Community and a consciousness: SEA’s marketing trends in 2022

In a post-pandemic advertising landscape, privacy, transparency and bringing fractured society back together will be at the top of the agenda.

2021 was another year of irreversible transformation across Southeast Asia as the region’s internet community reached 440 million. Digital advertising has become the norm and the e-commerce boom continues to see exponential growth. Critically, consumers have raised their expectations around the value of personal data and their relationships with brands. With these shifting expectations, here is what marketers can expect this year.

A privacy rethink

2022 will be crunch time for marketers’ digital privacy initiatives. Last year, Apple unveiled its App Tracking Transparency tool, while Google prepares to retire its third-party cookie next year. On a compliance front, China has now implemented a new and comprehensive data protection law that places more onus on tech giants to securely store user data.

There has also been a profound shift in the consumer-brand relationship. According to a study conducted by Perion, three-quarters of consumers would like digital ads that contain visible seals guaranteeing that brands are not tracking them.

With these technological shifts and compliance regulations, brands will need to rethink their historic tactics of web tracking and start acting more consciously with their consumers’ data privacy.

These restrictions will be no doubt a major concern given that marketers have become accustomed to leveraging data for their strategies and investments. Finding new ways to collect first-party data, such as surveys and newsletter subscriptions, will be key. Brands that strike the right balance between data usage and protection will stand out for putting their consumers’ interests first.

Ad fraud can no longer be ignored

This year, Asia Pacific’s advertising economy is slated to surge by 11.2 per cent to US$235 billion in 2022. While this may be welcome news for marketers’ growth targets, it also brings a slew of opportunities for advertising fraudsters – a US$56 billion one in APAC. From bots to click farms, ad fraud affects all industries that use digital advertising, especially those in finance, legal and business services. Naturally, the more money ploughed into digital advertising, the more the bots come for the taking.

Combatting the problem remains an ongoing effort by the marketing community, but there are methods to minimise the losses. Working with trusted publishing partners and social media networks will help bring verifiable, credible audiences to a campaign. Third-party tools, especially those underpinned by artificial intelligence and machine learning tools, can detect patterns of suspicious behaviour. These patterns can inform marketers of which IPs to monitor and block. Acting soon and adopting ad fraud prevention into a media strategy will set marketers on a strong trajectory in 2022.

Deeper connections

Social media has completely redefined the way consumers and marketers see community engagement. In recent times, apps like Reddit, TikTok and Discord have all unified multiple audiences around particular niches and interests, building connections and user-generated creativity.

Like their social circles, consumers also expect and desire the same deep connection with a brand that aligns with their interests. This should inspire brands to find new and hyper-personalised ways to connect deeply with their customers. Brands such as Sephora, Roblox and Duolingo have notably succeeded in this regard.

Duolingo in particular has successfully built multiple communities around its language-learning app by encouraging idea-sharing and a little competitiveness between its users. Its podcast and lively web forums also help elevate its branding as a community-focused educational tool.

This mindset will be critical for boosting SEA marketers’ customer retention. Customers now expect more than just straight-up selling from brands and want to feel heard, recognised and important. As Salesforce put it, customers want to be treated like a person and not a number.

Is voice the new search?

With the region’s penetration of devices like Google Home, Amazon Echo and other voice-activated devices, brands can explore new ways to interact with consumers. One of the most memorable uses of this was Nestle’s ‘Ask Purina’ campaign, which allowed pet owners to find out animal-related information via Amazon Alexa.

Globally voice-based ad revenue is expected to reach US$19 billion in 2022. More locally in SEA, voice search is driven by new smartphone users, especially those in emerging markets like India, Thailand, and Indonesia. However, given the region’s vast range of languages and dialects, it remains a challenge to connect with each audience clearly and effectively, although recognition technology is improving.

While voice search is nascent in the SEA region, the omnipresence of voice-enabled devices will no doubt soon feed into the mainstream. Marketers who successfully integrate these devices into a wider, omnichannel experience will be the ones that have their voices heard in 2022.