Bryce Whitwam
Jan 14, 2022

Why China may be a digital-transformation role model for APAC

SHANGHAIZHAN PODCAST: Wavemaker APAC CEO Gordon Domlija predicts that China will continue to lead in transformation but warns that context is key for all markets in the region because consumers embrace technology differently.

Why China may be a digital-transformation role model for APAC

Wavemaker APAC CEO, Gordon Domlija said that Asia looks to China as a guide for digital transformation in the region. “We are at the forefront of what change and transformation looks like in China," he said during an interview on the ShanghaiZhan podcast.

Shanghai-based Domlija cites the country’s innovation as the reason he’s based there and not in another market. "Much of what we are doing in other markets in Asia is what we did in China five years ago,” he said.

But Domlija warns that other markets may not evolve to a digital-commerce market like that in China so quickly. “Markets need to temper some of the excitement, because every market embraces technology differently," he said. "We are still led by the consumer.”

Digital transformation is less of an issue in China in 2022 since “it’s become the norm here.” China continues to be a performance- and acquisition-led market, but the role of the brand is still important, despite brands deep discounting during ecommerce shopping festivals.

“Brands need to create better brand engagements if they want to stay relevant with consumers,” Domlija said. He cited Colgate’s collaboration with fashion brand Supreme, and the agency’s work on a Prada wet-market installation in Shanghai, as examples.

Brands in China will continue to focus on seeking private audiences in 2022, but with new data-privacy regulations, platforms will not be sharing data. Brands need to build audiences, not for CRM purposes but to drive better understanding of their consumers. 

“In the past, brands have outsourced their understanding of their customers to the platforms," Domlija said, “and they need to drive insights, which is the foundation for growth.”

As for agencies, they will continue to face a challenge in hiring and retaining good people in their organizations in 2022, and the work-from-home model won’t necessarily work in Asia. “Coming to the office in many countries in Asia is a key part of socialization," Domlija said. "People come to the office because they love the experience.”

Editor's note: The above article is based on a two-part interview with Gordon Domlija on the ShanghaiZhan podcast, a "raw, lively, and regular debate about China tech, advertising, creativity and the intersection of it all", hosted by Ali Kazmi and Bryce Whitwam. The podcast is available now on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google, Stitcher, RSS and other platforms. Campaign will be helping to promote the podcast and taking part in future episodes. 

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