More than three-quarters of marketers in Southeast Asia say that new customer growth is slow or stagnant and at least two-thirds believe budget sacrifices will have to be made in 2020, a new survey has revealed.

However, even though budget constraints are likely to be a key challenge for marketers next year, there are grounds for optimism, especially for those prepared to make the most effective use of data to extract unique insights and deliver results.

These are some of the key findings from the 2020 Outlook for Southeast Asian Marketers report produced by ADA, the digital advertising consultancy owned by Malaysian telco Axiata.

Based on a survey of 200 marketers, decision-makers and industry observers in the region, coupled with analysis of 280 million unique devices, the ADA report effectively suggests that marketers will have to do more with less in 2020.

That’s because 76.2% of Southeast Asian marketers expect new customer growth to be slow (46.1%) or stagnant (30.1%), while 68% report that their marketing budgets are “just enough” but requiring sacrifices. Just 8.2% believe their marketing budgets are “more than enough”.

In addition, only 10.2% expect rapid economic growth for their country next year, while nearly half (46.1%) of respondents expect slow to modest growth and another 35.4% believe growth will remain moderate.

Despite the relatively gloomy outlook, Srinivas Gattemneni, CEO of ADA, said: “2020 is set to be an interesting year. Brands who understand consumer trends during times like these, and are armed with the right data, insights and strategy, can use this opportunity to steal the spotlight.”

“While some companies will tighten their belts, others will invest in cherry-picked efforts to surge ahead of their competition.”

In other words, rather than “retreating” during an economic slowdown by cost-cutting or focusing on promotions, ADA recommends a four-stage strategic framework for marketers to adopt in 2020.

In short, marketers should make better use of data – both in its collection and analysis to reveal actionable information – and invest more in brand-building, especially since 62% of consumers are said to be loyal to the brands they trust.

Marketers are also advised to tap into the emotions of their customers via storytelling and, finally, brands shouldn’t play it safe but instead seek to “steal the spotlight” to really make their brand stand out during uncertain economic times.

Sourced from ADA; additional content by WARC staff