Asia lags in digital marketing

Companies in the region understand the importance of digital marketing, but many do not have a comprehensive roadmap or use data correctly to better engage with customers online.

SINGAPORE--Marketers in the Asia-Pacific region have high hopes for digital marketing but have not developed appropriate strategies and returns on investment (ROI) metrics to maximize its impact, which makes them lag behind other regions.

Released Tuesday, a study by Adobe Systems and the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Council showed that more than 90 percent of marketers in the region believed digital marketing can create a competitive advantage for their companies. Another 52 percent felt digital marketing was important in helping to create a customer-centric and responsive organization, it noted.

Its importance is felt all the way up to management levels, with 60 percent of respondents indicating they have a supportive leadership team which is receptive to piloting and testing new marketing channels and programs, the study added.

The Adobe-CMO Council survey polled 295 senior marketers from Australia, South Korea, China, India, Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan, Malaysia and Philippines. It also conducted in-depth phone interviews with another 23 marketers. Both the online survey and phone interviews took place during from April to September this year.

Poor digital strategies
However, while companies in the region understood the importance of digital marketing, they did not always execute the right strategy. In fact, 43 percent of the respondents noted that developing a connected, comprehensive digital strategy was a key constraint for their organizations.

The study also showed 35 percent of marketers use marketing data to measure the key performance index (KPI) of digital campaigns, which is a very reactive strategy according to Liz Miller, vice president of global programs and operations at the CMO Council.

Miller, who was speaking at the briefing held in conjunction with the release of the study Tuesday, said companies should be using data as a competitive differentiator to drive campaigns rather than simply as a measurement tool. This means using the data to understand customer insights and behavior, and optimize their experience with the brand, she advised.



Asian marketers are also not measuring the ROI for such campaigns appropriately , noted Mark Phibbs, senior director of marketing at Adobe Asia-Pacific. He said 53 percent still measured it using the cost-per-click method.

Phibbs said measuring cost-per-click is an "outdated" metric and marketers should be looking at more advanced yardsticks such as revenue per customer, customer lifetime value, and customer churn rates instead.

'Slow and steady' not good enough
Miller also warned companies that are still testing and exploring the use of digital marketing the "slow and steady" way of getting into the arena will not help not get ahead.

Speaking to ZDNet Asia at the event sidelines, she noted that globally according to the Adobe Digital Index survey, some 40 percent of respondents are pushing for digital marketing internally. The global findings were released separately in September this year.

By comparison, only 15 percent of marketers in Asia said their companies were looking to incorporate digital marketing strategies and this was a gap that needs to be closed, she said.

Asia-Pacific professionals are also slower to adapt to the new role of a digital marketer, Miller added.

Elaborating, she noted a digital marketer's role is more strategic and business-driven . In the past, marketing executives were usually tasked with simply "improving advertising budgets, ensuring the sales team has the right ad collaterals, and ensuring nice designs in PowerPoint slides and brochures", she noted.

Ultimately, the region as a whole needs to move faster as consumers become increasingly tech-savvy. Many already own mobile devices and are a href="">keen Internet and social media users, which makes it likely they will soon eclipse marketers and go straight to brands that are more adept at digital marketing, Miller said.