New research released by Adobe with CMO Council shows that Indian marketers have the highest level of confidence in their digital marketing proficiency in all APAC, with 43% rating their approach as 'Very Good' or 'Good', compared to 24% APAC average.

The research also revealed that the customer is clearly the top most priority in the vision of Indian marketers.

Almost half of the Indian marketers responding to the research said that additional digital marketing improvements and maturity can help them create a more customer-centric and responsive organisation (47.5%). Confidence is also underpinning a sustained and strong belief that digital is enabling engagement through the continuous touch points that connect a brand with its customers (59% of Indian marketers vs. 55% average for APAC marketers). Indian marketers especially feel strongly that digital provides knowledge and insights for better customer engagement (54%).

Kulmeet Bawa, Director-Enterprise, South Asia, Adobe, says, "There has been a gradual but consistent shift in how digital is understood as a customer engagement and enablement strategy. Brands that lead in digital are pulling away from the campaign-dependent pack and placing a customer-centric, integrated strategy at the centre of their business."

While digital-driven customer engagement is emerging as a key driver for marketers, almost 50% of respondents across APAC call out one of the key benefits of digital as being a low-cost solution when in fact, it can have even greater organisational impact as a catalyst for transformation and customer engagement and optimization. A majority of APAC marketers are still looking at single vector metrics like past success of an individual campaign or single channel, and failing to look at business value metrics like customer lifetime value or market share improvement. As for Indian marketers, while 48% are reporting on past campaign metrics, 51% (the highest result in the region) are looking at the strategic assessment of potential business impact and contributions, and 43% are using metrics and measures, including insights to test and pilot results.

The report reveals the top challenges that Indian marketers are currently facing as making a business case for digital marketing spend; determining the best technology solutions and services to use to support digital marketing strategy; developing a connected and comprehensive digital strategy for APAC, and budget limitations.

Those marketers tying digital performance to business performance are enjoying increased budgets and finding it easier to justify future paths, the report finds. In fact, marketers who measure business value metrics spend a higher proportion of their marketing budget on digital, and are almost twice as likely to allocate more than 50% of their budget to digital than marketers who don't measure the same metrics (19% vs. 10%).

Similarly, marketers who track business value metrics have higher levels of confidence in digital than their non-measuring peers (75% vs. 59%), are more likely to say that digital can grow a profitable business faster (45% vs. 33%) and are less likely to say they struggle to make a business case for digital spend (31% vs. 40%).

Looking Ahead: Challenges and Priorities
Looking ahead, marketers believe their greatest challenge will be understanding the voice of their customers, that is, understanding the data, insights and analytics. For Indian marketers as well, while this remains a top future challenge, it is a comparatively less daunting one as compared to their APAC counterparts. Indian marketers nominate their next top challenge as connecting the online and offline worlds of their customers.

Strengthening digital marketing content strategy will be the number one priority for Indian marketers (62%) as well as for marketers across APAC (64.5%). Social media optimization, including boosting community growth, engagement and content (54%) followed by gaining richer and deeper customer insights (43%) are the next two priorities across APAC. In India, customer insights (56%) take precedence over social (48%).

Liz Miller, Senior Vice President of Marketing at CMO Council, says, "Digital has truly come of age. The challenge now is to turn our attention to extracting greater value and insights from data to provide ideas and knowledge that improve product, services and customer engagement and provide the foundations for a stronger internal pitch to boost investment and resourcing."

The report recommends 3 digital imperatives for APAC marketers to adopt to accelerate their digital journey.

1. Optimise strategies for engagement and enablement by diving deeper into intelligence, insights and customer analytics. Best practice leaders in the region are demonstrating this by integrating tools that help streamline operations, and rolling out new strategies that leverage online and offline data to create smarter experiences.

2. Boost team performance and skills. The talent gap consistently manifests as a major obstacle to digital advancement. In 2013, 37% of marketers said their agency's capabilities and experience were holding them back. In this latest survey, that number has jumped to 47% of respondents, which is especially problematic when you consider that 74% of respondents said they were working with one or more digital agencies across APAC.

3. Allocate around a customer-centric business case. Digital budgets are slowly increasing in Asia Pacific, with 79% of respondents say they have increased budgets over the last 12 months.  Marketers who leverage metrics tied to the bottom line, profitability and growth, are having greater success persuading internal stakeholders to increase their investment in digital.

The APAC Digital Directions report is a deep-dive into strategies, mandates and challenges and a companion piece to the CMO Council and Adobe's on-going Digital Marketing Performance Dashboard. It reveals findings based on data collected from 648 respondents across Australia, China, Hong Kong, India, Singapore and South Korea. More than half (56%) of the companies surveyed are head-quartered in Asia Pacific region (10% are headquartered in India and 46% in other countries) and almost half of them (45%) serve within India. 57% of the respondents surveyed work in organisations with turnover of $1.1 billion or greater and come from industry sectors including IT, retail, banking and travel and hospitality sectors among others.