The transformative power of digital is well-recognised among retail marketers in the Asia Pacific. Focus, of late, has been on mobile optimisation, given Google’s move to penalise Web sites that are not optimised for use on mobile devices.
A mobile-friendly Web site is certainly important. But marketers can’t lose sight of ensuring their digital efforts revolve around their customers, who have come to expect Web sites to be portals of information that effectively anticipate their every need.
Recent research from Adobe Japan found 88% of consumers gather information from Web sites but only after initially discovering a product through traditional media, including television, magazines, and newspapers. (Note: Adobe is CMO.com’s parent company.)
According to Tokuyuki Kuniwa, Adobe Japan’s enterprise marketing manager, this research demonstrates that brands need to understand what consumers want from digital channels. Moreover, he said, consumers are influenced by a range of factors, including their cultural settings.
“Japanese consumers don’t put products they’re interested in into an online shopping cart; they are more likely to memorise the product,” Kuniwa said. “So if brands rely on online cart conversion or chase cart-abandonment behaviour as a means of anticipating the buyer’s behaviour, it can backfire, and Japanese consumers will leave the Web site.”
Kuniwa stressed the importance of putting consumer behaviour front and centre, which means developing Web sites that respond to what they do.
Gaye Steel, head of marketing at Macleay College in Sydney, agreed. “The rapid development and adoption of technology, driven largely by mobile, has shifted the power from brands and retailers towards shoppers,” she said.
To ensure the highest chance of converting a customer’s interest into a sale, brands need their Web sites to anticipate customer needs during the research period. In Adobe’s research, 62% of respondents in Japan said they stop gathering online information about a product if the Web site doesn’t meet their expectations.
“The path to purchase is evolving,” Steel said. “Digital is empowering and informing shoppers as they make their purchasing decisions. The key to success is enhancing the customer experience by satisfying shopper needs for convenience, choice, service, and value for money.”
Digitally savvy shoppers in Australia are possibly less forgiving than those in Japan, said Jodie Sangster, chief executive of the Association of Data-Driven Marketing and Advertising.
“In Australia, if a Web site doesn’t meet consumer needs, people simply won’t use it,” she said. “If you don’t have the content or the digital presence, you’re missing the opportunity to tell your story and engage with consumers. You’re also missing the chance to understand them through valuable data you can pick up by having that easy-access digital presence.”
Start With Strategy
In Japan, most brands’ digital strategy is limited to a specific division. “They are struggling to manage digital as an integrated strategy,” Kuniwa said. “The results from the Adobe research to come out of Japan will encourage companies to address the silo issue.”
But Japanese marketers aren’t the only ones who are struggling to integrate digital across the business.
In Australia, “Many don’t have a proper strategy or understand how digital will fit in the business,” Sangster said. “There’s a problem around technology: There’s so much of it out there, and it keeps increasing. Marketers aren’t sure how to harness all the opportunities from it.”
Steel agreed: “Technology is fragmenting and complicating the path to purchase.” But this doesn’t mean brands should sit back.
“It is critical to connect with shoppers in key consideration moments,” Steel said. “Shoppers face countless options along their journey, and each one forces them to make a decision before they can move forward.”
Don’t Forget In-Store
With Web sites directly influencing buying behaviour, digital is also an important tool for retailers to drive traditional in-store sales incrementally, Steel added.
“They aren’t two separate businesses and shouldn’t be treated as such,” Sangster agreed.
The Asia-Pacific region has a bit of catching up to do in digital know-how compared with the United States and United Kingdom, she added.
“Digital technology is quite fast here in Australia, but we are a small market, and what we have is more limited than what you see in the UK or US,” Sangster said. “Asia-Pacific is slightly behind in the adoption of digital, but it doesn’t matter. I think with digital you can always catch up and leapfrog ahead.”