5 changing digital and social media marketing trends in Asia

23rd April 2021

Social media marketing trends in Asia are a powerful tool for any business looking to make the most of digital marketing in the region. Marketing, of course, starts with understanding the trends that influence industries and consumers.

Understanding online Asian markets is an important part of many digital marketing campaigns for a reason. By the end of 2020, an estimated 989 million people had access to the internet in China, followed by 696 million people in India.

Those two countries alone make up 36% of the total number of internet users in the world. When the rest of the Asian market is added, it becomes even clearer why understanding trends in these regions is so beneficial.

Here are five digital and social media marketing trends for businesses in Asia who want to get ahead of the curve…

1. Online shopping continues to grow as the ‘new normal’

The global pandemic has shaken up the way people traditionally do business. Fewer people were able to go into shops last year due to various lockdowns, making the ability to buy goods and services online even more important.

This meant online shopping was no longer just good for interacting with businesses that were only operating digitally. The ability to buy groceries, household products and work equipment online became as important as the ability to buy clothing and luxury items.

This shift meant everyday items weren’t just being marketed the traditional way, through traditional media like newspapers, radio and television, but directly through established apps like Didi Chuxing and Meituan Waimai.

This trend continues to grow in 2021 as online shopping continues to be the ‘new normal’, and has had a knock-on effect on yet another trend.

2. Advertising is shifting to data-driven targeting

Billboards are an example of exposure marketing. They’re a fixed visual relying on a message being placed in a high traffic area to keep brands relevant in the public mind. But the internet is a virtual space, which means people aren’t moving through shared spaces routinely (i.e. using the same route to commute to work every day).

This has pushed a trend that’s been on the rise for the last 10 years to the forefront of digital marketing: targeted ads. Unlike exposure marketing, digital promotion with targeted ads looks to meet individual consumers exactly where they are.

Some consumers spend the majority of their online time on social media, where targeted ads come through programs like Facebook ads and Instagram business accounts. This type of marketing is most obvious on YouTube, where, because there is so much data around what people like to watch and engage with, advertising firms are tailoring their video ads to align with people’s interests.

Luckily, this type of marketing doesn’t need an advertising agency or a heavy media budget to do well. There are many available courses on targeted ads, and some get specific on the product being sold, from Amazon ads for independent authors to building targeted marketing campaigns for startups.

3. Paid sponsorships are growing in the influencer market

As successful as targeted ads are, they aren’t a catch-all tool. Some consumers prefer not to be marketed to while relaxing on YouTube or browsing Facebook, Instagram or Twitter – and that doesn’t even take into account access to ad blockers. 

However, these are the places most consumers spend their time, so different ways of engaging with them on these platforms are important. One-way businesses are doing just that is through paid sponsorships on the content consumers already love.

The Asia Pacific Influencer market was predicted to grow by 32.8% between 2019 and 2025 – a projection made before the pandemic, which rapidly increased the number of online engagements. In the context of online business, influencers are people with strong online followings, whose content and personality make them trusted figures to their audiences.

Many influencers build their content around specific niches, from beauty, health and lifestyle to food, gaming and tourism. This makes paid influencer sponsorships particularly attractive when the influencer’s niche aligns with the business sponsoring them.

Influencers place a great emphasis on the trust they establish with their audiences, so they also act as gatekeepers in a way, giving consumers a level of comfort that the sponsorship deals they do take on offer worthwhile goods or services. Influencers often embed their sponsors’ ads into their content, making it entertaining for audiences and harder to skip – negating the limitations of targeted ads and building brand trust in the process.

4. Authenticity is performing well as a call to action

As advertising budgets increase, and as targeted ads become more sophisticated in their design, consumers are facing overexposure to marketing efforts. Marketing overexposure tends to make a consumer base more skeptical of sales pitches and just generally more exhausted when it comes to engaging with businesses.

As a reaction to this, more consumers are seeking out authentic engagement with brands. They want to follow businesses who produce things they like on social media, and most importantly, they don’t want to feel like this content is just being put out to make a sale.

Businesses making the most of Instagram have invested in making the most of the platform’s tools. Reels and stories are being used to showcase the creation process for smaller businesses who rely on the unique qualities of their product as the selling point, from vegan health products to performance artists moving their art online in the absence of live events.

When people can see the care that goes into creation – paired with a ‘soft-selling’ approach – they’re more likely to engage enthusiastically.

5. Artificial Intelligence (AI) is making customer engagement more efficient

Customer support is the backbone of sustained consumer engagement. However, as the need for online customer support has grown, the patience of consumers has also decreased. It’s no wonder Artificial Intelligence (AI) is being invested in as a means of meeting both support and time needs.

Automated support services like pre-programmed chatbots allow customers to get their queries answered much quicker than if they were dealing with support staff. Chatbots also function 24/7, allowing businesses to offer support even in off hours. 

This has benefits for support staff too, who can better focus their energy on dealing with queries that are beyond the bot’s scope.

Digital marketing is a field that grows in trends. Many of these trends overlap globally, but some are more strongly affected by local consumer behaviors. Understanding them in both contexts, of course, is the key to catching the wave at the right time, especially when it comes to markets as large as the Asian ones.

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