According to a recent report, most organizations are still a long way from authentically displaying empathy when addressing digital brand strategies.

In the eleventh edition of a global trends survey (from Oct to Dec 2020) surveying more than 11,413 marketing, advertising, e-commerce, creative, and IT professionals working for both marketing brands and agencies across the world (including Australia and New Zealand, India and Asia), many businesses in the Asia Pacific region (APAC) considered speed and action of insights to be an overriding focus and key investment area for 2021.

Digital disruption in 2020 had led businesses to realize they needed to understand and act on data faster. Only one third (35%) of ANZ leaders in the survey believed their organization had strong capabilities in accuracy, actionability, speed and access of insights, while Asian leaders were far more pessimistic at around 9%.

However, respondents across Asia (49%) and ANZ (40%) were planning to invest resources in improving insights and analytics capabilities to achieve their top marketing goals in 2021. For leaders in ANZ this was a focus on personalized customer experience (33%), while Asian leaders were committed to enabling digital customer acquisition (35%).

Strategies to tap insights

According to Duncan Egan, Vice President of Digital Experience marketing (APAC and Japan), Adobe, which commissioned the survey, organizations with better access to insights in the poll were more likely to say their customers were positive about their digital experience compared to their peers with lower levels of insight.

“For brands across every sector, 2020 brought a loss of predictability. Organizations of all kinds were driven online at an accelerated rate, creating a wave of new digital customers with increasing expectations. Customers now have the upper hand in the ‘digital relationship’, with more than half of marketing respondents across APAC reporting unusual changes in customer behaviors and journeys in 2020,” he said, noting that companies with a strong customer experience (CX) strategy were more likely to achieve long-term growth than competitors, as they were better positioned to adapt to changeable customer behavior and markets.

Organizations, he said, need to accelerate their insight and action capabilities by moving to more flexible technologies and cloud-based platforms, as well as to a unified and real-time view of the customer journey.

Improving digital experience

Organizations across APAC reported three significant barriers hampering marketing and experience:

  1. Legacy technology and systems (51% in ANZ, 37% in India and Asia)
  2. Workflow issues (38% in ANZ, 33% in India and 48% in Asia)
  3. A lack of digital skills and capabilities (34% in ANZ, 24% in India and 43% in Asia).

Egan noted that, moving forward, the shift to remote work will have a significant and enduring impact on businesses, requiring new marketing strategies for reaching and keeping customers. “The most progressive companies were looking ahead and investing in hybrid workplace approaches for improved productivity and as a hiring differentiator for the best digital and CX talent. Companies have never been more interested in being agile and adding new capabilities for seamless digital execution, with one third (34%) saying they had been unusually agile and able to take quick decisions.”

According to him, a hybrid approach to technology, comprising cloud and other data management systems, allowed organizations to be flexible and collaborative, letting them work better with existing solutions and quickly integrate new ones. “The effects of such an approach within these organizations can be seen in the improved capability in key areas of analytics and insights.”

Many organizations across APAC polls had already taken a hybrid approach, with 43% executives in ANZ and 26% in both India and Asia reporting they used a cloud-based platform in concert with other marketing data management systems.

Privacy and consent for effective CX

With a surge in digital customers, businesses in the study were prioritizing data privacy. Some 56% of ANZ, and 41% in Asia, said that customer privacy and consent were key factors in planning.

However, transparency was still lacking, with only 13% in ANZ, 12% in Asia claiming their organization was effective at communicating how data was collected and used.

Also, 10% in ANZ and 13% in Asia believed they were highly effective at communicating the value offered in exchange for customers’ consent when first encountering the brand. As digital convenience becomes a commodity, empathy by brands will be a key differentiator for customer experience (CX).

According to Adobe, analyzing and adapting to a customer’s emotional journey in the pandemic era will be the next evolution of experience management. However, most organizations were still a long way from authentically displaying digital empathy: just 37% of Indian executives in the survey had significant insights into customer mindsets, followed by 27% in ANZ and 19% in Asia.

Faring only marginally better were drivers of purchase, friction points and attribution of how marketing actions are linked to customer behavior.