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Companies adapt to the evolving marketing landscape. The developed world is nearly fully digital. Broadband and mobile penetration in China is also reaching its peak. In India, it is a work in progress, but given the rapidity at which the digital broadband network is being rolled out, a few years from now, most of the country will come on the digital map.
The implication of these changes on the business landscape is huge. To understand how these changes impact business in the Asia Pacific region, I talked to Jonny Stark, Head of Brand and Real-time Marketing Razorfish. Razorfish is a digital marketing agency and is part of the French Publicis group. Jonny is based out of Hongkong. He is responsible for marketing across the Asia Pacific region.
In the pre-digital era, mass customer outreach was largely through print, radio, and television. This was supported by events, conferences, person-to-person, and business-to-business contacts. The business was conducted from brick-and-mortar facilities.
With the arrival of the internet, a host of disruptive communication technologies emerged. These have substantially impacted the business landscape. It was now possible to reach large numbers of customers using a variety of communication channels like Facebook, Twitter, Wechat, Snapchat, Instagram, Youtube, Google Plus, Linkedin, Whatsapp, etc.
A market universe that hitherto was restricted to a locality or a small geographic segment had now become global. Marketing was no longer a one-way street. Customers can now express their opinions, state their preferences, complain, and offer suggestions on products and services online to service providers, regulators, manufacturers, and intermediaries.
Customer outreach using the new communication channels, additionally, is leading to the generation of large volumes of data on customers and their preferences. Data mining and analytic tools have made it possible to generate business logic and trends from this data. This is used extensively to improve service quality, design new products, and improve on existing ones.
All this has whetted customer demand and appetite for more and better quality information on things they wish to buy. Customers now want to know more about the products and services on offer. They review the feedback from other buyers online. Decision-making to buy is now becoming more and more informed. A visit to a brick-and-mortar business facility has been reduced. In many cases, the need to do that has disappeared.
New technologies like virtual and augmented reality and holographic tools like Hololens, developed by Microsoft, give customers a more immersive experience of a product. Businesses supported by Digital marketing agencies like Razorfish advise their clients on fully leveraging the latest technologies on offer. The objective is to improve customer experience, enhance brand awareness, and as a consequence, leverage higher sales.
Recommendations are based on the state of digital infrastructure available in a region. Customer profile, customer preferences, comfort with digital channels, and product nature are other inputs to marketing strategy and planning recommendations. The human resource available within a company and its level of digital awareness are critical inputs in working out a marketing strategy.
The digital communication landscape is not uniform across the world. In the Asia Pacific region, China is unique from the application standpoint. Jonny Stark regards the market in China when compared with others in the area not too different from the technical perspective. Instead of Google, Facebook, and similar social media applications, there are Wechat and other Chinese social media social channels.
Business-to-business, business-to-customer, and customer-to-customer communication on the China social media channels is largely free and unrestrained and is not a bottleneck to marketing goods and services. There is a free flow of information from business to customer, and vice versa, and local digital marketing tools are quite popular in that country.
Digital marketing channels are being extensively leveraged by the new age Chinese companies like JD.com, Alibaba, Tencent, Baidu, and many others. These companies have been successful in penetrating deep into the market there. Those mentioned four Chinese companies are among the top ten eCommerce companies in the world.
The second major market in the Asia Pacific – India, is seeing a similar transformation. E-commerce startups have started impacting marketing here too. However, the share of the electronic market is still small in India.
In India, there is still a lot of reliance on analog marketing. Television, print, and other traditional messaging communication media continue to thrive. But the rapid emergence of new-generation startups like Uber, Ola, Oyo, Shopclues, Flipkart, and Snapdeal are transforming the marketing landscape in the country.
The channel choice – analog or digital depends, Jonny commented, on the consumer and the product. For instance, Asus, the Taiwan-based smartphone and notebook manufacturer, uses immersive digital tools like Virtual Reality to give prospective customers a three sixty degrees experience. So is Urban Ladder in India too uses Virtual reality to showcase its products and improve customer experience.
As the digital landscape evolves, channels number increase, nature of information consumption will change. As growth moves from the West to the East and digital penetration increases, Razorfish and other digital agencies will focus on digital channels to help market products. This shift to digital has already begun.
Jonny estimates that around 20 percent of the market in the APAC region is using cutting-edge digital technologies for marketing goods and services.
This is in line with industries like publishing or retail, where traditional modes continue to play a significant role despite the hype towards digital. We are still far away from a truly digital marketing world. Content, services, and products are still consumed in traditional ways. The change in marketing is profound, but the shift to a truly digital society is still some distance away.