Key Insights from DMWF: Digital Marketing World Forum in Singapore

29 February – 1 March, Singapore, Southeast Asia

DMWF Singapore is a digital and social marketing conference that forms part of a series of similar conferences worldwide. The main focus in Singapore this year was on how to deal with the huge amount of customer transactional and social data and how to take advantage of it by addressing each customer based on their needs and wishes. Speakers came from both local Asian companies and global players including Ferrero, Canon, and Decathlon. Read on to gain insight into how digital marketing, social media, and paid search are tackled within Southeast Asia.


Regionalization seems to be a major issue that companies face when entering Asian markets. While Google and Facebook are by far the key advertising platforms in Europe and North America, a much greater diversity can be observed in the Asian landscape. For example, WeChat has 500 million active users in China and AliBaba is much more popular than Google shopping or Amazon in some parts of Asia.

Additionally, companies are still struggling with their efforts to cover all relevant channels and achieve an appropriate omni-channel approach that is based on a common data base. Jhorna Rincon (Director Global eCommerce Services – ASIA Pacific Marriott International) mentioned that even handling Japanese in their backend causes much trouble and incurs high costs on their side.

Data-Driven Marketing

For a few years, we have all been talking about “Big Data,” but the real challenge today is to stay focused and pick the most important “nuggets” for your niche. Retailers and brands worldwide are currently just using the tip of the iceberg when it comes to available data. Clarence Chew (CMO at Decathlon) pointed out that we should “think of ‘right data’ rather than ‘Big Data.’”

The goal must be to address customers in real-time, in the right format, and with the offers best suited to them across all marketing channels and platforms.

Retailers in particular have to align their businesses with their customers’ social media activity. While it is relatively easy to track ROI and other KPIs for PPC, this approach is not at all feasible for other channels. Kenrick Drijkoningen (Head of Performance Marketing HomeAway) said that Conversion Attribution is still more of a business decision than a data-driven approach. But, this blind spot on the data side of online marketing is not new: for example, running commercials on television is even vaguer than any online activity. The task is to use existing data, gain insights into what is relevant, and break down the borders between platforms, devices, and marketing types (=> Universal Tracking).

Moreover, the increasing usage of chat portals is a great challenge for advertisers, as they only offer limited advertising opportunities, if any. However, chat portals and apps are likely to open their platforms in order to make money and allow advertisers to run campaigns over the next few years.
The lack of customer transparency is solved by another approach – take Canon for example: according to Dr. Alok Bharadwaj (Senior Vice President, Canon South & Southeast Asia), Canon does not even bother to analyze data from their online activities because the data is directly submitted to them by their cameras and printers worldwide. Canon knows exactly which color is used most, how often people print, what kind of features they  use, and which camera settings are most popular. This is their engine to come up with new product innovations and enhancements which push sales.

Emotional Marketing

Mr. Koh (Vice President, Head of Digital and Social Marketing at MasterCard) emphasized how emotions can drive awareness, conversions, and customer loyalty. MasterCard’s program “pricelessSurprises” showed how product placements and offers in combination with emotional stories such as “How a child thanks her mother for her lifetime commitment” can increase conversion rates by up to 300%.

Key Findings

To summarize, the four aspects for a more targeted online campaign are:

  1. Regionalization: address various target groups according to their culture, language, region, etc.
  2. Data Analysis: Dive deeper into data analysis and break down massive amounts of data into meaningful clusters.
  3. Expanded channels: Find the right channel for the right target group – chat advertisements are coming up.
  4. Emotional marketing: be human and tell stories, because that’s what people love.

The overall impression I received from the talks over the last two days was that online marketing is still in an ongoing, trial-and-error process for most retailers, brands, and decisions makers. There seems to be a wide uncertainty on how to allocate budget to the right channels, how to approach customers, and how to measure success. We have access to a huge amount of data, and there are a lot of tools in the market for analyzing it, yet we still struggle to gain valuable insights from it. Diving deeper into the analysis of these massive data quantities and breaking down the findings will remain the biggest challenge in the years to come.

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Jörn-Heiko Raußendorff

Heiko von Raußendorff works as Product Owner of the Innohub (innovation development team). He has over 10 years working experience in the online industry including PPC.