In recent years, we have seen the emergence of martech—a convergence of marketing and technology. The use of technology is utterly essential now to marketing campaigns, making it virtually impossible to separate the two. Martech makes marketing smarter, targeted, and more likely to deliver customer loyalty.

As businesses strive to survive the “black swan of 2020”—COVID-19, there has never been a more urgent need for martech. Today brand visibility counts more than anything and could be the deciding factor in the ability of businesses to sink or swim post-pandemic. This is especially true in Southeast Asia, where we are witnessing a steadily increasing portion of the population adopting technology, and conducting far more of their purchases online.

Boosting brand outreach

Consumer behaviour is constantly changing, and martech startups must keep up if they are keen to stay in the game. Moreover, we are in the midst of a global pandemic, which has ushered in a massive shift in online consumption and behavioural habits, differing across the generations.

Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, once gave the following piece of advice—“Every company will fail, the key to prolonging that demise is to avoid looking inwards and to obsess over customers”. 

With the extensive changes we are facing globally, and not just to the economy, there has never been a more critical time to pay close attention to what consumers are doing.

Digital marketing is how brands can stay relevant and visible during this crucial time. Increased online consumption means most brands have a captive audience, making it the optimal moment to look at what is popular in martech and boost brand outreach. Some of the key emerging martech trends include omnichannel platforms, data unification, mobile-first approach, video analytics, Voice Search Optimisation (VSO), AI and machine learning, as well as Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR).

Martech in Southeast Asia

Although the outlook for raising funds is looking grim in 2020 for many startups, there is certainly an increased interest in some sectors such as healthcare, remote working solutions, logistics and productivity software. What does this mean for martech startups in Southeast Asia?

The good news is this: martech is an “integral part of all marketing processes”, and if the key to businesses’ survival is to “obsess over customers”, martech is the solution. With its focus on consumer behaviour and the shift towards all things virtual during the pandemic, there has never been a more opportune time to leverage technology for marketing purposes. This is especially pertinent in Southeast Asia, with its booming eCommerce industry and increasingly tech-savvy population. 

Martech startups and the pandemic

Here’s how some of the martech startups in Southeast Asia are (or aren’t, in some cases) responding to the COVID-19 crisis:

Impact’s Southeast Asian hub is in Singapore. They describe themselves as ‘Growth Technologists’—using science and technology to help clients grow their business. Their trademarked Partnership Cloud aims to facilitate successful partnerships as part of a growth strategy. They are meeting COVID-19 head-on by producing relevant content via the Impact blog

Found in Thailand in 2013, Zanroo began as a keyword and trend analysis specialist, before morphing into a “complete web-based social intelligence solution, integrating social listening, monitoring, engagement and customer service.” They use a platform called Arun to support their key offerings—listening & monitoring, social customer care, and campaign. During the pandemic, Zanroo Commercial Director Vilon Ho has taken part in an online panel discussion on how businesses can respond to the crisis.

Launched in Singapore and Hong Kong in 2016, Vamp focuses on social content, connecting influencers with brands via its platform, with an emphasis on the mobile-first approach. They have an extremely impressive client portfolio to prove that influencer-led marketing works. Their COVID-19 response? Keeping their content current and visible on their blog.

DREA’s playground is the property industry—their offering is a mobile app that creates digital marketing campaigns suitable even for clients who are tech novices. This Singapore-based martech startup focuses mainly on SMEs. The DREA ecosystem consists of PushAds, Analytics, and DREALabs (a means of co-creating new technologies to meet industry needs). With the expected slowdown of real estate post-pandemic, it could be challenging times ahead for this martech startup.

OpenMinds takes a data-driven approach to martech, describing it as their ‘forté’. The Malaysian startup’s key services promise to help your business emerge as a winner, via their expertise in digital marketing, data analytics and tech development. With no visible response to the COVID-19 situation, it seems as though they have gone quiet in a time when visibility is vital.

Martech in Southeast Asia is an exciting sector. The current global crisis has only heightened the intensity and how it will ultimately affect consumer behaviour. Yes, we are undoubtedly heading for a massive economic downturn; however, with any crisis comes opportunity. If Southeast Asian martech startups can smartly preempt where investment will go, and where innovation will spring up post-pandemic, many could find themselves being integral to those new business opportunities.

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