Econsultancy recently published a helpful guide to 2018 marketing trends, Opportunities and Challenges for Marketers in 2018.

And while the report covers 2018 marketing trends from a global perspective, marketers in Asia-Pacific often experience trends which are slightly different from those felt by their counterparts in the West.

So, to both brief marketers on the report and cover what’s happening in the region, Econsultancy recently invited over 400 Asia-Pacific brand marketers to attend Digital Outlook 2018 in Singapore. Below are three of the 2018 marketing trends we identified specifically for brands selling in the Asia-Pacific region. 

1) Marketplaces are on the rise in Asia-Pacific

For many years, ecommerce in Asia-Pacific has languished behind the West. While regional consumers heard of the amazing benefits offered by Amazon Prime and the unparalleled customer service of Zappos, the experience with online retailers in Asia-Pacific seemed to be stuck in the last decade.

This all changed in 2017, however, with Amazon launching in both Singapore (July) and Australia (December).

Now, brands, retailers and legacy marketplaces will have to up their game to keep up with a daunting foe. Amazon has been such an effective marketplace that the destruction of retail company share prices in Western markets is now known as ‘the Amazon effect’.

To deal with a potential ‘Amazon effect’ in Asia-Pacific, the first thing brand marketers must do is to consider whether it is still worth pursuing their own ecommerce sites, or whether they should outsource the online customer experience to the marketplaces.

Next, Asia-Pacific brand marketers need a marketplace strategy. Should they put all merchandise on the marketplaces, or keep some products and materials exclusive for their own site and stores?

Finally, brands need to make sure they have the right talent onboard to manage the marketplaces. Job ads are already appearing which ask specifically for marketplace ecommerce experience, so hiring for these skills may soon become quite difficult.

Overall, this trend is both an imminent threat and a new opportunity for brands so the 2018 marketing trend is to come up with a marketplace strategy as soon as possible.

2) China has become a digital leader

Many publishers which cover the marketing industry, including this one, have long looked at China as the ‘poor cousin’ of the Western internet.

Comparisons between Western countries and China often focus on the difference in internet penetration (always higher in the West), the adoption of smartphones (China was behind until recently), and the ‘me too’ digital platforms in China which seemed to proliferate six or seven years ago.

The 2018 marketing trend is that things have changed. Instead of being behind and playing catch-up, the China internet economy has now raced ahead of the West’s and the country now leads in many key areas.

Besides its sheer size, which is expected due to the country billion-plus population, the internet economy in China is also ahead in features. Consumers in China can now use the internet, specifically WeChat, to accomplish an extraordinary number of things.

Apart from the usual messaging, voice, and video calls, WeChat also has integrated news and public service announcement, gifting, ride-hailing, food delivery, doctor/dentist bookings, and even visa applications. Those who use WeChat in China are often quite surprised to see how ‘patchwork’ the West’s online experience still is.

And the reason there are so many services is that China is far ahead in online payments integration.  Instead of having dozens of competing platforms with limited adoption, Chinese consumers pretty much have two, Alipay and WeChat Pay, with 77% market penetration.

These two payment systems are also connected to an enormous amount of points of sale in the country, both online and off, meaning that many Chinese consumers now enjoy cash-free purchasing for almost everything.

Finally, along with integrated payments has come an integrated shopping experience. Unlike the fragmented customer journey in the West, Chinese consumers can discover, research, inquire with friends, and buy items all through one platform – be it WeChat or Taobao. Besides providing convenience for the consumer, this also allows brands to coordinate and monitor their messaging across platforms to an extent which would be very difficult to do in the West.

3) Google and Facebook are (still) the future of digital advertising

The final point made was that brand marketers can still count on Facebook and Google for digital advertising in Asia-Pacific for the foreseeable future.

This 2018 marketing trend is perhaps counter-trend to the West where brands are questioning their exposure to the ‘duopoly’ of Facebook and Google and looking at other ad platforms, such as Amazon and publisher consortiums.

But in the East, Facebook and Google still offer the widest reach and the greatest potential for growth in emerging markets such as Myanmar and Vietnam.  Also, growth in programmatic buying in the region is still being held back by fears of click fraud and publisher consortiums are just being launched in the region.

So, overall the trend for most brands is to stick with Google and Facebook for digital advertising for the time being, despite their flaws.

A word of thanks

Econsultancy would like to thank all of the presenters and the 400+ attendees of our recent Digital Outlook 2018 in Singapore.

Coming together for a full day of presentations and discussions of Asia-Pacific’s 2018 marketing trends was hopefully time well spent – and we look forward to seeing you all at future Econsultancy events!