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APAC businesses struggling to cater to new digital customers

By Catherine Knowles
Wed 23 Feb 2022

Asia Pacific businesses are set to outstrip other global regions in customer experience investment in 2022, in response to a pandemic-induced surge in new digital consumers and online behaviours.

However, APAC businesses recognise that critical skills and capability gaps may be holding them back as they seek to maximise this world-leading commitment to serving digital-first consumers.

Serving a new wave of digital-first customers

According to Adobe’s new 2022 Digital Trends: APAC in Focus report, 77% of APAC businesses experienced a surge in new customers through digital channels over the past 18 months, and 77% saw new customer journeys.

Meanwhile, just 25% of businesses believe they have significant insight into this new wave of digital-first customers.

Contributing to these new online behaviours is the 130 million new APAC mobile subscribers that became first-time internet users in 2021.

These new mobile-first users in emerging APAC economies are ‘leapfrogging’ consumers in more mature digital markets, rapidly adopting advanced digital behaviours such as mobile payments usage.

In a bid to meet new customer expectations, the majority of APAC businesses are stepping up investment in customer experience management (59%), edging ahead of North America (57%) and Europe (53%).

Most APAC businesses also expect to accelerate investment in customer data technology (60%).

Adobe chief technology advisor Asia Pacific and Japan Scott Rigby says, “Understanding and serving a new breed of online consumers, many with mobile-first preferences, has become the new competitive battleground for APAC businesses.

"While many organisations are responding decisively by fast-tracking investment in improving the digital experience, spend alone is unlikely to set the leaders apart.”

The necessity of building robust skills and teams

APAC’s pursuit of global leadership in digital customer experience and ensuring a return on elevated investment relies on the skills and agility to deliver, the researchers state. Yet the report shows that, on average, APAC businesses lag their global counterparts in these crucial operational capabilities.

According to the report, 83% of APAC businesses leaders are worried that their organisation doesn’t have the necessary skills they need, compared to 79% in Europe and 73% in North America.

In addition, digital skills rank as the joint top barrier to digital experience delivery together with poor integration between tech systems.

APAC businesses may also be leaving viable talent attraction and retention opportunities on the table, the researchers state.

In a world where remote and flexible working is commonplace, Forrester outlines that only 40% of business leaders intend to make remote work permanent compared to 70% globally.

Similarly, the Adobe report shows that the majority (55%) of APAC leaders expect hybrid working to return to pre-pandemic levels or lower, while just 36% plan to hire remote workers at levels higher than before the pandemic.

With a global constraint on the availability of digital talent, not embracing remote working is going to further constrict supply and further delay businesses digital transformation goals.

While 92% of APAC leaders ‘agree’ that their ability to be agile will decide their success as a marketing organisation, just 25% of practitioners rate their organisation’s agility in responding to opportunities and disruptions as positive (8 or more out of 10).

Capitalising on opportunities with agility and innovation

Adobe vice president digital experience marketing Asia Pacific & Japan Duncan Egan says, “The digital rewiring of consumer mindsets in Asia Pacific has been of high benefit to those businesses who have embraced an agile digital mindset, purposeful collaboration and sped up their time-to-value ratio.

“Companies that overcame organisational and technology silos to work cross-functionally, were able to drive meaningful customer experiences that are personalised, real-time, relevant and connected across all channels.”

Rigby adds, “Given that 83% of APAC organisations expect the rate of technological and social change to continue at the same or higher levels, developing the skills, agility and innovation required to keep pace should remain a top strategic priority."

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