But how are marketers in South-East Asia really using email marketing and automation?  And what, specifically are marketers in the region planning for this coming year with regards to these techniques?

To answer these questions and more, Econsultancy, in association with IBM Marketing Cloud, surveyed more than 500 client-side and supply-side respondents in South-East Asia about email and marketing automation.

In the report, State of Email and Marketing Automation in South-East Asia, we explore how respondents felt about email marketing ROI, what automation technologies they actually use, how they manage the data needed to power modern marketing automation systems, and much, much more.

The full report provides extensive coverage of both the current state and future of email and marketing automation, but here is a summary of four surprising findings from the survey to get you started.

1. Marketing automation moves up the priority lists in 2016

According to our client-side respondents, in 2015 marketing automation was the fifth most popular priority ranking behind content market, social, email marketing, and even SEO.

For such a talked-about technology as marketing automation, this was a surprising result.

But when asked about the coming year, 2016, over one-third (37%) of company respondents and even more (39%) of agency respondents listed marketing automation as a priority.

This made marketing automation the third most popular technology, behind only social (second) and content marketing (first).

This is more in line with expectations. Many brands are focused on the ROI of their social and content marketing efforts, indeed, but marketing automation is also frequently discussed and it’s good to see that it is now a higher priority.

Also noteworthy is that email marketing is still important. Despite the rise of marketing automation, email only moved down one spot to fourth place, with 34% of company respondents and 32% of agency respondents noting it as a priority.

Along with a rise in priority, it seems that marketing automation technology will enjoy more investment in 2016, as well.

Approximately one in three respondents, 31% client-side and 34% supply-side, reported that marketing automation will have a larger budget in 2016 at their, or their clients’, organisation.

2. The reason? Marketing automation enables marketing opportunities

One possible reason for its ascent on the priority list of marketers is because marketing automation aligns with current marketing opportunities in the region.

According to the survey, approximately one-quarter client-side (24%) and supply-side (25%) marketers see multichannel campaign management as the single most important opportunity in digital marketing right now for their organization, or their clients.

A close second is customer experience, chosen by 18% of company respondents and 16% of agency respondents.

Marketing automation can help with both multichannel and customer experience.

Multichannel campaigns are much easier to manage with strong back-end automation and customer experience is improved when marketing touchpoints are automated and improved based on data.

So, perhaps unsurprisingly, marketing automation itself was the next on the list.

It was selected by 12% of company marketers and 11% of supply-side respondents as the single important opportunity, putting it in third place.

3. Email marketing is stuck in the ‘basic’ zone

When asked about their email activities, respondents from both client and supply-side reported that they are using many email techniques to some extent.

All of the 16 email technologies we listed were used by at least 40% of respondents.

Interestingly, though, almost all of the email activities are only being used to a ‘basic’ extent by the respondents, or the respondents’ clients.

Out of our extensive list of email marketing techniques, only ‘optimising email for mobile devices and encouraging sharing of content on social networks’ was used by more than one in six respondents, both agency clients.

As an example, the common technique of ‘use of transactional emails for marketing’ was reported as in use by 69% of client-side marketers, but only 8% considered their usage ‘advanced’.

And over two-thirds (69%) of agency respondents reported, encouragingly, that they are using ‘behavioural targeting (based on web activity)’ with email, but a scant 12% are using this technique at more than a ‘basic’ level.

It’s surprising, and somwhat disappointing, that these relatively mature technologies with a wide variety of use cases are not being used to their full potential by organisations in the region.

4. What’s holding up progress?  Depends on who you ask…

To figure out what might be holding marketers back from using email and marketing automation to a greater extent, we asked them about the barriers to effective email marketing for their organisation.

The most popular response from client-side marketers, by far, was the ‘quality of the email database’ as reported by 47% of company respondents.

Client-side marketers gave a similar response when asked about barriers to implementing their automation strategy.

The most popular response, from over one-third (37%) of client-side respondents, was that ‘integrating data’ was one of the biggest issues they faced.

Agency respondents were also concerned about the data but one-third (33%) reported that a lack of skills and training was the greatest barrier to effective email marketing for their clients.

And a greater number, more than two in five (42%), felt that their clients face a lack of skills as a barrier to implementing an automation strategy.

So, it seems that the client-side feels that better data management will improve their email and marketing automation programmes and the supply-side is more concerned with the skills gap in this regard.

And there’s more…

These are just a few examples which describe the state of email and marketing automation in the South-East Asia region.

For more revealing statistics and insights, download the report today!