Despite gaps, APAC marketers confident of digital abilities

  • Some countries ahead in leveraging big data insights while others struggle with low investment and lack of talent
  • Low levels of satisfaction with digital agencies also recorded for second year in a row

Despite gaps, APAC marketers confident of digital abilitiesSIGNIFICANT differences are starting to appear between Asia Pacific countries according to the results of the second annual Adobe APAC Digital Marketing Performance Dashboard conducted by the CMO Council in partnership with Adobe.
The study highlighted a two-stroke regional approach to digital marketing, with some countries advancing with increased focus on analytics and competitive advantage leveraging big data, and others struggling with limited budgets and lack of skillsets to implement analytics and reporting technology that will enable them to build a case for return on investment.
In spite of this, APAC marketers are generally gaining confidence in their digital abilities, with 28% across APAC rating themselves as ‘highly evolved and a leader in their field’, compared to 23% in 2012. Confidence was highest in India (42%), Australia (37%) and Singapore (29%).
The study also identified some dramatic shifts in marketers’ priorities in 2013.  Almost 75% of APAC marketers said they were strengthening their digital marketing content strategy this year, compared to 36% in 2012.
Marketers also said they were prioritizing social media optimization (59% in 2013 compared to 52% in 2012). Other top priorities were increasing the performance of search and online display advertising (45%), and websites (36%).
A strong majority of APAC marketers are measuring and testing digital campaigns (69%), with 80% confirming they are using marketing analytics and reporting technologies. However, the research showed that they lack the in-house or agency analytic skills to do much more than review these key metrics.
Hisamichi Kinomoto, vice president of Marketing, Adobe Japan and Asia Pacific noted that the study’s results showed that marketers are leveraging standard metrics, including web performance data (75%), click-through rates (68%), conversion (72%) and acquisition or lead costs (49%).
 “These are all excellent measurements, but critical performance indicators such as customer lifetime value (15%), churn rate (9%) and market share improvements (12%) are too low on the list right now. Marketers are failing to tap into the business-driving metrics that will help convince senior management to increase investment,” he added.
APAC investment lags global average
Despite gaps, APAC marketers confident of digital abilitiesLiz Miller (pic), Vice President of Marketing Programs and Operations for CMO Council noted that investment levels did not move much between 2012 and 2013. APAC digital spend is still below global average, which is between 25% - 35% of total marketing spend.
“Only 14% of marketers in Asia Pacific are spending on par with this global baseline. Although we saw budget increases at the top end in Australia, with nearly 11% of marketers now spending more than 70% of their total budget on digital, budgets are still quite low across APAC. Regionally, 71% spend less than a quarter of their budget on digital,” she said
Miller (pic) added that one of the greatest imperatives for marketers in 2014 will be to advance the business case for higher investment.
“Next year 23% of APAC marketers expect to increase their budgets to align with the global average. But similar intentions were voiced in 2012. Marketers need to be able to build a strong positive business case for the investment, demonstrating return on investment. Without the right analytic technologies in place, it’s hard to do this,” she said.
Miller added that when ways in which marketers build a business case for digital investment is considered, it’s clear that marketers still rely heavily on data that shows customer preference for digital engagement (50%), analytics on lead yield and return (49%) and the strategic assessment of business impact (44%).
“To make a more robust business case, APAC marketers should provide additional insights around cost savings and performance improvement practice, which only 25% are doing today in spite of the fact that they also believe senior leadership is interested in digital for its ability to improve business performance (59%),” she said.
Challenges and opportunities
Despite gaps, APAC marketers confident of digital abilitiesMarketers continue to face challenges in building teams with the right analytic skill-set, with 53% stating that their current employees don’t have the right skills and expertise, 48% citing a lack of budget to hire skilled senior staff, and 23% saying it’s difficult retaining staff who do have the right skills.
Kinomoto (pic) said that looking to agencies to fill the skills gap is not proving a successful strategy, with the 2012 and 2013 results continuing to show remarkably low levels of satisfaction with digital agencies.
Companies are using multiple agencies to manage different elements of the digital strategy: web campaigns, social media management, online advertising. This adds to the complexity and makes it harder to obtain an integrated view of results.
“Only 12% of APAC marketers rate their agencies as excellent. The majority (69%) think they deliver mixed results, and 19% say results are poor. In our view, there is a clear opportunity for savvy APAC agencies to get ahead of the curve and invest in technologies and skills to provide deeper, richer performance metrics to clients who are unable to do it themselves,” he added. 
However, some countries in the region are making interesting progress in how some marketers are using data as a key competitive differentiator, using analytic insights across the marketing lifecycle.
CMO Council’s Miller pointed out positive gains, with 19% of Australian marketers and nearly 7% of Singaporean marketers are now taking this approach, compared to 4% and 2% respectively last year.
 “We can see some countries realizing the high potential of big data, and taking steps to get ahead of the game,” she said.
The annual Adobe APAC Digital Marketing Performance Dashboard is 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, Singapore, Korea, China, Hong Kong and India. This year, 276 senior marketers from a range of industries took part.
To access the full report, click here.
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