Digital advertising is akin to a carpenter’s toolbox. Each tool in the box serves a different purpose and was made to accomplish a specific task. Similarly, native advertising, or sponsored content, is a marketing tool that marketers can use as a complement to other forms of digital advertising to achieve a specific purpose.
Forrester defines native advertising as: Any form of paid or sponsored content that directly and transparently contributes to the experience of the site or platform where it appears by aligning with the format, context, or purpose of that site or platform’s editorial content page.
While Asia Pacific marketers have yet to invest in native advertising in a big way, native advertising provides them with an additional avenue to better engage with customers and win their preference. Native advertising is more engaging than display advertising and is also showing early success on consumers’ mobile screens. For example, content marketer Contently saw a clear 10% rise in brand opinion among its engaged subscribers, while Virgin Mobile USA claimed that native ads led to a 200% uplift in the likelihood to consider its brand. Taboola, Virool, and Skyword are examples of companies that can help marketers drive discovery of their content and improve engagement. I discuss how marketers can work with them in my latest report.
With recent drops in global stock markets and all eyes on China’s economy, the timing of the China CX Index report couldn’t be more serendipitous. While customer experience (CX) most likely doesn't have a direct impact on all this sudden share volatility, our research shows that there is a strong correlation between CX and revenue growth.
Forrester’s Business Technographics™ data shows that CX improvement is a growing priority for companies in China: 70% of tech and business decision-makers indicated that improving the experience of their customers was a high or critical priority for 2015 and 2016. However, CX Index scores reveal that these aspirations have yet to manifest themselves in actions and — more importantly — results.
Evolved from the inaugural assessment we completed last year, The China Customer Experience Index, 2015 now includes loyalty elements to the mix to gauge how well brands in China are at delivering quality customer experiences that create and sustain customer loyalty. This year, we examined 60 brands across five industries in China: banking, insurance, retail, eCommerce, and mobile device manufacturing.
At a high level, the results of 9,000 customer surveys in China revealed that:
No brands stand out as especially good or bad. The good news: No brands ended up in the very poor category. The bad news: none achieved excellent scores either. The vast majority of brands (80%) rated as just OK; 5% landed in the poor category, and 15% qualified as good.
In case you haven’t noticed, the number of smartphone users in Asia Pacific has grown – we estimate that it breached the 1 billion mark in 2014. This is the first time that more people in the region used smartphones than feature phones.
When coupled with the fact that the region is also a leader in innovative messaging apps, such as WeChat, Line, and KakaoTalk, marketing professionals can start to see how Asia Pacific is ripening into a mobile-led commerce and marketing harvest – creating a commercial marketplace where users interact and trade and offering organizations growing sales and marketing opportunities.
However, many B2C marketing professionals today limit that potential by only focusing on promoting flash sales or discounts, as seen on the likes of WeChat and Line. Marketers must consider longer-term use cases to fully mine these apps' potential. Unless a messaging app user is specifically searching for and ready to buy a particular product or service, marketers who continue to pepper the app’s chat room with meaningless discount messages will have wasted their investment. In addition, users will likely move to the next competitive (i.e., cheaper) offering when it comes along, running the risk of marketers facing a race to the bottom with cutthroat pricing.
To successfully grow in Asia Pacific (AP), you must excel at understanding customers’ needs, wants, and behaviors and have the capabilities necessary to transform this insight into improved customer engagement. But that’s true everywhere. What sets the AP region apart are the continued vast differences between markets. Appreciating these market differences, and the impact they have on customers’ expectations, is critical when sourcing enterprise marketing capabilities.
Retaining and delighting empowered customers requires continuous, technology-enabled innovation and improved customer insight (CI). The logic is simple in theory, but that doesn’t make it any easier to implement in practice.
In my recent report, entitled “Applying Customer Insight To Your Digital Strategy”, I highlight the top lessons learned from organizations in Asia Pacific (AP) that are successfully leveraging CI to fuel digital initiatives. It all starts by ensuring that data-driven decision-making is central to the digital strategy. With that in mind, I want to use this blog post to focus on two key lessons from the report:
Lesson One: Establish A Clear Mandate To Invest In Customer Analytics
Successful companies serve empowered customers in the way they want to be served, not the way the company wants to serve them. When building a mandate you should:
■ Expect natural tensions between various business stakeholders to arise. To secure buy-in from senior business decision-makers, start by illustrating the clear link between digital capabilities and data as a source of improved customer understanding. Identify measurable objectives and then link them to three to four scenarios that highlight where the biggest opportunities and risks exist. Continue to justify data-related investments by restating these scenarios at regular intervals.
Discussing with Asia Pacific marketers, I often hear that they struggle to find and recruit the right social marketing skills, including data analysts. While staffing is important insofar as tactics go, having a proper team structure to execute on these tactics is, in my view, even more crucial.
In fact, they can mitigate some of these HR challenges with a properly structured social team. My report on building a usable social team structure addresses how organizational models will evolve as social marketing matures. These models include the a) Hub, b) Hub and spoke and c) distributed hub and spoke.
The Hub, for example, is meant to help firms that are starting out on social marketing. This could be a firm that is beginning to get more serious about how social is used strategically to drive business outcomes, or one that operates in highly regulated industries like banking and finance. The centralized hub model puts all of the responsibility (and money) for social marketing in the hands of one small team. This model provides training wheels for marketers for social marketing — especially in learning how to coordinate or test social marketing campaigns in the early phases of social maturity. A centralized hub acts as an incubator for social marketing experimentation and allows other teams to focus on their own objectives until the social program can be implemented at scale with minimal risk. Execution can be in-house, but some marketers partner with an external agency for additional dedicated resources.
Asia Pacific marketers have moved from experimenting with social media in the recent past to integrating it into their marketing mix. However, a large number are guilty of setting and measuring metrics, such as vanity metrics, that do not inform the next course of action.
To increase your chances of social marketing success, you must:
Build an understanding of your audience. Brands all too often mistake social media platforms as a broadcast channel and rave about their own products and services without first understanding the conversations going around them. Astute marketers will first deploy listening platforms by studying the social behaviors of their target audiences and the context of their conversations. Forrester’s Social Technographics® will tell you both how social your audience is and the types of social behaviors in which they engage.
Invest in social marketing based on clear business outcomes. Many Asia Pacific marketers are still allocating media budgets based on user consumption of media — or worse, on how budgets were allocated in previous years. But this model is obsolete, thanks to new methods of accessing data and harnessing technology. Marketers must be able to answer which specific social activities drive specific business outcomes and boldly reallocate marketing investments based on these. For instance, marketers must show how their Facebook strategy has driven fans to their eCommerce site and helped stimulate them to complete a sale.
We have just published Forrester's semi-annual global tech market outlook report for 2015 and 2016 (see "The Global Tech Market Outlook For 2015 To 2016 -- Five Themes That Will Define The Tech Market"). In this report, we are projecting growth of 4.1% in 2015 and 6.3% in 2016 business and government purchases of computer and communications equipment, software, and tech consulting and outsourcing services measured in US dollars. These growth rates are distinct improvements over the 2.3% growth in 2014. The strong dollar is a key negative factor in these forecasts; measured in local currency terms, the growth track for the global tech market is higher with a gentler upward slope, from 3.3% in 2014 to 5.3% in 2015 and 5.9% in 2016.
Our global tech market outlook can be defined with five main themes:
Moderate 5% to 6% rates in 2015 and 2016 in local currency terms. While a stronger-than-expected US dollar has resulted in lower dollar-denominated growth rates for 2014 and 2015 than in our August 2014 projections, though a stronger-than-expected US dollar both years caused a downward revision in these growth rates.
The US tech market will set the pace for the rest of the world in 2015 and 2016. Not only does the US have the largest country-level tech market by far, it will have one of the fastest growth rates at 6.3% in 2015 and 6.1% in 2016. US businesses and governments are also leaders in adopting new mobile, cloud, and analytics technologies. Among other large tech markets, China, India, Sweden, and Israel will also have strong tech market growth, while Brazil, Mexico, Japan, and especially Russia will lag.
I had the pleasure of presenting to Singapore’s DBS Bank yesterday on customer experience and listening to CEO Piyush Gupta’s thoughts on the bank’s journey since he joined in 2009. He spoke about his conclusion upon joining five years ago that a critical challenge to be addressed was an inside-out perspective by the bank’s employees. Since then, he’s driven the bank through a successful transformation project Forrester wrote about in an August case study. Looking forward, he sees the bank working toward “joyful” banking and is seeking ways to embed more emotional connections into their customer experiences.
Listening to Piyush speak reminded me of my interactions with another regional CEO this year who has driven a successful company transformation: Telstra’s David Thodey. David also joined in 2009 and has driven Telstra’s success through a focus on the customer. He has given his customer focus organizational teeth by linking it to Net Promoter Scores (NPS) that determine part of the compensation system at Telstra. The importance of measurement is the key reason we recommend our clients leverage Forrester’s CX Index.
I had the good fortune of moderating a panel on the state of digital business at the Chief Digital Officer Global Forum in Singapore yesterday morning. The event showcased a who’s who of digital business leadership in the region, including my panelists Veena Ramesh of Johnson & Johnson, Jerry Blanton of Citi, and Veronique Meffert of Great Eastern Life.
Organizational issues are the greatest hurdle. There was not a single dissenting voice on the fact that organizational challenges represent the biggest impediment to digital business progress. The greatest organizational challenges are functional silos, business unit resistance, a lack of clear guidance from the CEO, rigid backward-looking mindsets, and a shortage of the skills needed to drive change. One approach — shared by Rahul Welde of Unilever — is to drive “digital experimentation funds” and “foundries” to drive co-creation innovation.
Media command centers are becoming critical marketing assets. Both representatives from Unilever and Philips spoke of the critical role that media command centers now play in their marketing campaigns. In the case of Philips, I was surprised to learn that its social media command center in Singapore employs 200 people — and that it is planning for expansion!