel they are excelling in their ability to measure value and return. "APAC marketers are struggling to move beyond surface-level key performance indicators that simply report clicks, views and baseline consumption. Leveraging data to generate analytical insights is critical to help the region's marketers move ahead of the curve in terms of tracking and mapping customer insights and behavior," says Phibbs
Phibbs adds, "It's not only important in terms of reaching and engaging domestic markets. Asia Pacific's companies are competing globally, and digital marketing is a critical factor in identifying and qualifying new markets, reaching out to new customers, building brands, and maintaining strong business opportunities internationally."
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