The digital world has been a lifeline for businesses and marketers in the past year due to Covid-19. Organizations with a digital transformation strategy have accelerated their progress and investment in digital infrastructures, talents, operations, and online marketing. Companies with a brick and mortar business model have suddenly been forced to confront a new reality and paradigm shift towards digital enablement.

Marketers have to quickly adjust their strategy and budget allocation between offline and online channels to meet business objectives during a lockdown. Every industry and consumer now recognizes the importance of digital channels and online customer experience. People from all walks of life in Southeast Asia are rushing to increase their digital literacy to survive and compete in today’s borderless world.

THREE SHIFTS IN DIGITAL TO EMBRACE

Trend #1 Advertising Powered By Automation and Machine Learning

When digital marketing is unleashed effectively, the output can be higher reach and brand exposure, lower cost-per-acquisition (CPA), higher ROI, growth in high-performing audience segments, amongst many other measurable benefits. As the digital advertising ecosystem and technology have matured, savvy digital marketers and practitioners have begun to embrace automation. Automation can be in the form of building one’s own internal tools to manage a campaign, leveraging enterprise software to optimize digital marketing investments, triggering campaigns at scale using automated rules in programmatic advertising, or using automated campaign options instead of manual type in advertising set up. When it comes to advertising and performance marketing, automation enables marketers to scale their messages and strategies across a massive audience while simultaneously delivering personalized results and optimized performance.

When I started my career in marketing nearly two decades ago, every campaign, tracking link, performance report, customer targeting segment, budget allocation, and optimization was done manually in Excel spreadsheets using simple to complex formulas. The advertising features offered by the major players such as Google were also nascent and limited in terms of automated features. Advertising was set up manually without any dynamic features nor automated options.

“People from all walks of life in Southeast Asia are rushing to increase their digital literacy to survive and compete in today’s borderless world”

Times have changed. But surprisingly, many of the world’s largest brands still operate their digital marketing efforts manually and hesitate to tap into automation tools and options. It’s time for them to get out of their comfort zone and lean in towards automated options in advertising offered by the major players in the industry.

The automation features offered in advertising set up

by industry players leverage machine learning systems to automatically serve the responsive ads across the ecosystem. The automated bid features use smart bidding rules based on the goals of the brand and the competitiveness of the marketplace to help you win more traffic and conversions—a clear advantage over manual inputs in standard campaign types. The automated options offered by any industry players focus on the idea of setting up one campaign to reach all traffic sources rather than create a specialized or manual ad for specific channels. In addition, the automated options focus on scale and coverage to ensure you are maximizing your reach and budget allocation. The result still needs to be tested to suit each brand’s objective, but there can be scale and accuracy behind machine learning to help automate your digital advertising and campaign management.

Trend #2 Marketing In a Cookie-less World

We are all familiar with the ads that “follow us” around as we browse from website to website. These ads seem to know exactly what product we’ve last clicked on and which website we are considering to purchase from. Cookies have been an integral part of the marketing ecosystem. For customers, cookies can trigger more relevant content, ads, and products for an overall more efficient user experience online. For marketers, cookies can enable more targeted advertising and serve the right message to the right customer at the right time.

However, the impending death of third-party cookies will forever change the digital advertising industry. Marketers have relied on third-party cookies for years as the primary data source to guide digital advertising and customer journey. Cookies enable marketers to gather information about visitors and their online behavior when they are not on their own site. When a website is using data stored in a cookie not of its own to determine your preference in content and advertising, it i s t apping i nto a t hird-party c ookie. T hird-party c ookies have been used for data tracking, personalization, and ad targeting based on user data such as customer demographics, preferences, location, browsing history, etc. But this type of data tracking and intrusion is going away soon, and marketers need to be ready with new data, targeting, measurement, and attribution strategy.

Companies such as Apple, Google, and Mozilla are removing and/or minimizing the use of third-party cookies in their ecosystem in response to user privacy pressures and data protection regulations. This move will effectively create a “walled garden” in advertising, which will make targeted marketing, advertising, and user experience online in the near future less relevant and more boring.

Look out for more changes coming in this topic as the industry players replace third-party cookies without sacrificing user privacy and find ways to leverage first-party and second-party cookies more effectively.

CIOs, CMOs, and CDOs need to have a strategy to build relationships with customers in a future that is consent-based and first-party data d riven. Marketing in a cookie-less world means leveraging data received with explicit consumer permissions to give users what they want, when they want, accurately and more respectfully.

Trend #3 Business Growth through E-commerce

In 2020, Southeast Asian markets—Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam—e-commerce grew by 53percent, according to Euromonitor International. Consumer sectors from technology to FMCG to fashion businesses aggressively ramped up their digital efforts and e-commerce marketing to meet the growing online retail demands driven by Covid-19.

The goal of the pivot to e-commerce is to move beyond the inflection point where more than half of the total business revenue comes from online retail. This pivot is normally supported by a total e-commerce growth strategy beyond just product assortment and merchandising. The pivot also involves everything from branding to site user interface, customer experience, and the reallocation of media spend from offline activations to online marketing channels.

Paddle Forward Relevantly, Respectfully, and Holistically Online

The Covid-19 pandemic didn’t redefine marketing - consumer behavior changes did. The marketing fundamentals remain the same as always. Everything we do in marketing needs to meet consumer demand in real time, at scale, and in ways that resonate with people in a meaningful way.