How to market effectively to 3.5b people in Asia; developing a multi-market CX strategy

’Can you tell us how to market effectively to all 3.5 billion people in Asia?’ A crazy question, but one that gets asked more often than you’d think. As part of The Drum’s Deep Dive into The New Customer Experience Economy, Mullenlowe Singapore’s Mark Haycock shares five key consumer demands you must take into consideration.

You get the email. It’s a global pitch. The lead office (and ultimate decision making power) resides in the US or Europe. You’ve just been asked to pull together a couple of slides to represent the ’APAC perspective’ to show that you’re a truly joined up agency. They need them by tomorrow.

You respond: ’Sure, is there a template to follow.’ But you think: ’Yeah, right, I’ll just try to represent 3.5 billion people (half the world’s population) in two slides. I’ll summarize the vast cultural, technological and economic differences that exist in Indonesia versus India. I’ll show how for email alone, Japan won’t sign up to them, China won’t open them and Australia will unsubscribe from them.”

Just as with communications, experiences too must be localized across Asia to account for this wildly diverse continent. As much as we’d love to be able to create a unified CX strategy with a clear definition of the roles of channels, shared customer pain points and next best actions, this is just not possible. So, for anyone looking to develop a multi-market CX strategy in Asia, here are five varying consumer demands to take into consideration.

1. Talk to me one-on-one 


According to a recent study by Freshworks, up to 68% of us would prefer to receive brand communications via our preferred instant messaging (IM) platform. Being let into this inner sanctum by consumers is an effort to make their lives easier, but brands need to be careful not to overstep the boundary.

The difficulty in this consumer desire across Asia is that the IM platform of choice differs significantly from market to market. WeChat (China), KakaoTalk (Korea), Facebook Messenger (Philippines), Line (Japan), Zalo (Vietnam) and Telegram (Sri Lanka) are just a few regional variations of Whatsapp to consider. Luckily there are platforms such as MessageBird that are trying to aggregate customer comms for brands across this multitude of platforms available.

2. When it comes to payment, it’s my way or the highway  

From credit cards to contactless, digital wallets to cash on delivery, consumers have always looked for choice when it comes to payment in South East Asia. The latest kid on the payment block is BNPL (buy now, pay later). Initially targeted at the luxury consumer to spread payments for high end goods over three months, it has found favor in markets such as India, Vietnam and Thailand where credit card penetration is low. Pace, a BNPL provider based in Singapore, is aiming for $1bn in gross merchandise value in 2022.

Brands need to take into account local credit card penetration in their audience and work with retailers and other third parties to offer BNPL propositions to not lose out on wallet share.

3. Don’t make me search for you  

Given that the QR code was invented in Japan, it’s not surprising that Asia had found many practical uses for it way before the pandemic hit. However, due to the strict monitoring of citizen movement through safe entry protocols, even your 94-year-old grandmother knows how to use them in Asia.

ABF media

This has given rise to a whole new raft of experiences way beyond safe entry and menus. They’ve enabled us to digitize the physical world and consumers now expect brands to offer additional product information, content and, in the case of The National Gallery of Singapore, art exhibitions, all from the unassuming 2D barcode.

4. Streamline things for me  

First came WeChat, the original mega app and ecosystem unto itself that Chinese consumers spend more time in than they do in their mobile internet browsers. But this was just the forerunner for GoJek (Indonesia), Grab (Singapore) and AirAsia (Malaysia), all with the aim of acquiring a greater share of screen.

These apps are integrating more and more services into their platforms, successfully applying for digital banking licenses and gamifying the entire experience. Brands need to figure out a way to offer services through them or at least view them as a viable media channel to reach their audience.

5. Show me what other customers think  

In our age of radical transparency, consumers across Asia are looking for authentic reviews and experiences of products and services from many sources. Pantip has always been the forum of choice in Thailand. However, after the Whatsapp data privacy debacle, many consumers in South East Asia migrated to Telegram, which gave rise to many brand-led, community-curated CUGs (closed user groups) to share information.

One such example is Trip Talks, which was started by the Chinese travel company but is very much a space where community-driven travel experiences and deals are shared. Brands should be looking to either integrate customer reviews into their own digital properties or to encourage customers to leave reviews in the most popular local portals.


The fascinating thing about operating in Asia is the exposure to so many different ways that people see and experience the world around them. The worst thing is being asked to distill this down to two slides for that global pitch deck.


Mark Haycock is group head of strategy at Mullenlowe Singapore.
For more on The New Customer Experience Economy, check out The Drum’s latest Deep Dive

This article was written by Mark Haycock from The Drum and was legally licensed through the Industry Dive Content Marketplace.


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