Asia’s marketers lacking confidence to move dollars where consumers are says Google CMO

Marketers in Asian countries with the highest smartphone penetration and use in the world are still lacking the confidence to move more dollars away from traditional media to where their consumers are, the chief marketing officer of Google Asia Pacific said yesterday as the internet giant released the results from its annual Consumer Barometer report.

Simon Kahn

Simon Kahn

The report – the fifth study in the series – showed Thailand to be the world’s most prolific mobile shopping nation, Singapore to have the world’s second highest smartphone penetration, and China to watch the longest videos on mobile devices (see charts below).

Talking to Mumbrella yesterday, Simon Kahn, Google’s regional CMO, said the shift from traditional media such as newspapers and television has been slower than expected, given the surge in digital device use in the region.

“Consumer behaviour has changed fundamentally. They [marketers] recognise that this is happening, but they’re not confident that they know the best ways to address this or effectively use digital marketing to get the returns they want.”

The gap between where marketing dollars are spent and where consumers now spend their time has been created partly by the assumption that the role of digital is to convert audiences into sales and not build brands, Kahn suggested.

“Most of the time, money is spent on TV and print to drive awareness, not conversion. Historically, marketers thought about digital as the conversion play, not to build brand equity,” he said.

The transition among marketers from “saying digital is not just about driving customers to buy my products, but to build a brand, has been slower than we’d thought,” said Kahn.

Data from the global study of 56 countries, run in partnership with TNS, showed five out of the top 10 markets for smartphone adoption to be Asian.

Smartphone penetration

Eleven of the top 21 mobile-first markets – those with more people with smartphones than PCs – are Asian. Thailand ranks top followed by Malaysia.

Mobile-first countries

Malaysia is the world’s number one market for people who use their mobile device while watching TV.

Smartphones and televisionChina is the world’s number one market for consumers of long-form video on their mobile devices.

Length of videos watch on mobile

Asia leads the world for mobile shopping; almost a third of Thais surveyed had purchased products using their smartphones.

Shopping on mobile

Asia is also the world’s leading region for mobile video consumption, with Thailand again the global frontrunner, followed by China and Malaysia.

Mobile video consumptionThe same is true of searches on mobile devices, with South Korea ranking top followed by China and Singapore.

Searches on smartphones

South Korea is also the world’s biggest user of maps on smartphones, according to Google’s study.

Maps on mobileThe key take-away from the research is that the media behaviour of consumers in APAC is now increasingly defined by what Kahn calls “micro-moments”, which he says are transforming marketing.

“Mobile adoption is increasingly shifting and shaping consumer behaviour. We now look at our phones 100-150 times a day. We have them with us all the time. Sometimes we look at our phones to check what our friends are doing on social media. But then there are the moments that really matter: the I want-to-know, I want-to-go, I want-to-do, and I want-to-buy moments. We call them “micro-moments,” said Kahn.

Unilever India’s Be Beautiful YouTube channel and Nestle Philippines’ cooking tips channel are good examples of brands tapping into an I-want-to-do moment, when web users want to learn how to do something, Kahn noted.

Adidas, which used location data in their online ads to direct consumers to their stores, shows a brand tapping into an I-want-to-buy moment, where a consumer will use a phone to compare prices or look up reviews.

Google uses Citibank, which used a location-aware app as part of its online marketing strategy, as an example of an I-want-to-go moment.

Back on the issue of moving more money into digital, Kahn said the structure of large organisations has often been a hurdle.

“In the conversations we have with regional presidents, they get it,” he said. “They understand the need to shift to digital, just not how to do it. And they don’t have the people to do it, so there’s a war for talent.”

“There’s also a war for agencies that can deliver great digital work,” he said.

“At a junior level, there are digital natives who live and breathe this space, who are comfortable in it. Where we see challenges are at the brand manager and brand director level.”

“The have a P&L and can be the most risk averse. They know what roughly they will get if they spend money on traditional. So they don’t want to experiment too heavily in digital.”

But more marketers are beginning to experiment with digital with the introduction of new ways to measure the effectiveness of their spend, Kahn said, and the time is coming when marketing budgets will swing away from traditional towards digital.

“When it happens it’ll happen in a big way,” he said.


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