APAC Companies Lick Wounds After 2020 Digital Disruption

Image credit: iStockphoto/Ирина Мещерякова

Asia Pacific companies have long known the benefits of data-driven insights. But a new Adobe study, “2021 Digital Trends Report,” showed that many of them are beginning to realize the urgency of acting on these insights quickly after the massive digital disruption of 2020.

“For brands across every sector, 2020 brought a loss of predictability. Organizations of all kinds were driven online at an accelerated rate, creating a wave of new digital customers with increasing expectations,” said Duncan Egan, vice president of DX marketing for APAC and Japan at Adobe, in a press release.

“Customers now have the upper hand in the ‘digital relationship,’ with more than half of marketing respondents across APAC reporting unusual changes in customer behaviors and journeys in 2020,” he added.

Adobe partnered with Econsultancy to survey global 13,000 marketing, advertising, e-commerce, creative, and IT professionals for the report. This 11th edition also touched on new areas such as distributed workforce, privacy and consent fundamentals, and empathy as a driver of experience.

The results show that the 2020 digital disruption made companies pessimistic about their ability to take advantage of data-driven insights. Only 35% of ANZ leaders believed their organizations were strong at accuracy, actionability, speed, and access to insights. Asian leaders were far more pessimistic at around 9%.

However, respondents across Asia (49%) and ANZ (40%) noted that they were looking to close the capability gap by investing in improving insights and analytics capabilities to meet their marketing goals in 2021.

When asked what area they are investing in, 33% of ANZ companies said personalized customer experience, while 35% of their Asian peers noted enabling digital customer acquisition.

“A company with a strong customer experience (CX) strategy is more likely to achieve long-term growth than its competitors, as they are better positioned to adapt to changeable customer behaviors and markets. This report highlights that organizations need to accelerate their insight and action capabilities by moving to more flexible technologies and cloud-based platforms, as well as a unified and real-time view of the customer journey,” Egan observed.

Interestingly, respondents who said they were confident about their company’s customer experience felt optimistic about their corporate strategy (63% in ANZ vs. 73% in India vs. 56% in Asia) and their prospects for career growth (61% in ANZ vs. 70% in India vs. 57% in Asia).

Organizations across APAC report three significant barriers that are hampering marketing and experience: legacy technology and systems (51% in ANZ, 37% in India and Asia), workflow issues (38% in ANZ, 33% in India, and 48% in Asia), and a lack of digital skills and capabilities (34% in ANZ, 24% in India and 43% in Asia).

Egan said, “The shift to remote work will have a significant and enduring impact on businesses moving forward, requiring new marketing strategies for reaching and keeping customers.”

As a result, many organizations across APAC are taking a hybrid approach, with 43% of executives in ANZ and 26% in both India and Asia reporting they use a cloud-based platform together with other marketing data management systems.

“A hybrid approach to technology — comprising of cloud and other data management systems — allows organizations to be flexible and collaborative, letting them work better with existing solutions and quickly integrate new ones. The effects of such an approach within these organizations can be seen in improved analytics and insights capabilities,” said Egan.

With a surge in digital customers, businesses prioritized data privacy, with customer privacy and consent becoming critical factors in planning (56% in ANZ, 41% in Asia).

However, transparency is still lacking, with only a small number of leaders (13% in ANZ, 12% in Asia) claiming their organizations effectively communicated how data was collected and used. Only 10% in ANZ and 13% in Asia believed they were highly effective at communicating the value offered in exchange for customers’ consent when they first encounter the brand.

The report also showed that empathy was now the new battlefield, as digital convenience becomes a commodity. However, most organizations are still a long way from authentically displaying digital empathy.

Over a third (37%) of Indian executives had significant customer mindset insights, followed by 27% in ANZ and 19% in Asia. Drivers of purchase, friction points, and attribution of how marketing actions related to customer behavior fared only marginally better.

Image credit: iStockphoto/Ирина Мещерякова