Businesses across the Asia Pacific (APAC) region have embraced the ongoing socio-economic disruption brought on by the global pandemic. Many have come to realize over the past 18 months that the way forward for sustainability is to operate within the digital economy.
As a result, customer engagement has become a primary focus for growth. Forrester predicted that new precedents would be set for user interactivity, such as personalized functions and hyper-connected options.
“2020 and 2021 have (certainly) started a sea of change (for customer engagement) perceptions. The purpose of customer service is no longer just to alleviate run-of-the-mill inconveniences. Instead, it is to provide fundamental and necessary services for consumers (that are adapting to the new normal),” wrote Ian Jacobs, Vice President, Research Director, Forrester.
With in-person footfall for businesses still in a downward spiral, it’s more critical than ever that businesses move to digital customer interactions.
Here we highlight the major digital and customer trends that emerged within the APAC region in 2021 – and are likely to continue being a focus for businesses in the following years.
In a recent report, Deloitte remarked that there is only one question that is now being asked – what can businesses do to better connect with communities?
According to Velid Begović, Sales Director, Infobip APAC, this is straightforward for consumers across the region. “Our entire world is connected by uninterrupted, hyper-personalized experiences. We have reached a point where the digital tapestry of our lives is taken for granted. From stepping onto the trains while scrolling through the latest Spotify playlist; checking out the latest lunch offers on food deliveries; and later clocking off for the day and browsing the ‘binge-worthy’ section on Netflix, these days are punctuated with frictionless, customized moments.”
This growing demand for personalized engagement among consumers accelerated over the last two years. For many within APAC, these alterations are set to be permanent. In fact, McKinsey & Company report that 71% of consumers will continue to use digital channels after the pandemic and 25% are looking at digital channels as a long-term solution.
Similarly, these structural shifts in consumer behavior have put a greater emphasis on digital marketing.
To meet customer demands for hyper-engagement, businesses must reach out to them with content that is both immersive and interactive.
“If the customer experience isn’t smooth, users will walk away; even from the brands they love,” Begović added.
Digitalized user engagement
This global transformational shift isn’t only confined to business activities or consumer demands. Everything is connected – from the platforms used to the brand experience, and how data is analyzed.
These trends, which have extensive influence across industry segments in APAC, created a lasting impact on how customers connect and engage with brands.
Vivien Ang, Regional Manager, Infobip APAC, directly addressed current customer experience gaps for all industry verticals.
As customer engagement took on a central role in the last two years, many businesses re-prioritized and immediately implemented their digitalization plans. What’s the primary goal for improving their customer engagement capabilities? Ensuring they are available online to quickly engage customers as intuitively as possible.
“Right now, customers use whatever platform is convenient for them. That means, it is up to marketing leaders to establish how the brand can integrate that into a seamless experience. The primary outcome that must be achieved is to enable customer data and records to be mapped across all communication channels. In Asia, the main requirement is to build a local and global approach and, at the same time, incorporate specific preferred platforms,” Ang added.
Notably, majority of customers prefer WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and email. As for largely populated areas in APAC such as Japan, South Korea, and China – customers are more inclined to use Line, KakaoTalk, and WeChat.
Beyond connecting with customers on their preferred channels, there is also a growing need to deep dive into communications strategies – being relatable and creating meaningful interactions.
According to CX Network, business decisions can no longer be based off internal bias and instinct. Instead, brands should focus on what customers want to help them overcome pain points and capitalize on new opportunities.
Notably, many countries in APAC have been quick to understand this need and re-allocate resources to capture necessary customer data in real-time.
“By integrating empathy into their marketing efforts, marketers can connect better with their customers across different platforms, at a large scale, in a fully automated and data-driven manner,” said Kelvin Lim, Head of Marketing, Infobip APAC.
With AI and automation, businesses can make better-informed decisions based on data collection, analysis, and other factors, like audience or economic trends that impact marketing efforts.
In a recent CCW study, more than half of the companies surveyed increased the use of artificial intelligence (AI) and automation when improving their customer experience.
These insights will help businesses meet customer preferences – directly addressing the growing need for a more personalized experience. In a recent Deloitte study, more than half of the participants said they wanted their virtual experiences to feel more ‘human’.
“Knowledge about what customers want, how they choose to interact, and what pain points they experience are essential in an era of economic uncertainty, heightened emotions, and unpredictable call volumes. Brand communications must be relevant and constantly in tune with customers’ needs while incorporating context and suitability,” Lim shared.
There’s no doubt that customers now demand higher levels of engagement.
“This is the height of hyper-personalization, a time when a simple fridge is smart enough to trigger grocery purchases when tracked items run out. If brands continue to just send generic emails and SMS messages to their customers, they will drown in the mass of digital noise or, worse, be marked as a spammer. You must know your customer,” shared CS Gill, Country Manager, Infobip Malaysia.
Gill also strongly believes that, with digital innovation now moving at an accelerated pace, hyper-personalization is here to stay.
“The digital world that we live in now is very prevalent. As such, the journey doesn’t end after a customer makes a purchase – that’s just the start of the journey. Right after, it’s about building a relationship with the customer, so it sticks with them for life and ensures they come back.”
As consumers moved their daily activities to online, there is no doubt that they are now spending more time on websites, mobile apps, or on-demand services.
McKinsey & Co recently noted how, in this ongoing scenario, businesses must consider digital marketing as a growth engine. Having the means to capture more online traffic and engage customers more effectively can help increase revenue by 5% to 8% over 12 to 18 months.
For Gill, in a pre-pandemic world, people tried to digitalize human work. In the now normal, the focus is more on trying to humanize technology. Business in the APAC region used to be focused on automation and digitalization – now they have pivoted to humanization.
“The brand messaging must be relevant and empathetic. I, as a customer, will not talk to a chatbot. If a chatbot is engaged, I just want to get to the point instead of clicking options. The next step of personalization will be when companies find a way to make their customers feel as if they are not talking to machines, even if they are,” he added.
What comes next
The ongoing global disruption reinforces the notion that the digital economy will become a mainstay socio-economic driver for all. Customer engagement, combined with deep personalization and insightful empathy, has become a major focus.
Businesses of all sizes and sectors in APAC must consider using existing and emerging technologies to create truly meaningful connections with their customers.
While customer demands will continue to grow at an accelerated rate, they can be addressed just as quickly when businesses engage and work with the right ecosystem partners. If you want to create customer experiences that are more human in nature, highly secure, and personalized to what customers want, then it is time to consider building meaningful customer engagements.
Those keen on finding out how businesses can harness customer engagement to sustain their operations and new trends to look out for, do check out the Customer Experience Whitepaper from Infobip APAC.