SME Featured APAC

APAC’s Plug and Play unveils new programs to accelerate startup, SME growth

Singapore – Global innovation platform Plug and Play has recently concluded its APAC-centric summit last 1 to 2 June, in which the firm introduced three new programs for startups and SMEs. 

The three new programs are the ‘Sustainability Program’, ‘Business Solutions Accelerator by Facebook’, and its ‘GK – Plug and Play Program’. 

In the virtual event, it was announced that the ‘Sustainability Program’ seeks to provide the tools and network for startups with disruptive technologies that will allow them to empower big corporations to meet their green initiatives.

Part of the solutions instated include equipping SMEs forward thinking into creating sustainable supply chains, implementation of digital technologies for sustainable production, training and advisory for sustainable practices, and compliance or certification of sustainable practices. 

Jupe Tan, managing partner at Plug and Play APAC, commented, “This year we celebrate our 15th anniversary with a global team of almost 600 across 35 cities around the world. We will look to actively invest in technologies that focus on enhancing our living environment and address our resource constraints in a sustainable manner that reduces emissions and efficiently uses natural resources.” 

Meanwhile, the ‘Business Solutions Accelerator by Facebook’ will be made possible by Facebook and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) to which Tan describes as an innovation catered to looking into areas such as cleantech and clean energy, sustainable agriculture, inclusive fintech as well as inclusive healthcare.

Through the accelerator, Facebook is looking forward to nurturing and collaborating with technology partners that share Facebook’s commitment to improving the merchant experience for businesses across the Facebook family of apps. Program benefits include product education, dedicated Facebook mentors for guidance on product development and business growth, networking with fellow startups and ecosystem enablers, insights into industry and innovation trends.

Lastly, the ‘GK Plug and Play’ aims to make innovation within reach for enterprising groups and individuals. Plug and Play aims to build a smart future by connecting innovation to the brightest minds, as well as building a unique ecosystem as their mission that connects change-makers and leading organizations. So far, the accelerator program has run 8 batches and accelerated 123 startups giving them enhanced access to mentors, investors, and corporations.

On the program with Facebook and ADB, Tan said, “I am proud to announce that we have embarked on a regional partnership with the Asian Development Bank through ADB Ventures, the new venture arm of the ADB. Together with ADB Ventures, we hope to source for and invest in bold technology startups that are working to solve Asia Pacific’s biggest unsolved problems. 

Technology Featured APAC

Qualtrics keys in new senior hires; eyes more appointments for APJ presence

Singapore – Global experience management (XM) provider Qualtrics, in a bid to strengthen its presence in Asia Pacific and Japan (APJ) by 2024, has announced new senior hires for the company’s presence in the region, as well as stating that the company will also target to hire 1,200 new hires for the APJ team.

The new senior hires are Jason Laufer as managing director for ANZ, John Seo as managing director for Korea, and Navneet Narula as managing director for India.

In regards to the 1,200 target new hires the company has mentioned, Qualtrics is hiring for its seven offices in Australia, New Zealand, Southeast Asia, Japan, South Korea, India, and Hong Kong. This comprises all departments, including sales, professional services engineering, operations, customer success, and marketing.

The announcement comes after Qualtrics has recently scaled its operations in the region, which includes opening a new headquarters in Sydney and a data center in Singapore. According to the company, these company moves come as businesses and governments increasingly turn to Qualtrics to help them deliver customer, employee, brand, and product experiences.

For Zig Serafin, CEO at Qualtrics, organizations around the world are in the middle of an experience transformation –– and there is a massive market and category opportunity ahead of us. He added that experience data is becoming the most valuable data within an organization, hence the investments the company is making today will help them grow across Asia Pacific and Japan, and ensure they continue to help their customers build their next great customer, employee, product, and brand experiences.

Meanwhile, Brigid Archibald, managing director at Qualtrics in APJ, commented, “To help our customers succeed in this age of experience transformation, Qualtrics is committed to continually investing in and expanding our local operations. As a result, Qualtrics continues to lead the way in equipping businesses and governments with the tools, services, expertise, and support needed to design new experiences for our evolving world, and then continuously improve them.”

Through the expanded team and capabilities, Qualtrics will provide customers with world-class support and services enabling them to quickly and effectively discover and take action on the immediate and evolving needs of customers, employees, and the wider market. Additionally, customers will gain access to local and global industry leaders and XM communities to share learnings and best practices, and receive breakthrough research and benchmarks from the Qualtrics XM Institute.

Technology Featured APAC

E-commerce enabler Awake Asia merges with ADA for market expansion

Singapore – Awake Asia, a regional e-commerce enabler, has announced that it will be now merging with data and AI company ADA, which will help both of the companies empower their services across 10 markets in Asia Pacific, particularly in the e-commerce sector.

Awake Asia’s integration under the ADA brand is effective 1 June this year, where they will serve the markets of Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Cambodia, South Korea, and Vietnam.

The merger entails the combination of Awake Asia’s deep e-commerce expertise with ADA’s media, creative, and analytics solutions to drive online sales for brands. This is best applied through digital marketing deeply linked to e-commerce revenue generation; consumer data and analytics leveraged to uplift e-commerce sales; and reaching vast audiences in super-apps and marketplaces.

For Srinivas Gattamneni, chief executive officer of ADA, the merger brings together an integrated approach for brands to reach and convert digital consumers, which is best supported by the fact that more brands are forced to adapt to capture the ‘great migration’ of consumers from offline to online, and business owners still in the dark on how to navigate the challenges to maximize return on investment.

“At ADA, our belief is that e-commerce should not be a siloed execution but needs to be deeply integrated into the brand’s analytics, media, creative, and marketing technology investments – only then can we achieve superior performance,” he said.

Leading the new division is Simon Paterson who joins ADA as chief of e-commerce enablement and the former CEO of Awake Asia. 

Commenting on his new appointment, he said “Over the past 5 years, Awake Asia has built a formidable e-commerce enablement business in Southeast Asia. We are excited to embark on this new phase of growth with integrated analytics, media, and creative to boost e-commerce operations for all brands in the region.”

The merger opens a new market for ADA in Vietnam with over 150 e-commerce specialists currently serving more than 120 brands, driving e-commerce growth for clients such as P&G, Unilever, BMW, and Wyeth; and e-commerce partners including Shopee, Tokopedia, and Lazada among others.

ADA has recently been expanding its data and AI-oriented services across Asia Pacific, such as launching its martech service, an end-to-end e-commerce service, and its partnership with Insider for data-led enterprise marketing endeavors, as well its recent US$60m funding from Softbank.

Technology Featured APAC

Newly-launched brand from Astute Solution, Socialbakers ventures to CX market

Singapore – As customer experience (CX) company Astute Solutions and digital marketing company Socialbakers recently announced a merger of their business entities, both companies have announced the brand launch of Emplifi, which will be catering to a middle ground of services centered on CX strategies for digital marketing purposes.

Emplifi will give organizations the tools they need to connect social media marketing, customer care, and social commerce to address critical customer experience gaps. Its entry into the CX scene comes with a whole list of existing clients from both Astute Solutions and Socialbakers such as McDonalds, Delta Air Lines and Ford Motor Company. 

According to both companies, Emplifi was born out of the need to better connect brands and their customers. With constant shifts in consumer behaviors and rising customer expectations across channels, brands need a unified approach to customer experience management. Consumers now prefer instant convenience and speed as evidenced by a surge in interest in social shopping, social care, and digital self-service. 

Mark Zablan, CEO at Emplifi explains that the brand reflects the company’s mission to help their customers better empathize with their customers and amplify their brand experiences – wherever they might be.

“Customer expectations are shifting fast and brands need to be able to respond quickly with powerful, empathetic experiences. As customers turn to more social and digital means to connect, communicate and transact, Emplifi is well positioned to help brands succeed today and scale for new channels tomorrow,” Zablan said.

The brand launch comes in timing as the social commerce industry in particular has exploded, as social media orders in Singapore, Thailand, Philippines and Vietnam more than doubled in the first half of 2020. According to data from Bain & Co, social commerce accounted for 44% (US$47.96b) of Southeast Asia’s US$109b e-commerce revenue last year. 

Meanwhile social media videos have emerged as a key channel for product discovery. Almost 8 in 10 Southeast Asians watch videos on social media while 66% have created or interacted with videos on these platforms. This has led to a rise in live-stream shopping in the region. According to iKala, the share of retailers who used live-selling techniques increased nearly 13% to 67% between the first and second quarter of 2020. 

Lastly, brands have taken notice and are doubling their social media ad spend. In Q1 2021, marketers spent 60% more on Facebook and Instagram advertising globally as compared to the same period last year. The growth in ad spend has led to an increase in ad costs. In Southeast Asia, ad costs grew by as much as 66% year-on-year.

Marketing Featured APAC

Redhill strengthens agency lineup with new MD appointments

Singapore – Redhill, a global communications agency based in Singapore, has announced its new managing directors namely Marienelle Castelino and Tavy Cussinel, in response to their growing clientele base in the Asia Pacific.

Through their new roles, Marienelle will deepen her focus on brand leadership and corporate mandates in markets across Asia-Pacific, specifically Singapore, Indonesia, India, and Cambodia, while Tavy will focus on growing the agency’s education, healthcare, luxury, and lifestyle portfolios.

Marienelle joined Redhill as regional director of strategy in November 2017 and brings over 13 years of experience in brand communications and corporate reputation to the agency. Prior to Redhill, she held client leadership roles for marquee brands like McDonald’s, Pepsi, Mondelez, Coca-Cola and P&G.

Meanwhile, Tavy became Redhill’s director of strategic communications and rose quickly through the ranks. She has spent over two decades working with household names such as Calvin Klein Cosmetics (UK), Parfums International (Europe), Unilever Cosmetics International (Europe), Coty, Rimmel, and Adidas. Previously, she founded and scaled a public relations agency in London, which she sold in 2011 to focus on raising her family.

“I am excited to see the additional growth that Marienelle and Tavy will achieve for Redhill as they build on the excellent work that they have done during their years with us. Despite the pandemic, Redhill has continued to expand and we are ready to push ourselves even further – both in markets and in verticals,” said Jacob Puthenparambil, CEO and founder of Redhill.

He added, “I have full faith in our leadership team to steer the wider Redhill family to greater heights as we focus on our end goal – to become the DBS or Singapore Airlines of the communications world.”

To add to the recent appointments, Redhill has announced the promotions of several Redhill executives namely Marion Ang and Jaslin Tan as senior account managers; Dipti Jaiswal and Clara Tan as account managers; Joseph Ng, Ruth Tan and Septy Wulandari as senior account executives; and Adriana Abidin, Junyi Kuo and Angelica Muk as account executives.

“At Redhill, we are committed to the development of our employees and building a strong culture of internal growth. Each of these individuals has shown dedication and commitment to the success of their clients and the agency, and I congratulate them on their well-deserved promotions. An agency is only as strong as its team, and as I look at our fantastic Redhill family, I am confident of our success,” Puthenparambil added.

Redhill’s recent promotions aims to bolster their existing clientele base, including recently of circular fashion Style Theory, where they were appointed as public relations partner for the brand in Singapore.

Technology Featured APAC

Essence bolsters experience offerings, appoints new head of experience for APAC

Singapore – Global data and measurement-driven media agency Essence has promoted Magda Wolder, its former EMEA creative strategy head, to be the new head of experience for its APAC unit. 

Wolder brings with her over a decade of experience in bringing advertising and ideas together in the media, technology, and entertainment industries. Prior to joining Essence in 2018, she has worked as the senior researcher for Netflix EMEA in the Netherlands, and the lead creative strategist and head of customer closeness at broadcast media company Sky in the United Kingdom.

In her new role, Wolder will be heading the agency’s team of creative strategists, conceptual thinkers, and design experts, as well as technology-powered production partners, to create data-driven creative innovation for Essence’s clients in the region. This team will continue to incubate and develop next-generation, privacy-compliant personalized creative experiences through Essence Global Ventures the agency’s Singapore-based innovation, research, and development hub, which is supported by the Singapore Economic Development Board.

Commenting on her promotion, Wolder said that they have a very talented creative team and cannot wait to see what they will achieve together in 2021.

“Our work at Essence demonstrates that data and technology complement a creative idea, and are not the idea itself. In addition to my focus to drive personalization at scale for our clients in APAC, I am keen to help nurture emerging creative talent and imagination in this region,” said Wolder.

Meanwhile, Essence’s SVP, Client Partner, APAC, and Singapore Managing Director Monica Bhatia, shared that they are delighted to have Wolder join the APAC team. 

“With her impressive brand experience, as well as her deep understanding of Essence’s unified approach to data that brings creative and media closer together, we are looking forward to the creative innovation she will bring to media channels and content programs for our clients in this region,” said Bhatia.

T. Gangadhar, the CEO of Essence APAC, commented, “With Magda’s leadership, I am excited about the creative technology and experience products our Experience team will continue to deliver through Essence Global Ventures, which will be scaled to help brands across APAC and globally successful in the new economy.”

Wolder’s appointment is part of the agency’s corporate and product strategy, which will further strengthen its specialist capabilities, namely advertising operations, analytics, and data strategy, as well as experience, and consulting, alongside its media services offering, which includes media planning, media activation, automation and media technology.

Marketing Featured APAC

APAC journalists spend majority of their time angling COVID-19 centric stories

Hong Kong – As journalists continue to perform their media duties in the mid of a pandemic, the greater slice of these media practitioners in the Asia Pacific spend a larger chunk of their stories now centered on COVID-19 and how it affects the industries they are covering for, new report from global public relations company Cision show.

In its latest ‘Cision’s 2021 Global State of the Media Report’, the report noted that 45.8% of APAC journalists note that writing new angles about the pandemic shaped their editorial strategy recently. Following such data, 36.5% of APAC journalists seek to write ‘feel-good’ stories on how businesses and communities help each other.

On another note, other factors that helped mold the current editorial strategies of APAC journalists include diversity and inclusion stories (33.7% of APAC respondents), going back to the ‘new normal’ (32.8%), new technologies (31.4%), and research-based thought leadership pieces covering topical issues (29.8%).

It is also worth noting that despite the pandemic, journalists still juggle multiple beats with demanding workloads and pressing deadlines. This is evident despite numerous newsrooms shrinking in number due to the pandemic. According to the study, almost half of journalists (47%) cover five or more beats, and nearly the same amount file seven or more stories per week; 33% say they file 10 or more. 

“Journalists don’t have time to chase down stories, so giving them all the information they need upfront such as insightful data, relevant quotes, and accompanying images, which then takes the burden off them to assemble critical details and increases the likelihood of the story getting covered,” Cision stated in their report.

Such a multitude of tasks faced by journalists in APAC pose struggles for them as well, with 37.6% of APAC respondents saying that they experience fatigue in covering the COVID-19 pandemic. Other factors that pose struggles to APAC journalists include reaching out to sources remotely (29.9%), public pressure on covering both sides of the story equally (22.3%), thoroughly addressing racial inequalities (15%), and challenges in distinguishing fictional and factual political/election coverage (13.9%).

Adding to journalist’s dilemma is how frequently they are inundated with spam email and irrelevant pitches. Cision reports that 53% of journalists receive more than 50 pitches a week, and 28% receive more than 100 per week. Yet the vast majority of journalists (69%) say only a quarter (or less) of the pitches they receive are relevant to their audiences.

About 59% of journalists agree that the availability of detailed audience metrics (views, engagement, demographics) has changed the way they evaluate stories. Many are focusing on stories that will generate the most traffic and shares across social media and other distribution channels in an effort to draw the almighty advertising dollar (and job security).

In terms of journalist behavior, a large majority of APAC respondents prefer to receive media pitches on Monday, with 60.4% of respondents saying so. Tuesday is also fine, with 42.3% of respondents agreeing, and surprisingly 28.3% of respondents say they prefer to receive their pitches by Friday.

On follow-up pitches, the best time period to ask, according to Cision, would be 2-3 days later (30.4% of APAC respondents), and around 10:00am to 12:00pm (28.3%). 

Over one-third of journalists (35%) would like to see a list of stories planned in advance. While 33% of journalists plan their stories in real time throughout the day, 1 in 4 (25%) journalists plan their stories a week ahead; 18% plan a month ahead. Meanwhile, the overwhelming majority of respondents (81%) included images with their stories in the last year, followed by videos (45%), infographics (43%) and social media posts (40%). On top of this, more than 1 in 5 journalists (23%) explicitly said they wish PR pros would include multimedia assets in their press releases.

“After a year like no other, the partnership between the media and PR pros – and the technologies they use to develop and distribute content – are becoming even more critical. PR teams who are not actively using data intelligence and newswires to guide and promote their campaigns are at risk of falling behind as they compete to have their stories heard,” said Maggie Lower, chief marketing officer at Cision.

Technology Featured APAC

Businesses in APAC fall short on one CX facet: login tech, survey shows

Singapore – Most organizations in APAC fail to meet consumer expectations around login technology, highlighting how a login box can impact the user experience of a brand, new findings from global modern identity platform Auth0 and market research company YouGov.

According to the study, consumers across APAC want significant choices in login technologies. About 51% of APAC consumers surveyed say they are more likely to sign up for an app or online service if a company offers Multi-factor Authentication (MFA), while 52% are also more likely to sign up if a company offers Single Sign-On (SSO) – using a single ID and password for multiple related services. This was followed closely by demand for biometrics with 47%, social logins with 42%, and passwordless logins with 40%.

The study found that most APAC businesses don’t offer these login options, despite the demand, and general frustration with using traditional passwords. While 45% of businesses across the region surveyed do offer SSO capabilities, less than one-third offer MFA (31%), biometrics (28%), social logins (37%), or passwordless (22%). Across the six markets surveyed, namely the UK, France, Germany, and Australia, as well as Singapore, and Japan, about 11% of the IT and marketing decision-makers said they don’t offer any of these login technologies.

On the other hand, looking at the international comparison, APAC organizations are ahead of their European counterparts in offering technology such as social logins, biometrics, and MFA. Australian and Singaporean businesses are twice as likely to use biometric login, with 34% of IT and marketing decision-makers surveyed saying their companies currently offer customers the ability to log in with the use of biometrics, compared to Germany with 17%, France with 14%, and the UK with 14%.

Auth0 APAC’s General Manager Richard Marr commented that consumers want to use digital services, but if the login process is clunky or frustrating, they will take their businesses elsewhere. 

He further shared that with the proliferation of online threats, organizations are challenged to find the right balance between ease and security, and it’s really an ‘aha moment’ when they realize how identity management can help.

“MFA and SSO are still relatively new technologies for the vast majority of organizations, and developing biometrics or passwordless is a heavy lift. With a modern identity platform, businesses can not only offer the easiest and most secure user experience possible, but they can also experiment with different login options to find what works best for their audience,” said Marr.

Auth0, recently acquired by Okta, is an organization that provides a modern identity platform that helps organizations meet the security, privacy, and convenience needs of their users. 

‘The Login Experience Customers Want’ study was conducted online last  23 February and 1 March 2021, questioning more than 8,000 consumers and 1,200 IT and marketing decision-makers who work for businesses that offer an app/online service to customers.

Technology Featured APAC

InMobi’s latest partnership with The Trade Desk to expand brand lift solutions across APAC

Sydney, Australia – As more and more brands seek to measure their brand campaigns across all digital media, marketing cloud InMobi has announced a new partnership with technology company The Trade Desk to cater to this growing need among marketers by making their respective platforms available to clients accordingly.

Through the partnership, InMobi’s mobile-first consumer intelligence platform – InMobi Pulse, will be made available on The Trade Desk’s demand side platform (DSP). Such use of these in-app brand lift surveys that are delivered programmatically can aid brands to measure metrics such as brand awareness, favorability, intent to purchase and other metrics that determine campaign effectiveness.

Vivek Misra, senior director for data partnerships at The Trade Desk said that they are thrilled to partner with InMobi, and aim to make it easy for marketers to access reliable and affordable brand lift studies from within their platform.

“Marketers are under more pressure than ever to demonstrate the impact of their advertising dollars. The Trade Desk is committed to giving advertisers more options to measure the value of their ad spend and prove their marketing investments are driving business results,” Misra said.

Meanwhile, Vasuta Agarwal, managing director for Asia Pacific at InMobi, commented, “This proposition by InMobi Pulse gives digital marketers an efficient, accurate and unbiased means to establish the efficacy of their campaigns. Marketers can accurately deliver in-app surveys to an exposed group which has seen the ads and to a control group which has not seen the ad. Through the difference in brand metrics between the two groups, the true impact of a campaign can be measured.”

InMobi also noted that the brand lift study can be deployed for a single creative or the entire campaign, based on the metrics the brand intends to measure. Advertisers can measure ad recall, awareness, consideration, favourability and purchase intent using the InMobi Pulse BLS on The Trade Desk’s platform.

InMobi’s latest partnership comes in line with the company’s recent goals to take their marketing cloud service globally, which led to the appointment of Krista Thomas as the company’s senior vice president and head of marketing for its marketing cloud division.

At the APAC level, InMobi has also shown its growth in the region, including senior appointments for its ANZ division, and with other corporate partnerships such as with and Gojek.

Marketing Featured APAC

Shangri-La’s latest brand ‘Fam.ily’ to cater to family-centric experiences

Hong Kong – Following the company’s recent logo revamp to mark its 50th anniversary, Shangri-La Group has recently announced a new family experience brand called ‘Fam.ily™’ which aims to create best-loved experiences for multi-generational families as well as provide support for customers on their parenting journeys.

The recent brand launch speaks to the group’s strong Asian heritage and strong family culture, as well as reaffirming the brand’s commitment to evolving with customers to fulfil ever-changing demands and delivering on the brand promise of heartfelt hospitality. 

The ‘Fam.ily™’ brand houses a variety of new and existing programs specially designed to enable family guests to realise their Shangri-La franchises, both individually and with one another, as they explore, bond and grow together.

In regards to the brand’s logo, it comprises two parts: ‘fam’, the shortened word for ‘family’, and ‘ily’, the abbreviation for ‘I Love You’, connected by an infinity symbol. At the centre of the symbol is a heart-shaped knot, symbolizing the love shared by family members and the strong ties that bind them. The logo reflects Shangri-La’s commitment to go beyond service by inviting guests to be part of an integrated family-centric experience.

According to Hui Kuok, chairman of the Shangri-La Group, the recent brand launch reflects the company’s perception of the family being the heart of the Shangri-La brand culture and treating their guests like family remains a hallmark of the Shangri-La identity.

“With the launch of our new Fam.ily™ brand, and as we continue to introduce thoughtfully-designed family offerings, we hope to deliver the best-loved experiences that will bring families closer together, and create precious and lasting memories for our family guests,” Kuok stated.

Through Fam.ily™, guests can take part in a wide variety of activities that have been specifically designed to encourage learning through play and shared experiences through co-discovery across generations. This summer, pilot Fam.ily™ programmes will be rolled out at four properties across Mainland China.

In addition, Fam.ily™ will offer a unique mix of active and creative family experiences, including staying in themed family suites that have been thoughtfully designed to accommodate multigenerational groups, as well as activities for children who can take a memorable adventure to a jungle, castle, outer space or underwater wonderland from the comfort of their rooms.

To support customers in their parenting journeys, Fam.ily™ strives to facilitate learning and communication among parents by building a supportive community where they can connect and exchange experiences with one another through multiple channels, such as online chat groups and family events. 

Fam.ily™ also harnesses Shangri-La’s own insights and expertise by engaging thought leaders and experts in parenting and child development to share their knowledge with the Fam.ily™ community. These experts will share ideas and tips for fostering bonds across generations and achieving work-family balance.