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Each APAC market is unique, but all of them are noteworthy for their resilience and their swift adoption of technology. And across the board, we’re seeing technology adoption in the region advance at a super-fast clip, a dynamic that’s only been amplified by the COVID-19 pandemic.
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Even as the world is learning to navigate the tough landscape caused by the rise of COVID-19, economies and industries are trying their best to get on with their business in this ‘new normal’ world. For the financial services industry (FSI), that has meant rebooting their strategy at multiple levels, including the way they had previously approached business and consumer engagement.
Consumer expectations have evolved over the past year at a speed never before seen—and the companies are grappling to keep pace with these changing needs. Digitalisation is no longer a choice for banks across the region; instead, it has become the top priority. In fact, 75% of Tier-1 banks in the region plan to deploy intelligent automation solutions at scale by 2022.
The need for effective customer engagement and personalised experiences has never been more pressing and has been given much more urgency by COVID-19. Marketing playbooks are being revisited by the marketing heads of these companies to figure out the ‘best in class’ practices that can improve customer experience, engagement, and loyalty. The increased preference for digital, contactless consumption across the markets can, if done well, be a way of opening the gates for building and fostering brand loyalty.
One unique feature of this evolution has been that APAC consumers are relatively more open to sharing their data with brands, as compared to consumers in North America, South America and Europe. There is a general tendency and preference for personalisation and better quality among this set of consumers: According to a recent survey, 69% of APAC respondents are willing to trade personal data for some form of improved user experience. This openness on the part of consumers has led many FSI brands in Asia-Pacific to move faster towards digital transformation than equivalent brands in other regions.
That is not to say that the customers here do not value data privacy. As Laurent Bertrand, CEO and co-founder of BetterTradeOff (BTO), a Singapore-based financial planning platform points out, “Users of technology platforms today want to know if their data is being used correctly.”
The importance of privacy and its impact on consumers has been a very hot-button issue and one that companies even in the APAC region have to be concerned about. Government bodies across APAC are stepping in and intensifying their scrutiny of the sector. For example, both Singapore and Thailand have a Personal Data Protection Act (PDPA) in place that follows regulatory moves in Europe around privacy, such as GRPR (General Data Protection Regulation). This means that financial services brands need to be thoughtful about what data they are using and how this translates into their customer experiences.
The Global System for Mobile Communications Association’s latest 2020 report found that 64% of Asia-Pacific residents are already smartphone users and forecasts an increase to 80% by 2025. As the markets and the consumers get more mobile-savvy, brands can and will be able to speak directly to more customers. This shift also underlines the personalised nature of many mobile communications—consumers now expect brands to know more about them and even anticipate their needs and their preferred way of consuming the messaging. And when brands fail to deliver on this expectation of personalised experiences, they run the risk of losing these consumers to competitors.
Thankfully, there are now technologies that can make it easier for brands to use data from a wide range of touchpoints to understand how each customer is engaging with them—and provide a more cohesive, more personalized brand experience.
Thi Thom Pham, head of marketing at AscendMoney, the operator of Thailand-based e-payment service provider TrueMoney says, “The pandemic has given us a huge opportunity to reach out to the Thai population that is now more aware about cashless payments.” She notes that it is challenging to manage all the data from different sources in a single unit, however in her opinion having data on every stage of the customer journey is “akin to gold in our hands.”
To take advantage of shifting consumer attitudes and ongoing digital adoption, financial services brands need to invest time in building out a technology stack that’s suited to meet their brand’s specific needs. A stack is a curated mix of different technologies assembled based on a brand’s business goals. While every stack may be a little different, if your brand is looking to build an understanding of its customer journey and place the customer’s digital experience front of mind, you’ll likely want to include a customer data platform (CDP) to support effect data management and a customer engagement platform to enable messaging and other engagement with consumers.
Edward Kilian Suwignyo, chief marketing officer of Linkaja, an Indonesia-based financial services application, stresses the importance of building a comprehensive picture of each customer by combining information from all relevant channels for a company to improve its service. He said, “through our holistic payment ecosystem, we are able to understand our customers and merchants, providing access to the products and services they need, to make progress in life and business.”
A major shift that financial services companies have to get ready to navigate is overcoming their fear of a third-party cookieless world. Major technology platforms such as Google and Apple are removing the use of third-party cookies, which has historically been a core way to track customer behaviour on the web. To respond to this shifting landscape, brands are going to have to build out their own first-party datasets—or partner with companies that use alternative methods to the third-party cookie.
To navigate this transition, companies will need to be open to using new approaches to pursue customer acquisition that are based around first-party data and backed by a coordinated cross-channel strategy. By ensuring that the data they’re using is shared voluntarily by customers, FSI brands can deliver thoughtful, personalized experiences that are welcomed by recipients and drive stronger business results. For most brands, transitioning from the use of third-party cookies may seem like a huge undertaking, but the longer-term benefits to investing in a stronger first-party approach will pay off. Being truly customer-first in experience and marketing strategies can be a business differentiator and the changes in the current landscape are accelerating the need for brands to innovate.
As the world slowly recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic, the time is right for companies to prepare for what comes next—and to take action to embrace new technologies, new approaches, and new market realities. To stay ahead of the curve, financial services brands need to leverage first-party data and best-in-class marketing stacks to transform the way they engage with consumers and provide the cohesive, personalized, cross-channel experiences they’ve come to expect.
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