Hong Kong marketing in 2016 is going to be about one thing—the integration of online and offline real-time marketing opportunities.
During the last 18-to-24 months, we’ve seen retailers and brands in Hong Kong further invest in their digital marketing efforts. They are including social media, email and mobile efforts into their marketing mix. In fact, most of them are leveraging online interactive platforms to enhance CRM and deliver personalised services based on data analytics.
That’s quite a development. In the past, marketers mainly focused on finding ways to capture data. It was a numbers game. Now, it's a very different proposition. It’s all about knowledge, and the most successful retailers and brands are those that have thought long and hard about extracting “meaningful insights” from the big data they are accumulating. The biggest winners will be the ones that take things a step further by utilizing insight to enable online engagement.
At the same time, the importance of the online-to-offline (O2O) business model has significantly increased in the last 24 months worldwide—and there is no reason to suspect that it won’t continue to build momentum. In fact, all of the signs suggest that it will accelerate. According to HSBC, the mainland China O2O market is already worth over US$150 billion.
However, Hong Kong is lagging somewhat behind and the city’s retailers are still
reliant on in-store transactions. This presents a number of problems. The most obvious is that retailers and brands in Hong Kong face difficulties in capturing real-time data for timely analysis. That’s very different from other markets, like the U.S. for example, where online shopping is popular and provides a rich opportunity for harvesting real-time data during customer interactions.
However, the picture is not as bleak as it sounds. There are ways to resolve this issue through the integration of advanced technologies like geo-targeting and connected POS systems that unlock that important, in-store data.
Above all, retailers and brands have to remember that delivering targeted content via the channels that particular consumers prefer is critical to the success of their marketing programmes. For example, mainland Chinese consumers love mobile-based platforms and SMS messaging. On the other hand, consumers in Hong Kong prefer a mix of email, SMS and social media.
In short, retailers and brands to stay competitive should consider adopting the following capabilities:
- Gathering information from various sources, such as website browsing records;
- Investing in intelligence systems and analysis solutions to develop an in-depth understanding of their customers, and use it to personalise their strategies; and
- Reaching out to customers and provide that special, personalised experience via the channel or channels they most prefer.
Another issue that needs to be considered quickly is AI. Just recently, Google launched TensorFlow, a powerful artificial intelligence and machine-learning open source software. Also, a group of Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, which includes Elon Musk, chief executive officer of Tesla, recently announced a US$1bn commitment to artificial intelligence research.
So, what does all this mean for the marketing landscape? Well, marketers today are still very operative. First, they think about an idea or a campaign, then they automate it with either display ads, email campaigns, push messaging, social releases, and so on. After that, they test against it and continue to optimise. Because of the vast amount of variables and data sets that need to be taken into account to get the best results, they go through this process again and again.
Solutions rooted in artificial intelligence could transform this process. And that will change the lives of both the marketers and their audiences, ultimately helping each to make more informed decisions.
A final transformative tool can be found in the global messaging space, which continues to be dominated by Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp. In the Asia Pacific region, local players include China’s WeChat, Japan’s LINE, and Korea’s KakaoTalk.
Messaging services are now accessible by third parties, which has resulted in an explosion of real-time offerings for personal services, which include booking taxis, paying for personal bills, purchasing music and television entertainment, and games.
The once humble messaging app has evolved—or perhaps mutated—into something completely different from what it was originally designed. It has become a hub for communications and the consumption of services for users. This has, in turn, created incredible monetization possibilities for both for media owners and third-party developers.
All of the trends outlined above add up to one key development; technical innovation that links different marketing channels with the goal to improve the customer experience. The wisest marketers and retailers will be the ones who take advantage of this progress more or less immediately.
Ofri Cohen is managing director of Emarsys Hong Kong and China