The APAC Data Landscape in 2019

Joseph Suriya, Director, Marketing, Tealium
Joseph Suriya, Director, Marketing, Tealium

With the continued explosion of data from a wealth of connected devices, there is more focus than ever on the way companies collect, manage, and use their data. The last 12 months have seen some big names under the spotlight, but as we shift our attention to the year ahead, what lies in store for digital marketers?

There’s no denying, 2018 was probably one of the most significant years to date in terms of shaping the data landscape. In a year where more than 3.6 million Asian Facebook users may have had personal information inappropriately shared with Cambridge Analytica, data has never been more prominent in the headlines.

And data isn’t set to fade into the background any time soon. Rightly, the world has woken up to the importance of data in our everyday lives and, for companies, the ability to mobilise insights from data to drive decisions across all areas of the business is firmly on the radar.

So, amid the introduction of stronger legislation and increasing opportunity – and responsibility – to harness the power of data, plus the potential lure of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, what will the data landscape look like in 2019?

Customer-centricity is priority

In light of new privacy regulations – led by the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) launched in May 2018 – there’s been greater awareness from consumers regarding the use of their personal data. In a world where technology has fuelled rapid advances in all areas of life – from e-commerce to financial services – legislation has been somewhat slower to keep up.

But, thanks to high-profile breaches and changing laws, we’re transitioning to an era where the importance of personal data is much higher on the agenda. In turn, this is forcing companies to ensure they have a customer-centric strategy in place, which clearly places the user’s experience at the heart of all business decisions, with the power back in the hands of the individual.

Build a data foundation first

It’s tempting for companies to get caught up in an exciting digital future – we have already seen AI adoption rates across Southeast Asia grow from 8% in 2017 to 14% in 2018. And while some countries, like Singapore, are storming ahead in terms of innovations – with start-up companies such as CashShield creating noise on a global scale – the picture varies from country-to-country. Most are still working to get the data basics in place first; after all, even the most advanced of machine-learning algorithms are only as good as the data that fuels them. So, it follows that companies must concentrate on building a strong data foundation before implementing any ‘must-have’ technologies.

Many businesses throughout Southeast Asia are still facing challenges with relying on legacy back-end systems, and their priorities at the moment are focused on connecting disparate data silos. In 2018 we saw the premise of Customer Data Platforms gather pace, as companies switched on to the need for a tool to help them collate, enrich, and manage the high volume of event-level data across multiple channels – both online and offline – to create a comprehensive view of the consumer. Putting these building blocks in place is fundamental to delivering a first-class customer experience, and it’s the point from which every other business decision should pivot.

Now is the time to talk about ethics

And what about the appeal of AI, with initiatives such as facial recognition, voice-activated search, and online chatbots? There’s no denying its potential and – while companies ready their datasets with clean and accurate data to get to a point where they can successfully adopt these technologies – now is the time to talk about the guidelines we need to ensure machine learning algorithms are unbiased and ethical – rather than waiting until mistakes have been made. It’s our responsibility, as an industry, to get this right.

We have already seen the creation of the Singapore Advisory Council on the Ethical Use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Data, set up with representatives from Google, Microsoft and Alibaba – designed to develop a trusted and vibrant AI ecosystem in Singapore. And with India releasing an AI strategy discussion paper, the UK creating a Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation, and worldwide issues being monitored through the AI Global Governance Commission, there are signs of a shift across the globe which will continue in 2019.

While this reflects the need for new and updated regulations that are relevant to today’s digital landscape, it also addresses a changing approach from companies about how they view consumers’ data. No longer just an ‘asset’, we are starting to see a real understanding and respect for its true value, with focus returned to the individual – rather than a collective audience segment.

The data landscape in 2019 may follow a theme of regulation – but at its heart will be a strong emphasis on the customer – regardless of what new tech may be dominating the headlines.

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