Renewed optimism, recovery and resurgence: Even as challenges from the pandemic persist, 2021 is brimming with opportunities for brands with a convergence of factors creating unique consumer patterns in Southeast Asia, heightening digital adoption and demand. But this 'new normal' calls for more flexibility and innovation from marketers and businesses to ride out shifts and trends that will set the trajectory in 2021.
The rise of adtech
With a seismic shift already in play, the adtech scene is busier than ever before. This resurgence has come from innovation that has brought new and improved opportunities for advertisers and publishers to engage with their consumers and grow their businesses, as consumption patterns evolve.
As more SEA economies reopen, we will see enhanced opportunities for digital, omnichannel buying with the continued digitalisation of out-of-home assets—think billboards, car ads, WiFi or hand sanitiser kiosks. Let’s not forget ecommerce, a major star in the middle of region-wide lockdowns, which underscores the need to increase ease, efficiency and effectiveness across all channels.
With a highly engaged digital audience, the omnichannel realm will be an exciting playground to navigate. Advertisers and marketers need to level up their consumer efforts alongside deeper omnichannel integration of native formats, dynamic ads, AR, audio, and more. Adtech platforms will make it easier to seamlessly plan, buy and manage all inventory types simultaneously so that buyers can access inventory programmatically alongside other media.
New strategies around user privacy
With a greater focus on user privacy alongside growing legislative concerns about data and browser security across the globe, brands are struggling to figure out how to effectively and meaningfully engage their audiences in a post-cookie world.
Against this backdrop, marketers and publishers need to find ways to overcome the identity gap while honouring privacy preferences and maintaining a positive consumer experience. What will succeed cookies in 2021? You might be surprised: the age-old, enduring email could likely succeed the cookie in the identity battle.
Ultimately, the key to this issue is first-party data. Players who have created an identity graph composed of owned, consent-based, cross-channel, first-party data will have the upper hand in providing marketers with a host of new and alternative identity, targeting and measurement solutions. We are also likely to see more partnerships develop across the industry to ensure identity matching without cookies while protecting user privacy. In 2021, new identity solutions will be tested and validated.
Enriching the ecommerce experience
New records set in 2020’s year-end sales showcased the meteoric rise of ecommerce in SEA amidst the pandemic, and there is no stopping the add-to-cart frenzy; according to Statista the ecommerce market is projected to reach US$67 billion in 2021 with a user base of about 330 million shoppers—and this is only half of the region’s total population. The pandemic also surfaced new opportunities online for traditionally in-store, brick-and-mortar brands like market vendors and mom-and-pop shops, adding to the diversity of the ecommerce experience.
This calls for enriching the ecommerce experience to make it both friction-free and immersive. We anticipate the ecommerce experience to become much more multi-format and tailored in the region, with a shift in how shopping content is presented. AR-enabled commerce as well as richer forms of interactive video will develop and take centre stage, including interactive shoppable programming, where you can watch and stream with your friends in real-time. We also anticipate the launch of dynamically-generated online storefronts personalised for the user to remove friction, guarantee the best price and offer a delightful buying experience. The shift from the cloud to CDN edge will make these innovations possible, particularly supercharging the video experience.
The rise of 5G and immersive, next-gen experiences
2021 is the year that 5G truly hits full speed in SEA—not just in Singapore but also across countries such as the Philippines, Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia.
The arrival of 5G and 5G-enabled devices have set the stage for immersive, engaging and personalised experiences. As immersive tech such as AR gains popularity, we’re expecting to witness a massive disruption in every sector—from education, healthcare, entertainment and commerce—and this is just the tip of the iceberg.
If you’re wondering what that looks like, think of Covid-19 as a trial run of sorts, disrupting in-person experiences from concerts to retail and online shopping, and AR and VR being used to bridge the physical and digital divide. Coming from that, 2021 will be the year of immersive experiences: visualise live events across sports, music, and beyond with new, rich XR experiences for audiences both at home and within venues.
Meanwhile, in retail, AR will increasingly be used to enhance the frictionless shopping experience, allowing consumers to virtually sample products before buying online or in-store. In-store experiences can also be amped up with the use of 5G and immersive tech—think "smart interactive" mirrors that enable the trying of different items at a swipe with options of interactive backgrounds that allow you to see how you look in a beach in Bali or on the streets of Orchard Road.
5G will also offer marketers more personalised and engaging experiences in both the in-store and online space as processing of content experiences moves to the edge of the cloud. Pop-up stores will be able to deliver full consumer experiences with ease, powering everything from payment transactions to video and in-store immersive experiences. Real-time rendering and processing will also allow for data-driven insights to be instantaneously translated to contextualised, relevant recommendations, alerts and services that will enhance the shopping experience and capture precious upselling opportunities—a virtual shopping assistant customised to the individual shopper.
2020 highlighted the importance of adaptability as businesses expeditiously reacted to changing consumer preferences and situations. This year, brands looking to stay ahead of the curve will have to adapt to the ever-changing landscape by raising their stake in the technologies that will shape the future.
Rico Chan is co-head of APAC at Verizon Media.