Marketing Automation in Asia

At the end of 2018, P&S Intelligence published a report indicating that marketing automation software, in the Asia-Pacific region specifically, would reach a $7 billion market size by 2023. Marketers want to engage with target audiences over social media platforms more effectively, but they need the right tools. AI-powered solutions can ease their pains and improve their profits. This need is driving the market growth. 

The report found that omni-channel campaign management software solutions accounted for over 45 percent of the APAC marketing automation software market in 2017. These products enable meaningful optimizations, integrations, and automations. A cross-channel view of customers often leads to higher ROI, improved communications, and refined tactics. 

P&S Intelligence determined that omni-channel tools addressed the growing need by enterprises for technologies that assist in customer data management, analytics, and workflow. The report also found that the banking, financial services, and insurance sector (BFSI) was increasingly adopting marketing automation software and, in fact, held the largest market share. By analyzing consumer touchpoints and behavior across digital channels, the industry was able to upsell and cross-sell retail banking products. 

Marketers in all sectors are increasingly reliant on new automation software. It isn’t just about efficiency or a singular business outcome. It’s about staying in the game. If an enterprise declines to use marketing tech automation products, they will have to manually perform tedious tasks. That represents a significant staffing cost. Meanwhile, competitors will achieve a higher ROI and overtake them. These tools are vital. But they’re also numerous. 

According to a wise old saying, “If you build a better mousetrap, the world will beat a path to your door.” Maybe that was once true. But what if there are hundreds of better mousetraps, and the features are so complicated that it takes at least an hour to explain each mousetrap? That is the marketing tech scene right now. Global competition is producing striking innovation. Concurrently, AI is developing rapidly in academia and nonprofit structures. These knowledge breakthroughs lead to improved product offerings. 

But there are impediments to regional growth. 

Access to major social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube is still being blocked in mainland China. There are workarounds, such as VPN services, but China is reportedly cracking down on circumvention techniques. One academic paper noted that the Great Firewall of China, along with other unique Chinese phenomena, has essentially “given rise to a separate social media universe that China calls its own.” This localization of social media platforms presents obvious concerns in terms of civic engagement, information sharing, and governmental monitoring, but it also affects software markets. 

There’s an entire ecosystem of digital tools that exists around Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc. These platform-specific, third-party solutions sometimes have nifty, proprietary stuff under the hood. The Chinese government doesn’t officially allow its citizens on the aforementioned platforms, which means that marketers in mainland China can’t utilize anything in that ecosystem. By contrast, companies in other, less restrictive countries can leverage the benefits of global innovation. 

Will state censorship affect China’s ability to financially benefit from automation, or will equivalent marketing tech solutions, crafted for Weibo, WeChat, and Tencent QQ, give them the same lift? 

I asked Richard S. Grossman, Professor of Economics and Chair of the Department of Economics at Wesleyan University. 

He opined, “Anything that gets in the way of the free flow of information is likely to be costly, so I would agree that China’s restrictions on news and information are, themselves, problematic. In fact, I think that China’s restrictions on personal freedom (including information flows) is very much a threat to the stability of the Chinese government and its economic growth in the long term.” 

Grossman noted that the restricted social media platforms are powerful commercial tools; however, he also noted that equivalent technologies could be developed in China. 

He concluded, “We should also not forget that whatever the short-term business benefits of U.S.-based social media platforms, they have proven themselves subject to manipulation — for example, during the 2016 election — which should give us all pause before we worry too much about their inability to penetrate into China.”

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