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Navigating the Labyrinth: The 5 Main Challenges of Marketing Effectiveness in APAC's Fragmented Region

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The Asia-Pacific (APAC) region, with its vast expanse and diverse cultures, presents a unique set of challenges for large corporations aiming to deploy multi-market media effectiveness projects - such as modeled attribution or media mix modeling (MMM) initiatives. The region's fragmentation is not just geographical but extends to cultural, economic, and regulatory aspects, all of which impact media investment strategies and - by extension - the way to measure performance. In this article, we will delve into the five main challenges that marketers face when running marketing effectiveness projects in APAC, providing insights into the complexities of this vibrant yet intricate market.

This article was co-written by Brice de Matharel and Ivan Yuen

1. Cultural Diversity Challenges

APAC is a melting pot of cultures, each with its own set of values, behaviours, and preferences. Understanding local customers is paramount for any marketing campaign's success. For instance, while influencer live streaming is a must to drive e-commerce performance in China, it does not hold the same significance in other APAC countries. Economic disparities further complicate this picture, as a strategy that works in the affluent city-state of Singapore does not resonate in the developing markets of Myanmar or Laos. It’s easier to reach high-income groups in Singapore than in Indonesia because of Singapore’s condensed population and high average income. 

Different media consumption habits and purchasing patterns are also evident across the region. In Japan, consumers prefer detailed and informative content, while in Indonesia, more visually engaging and interactive content would be the norm. These variations necessitate a tailored approach to Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that align with local expectations and behaviors. For example, while the click-through conversion rate is a more relevant metric in tech-savvy South Korea, in other parts of APAC, brand awareness metrics or in-store foot traffic is more indicative of campaign success. 

When brands attempt to evaluate media performance through attribution or media-mix modeling, they cannot employ a uniform method across all countries. For instance, a low online purchase rate in Vietnam does not necessarily indicate poor performance. It could be that customers in this market prefer to make purchases offline following their interactions with online ads. Therefore, conducting market research before initiating campaign activities is crucial. Localizing key performance indicators (KPIs) is essential to ensure their relevance to the target market consumers. Additionally, it remains imperative to gather contextual signals specific to each market, such as local events and seasonality, and incorporate them into the decision-making process through AB testing and media-mix modeling. 

2. Variations in Media Landscapes

The APAC region is characterized by a diverse media landscape, with each country having its preferred platforms and channels. In China, platforms like WeChat and Weibo dominate the social media space, while in India, WhatsApp and Facebook are more prevalent. The same can be said for LINE in Taiwan and Thailand, and Kakao Talk in South Korea. This diversity requires marketers to be agile and adaptable, crafting platform-specific media mix, messaging, and targeting strategies to engage audiences effectively. 

Retail media in e-commerce marketplaces such as Shopee and Lazada, and the balance between online and offline campaigns also vary significantly. In countries like Australia, where e-commerce is well-established, online campaigns might take precedence. Conversely, in Vietnam, where consumers lack trust in online payments, traditional retail still plays a significant role, and offline campaigns can be more impactful. This diversity of data sources adds a layer of complexity to gathering and analyzing media data, making it challenging to measure campaign effectiveness across different countries. 

All these nuances create variations in data collection, processing, and analysis in media performance measurement. Different media platforms offer various methods, such as web UI, report API, or raw data extraction, each with varying levels of detail. These methods also come with distinct technical requirements and levels of flexibility. Generally, the API option is more flexible and customizable but necessitates greater developer resources. 

3. Distribution Channels

Sales channels in the APAC region are as varied as its cultures. In Japan, department stores like Mitsukoshi and Takashimaya are important distribution players, while in China, online marketplaces such as Tmall and dominate. Each country requires a tailored partnership approach with retailers to access the relevant data that can inform marketing strategies and measure effectiveness. While most online marketplaces - like Lazada in South East Asia - offer standardized performance data such as cart items via API or even a standard GUI, it might require more effort to discuss with offline distributors and department stores (e.g. Lotte in South Korea, Aeon in Japan and BigC in Thailand) to get the relevant data to power the strategy. 

Understanding the nuances of each market's distribution channels is crucial for marketers to ensure their products are visible and available to the target audience. For instance, partnering with local e-commerce giants like Lazada in Southeast Asia or HKTVMall in Hong-Kong can provide valuable consumer insights and enhance a brand's reach. 

If your brand owns the distribution channel, you must collaborate with the team responsible for offline sales data to ensure its integration into your database. In the case of a reseller-owned store, you may need to partner with them to acquire the data corresponding to your offline sales. 

When you lack specific data due to inadequate granularity or incomplete information, you will need to rely on assumptions or utilize data proxies. These assumptions will be supplemented by historical data, surveys, industry benchmarks, and expert opinions gathered during your market research process. It is crucial to validate these assumptions and their insights whenever possible while continuously refining the model as new data becomes available.

4. Competitive Landscape

The competitive landscape in APAC varies greatly from country to country, particularly in industries like cosmetics. South Korea, for example, is known for its strong domestic brands, such as Innisfree and Etude House, which dominate the local market. International brands entering this space must navigate a highly competitive environment to capture consumer attention and promote their products effectively. 

Understanding local competitors and their market positioning is essential for international brands to differentiate themselves and carve out a niche. Tailored marketing strategies that respect local preferences and leverage unique selling propositions are vital to standing out in such competitive markets. 

Combining market competitive data and internal performance data for analysis will provide a holistic view of the market and support your decision-making process. Information such as competitor’s market share, product life cycle, and product price are invaluable for analysis like marketing mix modeling (MMM). For example, the new-gen iPhone announcement date has a significant impact on the performance of the whole telecommunication industry. MMM is not a new analysis technique but is gaining momentum again recently due to the advancement of machine learning capabilities and the uncertainties surrounding multi-touch attribution in the future.

5. Regulatory Differences

Regulatory environments across APAC can significantly impact marketing campaigns, particularly concerning the use of first-party data and consumer data platforms (CDPs). Countries like Vietnam and the Philippines have specific regulations (Decree of Personal Data Protection and Data Privacy Act respectively) that can make the collection and utilization of consumer data more complex. 

To comply with regulations, several general principles need to be followed. These principles include obtaining proper consent, providing transparency and disclosure regarding the collection and processing of data, and respecting the rights of data subjects, such as the right to be forgotten. It's important to note that different countries have their own specific requirements. For instance, the China Personal Information Protection Law (PIPL) mandates that data infrastructures store all collected and processed data within Chinese borders under specific conditions. 

Numerous consent management platforms (CMPs) offer compliance checks for websites. While these platforms should not replace the expertise of a legal team, they can serve as a starting point for adapting to local regulations. Ultimately, it is crucial to familiarize yourself with the regulations specific to your locality and seek legal advice from your legal team or relevant professionals.


With its cultural diversity, varied media landscapes, distribution channels, competitive environments, and regulatory differences, the APAC region presents a complex puzzle for marketers. While these challenges can be daunting, they also offer opportunities for innovation and creativity in marketing strategies. For example, how do we optimize consent messages to increase our user data collection opt-in rate? How to leverage machine learning to fill the gap in user data that we cannot collect directly? How do we fortify our first-party data infrastructure to overcome challenges arising from the upcoming third-party cookie deprecation? Although many of these challenges appear technical, they are often driven by obstacles related to data governance. Robust measurement of media effectiveness is always supported by a well-defined process and thorough planning prior to execution and, more importantly, best-in-class measurement and data collection capabilities. These processes ensure that the data you collect and process ultimately translates into actionable insights, elevating your performance to the next level.

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