Asia-Pacific marketers struggling with digital

Marketers in the Asia Pacific (APAC) region are putting their faith in the benefits digital marketing can bring to their business, driven by customer preference and dependence on digital engagement, according to new research released by the CMO Council in partnership with Adobe Systems.

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.

These and more in-depth findings were released today in the APAC Digital Marketing Performance Dashboard.  A six-month in-field program comprising quantitative and qualitative surveys, the inaugural study benchmarked the levels of adoption, traction and success of digital marketing in Australia, China, Korea, Singapore, Hong Kong and India. 295 senior marketers from a range of industries took part.

“The majority of Asia Pacific’s marketers are in exploring and testing mode, taking their first steps forward,” says Liz Miller, Vice President, Global Programs and Operations for CMO Council. “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.”   

According to Adobe’s Senior Director of Marketing, APAC, Mark Phibbs, interest and optimism in digital marketing is high, but investment levels across Asia Pacific are still low. The majority of APAC marketers spend less than 25% of their total budget on digital. However, the number of APAC’s marketers who expect to allocate over half their budget to digital marketing is set to double in the fiscal year ahead. The commitment to digital is clearly happening.”

Speaking about the state of play in Singapore, Phibbs notes: “Among all the APAC countries surveyed, the belief in the benefits of digital is staunchest among Singapore marketers. Their budget projections for digital marketing investment in the coming fiscal year also ranked the highest.”

Optimism High

The study revealed more than 90% of marketers believe digital marketing could create competitive advantage for their company, and 52% felt that digital marketing was crucial in helping create a customer-centric, responsive organization. More than half of them felt that digital marketing helped boost the effectiveness and efficiency of their overall marketing program. Nearly 63% 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% of respondents said they rated their own digital marketing operations as ‘highly evolved’. 44% rated themselves as still ‘evaluating and exploring’, 19% felt they were ‘followers’, and 11% said they were struggling.

The view that digital marketing holds high potential for business value is shared by APAC’s executive teams. 38% of respondents said they had at least one strong digital marketing champion on the APAC leadership team of their organizations. An aggregate 60% of APAC respondents said they had a supportive leadership team; and that the team was receptive to piloting and testing new marketing channels and programs. This sense of optimism is strongly echoed by Singapore marketers – over 40% of them believe their senior leaders are supportive of digital marketing, the region’s highest result after China.

However, leadership interest and support comes with clear expectations. Nearly 60% of APAC respondents said the promise of greater accountability from the marketing function was driving their leadership team’s interest in digital marketing strategy and programs.