But how well are brand marketers harnessing technology to achieve their goals on a day-to-day basis? What are the trends, and what are the challenges they are facing?

To find out, Econsultancy, in association with Epsilon, recently held roundtable discussions with client-side marketers in Hong Kong to discuss the extent to which marketers are adopting technology – and how far they still have to go.

A summary of the points mentioned during the session are below, but before we start, we’d just like to let you know about our upcoming roundtable event in Mumbai on July 12th. Senior client-side marketers interested in joining should click on the link and request a seat at the table!


Participants agreed that the opportunities presented by marketing technology vary enormously depending on a company’s customer base. Business-to-consumer (B2C) firms stand to gain significantly by ‘harnessing’ marketing technology whereas business-to-business (B2B) firms have far fewer touchpoints and opportunities to collect and activate data.

Opportunities are also influenced by how tech-savvy the company is.  Some attendees bemoaned having to deal with cumbersome, legacy systems and others said that their management was reluctant to invest in technology which did not have a quick return on investment.

Those whose companies were relatively new or had started digital transformation, participants agreed, stood to gain the most from technology. Yet opportunities at high-tech firms are still limited, typically by the slow pace of internal adoption. When a company has thousands of employees and operates in dozens of markets, one delegate pointed out, it takes extensive workshops and seminars to get the attention of other departments.

Companies seeking to be at the cutting edge of marketing technology, one participant suggested, could set up a ‘martech’ team outside of the existing department with its own budget and flexibility in terms of technology vs. legacy systems. While ideal, this approach is still quite rare.


One of the first trends identified is that firms who have local technical resources are quicker to adopt new marketing technology. With tech talent nearby, marketers have a better chance of understanding the potential for data-driven initiatives and be more effective at selling technology solutions internally.

Others said that their marketing departments are now striving to clearly define a data strategy and a data collection framework. With a solid foundation in place, marketers hope to be in a better position to use technology to refine the customer experience, tie up online and offline touchpoints, and get buy-in from the business by showing that return on investment (ROI) can actually be measured end-to-end.

Interestingly, marketers said that companies in Asia are also starting to invest more in technology to comply with GDPR, the new European Union data privacy legislation.  These investments typically involve updating content delivery platforms, data delineation systems and driving awareness of the European legislation internally.


Following the marketing technology trends, however, also requires overcoming obstacles for many marketers.

One of the main challenges faced by attendees is that their companies do not know where to start with marketing technology. Delegates reported that few senior managers have a clear vision of how data can support the business beyond one-off initiatives.

Additionally, marketers report that top management is reluctant to invest in ‘plumbing’ (i.e. data collection and management technology) for marketing. While it has been long predicted that the CMO will outspend the CTO on tech, participants said that the technology ‘center of gravity’ is only slowing moving from IT to marketing. This has a knock-on effect of long turn-around time, measured in weeks or months, to get relevant customer data from the insights team.

And for those who felt that their companies had made progress with integrating marketing technology, data quality is still a widespread concern, especially if they rely on manual data entry by customer-facing staff.

Finally, participants agreed that even with a vision, a roadmap, and investment in technology marketers may still struggle to deliver results to the business. Changing attitudes, adopting new processes and onboarding end users is neither fast nor easy, attendees reported, especially for large companies.

A word of thanks

Econsultancy would like to thank our the moderator for the Harnessing Technology roundtable, Cedric Delzenne, Head of Hong Kong Office, 55, the data company and our subject matter expert, Tony Cheung, Head of Sales, Greater China, Epsilon.

We’d also like to thank our sponsor for the day, Epsilon, as well as the dozens of marketers who made time in their busy schedules to share their experiences and insights about how marketers are handling the opportunities, trends, and challenges of adopting new technology.

We hope to see you all at future Econsultancy events!