Machine learning. Personalized ad campaigns. Mobile web vs. mobile apps. Digital marketers are seeing the world shift under their feet. As we move into the second half of 2017, Google Thailand’s head of marketing, Mike Jittivanich, peeks into the future and shares five predictions about where it’s all headed.
Pop quiz: Which country leads the globe in mobile internet use? Ok, we gave you a big hint with the headline, but you may be surprised to hear that the answer is Thailand!1 Thailand is ripe for innovation as users have leapfrogged desktop and are getting online primarily via their smartphones. Thailand is also in the top 10 countries for YouTube watch time, driven by a mobile watch growth of 90% YoY.2
With all this growth, it’s time to take a look at where we’re headed and how marketers can plan for the future that is rapidly approaching. Looking into my crystal ball (of internal and external research) and talking to marketers around Thailand, here are my five predictions for where our industry is headed:
#1: Divisions between online and offline will disappear
Take a walk through any Thai brand or agency and you’ll see that most still have artificial lines separating offline and online. Many companies have traditional buyers, planners, and creatives, and then digital counterparts and teams for those same functions. Campaigns are often first considered from a traditional perspective, and then later from a digital perspective.
My prediction is that this line is going to blur increasingly until it eventually disappears. Digital is no longer merely a component of consumers’ lives—it has become ubiquitous. Internet penetration in Thailand has hit a critical mass: more than 42M people,2 or 60% of the Thai population, are online, driven primarily by smartphone growth. Needless to say, organizational structures and campaigns need to catch up quickly with people’s daily habits.
What’s to come
- It’s time to re-evaluate both organizational structures and strategies. Thinking of digital as niche isn’t going to work anymore; it needs to sit at the core of strategic planning.
- Think holistically about the consumer journey. As customers jump back and forth between on- and offline (and back), what do they need at each moment along the way? What’s the most effective way to engage with them?
- Digital- or traditional-only agencies will have face difficulties addressing clients’ complete needs. Agencies will need to partner up, acquire, or expand to be able to understand and address today’s non-linear customer journey more holistically.
#2: Brands will rethink their mobile web strategies
We live in a mobile world—and most brands are accounting for that. Smartphone penetration in Thailand has reached 70% and 15M smartphones are sold every year.3 Sixty-five percent of YouTube watch time in Thailand comes from mobile—and more than half of searches globally come from mobile as well.4
Many Thai brands have stepped up to the plate by taking an app-first strategy to connect with their customers. While this has served them well, our research shows signs of app fatigue. Average Thai smartphone owners only use 24% of the (average of) 32 apps on their phones on a daily basis.5 Also interesting to note is that the average Thai user installs four apps per month and uninstalls three.
All this means that it’ll get increasingly tougher for branded apps to claim a permanent spot on Thai consumers’ phones. That, combined with the high cost of app development, means that mobile web will be top priority for marketers.
Advances in mobile web technology now allow for interfaces and functionalities that are as engaging as apps—and at a faster speed. Progressive Web Apps (PWA) are a nice middle ground, giving users the app experience without the heavy costs of app development; they also don’t need to be installed. Another option is to consider Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) that open mobile web pages almost instantly.
What’s to come
- Thai brands will start to rethink their mobile strategies and what different segments of their customers really need. Advances in mobile web (namely PWA and AMP) will be indispensable when it comes to acquiring and nurturing new customers and (re-)engaging with casual customers.
- Native mobile apps will remain important for driving customer loyalty and for services that require complex technologies (like payments and gaming).
#3: Machine learning will lead the way on automated individualization
Lately it seems like we can’t go anywhere without hearing “machine learning” come up in conference rooms, casual conversations, and industry think pieces. And that’s not going to change anytime soon. I predict that we’ll start to see wider applications and adoption of machine learning as the technology becomes more mature and more accessible.
We’ll see machine learning integrated in things we use every day like chat apps, digital assistants, and natural language and image processing. Consumers will start to get used to hyper personalized experiences, which means expectations will continue to soar. This is already becoming the case—customers will expect nothing less than information and experiences that are individualized, contextualized, and useful.
What’s to come
- Customers will expect to see every bit of the same personalization from brands as they do from other mobile experiences.
- Individualization will no longer mean addressing a consumer by name in an email. It will include everything from brand websites to campaigns and messaging—the works.
#4: Digital payments will open the door for omni-channel commerce
In just the past two years, e-commerce has flourished in Thailand. Now shoppers can do things like find clothes in their size or “try on” different pairs of glasses online and have them shipped—all from their smartphones. Taking that last step—from choosing to buying—has been the bottleneck. Credit card penetration in Thailand is only at 5.7%,6 so most users still rely on traditional bank transfers, which can pose security risks. The lack of convenient and secure payment solutions has stalled Thailand’s e-commerce growth.
All of that is about to change. The launch of Prompt Pay is a giant first step in consolidating the highly fragmented digital payment industry. Soon, cashless payments will be accessible to the masses, paving the way to a truly omni-channel commerce society.
What’s to come
- Payment barriers will be dismantled. Businesses that previously didn’t become digitized as a result of these barriers will start to make the transition.
- E-commerce businesses will expand their services, using their websites as digital showrooms for consumers to browse, try, and buy their products.
#5: Brands will get better at measuring what matters
View-through rates. Clicks-to-call. Impressions. Viewability. Store visit conversions. Now that we can measure so many minute details of our marketing campaigns, it’s time to tie it all together. I predict we’ll see a new focus on “impact measurement,” which is how our marketing strategies are directly influencing business objectives.
We’ll see more efforts to develop and track what’s working across all channels and the stages within each channel. Instead of measuring offline and online tactics separately, we’ll be able to keep track of customers who buy in store or on websites—and see what influences that path to purchase.
What’s to come
- Marketers won’t (and shouldn’t) be satisfied with broad and superficial metrics anymore—they should be measuring what really matters most to their brands. They’ll start adopting more sophisticated metrics that will help them evaluate each platform’s business impact and how to become much more targeted, and they’ll make sure they’re aligned with their business objectives.
- We’ll see higher demand for data scientists and data analytics firms. Analysts will play an expanded role in marketing, helping everyone optimize campaigns across media, channels, and creatives.
Five predictions, endless opportunities
I hope you’re as energized as I am to tackle what’s next for marketing in Thailand. The best brands and agencies are the ones that can stay nimble and adapt to the changing forces around them. Think about what opportunities each of these trends presents for your brand or agency—when you can get a jump on where the industry is headed, the future will be bright indeed.
- We Love Social, “2017 Report,” 2017, Thailand.
- Google Internal Data, 2017, Thailand.
- Canalys, “APAC Q4,” 2016, smartphone estimates.
- YouTube Internal Data, 2017, Thailand.
- Google/TNS, “Mobile App 2016 Research,” Thailand.
- The World Bank Global Findex, 2014.