Aug 8, 2016

Brands and data partners navigate China’s challenging digital market

Brands can overcome obstacles such as data silos and integrity of analytics by engaging data partners to enable them to “connect the dots”.

Making sense: AdMaster’s Data Hub performs like a transport nexus, connecting and integrating data from consumers’ multiple touchpoints
Making sense: AdMaster’s Data Hub performs like a transport nexus, connecting and integrating data from consumers’ multiple touchpoints

Digital analytics in China is a very challenging arena for brands. Brands have had to deal with the economic downturn, a fading demographic dividend, the increasing need to retain old customers and build a loyal following, the omnichannel Chinese consumer, and persistent data silos.

The China data market is huge and growing — in 2015 it was worth Rmb 11.5 billion. However, it remains a difficult area for brands which try to go it alone. But the development of innovative tools designed to help brands manage their data asset is proving to be an excellent solution to these issues.

Reinventing for China

The China digital landscape varies greatly from the US and other markets. In the US market, social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, each with their own distinct characteristics, dominate the social sphere — making it easy for a brand to do social marketing. The brand is also able to measure the conversation rate by plugging into its e-store on its Facebook or YouTube account. 

By comparison, in China, the market is much more fragmented and complicated. There are multiple social media platforms that share similar functions but appeal to different demographics. For instance, WeChat is preferred by Generation Y (consumers born in the 1970s or 1980s), while QQ, also an instant messaging platform is geared towards a younger generation (consumers born after the 1990s).

Thus, tools transplanted from fundamentally different markets offer limited value when dealing with China’s complex social landscape. 

Vincent Yan: “Connect through consumers’ path-to-purchase”

“In other words, even if you have invested hugely on a WeChat platform, it might only account for 20 percent of the total social discussion,” said Calvin Chan, COO of AdMaster. “In the face of these typical challenges, AdMaster’s SocialMaster is aimed at becoming an integrator of various social platforms in China, by collecting social data from different platforms and putting all of them in an integrated dashboard. Brands can then have a better understanding of which platform is more powerful in driving brand equity and optimising consumer engagement, and which platform is more important for spreading brand messages.” 

Giant data silos call for a Data Hub to connect the dots

Despite calls from advertisers and agencies for a more transparent data exchange among different data providers, data silos continue to exist within and outside the enterprise. 

Large MNCs sometimes engage up to 30 different data partners, making coordination practically impossible. The process creates giant silos of data from multiple sources — making it extremely difficult for advertisers to “connect the dots”.

The fusion of the CMO and CIO roles within an organisation has occurred in the context of these overwhelming data silos and underwhelming data activation, in the hopes of getting the best value out of the technology-activated smart data. 

“There is growing demand for API integration to embed further data points to link through a consumer’s path-to-purchase journey across different platforms and devices, including PC, mobile, video, connected TV, social, and search engine under a so-called Data Hub”, said Vincent Yan, CEO of AdMaster. 

By collecting, integrating and analysing first-party data from a brand, data from industry giants Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent (BAT), and other data providers with rich user-profile through its secure data analytics and measurement infrastructure, AdMaster’s Data Hub enables traditional CRMs to shift towards wider consumer relationship management. This provides a better understanding of current and future potential customers and — most importantly — helps advertisers identify and make a decision between using people-based or device-based marketing. 

In order to build a truly powerful data hub, Yan says it needs to be supported by four key pillars: the brand’s first-party Data Management Platform (DMP); technological know-how such as the world’s leading Single-Source Panel, and anti-fraud solutions; strong connectivity with BAT and other data providers; and ad serving capability to help brands connect with the highest-quality media.

Data security deserves better protection 

Another issue surrounding data management and application in China is the need for robust data security — studies show that the number of security incidents detected spiked in 2015, and incidents across all sectors are increasing.

Besides working closely with the China Advertising Association and MMA China for the formulation of a series of standards on digital advertising to help better regulate China’s digital marketing market, AdMaster is the first and only data company from China to pass the ISAE 3402 assurance standard and has increased investment in big data security encryption and advanced authentication methods.

Delivering clarity: The system enables brands to gain a better understanding of current and future customers

It also leverages expertise from its in-house Data Security Committee to mitigate ever-growing cyber security risks.

Building trust around programmatic ad buying

In this era of programmatic buying, cases of ad fraud and non-human traffic are not only undermining the trust and confidence of advertisers coming up with budgets for their digital marketing campaigns, but also raising serious brand safety concerns. 

Popular variety shows in China have seen huge increases in advertising spending in recent years. Yet, according to AdMaster’s data, there have been serious cases where up to 90 per cent of the CPM purchased was not being displayed. 

In response to this, AdMaster launched its Anti-Fraud and Ad Viewability capabilities as part of its Data Hub strategy, to minimise ad fraud and create a more trustworthy and transparent digital advertising ecosystem.

Creating brand lift in conventional sectors best represented by the auto industry

The conventional industries that do not subscribe to an impulsive purchase pattern, such as the auto industry, could stand to benefit most from AdMaster’s data strategy. 

An auto brand for example, typically receives an average of 300,000 sets of personal data collected online each quarter with a low conversion rate of 0.2 percent. 

“As for these industries, consumers are more likely to do a lot pre-purchase research, and then don’t easily change their preference to certain brands, giving advertisers ample opportunities to “connect the dots” along the consumers’ online and offline behaviours, and do precise marketing based on their different segmentations,” said Chan.

The use of a third-party data partnership has enabled the brand to develop a saleable model that integrates consumer online behaviour with data from offline CRM system, to identify a high-quality target audience for follow-up marketing campaigns. Lookalike technology was critical to expand the brand’s database with high-quality leads and enabled targeting and retargeting strategies which could exploit the larger data-base set.

Future trends and opportunities

Thanks to the further development of data technology, AdMaster CEO Vincent Yan sees a number of exciting developments in the coming year. 

“Firstly, marketing automation efficiency will be many times more efficient thanks to the development of data technology,” he says.

“Secondly, the power of data will be more mature — and large brands will benefit most from this maturity, learning from previous efforts to refine and maximise their strategies.

“Thirdly, the building of data hub will be able to connect different data silos, so as to help brands build one-on-one relationship with their consumers and thus maximise their digital spending through smart and precise marketing campaigns.”

AdMaster’s Single Source Panel will monitor digital consumption behaviour and enable integration of offline purchases, which still takes up around 70 percent of business today. For the first phase, the agency is currently working on trials with consumers in Beijing using a smartphone app, and incentivising participation. This will be extended to other big cities including Shanghai and Guangzhou. 

Perhaps most exciting of all? Predictive marketing. “This will make the reliance on historical data less necessary, and will leverage the power of artificial intelligence in parsing up big data to provide foresight on future trends for brands across the board,” Yan says.

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