As consumer-led digital privacy laws continue to evolve and impact businesses around the world, the spotlight is on Asia, home to some of the world’s fastest growing economies. But the landscape surrounding privacy is, at best, fragmented which creates challenges for marketers and their brand campaigns.
Asia’s fragmented privacy landscape
With the growth of ‘big data’ in our region, companies and government agencies are handling increasing amounts of sensitive data about their customers, which has led to new laws and regulations around consumer privacy. Recent global events are creating a new impetus on cybersecurity, which may implicate companies holding consumer data in the long run.
Currently, there are multiple privacy applications in different countries but little to no standardisation across the region. There are already some frameworks in place, for example Thailand’s Personal Data Protection Act (PDPA), which is fully enforceable from June 2022. South Korea enacted its Personal Information Protection Act (PIPA) in 2020 while Singapore updated its Personal Data Protection Act in 2021. Other major economies, including the Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam, and Indonesia, however, remain behind the game.
With economies recovering and increasing tourism in the post-COVID era, digital advertising now has a much wider global audience. Without standardised privacy regulations, this evolving landscape is challenging for marketers to navigate.
The rise of "superapps" in Asia
Asia is experiencing rapid growth with internet use and evolving consumer behaviour, with the internet economy in key markets such as Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Thailand predicted to reach between US$700 billion and US$1 trillion by 2030 as online shopping accelerates.
People increasingly interact and transact online, using a multitude of different devices. The first touchpoint for consumers in the Asian region is their mobile.
Organisations are increasingly looking to monetise the huge troves of data they collect, and continue capitalising from it. McKinsey recommends that Asian companies "capitalise on the power of data and technology to win in the borderless economy".
McKinsey notes that the digitisation of consumer markets is "blurring boundaries" between industries globally, with the landscape in Asia being even more fluid and borderless. This is fuelling the rise of “super apps”, digital platforms like WeChat and Alipay—that collectively hold 95% of the mobile payment market in Asia—and which enable a wide range of services but also privacy concerns.
Grab and Tencent are examples of companies expanding beyond their initial offerings to become super apps. Grab started out as a ride-sharing app but has since moved into financial services, obtaining a digital bank licence in Singapore. Tencent has grown from an internet messaging app to an organisation with interests in entertainment, healthcare and infrastructure.
But super apps need super security around data protection and privacy. They may be great for consumers but are even more of an opportunity for cybercriminals, with so much personal and sensitive data held.
The path to responsible advertising
Concerns around browsing privacy go hand in hand with consumer trust. When it comes to their own digital domains, marketers face continued challenges in creating content experiences that people will trust, follow and continue using. They need to ensure that the consumer data stored and access for marketing purposes have appropriate consumer privacy protocols in place.
To practice responsible advertising and marketing, marketers need to ensure that their teams are adhering to the same best practices, and continually validate and verify what consumer data is being used for campaigns.
When working with partners, marketers need to ask more questions around what data protections are in place and to what extent an ad tech platform offers compliance with international laws, such as having a consent management solution and supporting key privacy regulations and industry standards.
How can marketers prepare for the future of advertising in a privacy-first world?
It is going to take some time before robust privacy and data frameworks are built and standardised in Asia, and marketers, particularly CMOs, will play a significant role in the future of this landscape.
As Gartner describes, they [CMOS] will need to be "absolute experts on consumer or customer behaviours and trends and be hyper-aware of the competitive landscape, historical business performance and wider mega-trends". Their budgets are going to be higher than that of the CTO, because consumer data is the new oil.
To keep pace with these changes, it is an important first step for marketers to make sure they have reliable and reputable partners that operate with a ‘privacy by design’ approach.
But technical solutions aren’t the only important consideration. Any sustainable and future-proofed data strategy must have customer-centricity at its core to be able to build trusting relationships.
Companies that prioritise these elements in their advertising investments are likely to reap rewards in the years to come.
Sonal Patel is the Quantcast managing director, Asia