SHANGHAI: After years of double-digit economic growth in China brands are having to adjust to a "new normal" and are exploring ways to more effectively use the customer data they have amassed.

This subject was discussed during a panel session – Traversing New Frontiers of Big Data in China – at the recent Consumer Electronics Show Asia in Shanghai.

"We hear clients asking us how they continue to grow in this new normal," said Tom Wan, managing director/global brands at Ogilvy & Mather Shanghai.

"It's not just about opening new stores and distribution channels anymore," he explained. "It's about having a deeper, more fluid understanding of the existing customer in better time – this is our secret weapon in the face of a slowing economy."

He pointed to the messaging app Wechat and taxi app Didi Dache as examples of what could be done. Wechat Exercise has persuaded consumers to voluntarily offer more data that reveals their habits and movements.

And when Didi Dache asked people to log in their working hours and offered a free ride to those getting off work late, it combined timing and geo-location data to understand the population flow of the city to optimise location of their taxis.

The next step for brands, the panel suggested, is to begin making more links between data and people in order to review their full life – what they're searching for on Sina, watching on Youku, listening to on Xiaomi and where they're going via Kuaidi Dache.

Within five to ten years, using this data for predictive modelling will be the norm, according to Clement Tsang, managing director/global business network clients & performance marketing at Neo@Ogilvy.

In the meantime, marketers need to build stronger and lasting relationships with consumers across the whole purchasing journey and to ensure linkages between various data siloes.

No discussion about data can ignore the issue of privacy and security and Deron Zhao of online advertising platform AdChina stressed the importance of protecting consumers.

"User privacy and data safety is a necessity," he said. "If you guarantee this, you will be a winner in this environment. If you cannot, you will lose."

Data sourced from Oglivy & Mather Asia Pacific; additional content by Warc staff