SINGAPORE: Most companies and marketers in Asia Pacific remain at a formative stage when it comes to developing their digital capabilities, new research from the CMO Council has found.

The trade body polled 295 executives, of which 93% agreed digital marketing may provide a "competitive advantage". An additional 52% said it would mean firms become more customer-centric, and 51% expected it to deliver cost-effective engagement.

Less positively, a modest 6% of contributors thought they boasted a "very high level" of proficiency in this area, and 40% were "lagging behind". Similarly, a 44% plurality of brand owners were described as exploring the possibilities, and 30% "lagged behind".

Currently, senior management were seen as backing digital pilot schemes at 30% of enterprises, while 21% of participants had not convinced leadership of the value this opportunity presents.

"People are interested in testing as long as there is not a lot of money at stake," said Pieter-bas Vos, CMO of ING-BOB Life Insurance. "However, building online platforms requires a lot of investment that is not there at the moment."

Similarly, only 15% of interviewees regarded key allies like sales and IT departments as aiding their efforts, and just 20% perceived management as supporting an increase in new media expenditure.

Nhat Nguyen, country manager, Vietnam, for Heinz, the food group, said: "In a lot of companies, CMOs are still very traditional and prefer to use traditional tools rather than branching out, but this will be key to engaging consumers moving forward."

In terms of spending, a 37% share of firms allocated less than 10% of funds to this channel. Another 47% of industry insiders surveyed thought new media would take 10–24% of expenditure in the next year, and 22% pegged this level at 25–49%

Reflecting such findings, although 72% of operators are using analytics to assess the payback from their campaigns, a 3% minority believed they were excelling in this space.

"Some people are more advanced than others," said Argha Sen, head of marketing and CRM, Asia, for Toys R Us. "We have to make a great deal of effort to move everyone forward. Unlike many companies who are still learning about the platforms, our challenges revolve around people and processes."

A 53% majority of respondents also stated budget shortfalls limited their digital success, while 40%, struggled to prove the business case. Another 39% found it hard to determine the resources required, and 37% said the same for the best technology.

"Banks are basically software companies of the 21st century, but we have finite resources," said Caleb
Hunt, CMO of Citibank Japan. "I think the single largest constraint in our ability to move as quickly as we'd like is the availability of technology resources."

Data sourced from the CMO Council; additional content by Warc staff