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Emerging Marketing Trends In Asia During COVID-19

From data trends to evolving marketing techniques, the experts share their opinions

Photo by Kate Trifo on Unsplash

As start the second year of COVID-19, the implications of the pandemic are far-reaching across all facets of our lives. With consumer behaviour changing and the mandatory lockdowns across the region, it has and still is impacting the way we market goods and services.

To find out more about the forced evolution of the industry, we spoke to four industry experts with four unique perspectives on the issue. These entrepreneurs and marketers range from data-driven retail technology entrepreneurs like Vernon Chua from Innergia Labs to Brand and PR manager at data-labelling startup Supahands, Marissa Gross. To round off the impressive list we also spoke to Jun Ting from retail startup Aimazing and Therine Goh from AdEasy, an adtech startup based in Malaysia.

From data trends to evolving marketing techniques, the experts shared their opinions on emerging marketing trends and the impact they will have in the region. 

Jun Ting, CEO and co-founder of Aimazing

There has been much of a shift from offline to online in recent years, with many F&B and Retail businesses having e-commerce stores or investing in digital marketing strategies, particularly with the rise of Social Media. There also has been much talk of the power of data, and we believe that moving forward, more and more tools will be made available to business owners to understand their customers better. 

With business owners increasingly interested in data, there is an interesting challenge when it comes to marketing for offline businesses with physical stores. How can they collect data and better target customers when there isn’t much data to form a buyer persona? In the offline space, a lot of businesses find themself having a hard time understanding their target customer. When they want to run a campaign, for example with Facebook, they have to use data they hear from their staff, things like the demographic, age group, interests etc. However, this data is often unreliable and doesn’t give business owners the big picture view of who their customers are.

At Aimazing, we built a solution just for F&B & Retail Marketers and Business Owners. With our cash back solution integrated with Facebook Messenger, the information collected from customers is their Facebook Page-Scoped ID (PSID), and this is done automatically upon scanning a cashback QR code, with no additional fuss on the part of the merchant or the customer. The PSIDs collected allow merchants to run highly-precise promotional campaigns, building a base of returning customers and acquiring new customers through lookalike campaigns at a lower cost. With full autonomy and access to their reachable consumer base, store owners are able to run their own marketing campaigns with the help of Aimazing, instead of turning to other merchant platforms with less visibility or just guessing.

Besides this, we believe the industry will also see another, more general shift, with tech solutions saturating the market, especially with the advent of Software as a Service (SaaS) tools. SME business owners will expect solutions with low barriers to entry when it comes to adoption, with plug and play, integrated and effective solutions. Gone are the days of overhauling a POS System, installing 20-30 tablets in a restaurant or asking every customer to fill up a 10 question form. With so many solutions on the market, SME business owners are spoiled for choice. The mindset is that of “which is the easiest to implement, requires the least effort and can deliver the best result for the investment?”

We at Aimazing also practice what we preach, with a plug and play Cashback solution that delivers quick results at 10.2x ROI for every $1 spent from the 38% of returning customers’ redemption of cashback. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter how complex or advanced technology is. To the SME market, they believe and look for solutions that are easy to adopt and that provide results quickly. 

Therine Goh, COO & Co-Founder of AdEasy

Today, out-of-home (OOH) media, which includes formats like (static and digital) billboards, uni polls, gantries, pillars, overhead bridge panels and more, is the third biggest media type in Malaysia. According to reports by AIMS Research, an OOH research company, the OOH advertising market share increased by 0.7% in 2020, even as the overall advertising expenditure (ADEX) dropped to RM11.5 billion from RM13.5 billion in 2019 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Out of the RM11.5 billion, approximately RM1.3 billion was spent on OOH. This proves the true resilience and relevance of OOH media. 

During the MCO, brands in the service industry such as FoodPanda, GrabFood, and Lalamove relied on OOH advertising, increasing their ad spend by 31% compared to the previous year, to reach consumers. That being said, when the lockdown ends, OOH media would be one of the key touchpoints for brands to remain top-of-mind when businesses resume operations, commute restarts, and the general public starts going out again. As digitisation continues to accelerate across various industries, the growth of digital OOH (DOOH) advertising will slowly but surely overtake static formats. With its unique advantages such as shorter lead time, lower production cost, and dynamic capabilities in delivering engaging and interactive content, DOOH media would play a pivotal role in post-COVID recovery advertising plans and beyond. 

Also, by leveraging on time-belting and programmatic solutions, brands can plan and launch their DOOH campaigns with higher efficiency, further enabling them to serve the right ad content to the right audience at the right time and location. This vigorous combination of audience, time alongside location-based targeting is set to present DOOH as a powerful and impactful method of advertising. As it begins to lead the way for OOH, AdEasy recognises the potential of and the increasing need for DOOH advertising. In line with that, AdEasy aims to help brands optimise their campaigns with AdEasy PLUS, the first media subscription plan in Malaysia that allows advertisers to advertise at different DOOH sites worth up to RM50,000 at a monthly subscription fee of only RM4,299. 

With AdEasy PLUS, brands can expand to different sites at a fraction of the price, allowing them to discover which location delivers the best results while making informed decisions on where to invest fully for their campaigns. For brands that are unsure of what content to develop for their campaigns, they can benefit from the free monthly creative consultation that comes with the subscription plan. 

Marissa Gross, Brand & PR Manager at Supahands

It’s hard to isolate an industry that hasn’t been affected by the pandemic in 2020, but when it came to marketers and communicators – the front liners of an organization if you will – the challenges just kept coming. That being said, not only has this situation provided an unprecedented opportunity for innovation, but it might have also been the push we needed to get back in tune with the creative and adaptive minds that we are. 

While some of the ideas that have been presented in the marketing realm were just band-aids for immediate problems, some transformations we’ve seen in the industry are here to stay:

  1. Increased emphasis on data-driven communications strategies 

    Marketers using data as a tool to showcase how impactful and financially efficient communications initiatives were is not breaking news – as a matter of fact, it’s been a rising trend for years. However, as most countries in Asia are still going through an on-again-off-again relationship with mandatory lockdowns, and consumer spending unlikely to recover to pre-pandemic levels anytime soon, it’s going to remain increasingly necessary to maximize every campaign dollar spent. 

    With the mounting pressure of keeping the sales pipeline healthy during a continuously unpredictable demand landscape, filling the top of the funnel remains one of the main concerns for marketers and communicators. To tackle this challenge, we will continue to see an increase in reliance on campaign data to plan and measure initiative effectiveness in real-time. We already see this trend reflected in the growth of the marketing software market, but we will observe increased reliance on data-based strategies span over the traditionally less ‘measurable’ forms of outreach – such as PR – as well. 
  1. Continued re-branding efforts to showcase more ‘human’ company values 

    Remember the wave of  ‘We Are Here For You’ statements released by practically every organization on the planet in the early days of the pandemic? 

    While these were ‘emergency’ messages that needed to be communicated at the time – to reassure customers of business continuity and the organization’s commitment to keep on providing their services during pandemic-induced challenges – customers responded positively to the more ‘caring’ and ‘human’ sides of big businesses. 

    We’ve subsequently seen a lot of rebranding efforts over the year. Businesses from every industry were switching from strong product-driven messaging to communicating their values, vision, and their desired impact on the community instead, aiming to create deeper connections with the consumer.

    The result? It has been truly beautiful to see customers beginning to form intense loyalty and connections to a brand by virtue of feeling like they know more about the people behind the business, and we will continue to see these rebranding efforts – now backed by fully conceptualized campaigns – to enhance these new images of some of the world’s biggest brands throughout the year. 
  1. Virtual Events – previously a ‘panic-induced pivot, but they’re here to stay

    While we’ve seen most in-person events transform into virtual events in 2020, we’ve also witnessed a lot of hits and misses in that arena. It’s not surprising that bigger conferences and events that are spectacular in-person failed to translate successfully to a fully-virtual audience, but this change in delivery medium has also dramatically levelled the playing field for smaller organizers and businesses to reach a broader audience with lesser resources. 

    Despite the vaccines that are making their way across the globe, it would be brave for the world’s biggest conferences to attempt hosting in-person events at their usual scale this year, so we can look forward to more virtual experiences that are heavily-funded, well-planned, and will add value in a manner that is accessible for a wider audience. 

Vernon Chua, CEO at Innergia Labs

With lockdowns and fears of infection keeping people at home, eCommerce has experienced rapid growth. This has accelerated already-present trends towards digitalisation, with retail becoming increasingly digital and internet-driven at a faster pace than previously projected. As more people become accustomed to the ease and convenience of shopping online, as well as the level of personalization that digital platforms can provide, consumer retail habits around the world will change — and with it, how we market to them: Data is going to be a huge part of the future of retail. 

Even before the pandemic, there was a need for retailers — especially those in the fashion, books and electronics sectors — to bolster their online offerings and build a digital presence to market towards a growing base of digitally-savvy consumers. Pre-COVID-19, the retail landscape had been converging towards omnichannel retail experiences, where retailers must juggle both the convenience of online retail and the touch-and-feel experience of offline distribution channels. Now, as consumers start to expect the ease and personalization of online retail across all their retail experiences, this demographic trend shows no sign of slowing down.  

As online and offline converge, those who learn how to leverage data will emerge as the winners. When you think about data, most people think of Big Data — the kind that Amazon, Google and Facebook deal with. However, data will be crucial for everyone and should figure out the marketing strategies of all retailers, both online and offline.

Information about consumer buying patterns is valuable in crafting effective marketing strategies: knowledge about what items each consumer prefers; when they are more likely to purchase; how they pay; what the hero products are; and, which products are not moving, and so on. A seasoned businessman might say that these are things they can intuit, but that acumen takes years of experience to develop. When you factor in training inexperienced staff, managing multiple outlets, it’s clear to see why data, and the ability to consistently and accurately collect it, will be necessary for making informed decisions for small retailers. 

On our end, we’ve seen the demand for retail data increase, as businesses across all avenues have a greater awareness of the importance of their data. We’ve seen how leveraging data has helped them unlock additional revenue. We worked on a local restaurant chain: Based on the data they collected via our SYCARDA platform, their sales and marketing team analysed their store’s off-peak hours, taking note of average wallet spend, as well as the most popular à la carte items that customers tended to bundle together in their purchase. Using these insights, the company then designed a set meal promotion to bring in more customers during off-peak hours. The subsequent three-month campaign increased its annual revenue by 8% and brought in RM500,000 a month.

As the offline and online retail experiences converge, staying ahead of the competition will require retailers to identify and target their customers with appropriate messaging and product selection  — both in their digital marketing and in their physical, in-store promotions — and data is going to be more important than ever. 


These insights into the evolving marketing industry were eye-opening. What do you think is coming up next for marketing and do you have anything you would like to share with the experts?

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Written By

Terng Shing is the CEO and Founder of PR and content marketing technology startup SYNC. With a decade of experience in public relations and content marketing, Terng Shing is combining traditional PR and content methods with automation technology to create a scalable agency. Follow him on LinkedIn and website.

1 Comment

1 Comment


    9th March 2021 at 7:52 pm

    Your post is so nice and very helpful to everyone.


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