APAC digital trends marketers need to know about

By 2025, a further 333 million people are expected to start using mobile internet in APAC for the first time

The Drum unravels the Adobe 2022 APAC digital trends report and identifies what the region’s marketers need to incorporate in their playbook to face the post-pandemic digital world.

The big news for APAC businesses has been around the prevalence of customer experience (CX) investment in 2022 in response to a pandemic-induced surge in new digital consumers and online behaviors when compared to the other global regions.

The day-to-day habits of people have changed significantly post-pandemic, and this will continue to act as a stimulus to shape consumer behavior. In return, the way brands interact with their old and new consumers will change in 2022 and beyond.

However, this comes with a recognition of the gaps around critical skills and capability that may hold marketers back as they seek to serve digital-first consumers.

As per Adobe’s new 2022 APAC Digital Trends report, 77% of APAC businesses experienced a surge in new customers through digital channels over the past 18 months, and 76% saw new customer journeys. Interestingly, just 25% of businesses believe they have significant insight into this new wave of digital-first customers.

“For a large and diverse region like APAC, the impact of these accelerated digital interactions will be significant for marketers to tap into new opportunities,” says Duncan Egan, vice-president of digital experience marketing, Adobe Asia Pacific & Japan.

With businesses treading carefully in the region’s often complex regulatory environment, APAC practitioners have come to appreciate the role technology plays in staying ahead of the regulatory curve without losing sight of business agility and innovation, he adds.

The APAC digital growth journey

  • By 2025, a further 333 million people are expected to start using mobile internet in APAC for the first time – and they’re likely to behave differently than existing internet users, shares Egan

  • The new mobile-first users in emerging APAC economies are the ones contributing to the sharp growth and the shifting online behaviors

  • These 130 million new APAC mobile subscribers are the ones that became first-time internet users in 2021 and are ‘leapfrogging’ consumers in more mature digital markets, rapidly adopting advanced digital behaviors such as mobile payments usage

  • As an outcome of this growth, the majority of APAC businesses are stepping up investment in CX management (59%), edging ahead of North America (57%) and Europe (53%)

  • Most APAC businesses also expect to accelerate investment in customer data technology (60%)

  • “Digital organizations should be looking at granting their customers more control over their data, with 64% of APAC practitioners considering their organization ‘effective or very effective’ in giving customers control over how their data is being used,” adds Egan

Barriers in the growth path

  • Even as the market size grows at a breakneck speed, report findings point out that 83% of APAC business leaders are worried that their organization doesn’t have the necessary skills they need, compared to 79% in Europe and 73% in North America

  • In addition, digital skills rank as the joint top barrier to digital experience delivery together with poor integration between tech systems

  • While 92% of APAC leaders ‘agree’ that their ability to be agile will decide their success as a marketing organization, just 25% of practitioners rate their organization’s agility in responding to opportunities and disruptions as positive (eight or more out of 10)

  • Developing the skills, agility and innovation required to keep pace are likely to remain a top strategic priority, points out Scott Rigby, chief technology advisor, Adobe Asia Pacific and Japan

  • To add to the challenges, the regulatory environment across APAC is becoming increasingly complex. For example, India’s Data Protection Bill is awaited, while the effect of China’s New Personal Information Protection Law is yet to be fully realized

Navigating varying stages of maturity in the APAC market

In general, Asian businesses rate a lack of skills as their top barrier and are prioritizing development as a result:

  • Egan says: “Practitioners in Australia and New Zealand face similar challenges to other digitally mature regions, such as EMEA and North America,” spotlighting the potential drawbacks of long legacies in digitization

  • For the comparably more digitally advanced Australian and New Zealand markets, simplifying their technology stack is a priority for one in three businesses – far more than in Asia (13%) and India (24%)

  • Poor integration between systems is also ranked as the top factor holding back marketing organizations in Australia and New Zealand, illustrating the potential drawbacks of longstanding digital legacies

  • In contrast, businesses based in India are more likely to be seeing new digital customer behaviors as new internet users emerge

  • They have a greater focus on artificial intelligence (AI) to deliver experiences than others in APAC, and more practitioners in India consider their innovation capabilities and collaboration with technology teams to be strong