Things aren’t looking great across the Asia-Pacific region in terms of digital marketing as new figures indicate that marketers in APAC may be lagging behind when it comes to ROI metrics, talent and digital strategies.

These findings come from a new report called Digital Marketing Performance Dashboard 2012, which was conducted by Adobe and the CMO Council.

The report was constructed from the results of an online survey that was taken by 295 senior marketers in Asia-Pacific, including marketers from Toyota, 20th Century Fox, Tupperware, Citi Group, Nokia and Yahoo.

Where APAC is lagging behind

It seems the advantages of digital marketing are well understood in the Asia-Pacific region with 93% of marketers surveyed stating they believe it can create a competitive advantage for their company.

Unfortunately though, only 6% believe their company has a high level of digital marketing proficiency and a huge 40% feel they need improvement and are lagging behind

The report also found that companies in the Asia-Pacific region lack “sophistication and depth of measurement” when it comes to measuring organisation spend, something which Mark Phibbs, Adobe’s senior director for marketing, Asia-Pacific, believes will stop APAC companies moving ahead of the curve.

The implication of this lag in digital advancements is that while consumers in the region continue in their adoption, consumption and dependence on digital engagements, marketers are struggling to provide targeted, intelligent and personalised experiences that can have a direct impact on the success of the business.  

As global marketers adopt measures that link back to revenue-driving metrics, APAC marketers are struggling to move beyond surface-level KPIs that simply report clicks, views and baseline consumption.

Leveraging data to generate analytical insights is critical to help the region’s marketers move ahead of the curve in terms of tracking and mapping customer insights and behavior.

Australia and Korea took the lead in the analytics area, with 84.5% and 84% of marketers indicating they use digital marketing analytics and reporting. Singapore followed in third place with 68%, India with 63%, Hong Kong with 61.5% and China significantly further behind with only 33%.

Despite somewhat high numbers of usage, marketer’s confidence in their ability to measure value and return was extremely low, with only 3% believing they excel in this area. Phibbs says this definitely needs to change. 

The data has highlighted significant gaps between countries in their use of digital marketing analytics and reporting technologies. 

We can expect to see countries with the budget and skills to invest in establishing sophisticated technology platforms surge ahead of countries that are struggling to set up a similar infrastructure. 

Talent crunch & budget cuts

One of the key insights to come from the report was that APAC companies are struggling to get the right digital marketing talent for their business due to low budgets.

Forty-nine percent of respondents said their current marketing teams didn’t have the right skills or experience to handle digital marketing strategies and 38% said that a lack of hiring budget prevented senior talent from being brought on board, resulting in lesser skilled marketers.

Low budgets was also listed as a reason why companies couldn’t undertake proper testing and analysis, with 53% of respondents pointing to this as a significant issue. 

In terms of budget spent on digital marketing, Australia was clearly in the lead of other APAC countries with 41% percent of Aussie companies spending a quarter or more of their budget on digital marketing. This was well above Hong Kong who followed in second place with 28%, China and Singapore with 24% and India and Korea with 20%. 

Currently the highest level of funding seems to be directed towards website content development and performance optimisation, search engine optimisation and email marketing. However, Phibbs believes that spend in Asia will rise in 2013, particularly in Singapore. 

The percentage of marketers expecting to allocate more than 50% of their budget is set to almost double in the fiscal year head. The commitment to digital is clearly happening.

Close to 30% of Singapore marketers surveyed plan to increase digital marketing spend to between 25  - 49 percent while 14% wants to dedicate more than two-thirds of their marketing budget to digital marketing in the fiscal year ahead.

Where Australia stands out 

Australia spends more money on digital marketing than any other country in the Asia-Pacific region and appears to be the most dedicated in the region when it comes to digital analysis. Two-thirds of Australian marketers also engage multiple agencies for their initiatives, which is higher than any other APAC country. 

While Australia seems to be holding its own quite well, Phibbs warns Aussie marketers that they shouldn’t get complacent. 

Australia has realised the benefits of digital early compared with the rest of the region and has invested accordingly.

The results we’re seeing from Australia are reasonable, particularly compared to other countries in the Asia Pacific region, but it shouldn’t stand on its laurels.

Going forward

Liz Miller, CMO Council’s VP of global programs, said the key issues that marketers should be focusing on if they want to improve their digital performance going forward are evolving thinking, enhancing targeting and segmentation and better directing relevant content. 

It is clear that marketers across the region are ready to run into a digital future, but as the hyper-connected digital consumer continues to evolve, marketers must invest in the people, processes and platforms that will better predict and prepare for these engagement opportunities. 

Asia-Pacific companies are competing globally and digital marketing is a critical factor in identifying and qualifying new markets, reaching new customers, building the brand and maintaining strong business opportunities internationally. 

Phibbs also has four tips for APAC companies looking to turn things around in 2013.

  • Appoint senior digital marketing leaders to own the marketing strategy alignment to key business drivers
  • Make sure your organization is measuring the right elements in order to demonstrate ROI
  • Boost in-house dedicated, skilled analytics resources to drive the shift from tactical KPI measurement to prove ROI and leverage data for analytic insights
  • Continue investment in measurement and optimization technologies as well as ongoing staff training