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The developed world is nearly fully digital. Broadband and mobile penetration in China is also reaching its peak. In India it is work in progress but given the rapidity at which the digital broadband network is being rolled out, in 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 are impacting business in the Asia Pacific region, I got talking 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 later through television. This was supported by events, conferences, person to person, business to business contacts. Business was conducted from brick and mortar facilities.
With the arrival of 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, linked in, 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 opinion, state their preference, make complaints 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 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 now 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 that they wish to buy. Customers now want to know more on products and services on offer. They review feedback of other buyers online. Decision making to buy is now becoming more and more informed. A visit to a brick and mortar business facility has reduced. In many cases, the need for doing that has disappeared.
New technologies like virtual reality and augmented reality, holographic tools like Hololens developed by Microsoft are giving customers a more immersive experience on a product. Businesses supported by Digital marketing agencies like Razorfish advise their clients on how to fully leverage 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 state of digital infrastructure available in a region. Customer profile, customer preferences, comfort with digital channels, 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 into working out a marketing strategy.
Digital communication landscape is not uniform across the world. In Asia Pacific region, China is unique from the application standpoint. Jonny Stark however regards the market in China when compared with others in the region not too different from the technical standpoint. Instead of Google, Facebook and similar social media applications, there is 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, unrestrained and is not a bottleneck to marketing of goods and services. There is 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. The above mentioned four Chinese companies are among the top ten ecommerce companies in the world.
The second major market of Asia Pacific – India too is seeing a similar transformation. E commerce startups have started impacting marketing here too. However, the share of electronic market is still small in India.
In India, there is a still a lot of reliance on analog marketing. Television, print and other traditional messaging communication media continues to thrive. But the rapid emergence of new generation startups like Uber, Ola, Oyo, Shopclues, Flipkart, Snapdeal are transforming the marketing landscape in the country.
The choice of channel – analog or digital depend, Jonny commented, on the consumer and the product. For instance Asus, the Taiwan based smartphone and notebook manufacturer is using immersive digital tools like Virtual Reality to give a three sixty degree experience to the prospective customers. So is Urban Ladder in India who too use Virtual reality to showcase their 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 turn focus on digital channels to help market products. This shift to digital has already begun.
Jonny estimates that currently 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 even retail where despite the hype towards digital, traditional modes are still continuing to play a significant role. 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 though but the shift to a truly digital society is still some distance away.