Asia’s 8 Digital Truths of 2014

We’ve just begun Q2, if you’re most companies who work off the fiscal calendar year. And I believe that this is truly the best time to make predictions for the rest of the year. Once you’ve gone through one full quarter, you get a better sense of how the rest of the year will unfold (hopefully). Q1 is usually our test bed. Some trends fade out very quickly, where others just start popping up that may surprise us.

So given the start of a new quarter, I’d like to highlight eight core digital trends that will help define the rest of 2014 for us in Asia. These are what I am calling the Eight Digital Truths of 2014.

1. Native Advertising

Native advertising, or content marketing as some call it, is the basic idea of creating original and unique content to build trust and engagement with would-be customers. Right now most research shows that native content is more likely to be shared versus banner ads by 32 percent to 19 percent. And more people view in-feed native ad placements at 25 percent compared to traditional banner ads, which come in at 18 percent. Platforms that are helping to drive this movement of “native” are Facebook, with its subtle placements in our newsfeeds, and Yahoo, which started to roll out a stream of native ad options for advertisers, as here. In APAC, we are absolutely starting to see more of our clients experimenting with native ad formats where they also invest more budgets into the creation of unique content that supports native placements.

2. Real-Time Marketing

RTM, or real-time-marketing, is marketing done “on-the-fly” to determine an appropriate or optimal approach to a customer at a particular time and place. The best use of RTM as we know is the famous Oreo spot during the 2013 Super Bowl. A recent eMarketer survey showed that 53 percent of marketers said they plan to make greater use of RTM this year, where 19 percent said they would plan to start considering it. Another classic example is from Airbnb, where they tweeted to reporters who were complaining about their accommodations at the Sochi Olympics, and offered them relevant listings complete with pictures and enticing descriptions. In Singapore, Starhub, the major telco has launched a “social media facility” in an effort to monitor real-time discussion so that it can be in a better place to respond and communicate with its users. This year we will see more advertisers make better use of their data to be in a place where they can have a real-time dialogue with their customers.

3. Omni-Channel a Reality

Omni-channel is about providing a seamless approach to the consumer experience through all available shopping channels and touch points. In the retail environment, consumers are now expecting everything to be available at their fingertips, no excuses. Research from eTail shows that 80 percent of store shoppers check prices online. And that $12 billion in retail sales were made on smartphones in 2013. So the ability for a brand to connect all these purchase touch points throughout a customer journey will be more and more critical. In December 2013, Maybelline in Thailand partnered with LINE to kick off a flash sale and within just five minutes, the 500 Maybelline Lip Polish had sold out. The operators of this campaign said this “proves that Thailand and the region are ready to embrace mobile commerce in a big way.” You can read more on this here.

4. Data, Data, Data

Ninety percent of the world’s data has been created in the last two years with the two biggest contributors being the explosion of social media and adoption of smartphones, both of which are massive in our region. In the U.S. alone, there is a shortfall of almost 200,000 data analytics jobs, due to the influx of data in the world right now. And the biggest challenge for marketers right now is their ability to actually glean insights from this data. In a recent report by The Economist’s Intelligence Unit, a majority of Asian C-level executives feel that technologies such as cloud computing, big data analytics, software as a service (SaaS), enterprise mobility, IT security, and social media will have the greatest impact on their business strategies in the coming decades.

5. Content Remains King

Marketers will continue to embrace the development of new content as a key mechanism to build lasting and emotional connections with their audiences. Content this year will get smarter through data-driven personalization and dynamic content. Through great content, marketing will start sounding more human again. SEO as a channel will grow, as marketers will need to ensure that the content they create actually gets found. And Adobe, who knows a thing or two about content, in a recent study said that “almost 75 percent of APAC marketers said they were strengthening their digital marketing content strategy this year.”

6. The Power of Story

The ability for brands to tell compelling stories about themselves, their products, services, and values will be the biggest point of difference with other brands. The movement of storytelling will start to truly be embraced by advertisers in our region. Google in India has helped to lead this initiative by creating an emotion story around their Google Maps product as shown here. This is taking a simple utility product like mapping and building a touching story around it. The proliferation of technology and tools has allowed unique storytelling to happen. So stories, whether good or bad, now have the ability to travel at the speed of light. In Asia, as competition for eyeballs becomes more and more fierce, the ability for brands to break through this clutter by developing stories that connect with audiences will be absolutely critical for brand success.

7. E-Commerce Number One in Asia

In 2014, Asia Pacific will be the largest e-commerce region in the world, expecting to reach $525.2 billion versus $482.6 billion in North America. Of this, China will be taking six of every $10 spent on e-commerce in Asia. And outside of China, Indonesia and India will be the main drivers totaling a 35 percent+ growth rate. We are seeing more brands in Asia enter the world of e-commerce. Brands like Ralph Lauren, who in 2012 launched their first online store in Japan. Before that, Shiseido launched their first e-commerce store in China in 2011. And Tesco, the big U.K. retailer that also launched an e-commerce storefront in 2013, again in China.

8. Location-Based Marketing

As mobility and social mature, we will see more progressive uses of location-based marketing activities across all types of advertisers in Asia. According to a Mobile Life Study by TNS, most users globally would like to use LBS (location-based services) for navigation (46 percent), but there is a growing interest in more diverse activities, with 13 percent of users “checking-in” on platforms like Facebook and Foursquare, as 50 percent increase over 2011. According to the study, more than three in 10 said they’d be interested in mobile advertising if it related to something they were interested in, if it was a deal near their current location (28 percent), and if it was connected to something they were searching for (25 percent).

Trends will fade in and out, but I do believe these core eight truths will remain strong and form a sort of backbone for digital in Asia to build from as we move through the year.

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