5 Effective Tactics for Marketing Analytics Strategy

From a business manager’s perspective, successful results are achievable if a common objective and key performances are made clear across the organization. Marketing data analytics is one of the core competencies for data-influenced companies and play an effective role in connecting business objectives with consumer behavior’s data.

The main purpose of organizations to create a marketing analytics strategy is all about how to drive smarter questions, which will elicit thoughtful answers using the accessible data. Unfortunately, many stakeholders still tend to see marketing analytics as a way to measure the spending and marketing performance. That’s considered as a limit view of the data analytics capabilities.

The marketing analytics strategy main objective is to maximize the use of data to create a form of data-influenced actions that are aligned with the business objectives and effective on the long-term strategic advantage.

If I could highlight the most important fact about marketing analytics, I would definitely say that the best strategy to follow starts with a sharp focus on the objectives. To get a better understand, let’s start with some common situations.

Reality scenarios…

  • Businesses would say that they know their marketing objectives clearly, But Ehm!.. Not true.
    Once you investigate more with their situation, you will soon discover that those generic needs they have to be analyzed using the data.
  • Structured data and insights are not always ready and available. To build strategy you sometimes need to assist the company with their data aggregation and analytics.
  • Inside companies, the marketing departments are usually under the pressure of proving their performance results or struggling with 60 dense analytic charts and slides which is hard for senior management to understand a fraction of it.

When you are facing such realities, it is about time to start searching for a better understanding of the data role in your organization.

1. Understand the role of data analytics

First, we have to stat the fact that reports, slides, and charts generated by marketing analysts shouldn’t be for the sake of providing results. Results are not the key. When you are facing a gap in your performance, it is about time to start searching for a proper strategy which can help you to move from the phase of looking at results to the phase of understanding why these results are like this.

The toughest lesson I did learn about data that it is not just made of numbers and figures. If you don’t analyze the data properly, you will not be able to get an accurate action. In a data-driven world, a piece of metric can bring a major shift in your consumer journey if you are able to measure it in relation to another metric.

marketing analytics for companies

Describing the business objective as customer-centric doesn’t only require investing more money in product and customer relation while paying less attention to the real-time analytics. Marketing analytics is the playing an essential role in understanding the client behavior and interaction with the brand and the services provided.

Find out the objectives of your marketing analytics strategy and understand the role of it before you try to shift your business into data-influenced.

2. Set the effective KPIs and avoid the metrics delusion

The first questions, while you are navigating your metrics, should be: If I have a higher rate on this metric would it impact the business objectives? Does the higher engagement rate on social media increase the website conversion rate?

The metrics and dimensions should be selected based on the business objectives.

Marketing professionals should translate the business objectives into a set of effective KPIs. Each KPI should be based on a set of relevant metrics and data insights. You have to remember that chasing all metrics will always result in a huge waste of efforts and confusion in your daily or weekly tracking.

What’s the difference between a metric and KPI? KPIs are measurable values that are created by senior managers to achieve business objectives. Metrics are the moving status variables to track a specific business process.

All companies need to track profit is an essential KPI which might include website conversion, orders, monthly active users, and retention. Each KPI could have a strategic value for the organization such as market acquisition and CLV.

Eventually, the number of KPIs might increase from top to bottom when you set your marketing strategy. The CEO might have a set of KPIs which requires marketing to generate multiple additional KPIs. When those numbers grow bigger than your capacity and you find yourself experiencing data overload, then you will need to identify only the relevant metrics.

3. Define the target before you set the KPI

Targets are not easy to set, but once you do have a clear understanding of what are the indicators of success and failure, you will be able to identify your right targets.

Building an enhanced analysis for marketing is all about eliminating the irrelevant matters and focusing on the critical view. See the target clearly before you set a KPI.

By using the forecasting models, past performance, and competitive analysis the targets are easy to distinguish. Don’t set your KPIs without having preassigned targets. In any common situation, the stakeholders would always struggle with understanding the KPIs that doesn’t have a clear target. If you don’t have a target supported by figures, you will end up chasing the impossible.

marketing targets vs metrics

Remember that not all professionals will be happy with assigned targets. It is important to always use the analytics effectively to prove the accuracy of your target figures. Make sure you always assist your targets with industry benchmarks and forecasting indicators.

4. Organize an easy-to-read marketing dashboard

Your marketing dashboard is your home. It should be familiar (uncomplicated), tight and present your main needs. Build a dashboard that takes no longer than minutes to read and include the main KPIs you need to monitor. Use data visualization to illustrate the data correlation effectively.

Marketing dashboard should always have the following features:

  • All-In-One-Monitoring: The marketing dashboard should collect all the required analytics from data sources (GA, SM, SEO, CRM, Email Automation, Paid channels, PM system, Finance, etc.)
  • Visual KPIs Tracking: KPI tracking should be visualized with average rates over a periodical timeline.
  • Outlined Objectives: Define your top factors for tracking marketing activities (campaign tracking, channel tracking,  revenue tracking, engagement metrics, attribution modeling, etc.)
  • Set Data Deviations: Using 3 standard deviations to generate your rates. (According to researchers, 99.7 percent data distribution lie within three standard deviations).
  • Reliability and Accuracy: Your dashboard should have accurate clean data. Connect real-time data and reliable data connections to get an up-to-date view of your marketing activities.
  • Customization and flexibility: Adjust your dashboard according to your strategy and don’t use static settings for timelines and data validation.

marketing dashboard analytics consultant

Finally, you need always to be able to identify your performance top layer accurately and clearly. Marketing dashboard can help you to provide a transparent overview for the business stakeholders and clients and can decrease the amount used for reporting.

5. Get the managers involved with the context

If all the previous strategies fail, then I advise you to try this strategy. It is not an easy one because it’ll demand that you are truly expert in marketing analysis. You might think that senior management and client want data but that’s not accurate. They pretend that data is important for them but at the end, they are only looking at results. That’s how the business world works. 

Therefore, I believe you should focus on telling the story not showing the tables and relations. There are useful ways to get this done by adding some context to your dashboard and extracted reports. List a set of clarifications to the metrics such as: What influenced this metric? why these rates changed? what is the set of actions taken?

Learn how to tell a story instead of reporting data. This will require you to have an effective understanding of the organization and the client motivations. Avoid going outside the track and showing irrelevant metrics or you will lose your case at the first meeting. Remember that you will need few rounds to be able to play this game effectively and expand their knowledge about the analytics. Once they will see the relation “the context” they ask for actions. That’s the time for you to show the actions slides and win the meeting.

It is totally normal that business managers will be always doubting and pushing on the marketing to show more growth. The best approach for marketers is to always have their analytics clean, accurate and telling a story. Showing reports for the sake of flooding the table with many charts will always lead the marketing to an uncertain path while inserting context will lead managers to shift their focus from the numbers to the insights.

Conclusion: If you find yourself stuck with showing your performance in the proper way, try these strategies. If this doesn’t work then take a deep breath and try to understand where is the gap. Marketing analytics strategy is not straightforward practices and it will always require time, testing and flexibility in implementation. Work on each data source and fix your reports one by one. Give it a shout and remember that finding the insights is more important than the data. Finally, if your company is not a data-driven and data-influenced then I believe that you will change it with your tactics.

Please share your ideas and theories via comments or contact me for marketing analytics consulting.

Yasser Ahmad

Top Tips for Professional Arabic Keyword Research

Arabic keyword research is always considered as the cornerstone of any SEO campaign, paid search and content strategy. To build a successful Arabic keyword list, you will need an effective research to understand the local search habits and the difference between spoken Arabic and written Arabic.

Why Arabic Keywords Research is different

With 22 countries and different local trends, it is challenging to conduct a keyword research in the MENA region. The research in such language and marketplace has different nature.

  • Spoken Dialects: There are different spoken dialects which would require a further research into local trends. There are five major dialects in the region including Gulf, Egyptian, Maghrebi, Levantine, and Mesopotamian Arabic.
  • Culture: Arabic users have many search terms related to one keyword. A variation of keywords would need a further research into keywords relevancy.
  • Consumer Habits: Some keywords could have a high volume in a certain country in the market while it has very low volume in other countries. You will need to conduct a further research on consumer search habits.
  • Keywords Localization: Translating Arabic keywords from the English language will not provide an accurate result. Localization is also tricky from one country to another within the Arabic speaking countries.
  • Negative keywords: Collecting the most accurate negative keywords in Arabic is very tricky. The Arabic language sometimes has very similar or typical terms to describe a wide variety of services or products.

Top tips for Arabic keyword research process

1. Identify the seed keywords: Collect the initial keywords that are relevant to your business including brand names, products, services and locations you are targeting. The list is mainly created by the business owner to define their basic keywords and usually is provided in English or Arabic.

2. Use different keyword tools for exploring: Expanding the initial list by using keywords tools to collect relevant keyword suggestions, local search volume, competition level, relative frequency, suggested bidding, etc.
Use more than one tool to get a different variation of keywords. You don’t have to follow a certain path to get the most relevant keywords. Sometimes Google search page can provide you with useful suggestions for long tail keywords and sentences.

3. Understand the trend of the keyword: Google Trends is a tool that will allow you to learn a lot from your keywords. It will give you data for not just today, but for a longer period of time. This will add another dimension for your keywords and will help you to understand when the search volume increase and decrease around the year. This is highly recommended for e-commerce keywords and B2B businesses.

4. Understand the consumer’s search habits: The majority of searches in the Arabic language are using long tail combinations, which means that searchers do not usually look for specific keywords, but rather many other keywords get a small number of hits as well. This requires more planning and deeper research to get the most relevant keywords which might don’t show high volume but it is effective to reach the audience.

5. Categorize the keywords: In order to have a strategic approach to your keyword list, you will need to divide your keywords into several categories.

Branded Keywords, Industry Keywords, Transactional Keywords, Informative Keywords, etc.

It is important to define the categories that are relevant to your business and marketing objectives. Each business has its own different nature of content that might vary and that’s why categories of keywords should be relevant. Keywords categories for SEO and content strategy would require more focus on context while categories for AdWords campaign would require more focus on bidding metrics and competition level. Furthermore, negative Arabic keyword research is essential for AdWords campaigns.

6. Set the priorities to build the strategy: By setting up the keywords priorities you will be able to define the strategy and action plan for your keywords. Defining which keywords will be used for content creation requires understanding putting together the priority factors of organic conversion. While in search engine marketing requires different priorities such as suggested biding, broad/exact, landing pages score, etc.

Explore the competition and analysis your website and landing pages content before you set the proper metrics for keywords filtration.

In conclusion: Arabic keyword research is not an easy task and requires a native speaker with solid experience in exploring the consumer search habits. Keyword tools are helpful to find relevant keywords but in order to get an effective keyword list, you would need to expand your resources. Keyword strategy is the main guideline to have a proper categorization and filtration for your Arabic keyword research.

Avoid translating your keywords from English and run a culture customization based on the targeted market and consumer search habits. Finally, make sure you define the top relevant keywords for the Arabic consumer whether it is a local term, transcreation or transcripted.

I hope this was useful and contact me if you have a question or looking for an Arabic SEO consultant.

Marketing in the Middle East: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Marketing in the Middle East is becoming the topic that a substaintial number of people are wondering about.  Targeting the consumer in the Middle East is not limited anymore to international companies, it is increasignly important for startups and mid-size companies in the region who are trying to expand across different countires in the Arab world. We are in the era of startups where everyone currently is having some sort of idea or services or even a talent that they need to market. Therefore, marketing in the Middle East is attractive topic and becoming a demand for everyone search for opportunity around here. I get it, it is one of the millennial generation’s lifestyle and thanks to the social media and its tools for small businesses.

Eventually, the world is currently living in the era of startups where everyone is having a talent or an idea and want to make a profit out of it. I can understand this, but why everyone thinks that marketing is the last thing to consider? That’s what I cannot understand!!

The Middle East region is rapidly evolving, especially in the last 5 years, and getting highly influenced by the global trends such as e-commerce, business entrepreneurship, media and fashion influencers, and brands lifestyle products.

We might be able to confirm that the region is emerging fast and everyone including individuals is looking for jumping on board, yet marketing will be always a challenge that is everyone is struggling with.

Apparently, you cannot have a straight vision which can answer all the questions when you are establishing your marketing startegy for the Middle East. That’s why I would like to invite you for a nice ride (I hope) to explore this market and to understand the nature of the consumer around here.

First, do you like western movies? This is some kind of metaphors I will encotuner. Yet, if you don’t get it you can still ignore and you will miss nothing.

The Good

The Middle East market is huge

The Middle East is rising as one of the fastest-growing markets and it is becoming more attractive due to some major factors.

  • Demographic structure of the region is playing a big role with approximately half of the population in Middle Eastern countries are currently under the age of twenty-five. Yay, young and energetic.
  • This young segment is spending more time on social media more than  the global average. Therefore, there is a great opportunities for marketers to use social media and content marketing especially for industries such as consumer products, fashion, food & beverage, and entertainment.
  • In the Gulf area, many of these younger consumers are affluent professionals, and this presents a big market for luxury brands and electronics. In marketing language this means a higher customer value and higher revenue per customer. Sophistcally, higher Return on Ad Spend (ROAS).

While some countries in the region are facing economic instability, the market is still having low taxation compared to the European markets. Lovely fact: The region has the highest spending on cosmetics per capita in the world and the appetite for beauty and fashion products is getting bigger. Tempting!

Easy to segment

While starting your marketing in the Middle East you will discover that Arab consumers are relatively easy to segment and you need less efforts to identify the customer persona. However, If you are going to use traditional surveys, then it is a bad idea. The Arabs, in general, are unlike other nations and they are more conservative about sharing their honest feedback. Not to metnion the absent of solid market researches. You are alone in a vast dry desert of data.

Monitoring trends and tracking the social media engagement are more effective tactics to define the key motivations for your potential customers. Furthermore, proper data-driven approaches can definitely get you the insights you need. But, if you know how to collect data smartly not by portion.

consumer research arabic

Finally, localize your apporach. This doesn’t mean localization of your marketing content and campaigns, but effective localization of your marketing strategy for the the Middle East. Channels, creatives, user experince and all. I am not talking about translation. It is all about the culture. If you don’t have locals who are crafting your marketing message, then you need to hire someone who is expert with the local culture, slangs, and trends.

Common marketing tactics are effective

Some of the well-established brands are using the same marketing tactics in the region for decades and guess what? It is still working.

When I was in the advertising business someone told me an interesting story: “Back in the early 90s we had a meeting with P&G and they rejected many new creative ideas for a new campaign. The reason is that they believe that the Egyptian consumers only engage with the Ads that contains a song. Simply they didn’t want the campaign to be focused on the product features and wanted it more entertaining”. They eventually did have a good understanding of the market and made the choice to stick to what it works. Now, which is 20 years later, you would still see that advertisers didn’t change their tactic. They only adjusted it to fit with the digital media platforms but the tactic is still the same.

Common advertising and campaign tactics are still effective for the mass consumer in the Middle East. The consumers in the region are highly influenced by the media and mass campaign over the personalized experiences. A viral campaign is widely effective in shaping the consumer habits and it works for big brands, media production, and even politicians.

The Bad

The social concerns

arabic consumerThere is one important factor you need to fully understand about the Arab consumer and never forget. Arabs are highly influenced by the social concerns. They tend usually to buy the things that recommend by their circle of friends and family while putting fewer efforts on exploring the specific features of a product. Surprised? well it is even more. The regional consumer tend to buy products to gain a higher social class appearance. Yeah, to some degree this happens everywhere, but it is bigger over here.

The majority of consumers in the Middle East are trapped in trendy and fashionable brands and desperate to be part of one social group or another. They are suffering from an inability to choose based on their individual needs as this might lead to a prejudgment by the society and their circle of friends. Maintaining a certain social image is a quiet big concern which highly affects the consumer habits in the region.

If you are wondering about where the big brands are exceeding in creating a fashionable brand image? You will need to spin the world map and land in the Middle East. You might not find every girl wearing Nike shoes like in Singapore, but you will find that moving up in your social class requires an iPhone. Arabs don’t just believe it is fashionable, they believe it a star added to their exclusivity. If you are selling a product with high quality but it is not a fashionable trendy product, then you are going to struggle. Big time!

marketing in the middle east brands

Marketing tactics: How to build a marketing campaign in such market? My advice for you is to try to build up a group of loyal customers and create a very personalized email campaign. Focus on this small base of customers and make them feel exclusive and spoil them. Don’t rush the growth and position your brand with fabulous marketing materials such as high-quality videos. Grow your segment gradually using an effective social media engagement and never forget to maintain important factors such as excellent customer support, loyalty programs, CRM, and retargeting tactics.

Lack of standards

Marketers in the mature markets such as some European regions are highly considered about the conservative consumer who tend to read and check the specifications in order to compare services/brands before they make a decision and convert. The Middle East is considered as a region of emerging markets with less concern of critical thinking and product comparison practices. A quick tour in the most popular e-commerce websites would help you to understand that the number of product reviews is relevantly lower than most of the global markets.

If you are selling for the Germans, you should be ready with very dense product description and very caution with the customers’ feedback. Montioring the customers opinion is very painful process for a conservative consumer who tend to have high standards and highly concerned about reviews. In the Middle East, this is not exactly the case. Arab consumer are shopping because they just enjoy it. It is not a plan or investment, it is an entertainment. Huge difference in consumer behaviour. Keep that in mind.

Marketing tactics: Branding and marketing message are the most sensitive marketing materials you need to consider when you are releasing a product for Arabs. Build a campaign that will make your brand stand out in the market and always deliver your USPs in straightfoward and easily consumed ways. The landing pages should carry out a clear message up front and avoid any lengthy descriptions. Simplify your approach, aim well and hit right in spot. Push aggressively on offers and the Arabic consumer will go banana. They never disappionted my KPIs during the seasons.

The Ugly

Consumerism at its peak

The consumerism is drastically changing the lifestyle of the local consumer in Arab countries. Consuming more might sound like a great opportunity for businesses to market, but that’s not true and you have to think about it again. Consuming more of the cosmetic doesn’t mean a great opportunity for you to open your state-of-art cosmetic. The well-established brands will absorb this growth by producing a variety of products and acquiring small companies. Big brands are eating most of the cake down here.

Over the years we were able to witness how the local investors were filling the malls, the store shelves and road billboards with western brands,  leaving a tighter window for the consumer to browse the alternative products. The biggest local firms are investing heavily and there are few big players who are dominating the malls and international brands. From fashion to beauty, F&B, media production, electronics and even resturants it is a closed game. Amazon jumped in and acquired Souq.com to dominate the e-commerce in the region. The top players are manging the game.

That’s the ugly fact about the Middle East market; the consumers are surrounded by big brands which are massively funded by local investors (The Gulf money). The consumer will end up consuming more of the same item or same brand instead than being open to alternatives and new experiences.

Don’t be deceived by the initial figures about the market size and charts of your sector or industry. Don’t launch your business model and marketing strategy based on these tricky stats. If you don’t dig deeper into the market insights and adapt your strategy considering the price-sensitive consumer, you could lose a vast amount of time and resources.

Consumerism is also changing the lifestyle of the consumer and instead of satisfying people’s needs it is constructing commercial needs and desires to keep the production growth. In a country like Lebanon, you would see that some consumer tend to buy a piece of branded clothes instead of buying normal varieties of outfits. In Egypt, some would buy an iPhone even if it is beyond their ability.

Marketing tactics: If you want to conduct an effective strategy for marketing in the Middle East, you shouldn’t only focus on the factors you developed your product based on. It is more like a “Blue Ocean strategy” where you need to focus on how to brand your product. In other words, it is not quality concern, it is differentiation.

Moreover, it is important to know that Arabic consumer interact with the promotion campaign more than they do interact with the product itself. They will have higher awareness about the piece of the advertising than the product name. Make sure you campaigns are effective and delivers strong message.

Controlled by brands

UAE Top Rankings
UAE Top Rankings

Brands are turning into symbols of lifestyle and exclusivity in the region which is bringing huge struggles for startups and SMBs. Back in the 80s, the market had the first wave of international brands which boomed in the recent years. The brands’ big investments and the massive advertising made the local brands lose a huge chunk of the market share. Some of the local brands started to change their strategy and try to become more specialized and localized, but the ugly truth that many of them are exiting the market.

We have seen many creative and out-the-box solutions joining the market but after a while, they discover that the local consumer is more attracted by the international brand. Here we come to a major issue which is the marketing investment. These huge budgets play a big role in the game and eventually the marketing know-how of these big brands will give them always an edge.

Recently, I’ve wondered why all girls in Arab countries are wearing a “Datejust” Rolex? I found out that most of them are wearing a fake copy. They still would prefer to wear a fake copy of a big brand than going for another Swiss brand like Swatch. I wouldn’t call this as a final resolution but I can see that local brands are struggling to grow in industries such as beauty, fashion, and retail.

Marketing tactics: Don’t compete with the big brand and build a strategy that can help you identify the gaps. Use gorilla digital strategies and maximize the use of data insights. Establish organic acquisition channels with your SEO and Social Media to decrease your advertising needs. Build an extensive content strategy and gain the client confidence by being a reliable source of information.

Influencer marketing is the key to success in the region. To get people to trust your product or services you need to influence them with a celebrity or opinion leader or media advocate. This works much better than building a creative concept for your marketing campaign. When Vodafone wanted to beat the competitors in the Egyptian market, they hired Mo Salah and that’s it.

Is not a startup-friendly

For decades, marketers always wonder why startups are able to drive vast growth in the U.S. market while it is diffcult to grow in other enviroments. I believe that the nature of the market and the consumer behavior is the key. In contrast, Arabs don’t tend to try new solutions or services to fulfill their needs. Once you launch a new app or product, then you will generate a niche segment which is not enough to sustain your growth plans. This is Have been the main struggle for the majority of startups in the region I have consulted.

I know that there are tons of articles and figures about how the Middle East is becoming a big hub for startups, and I don’t disagree with that. Yet, when I get to sit with a lot of entrepreneurs I am always getting the same complaints: We are able to fund the business but the marketing is an issue. How to increase our market share? How to expand in the region? and many more of these utopian questions…

Let’s say the answer to this is pretty simple. The consumer habits in emerging markets requires much more than a creative idea. The business model should have room for adoption and product changes to be able to survive. The key here is not the consumer needs but the business model flexibility and ability to evolve.

Marketing tactics: Don’t rely only on the product and find ways to communicate the benefits. Reshape your marketing message to provide a compelling message. Open your platform or product for demos, gifts, samples, test drives and influencers. Be realistic and market what you can deliver. Don’t focus on going viral and focus on building more effective campaigns. Use data analytics effectively to feed your CRM then get it connected with online analytics. You need to master your own funnel and to gain a better understanding of the buyer’s persona.

Marketing in the Middle East: final thoughts!

In conclusion: Marketing in the Middle East has its gaps which you can benefit from. To launch an effective marketing strategy for the Middle East markets you need first to have a solid base of information about the market possibilities. Understanding the consumer doesn’t come right away from published statistics or conducting surveys, it requires running intensive researches in order to get the proper business analysis.

Finally, while social media is one of the best channels to generate leads for conducting marketing in the Middle East, but yet I still believe that content is the king.  Organic is the best method to generate leads on the long-term and at a lower cost per acquisition.

Arabic SEO Guide: How to Generate Organic Traffic in the Middle East

Arabic SEO is the most cost-effective approach to generate organic traffic in the Middle East region. Building a sustainable long-term organic reach is a cornerstone of every marketing strategy and that’s why Arabic SEO will be always the key access to online acquisition in the Middle East.

In the Arabic region, there are an estimated 146 Milion Internet users who are native speakers and commonly searching for nearby local services and products. We have been seeing high competition on geographic keyterms in English optimization for websites but the space in Arabic SEO still not mature.

In the last few years, digital marketing budgets in the region were mainly focused on social media organic traffic without paying attention the importance of SEO. This year, the new Facebook update for business pages are taking us back to the point where we need to get back to search engines as an important source for generating organic leads.

In this article, I will provide the best practices for Arabic SEO and how to expand your upper funnel with organic traffic.

1. Build an Effective Arabic SEO Strategy

a. Understanding the Arab Consumer: According to a research by Harvard Busines Review, the companies that gloss over the interplay between culture and religion ignore a critical factor for success in the Middle East region.The Arab consumer is unique in terms of search habits which is commonly impacted by culture and religion.

b. Local Market Research: Separate the region into different sections and define your top market that you will need to optimize for. If your top market is UAE or KSA this will require optimizing your content and keywords to match the locals top relevant keywords.

c. Language and Cultural Awareness: Optimize your website for the audience considering the local traditions and more importantly the cultural impact and implication of your marketing actions. Understand the relevant marketing messages, slangs, trends and more importantly how the language you are using localized into Arabic

d. Competitive Research: Conduct an extensive research on the top competitors in the market and analyze their current keywords ranking, domain authority, backlinks, and competitions level. Understand the landscape to identify the gaps in the content and to plan for the best approach.

Arabic SEO strategy Market Research

2. Optimize for Native Arabic Keywords

a. Arabic Keyword Research: Start with conducting an advanced research to find the most relevant keywords. It is not enough to extract the top relevant keywords based on the monthly volume. Collect a list of relevant terms used by your offline clients, sales teams and customer support and include it in your final list. Conduct an extensive filtration for your final list and divided it into (Transactional, Branded, Relevant, Informational, etc.).

b. Arabic Keywords Localization: DO NOT TRANSLATE KEYWORDS. Localize the keywords to avoid targeting ineffective terms. Usually, companies translate keywords from English into Arabic and they end up with losing a huge amount of relevant traffic. Example: The word “hospitality” translation would refer to “generosity” in Arabic culture which is totally misleading. The translation for some terms sometimes are transcripted in Arabic and not directly translated.

While localizing your Arabic Keywords pay attention to the fact that slangs are different for each Arabic country. Make sure your keywords are the most relevant for the local targeted market.

3. Fully Optimize The Arabic Website Content

a. Arabic On-Page Optimization: Avoid translating your Meta Data and use a professional native SEO copywriter to develop native titles and meta descriptions. Inherit your localized keywords properly into your Meta Tags and HTML content and don’t stick to the English SEO structure. Optimize all the media to include Arabic alt descriptions to be able to generate the top ranking under Google Images Search and Videos.

If you are an eCommerce business, it is highly important to localize your product related content using Arabic keywords including shopping cart, product description, images, videos, etc.

b. Arabic On-Site Optimization: Make sure you are using proper language tags into your multilingual website. Technically, it is not important to translate the URLs into Arabic, while avoiding duplicated content is highly important. Make sure you check your website for broken links and sitemap to avoid any redirections to English content.

c. Local Domain: Local domain play a big role in obtaining a higher rank in local SERPs. Choose a local domain name for your Arabic site such as (.ae, .com.eg, etc.) to maximize your benefits from the local search in the Arabic region.

4. Develop Content Marketing Strategy

a. Create Content for Targeted Keywords: To enhance your keywords ranking, you will need a long-term content strategy which fuels your website with optimized Arabic content. Don’t rely on localized landing pages and build content to support your ranking growth.

b. Answer the Questions Used in Search Quieres: One of the most effective tactics for Arabic SEO is to extract all the relevant questions that commonly used in search queries or social media and provide answers. Longtails keywords and answers to consumer questions play an important role in conversion rate for the organic traffic especially in Arabic region due to the lack of technical and informative Arabic content.

5. Verify your Local Business

Google My Business (GMB) listing is an important first step for a successful local SEO strategy. Verify your local business can increase your chances of showing up in Google’s local search and Google Maps.

local seo in Arabic

5. Setup your Arabic SEO Tools

a. Track Regionally: The best practice to track effectively is to setup your Google Analytics and SEO tools for your Arabic website separately. Majoirty of SEO tools provide different domain analysis and keywords ranking for your local websites.

b. Use Local Metrics: Each region has different online behavior which requires different metrics in order to track your KPIs effectively. Test and customize your metrics based on the regional factors to gain the knowledge required for your marketing strategy in the Middle East.

Conclusion: In the last 12 years I worked with over 50 Arabic SEO projects and I strongly believe that the Arabic SEO is one of the most successful approaches for a long life customer acquisition in the Middle East. I would always consult companies to allocate more budget for organic channels instead of only focusing on paid search and social media advertising. The proven track of successful results over the years is always leading to the fact that Arabic SEO is the most cost-effective investment for digital marketing activities in the region.

We are back now to the game where social media reach and advertising impressions are not as agencies imagined. Companies are now raising the need for better conversion rates across all the digital campaigns. The secret about Arabic SEO that the competition is still not high regionally due to poor content translation, lack of Arabic content and focusing on AdWords instead of developing organic growth. Those who are well optimized and developing their Arabic SEO will invest less and gain more in the game of digital marketing for this region.

If you have any questions or want to review and audit your Arabic SEO, check my digital marketing consultancy services.

AI and Marketing Cloud Technologies: Why The Gap is Still Big?

The science of marketing is becoming more complicated and sophisticated in the last few years which left us with unpredictable scenarios for the future. In marketing industry, I believe the 3 fundamental key areas are human psychology and how the consumer behavior evolved, the commerce trends and finally, and most importantly, the technology.

Today’s technologies, such as clouds, machine learning, data analytics, and artificial intelligence (AI), are changing the way marketers build their strategy on a tremendous level. The biggest question now is: What is the current status of MarTech? Did we arrive at the point where AI is fully reliable for marketers? In order to answer this question, we should look closely at the top tech players in the industry, which are ‘the marketing clouds’.

We have been looking at Marketing Clouds from all sides and still, somehow, we are still able to spot a big gap between the marketer’s needs and the available technologies provided by these platforms.

Marketing Clouds are still slow with enabling AI technologies

Looking at the current scene of marketing clouds would bring some strange conclusions. One of the main common facts that we know about marketing clouds that it all started with different approaches. Marketing clouds have different anatomies, technical structure, capabilities and commercial priority which brought in many obstacles for enhancing automation, predictive models and the enablement of AI.

1. AI means lots of different things to different clouds

AI MarketingWell, each marketing cloud has a unique character that suits it to particular types of clients and points toward its likely future development. The front line competition between two clouds such as Adobe vs. Salesforce is not driven by AI, after all, it is a lot more likely focused on expanding technical functionality, aggregated data sources, and dashboards visuality.

As a marketer, I believe that AI could be implemented in every marketing process but while I review and implement technology stacks I end up with the fact that each cloud has its own different priorities which technically doesn’t fit all the marketing department needs. In other words, the clouds have it is own complicated layers of tech and securities which are not as straightforward as marketers see it.

Finally, we come to another piece of the picture: Marketing clouds is relevantly a new technology, so it shouldn’t surprise you to know the term ‘artificial intelligence AI’ means lots of different things to each cloud. Recently the Oracle’s VP, Jack Berkowitz, agreed definitions were problematic and sought to provide some clarity.

2. Sales vs Innovation

Since we have at least five major enterprise software players are selling marketing clouds – Adobe, IBM, Oracle, Salesforce, and SAP – the commercial factor is playing a key role in this game. The market share is strategically more important for such tech giants than experimental AI enhancement such as ‘dynamic predictive segmentation’ which is still not fully mature yet.

The market share is leading the competition in the cloudland and big clients needs are what they need to secure before moving into more bold steps towards midsize brands and agencies. Here is a hint: Big clients are more concerned about handling a huge amount of consumer data and advertising budgets than performing advanced personalization experience. I hope you get the image!

3. Secure Data vs Automation and Predictive Models

Investors and business leaders are usually concerned about the maintenance of secure data within the organization; these execution difficulties brought a restricted environment with a small room for experimental processing and tighter margin for automation. In conclusion, priority was given to keep up with a secure processing, while customer experience problems took a backseat and a big part of it is still dominated by sales and customer support departments.

The fellow marketers armed with AI are still struggling inside the old fat big organizations to apply their experiments. The limitation is created by the organization mindset is pushing the marketing clouds priorities towards fulfilling the IT needs vs the marketers’ needs. We have seen many promising approaches to fix this gap from Salesforce and IBM in the past year and we hope the predictive models will demonstrate more effectively this year.

4. Technology Stack vs Cloud

Marketing stackIn 2017, we have seen some advanced machine learning techniques implemented but yet marketers are not satisfied. In marketing departments, we are still running manual sheets and relying on a variety of tools to get what we need.  In one survey, 82% of enterprise marketing professionals said they used components from more than one cloud; the other 18% were more or less loyal to one platform.

The modern marketer’s stack consists of 17 products or more

There are over 5300 marketing tools available and the new startups are developing more specialized ML and AI solutions for marketers. This number is crazy and at the same time painful for CMOs who are trying to establish their technology stack effectively. So far we still believe that marketing clouds are not an all-in-one solution and we have to go shopping for several tools to build up what we need. So when the time will come when the cloud beat the technology stack? I wonder!

5. AI requires good Data

Like any sophisticated system, the marketing technology can only go so far with a good data. If you lack good data, you’ll still end up with poor results out. One of the AI functions is training the system and having good signal going in which is still a hard job with the poor correlations of data sources used by marketing professionals. Marketers are dealing with different structured and unstructured data including real-time data sources, AdTech data, sales data, offline data which requires sophisticated data processing in order to run a complex AI technology. Not to mention that the data will have to run in different cycles such as seasonality, trends, and quality assurance processes. Overall, marketing data is not easily sorted and the bigger the numbers, the more complicated the process.

The marketing clouds need first to integrate a system that’s not only smart algorithmically but is also smart about its data sources.

It seems we are still struggling in that phase at this moment!

6. Context vs Data

In marketing, we believe that the context of data is more important than having structured data. For each industry the requirements are different and a machine learning solution must be reliable enough to understand the context of a situation and then give you the proper aid to be able to amplify your capabilities in that situation.

Automation is not technically the final destination for such path. There are many approaches that might drive marketing analysis in different directions which marketing clouds need to consider before taking a bold step. As we know that the clouds are not custom built for such task, we will have to rely on marketing professionals and data scientists to role this. Paying for the cloud support is not the answer to this question based on my experience. We have to build another internal layer of technology to activate the AI functionality offered by the marketing clouds. Yeah, it is as complicated as it sounds!

Are we already comfortable with letting machines make the decisions?

You would often see many leaders in the market announcing that the marketers are ready for letting machines make the decisions. This might be technically true but marketers are still struggling with proving this point to business owners and decision makers in brands and agencies.

AI is a big concept theoretically, but in reality, it’s about executing against a strategy more efficiently. I believe that the definition of AI will evolve over time, as marketers learn more and the technology itself evolves.

The digital marketing has moved from the basics of web analytics and content A/B testing to predicting consumer behavior before it happens. As a marketing consultant, I believe that we are in the moment where AI should start controlling reality. It’s not rocket science, but it’s all the little pieces of enhancements that will come together to help make better decisions.

Marketers should be ready to move from ‘automation’ to ‘intelligent automation’ stage.

Marketers need AI to setup the rules for the huge and complex amount of segments and not just processing these the rules in a timely fashion. Advanced machine learning, pattern recognition, and predictive modeling bring high-value actions and hyper-targeting at the individual level instead of the segment.

The current status of Marketing Clouds and where we are going?

Marketing clouds are evolving fast and the amount of investment in AI is increasing. We expect to see more of advanced functionality this year. Adobe is an experience company, who has invested down the stack, but its bromance with Microsoft shows the limit of its appetite to own it all. In the other hand, IBM with its Watson is investing heavily in its AI-driven customer analytics.

While SAP can be expected to invest in tools to help enterprise customers expand e-commerce across the customer lifecycle, Salesforce is growing fast in adaptation to personal data and personalization with their Einstein technology.

marketing clouds 2017

To conclude, I believe that it is not easy to plot marketers’ needs in layers from emotion to execution. Marketing clouds provider still need to put more of efforts in the right direction in order the activate AI technology in more complicated tasks. We expect clouds that can handle complex data and workflows around first and second party data to thrive. It is essential for clouds to invest in dynamic predictive segmentation and fund AI startups that promise to deliver an advanced management for marketing channels.

In a world where everybody struggles to own the customer data layer. The more the clouds change towards AI, the more they stay in the same size in future and survive the competition.

I hope you take the time to share your experience and discuss your opinion in the comments so we explore different sides of this topic.

Overview: Digital Media in the Middle East, 2017

The Middle East might be one of the most unclear spots for statistics along with African countries. Recently we started to witness some brilliant efforts from institutes and organization releasing effective and accurate statistics for the region.

The Northwestern University in Qatar recently released the survey “Media use in the Middles East, 2017”.  Below are the key findings from this study, which also can be explored in visual detail at the section of data interactive.

Digital Media Use vs Traditional Media

  • As internet penetration rises, Arabic users are less likely to be using traditional media platforms. Most of Arabic users still watch TV, but the rate has declined slightly (98% in 2013 vs. 93% in 2017). Rates of newspaper readership, however, declined more sharply from 47% to 25% in 2017. Radio has also become less popular in the past five years by 10% (59% in 2013 vs. 49% in 2017).

The Usage of Arabic Language

  • The use of Arabic language online has increased. In comparison, use of the internet in English remains essentially flat, 25% in 2013 and 28% in 2017, despite the increase in internet use.

Online Usage in Arabic Countries

  • Internet penetration increased in most of the Arabic countries included in the study surveyed and most top increases were in Jordan, Lebanon, and Tunisia.
  • Time spent online has a strong relationship with the number of years using the internet. Users new to the internet spend about eight hours a week online. This jumps to 14 hours per week for those who have spent two years using the internet and again rises to about 21 hours per week among those who have been online between three to seven years. Those with 10 or more years of internet experience spend about 29 hours per week online.
  • Smartphone ownership increased rapidly in Arabic countries with a majority of users own a smartphone (83% of Jordanians and 65% of Tunisians).

Social Media in the Middle East

  • WhatsApp is the most popular app on the list of social media used by nationals across the region with 67%, followed by Facebook 63% and YouTube 50%.
  • Instagram increased rapidly in the last year according to the survey. The social network usage increased from 4% to 21% in Egypt and from 18% to 32% in Lebanon while in Gulf countries Instagram is becoming one of the most popular apps.
  • Facebook penetration declined across countries by at least 10 percentage points since 2015, except in Lebanon where Facebook use remains stable. In Qatar and Saudi Arabia, penetration dropped by over 20% since 2015 to 22% in Qatar and 55% in Saudi Arabia.
  • Currently, half of the direct messages sent and received are in group chats and half are between individuals. This represents a significant increase in group messaging—an increase of 15 to 42%.
  • Snapchat has increased in popularity in all countries since 2015 (64% Qatar, 51% KSA, 51% UAE, 20% Lebanon, 16% Jordan, 7% Tunisia).
Social Media Middle East 2017
Source: www.mideastmedia.org

Mobile Usage in the Middle East

  • Nearly three-quarters of internet users across the region use Wi-Fi or mobile data services to connect to the internet. However, Wi-Fi use varies by country, from less than half of Jordanians to two-thirds of Tunisians and nine in ten across the other nations (40% Jordan vs. 63% Tunisia, 91% Lebanon, 87% Qatar, 84% KSA, 97% UAE).
  • Nationals who get news via smartphone at least once a day are also more likely to get news via other platforms—both digital and offline—on a daily basis.
  • Just over half of nationals use news apps, and just over one-quarter use them daily. Using news apps is most popular in Saudi Arabia and the UAE and least popular in Qatar (use at all: 85% KSA, 86% UAE vs. 52% Jordan, 49% Tunisia, 42% Lebanon, 33% Qatar).
  • Nearly all Arabic users in Lebanon, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE own a smartphone and the same with Jordanians.

Insights on the digital media stats in Egypt

  • Even in the digital age, Egyptians spend more time face-to-face with family in 2017 than 2013. Despite the doubling of internet penetration in Egypt since 2013, the average number of hours Egyptians report spending face-to-face with relatives increased from 9 in 2013 to 20 in 2015 and 31 in 2017.
  • While Facebook penetration is falling in most other Arab countries in this study, it rose significantly among Egyptians. In 2013, 81% of Egyptian internet users said they use Facebook, but that number rose to 93% in 2017.
  • Fewer than 1 in 4 Egyptians used the internet in 2013, but half of all Egyptians are online in 2017 and nearly 6 in 10 own smartphones (57%).

More insights about Egypt at: 2017 Trends Report: Digital Media in Egypt

Highlights for Digital Marketing Professionals

Apparently, any business that does not place digital firmly at the center of its growth strategy runs the risk of increasing irrelevancy and losing potential customers in the Arabic region. Here are some of the top insights I highly recommend for marketers in the MENA region.

  • Invest wisely across the social media channels and avoid putting all the efforts on Facebook. With the recent decline in Facebook usage in the Gulf region and the new updates from the Facebook algorithm, the marketers should revisit their social media strategy.
  • Since each country in the region has different consumer behavior, it is highly required to customize your channels and marketing message for each country/locale.
  • 2018 is the year of live streaming and stories. Maximize the use of Instagram and Facebook stories to generate organic traffic to your social media channels.
  • While Arabic users are not very active with Emails comparing the U.S. users, the companies should try to focus on WhatsApp as an effective way to reach out and engage clients in the region.

We are seeing a digital transformation and ongoing trends that require more investments from marketers and business owners in the region. The social media professionals should always monitor the trends in consumer behavior and the usage of the social network.

Marketing Analyst vs Data Scientist: What’s The Main Difference?

While data doesn’t come in neat little packages, ready to answer the questions marketers concerned about, the demand for sufficient marketing data is the main factor that is shaping the roles of marketing analytics field.
With is a huge potential for connecting the dots between data and marketing activities inside all types of organizations, the rise of data skillsets is booming in 2018. In the past few months, I’ve come across many managers and recruiters asking the same particular question all the time:

“What is the difference between marketing analyst and data scientist?”

Starting with the background: When data science brought many trackable capabilities to the marketing department, marketers had assign dedicated professionals who are accountable for using data to answer the marketing problems and furthermore to understand the performance metrics. Yet, the issue we did face in the last few years is the rapidly growing data resources (online, offline, internal and external). The data aggregation itself was a major challenge for every marketing departments.
In 2017, everyone in the field was talking about the need to grow their data analytics team. With the higher pressure on the efficiency and accountability of marketing KPIs, the marketing department functionality started to evolve and play more important roles within to the organization. We can see now how marketing analytics is not only limited to sales data but also connected with customer support, business automation, and financial department.
However, since diving into data team, in general, is becoming a complicated structure due to the rise of Big Data, Data Mining, AI, and ML, I will try to avoid the hierarchy of business intelligence filed and focus precisely on the marketing needs.

The main two roles in marketing data

Ideally, marketing requires two roles of data: Marketing Analyst and Data Scientist. Why? It’s quite straight-forward to the point of marketing needs, the two function is our way to define the data team role within the marketing department, how they are different?
The most common scenario in marketing departments is the need for an analyst to dominated the marketing analytics and a data scientist to operate the company data aggregation.
Why am I trying to simplify this into two main roles? In companies, we would always see a variety of business needs and marketing functions which requires a customized structure. Apparently, you might see a variety of positions and titles based on the common needs of the organization and nature of the business. An e-commerce business might have a large set of data team while a startup might be only hiring one person, so don’t get confused and let’s first focus on how to distinguish the main differences between the basic two roles every organization need.

The key difference between Marketing Analyst and Data Scientist

The main difference between marketing analyst and data scientist is that marketing analyst should be a native marketing-speaker with professional skills in driving insights to answer the marketer’s needs. On the other hand, a data scientist is a native data-speaker with skills in deriving BI and analytic insights from structured and unstructured data sources.
Marketing Analyst vs Data Scientist
To understand the key differences between the functions of two roles, let’s summarize in 5 main points:
  1. Marketing analyst should have a solid experience with marketing metrics while it is not required in data scientist role.
  2. The data scientist is expected to formulate the critical questions that will help the business and then use the data to solve it, while a marketing analyst is given questions by the marketing team and pursues a solution with that guidance.
  3. The marketing analyst not required to be advanced in programming side while the data scientist should be professional in writing queries. Yet, both roles should work with IT teams to source the right data.
  4. The data scientist role requires a strong data visualization skills and the ability to convert data into a business story. A marketing analyst is more focused on analyzing the marketing metrics.
  5. The data scientist usually work in a multidirectional and free form in order to extract better insights, while marketing analyst usually has a specific direction to work on.

Defining the Marketing Analyst Role

marketing analystThe marketing analyst is similar to any other analyst in terms of methodology but he is truly different when it comes to the functions. So why is that? I strongly believe that marketing analyst is a digital marketer which luckily become a master of analytic tools. You might disagree since you would meet a lot of marketing analysts who didn’t have any experience in marketing. I know this because I suffered from this for awhile and always had conflicts with data-savvy specialists who failed in understanding our marketing needs since they simply lack the marketing background.
However, marketing analysts should be very solid in understanding the function of marketing and its objectives. I am confident to say that marketing experience is crucial more than you might expect. The marketing analysts are located at the heart of marketing team and should speak their language and suffer with them from the same problems.
The main objective of marketing analyst
  • Measure the effectiveness of marketing activities and the online ROI, of various marketing channels used to position a product or service. Given the increasing variety and complexity of marketing channels—reaching this objective is a serious challenge.
  • Bring the data analytics into the heart of all marketing campaigns and tools while setting up the most effective metrics to measure and trends to manage.
  • Turn insights and data patterns into clear indicators and tactics for growth hacking, budget allocation, and performance management.
  • Maintain a reliable and effective connection between the marketing specialists needs and data scientist reports.

Who is the best Marketing Analyst?

  • A native marketer who knows how to play professionally with marketing technology tools and marketing metrics.
  • A scientifically minded person with an appreciation for design. He needs to know the effect of messaging and design on the consumer experience.
  • Analysts by the heart who dominate the dashboards and he have charts ready even for his grocery shopping habits and his girlfriend mood swing.
  • He knows that insights are more important than figures. He loves the data in front of him but he is more in love with knowing the consumer.
  • He is the honest guy who never takes any sides. Neither marketing performance team nor data team.

Technical skills for marketing analyst

  • Strong analytical, conceptual and reasoning skills
  • Professional skills in Web Analytics, Marketing clouds, AdTech, and Automation
  • Experience with Statistical Software, Business Intelligence Platforms, and Data Visualization
  • Intermediate experience with programming language and database querying
  • Experience with market research, segment analysis, consumer behavior and marketing channels

Defining the Data Scientist Role in Marketing Department

Data ScientistBusiness acumen is the main asset desired in a marketing data scientists, after technical skill. It’s so critical because a lot of quantitative candidates I’ve seen are getting so wrapped up in the elegance of the analytics that they forget that they’re hired to answer business problems.

Working with marketing team is somehow challenging for data scientists. The marketing ever-changing periodical strategies can be a roller coaster for data team and they have to adapt and survive quickly. Unlike the majority of businesses where the top element of the data science job is the ability to use computing power to acquire the data, marketing needs could be problematic and tactically challenging over the time.

Who is the best Data Scientist?

  • Tech-savvy with different programming languages and statistics capabilities.
  • A scientist who applies statistical tools, economic tools, and different disciplines is another facet.
  • A coder who aggregate and clean data in the most efficient possible ways with ability to invent new algorithms to solve problems and build new tools to automate work or provide real-time reporting system
  • He is an expert in interpreting the visual display of complex data sets and tells a story.
  • He is sophisticated with analytics programs, machine learning, and statistical methods and quick with preparing data for use in predictive and prescriptive modeling
  • Without asking he is always busy with conducting undirected research, exploring and examining data from a variety of angles to determine hidden weaknesses, trends and/or opportunities
  • He speaks the language of IT and able to communicate requirements and predictions to IT departments through effective data visualizations and reports

Technical Skills

  • Expert in Math (linear algebra, calculus, and probability), Statistics (hypothesis testing and summary statistics), Data visualization (Tableau, Power BI, SAP Analytic Cloud) and reporting techniques
  • Professional with Software engineering skills, Data mining, Data cleaning and munging
  • Professional skills in programming (R, SQL databases, Python or C/C++)
  • Professional with BigQuery, DynamoDB and cloud computing tools
  • Experience with ML tools and techniques (k-nearest neighbors, random forests, ensemble methods)

Collaboration between Marketing Analyst and Data Scientist

Your marketing analyst should deliver the clear results in marketing language while the data scientist should work on doing the math (statically and technically). Technically, a marketing analyst is solid at creating relations between data and marketing needs while data scientist is the true advocate in bringing the data and advanced statistics and bring the most reliable, clean, fastest results to the table.

You have known knowns, known unknowns, and unknown unknowns. Just be careful if both get a conflict. I have seen some violent fights at the office!

Finally, becareful with Data

There are many times where the underlying data that is the basis for what people have calculated is actually wrong. If you make a mistake with the underlying data, that could be a big problem while you analyze.

The premium on being able to understand what data you have, to understand what types of questions can be answered with it, and to make smart decisions is really, really high.

However, there are places where pure data science functions can fall short of what’s required to boost success in the marketplace. This is where marketers thrive.

Looking for your opinion on this and how do you see the difference between the two roles. Contact me if you are looking for marketing analytics consultant.

Yasser Ahmad

The State of Programmatic Advertising in APAC in 2017

In APAC, programmatic is still in its early stage in several emerging markets, but more mature markets are beginning to compete with the US market adoption rates.

It is critical to have a different analysis for the APAC market based on the diversity of the region. The findings could vary within the region which requires enhanced research in order to have a better understanding.

While Australia and New Zealand are the most advanced markets in the region with an average of 50% programmatic rate, as well as the highest adoption of PMPs, the rate is very low for other countries such as Thailand and Indonesia. Furthermore, the region still has publishers from traditional media background who are still not ready for programmatic.

To better understand the state of programmatic advertising in APAC, let’s dig deeper and explore the top programmatic trends in the region during 2017 and what is to expect in the future.

#1 The programmatic in APAC is reaching a new milestone

APAC leads global ad spend growth globally and is to grow up to 33.4% of the global figure by the next year 2019, according to Zenith’s latest forecasts. According to Magna, digital Ad spend across APAC increased by 5.6% in 2017 to reach $156bn.

The huge increase in Ad spend is driving programmatic in APAC market to reach a new milestone. According to the forecast, programmatic spending reached $56 billion in 2017, surpassing the programmatic spend in North America. Moreover, the gap between APAC and US in respect to programmatic information is closing so we can expect to see APAC programmatic growth in line with US trends in the coming years.

programmatic apacAccording to MAGNA, APAC region has the 2nd largest programmatic markets in the world, China as well as the 3rd biggest market, Japan. Furthermore, the region also presents some of the highest growth rates in global programmatic markets such as Australia, New Zealand, and Singapore. According to Ad agencies, 93% of marketers in Australia, New Zealand, and Singapore are investing in programmatic advertising with almost 32% of companies dedicate more than 50% of their digital advertising to programmatic.

According to DoubleClick Ad Exchange, The top five countries in the world with the fastest-growing Programmatic Direct adoption rates are all in the APAC region: Indonesia, South Korea, Malaysia, Taiwan, and India.

Would it be the turning point in the history of advertising? As the technology infrastructure is catching up with the global market and different AdTech platforms evolve locally to help marketers better understand the users, I am expecting APAC to become the center of programmatic evolution in 2018.

#2: The diversity of the region is shaping the programmatic demand

The diversity of consumer patterns, publishers and local networks across the region is the main factor that is impacting programmatic in APAC. The demand for programmatic as the most reliable solutions for digital advertisers to access the local markets with an effective strategy requires customized tactics.

Google is still the easiest and most popular solution for a lot of the publishers in the region who tend to rely on DoubleClick for Publishers and Ad Exchange. Due to lack the ad tech people, skills or ad operations, so they find Google is an ideal solution.

However, the situation is totally different when it comes to China. According to Eslam El Swedey, Digital Marketing Manager at Curvature Singapore “Baidu, Alibaba, Tencent, and iPinYou are playing the main role in China’s programmatic market. IPinYou will continue to grow in the coming year to become one of the top players”. This is not the only case, for instance, Japan’s 90% of the market belongs to Dentsu and Hakuhodo.

Businesses understand that accessing the APAC market require a flexible approach and dealing with a variety of providers to get the best projected RTB solutions.

3# Singapore is becoming the digital advertising and programmatic hub

Some people refer to Singapore as “Easy Asia” and I can’t agree more. Significantly, most of the international headquarters are settling at Singapore with their marketing and business development in APAC region. While the competition is expected to intensify with Hong Kong and Shanghai to access the China market, Singapore remains the best choice as a digital advertising hub. Among the most strategic reasons is to benefit from advertising giants such as Facebook and Google who might have several limitations in a city like Shanghai.

Another main advantage of Singapore as advertising hub is money. As huge budgets that need to be paid for advertising, the secure financial system and stable exchange rates in Singapore provides an ideal situation for billions of dollars industry.

In the last few years, we have seen more and more advertising giants, DSPs, Publishers and AdTech agencies expanding rapidly in Singapore. Furthermore, Procter & Gamble, the world’s largest advertiser, are moving their regional power bases to Singapore. We expect to see a major increase in programmatic adoption and advertising technologies coming out of Singapore and targeting the whole APAC region.

programmatic singapore

#4 Programmatic still challenging in APAC with majority of consumers buy offline

Programmatic SEAAccording to Google research study which was published at in July 2017, the majority of countries within the APAC still buy offline. The study examines how consumers in APAC research and buy products for financial services and baby care and the findings are not a big surprise especially for Singaporean marketers.

Programmatic is still struggling with the providing a profitable alternative to advertisers. The challenge is bigger with markets like Indonesia, Vietnam, India, and Singapore which doesn’t have the full potential yet for online conversion.  However, the researchers expect the programmatic to grown in SEA region driven by a potential increase in online shopping.

Certainly, some industries in the APAC market are already fully relying on programmatic such as travel, other industries such as services are struggling with the programmatic conversion rates. Singapore as an example has a small geography which that contributes to why marketers still not investing in programmatic and prefer traditional mediums with a higher return on ad spend (ROAS).

#5: Mobile growth is driving the programmatic in APAC

Mobile is driving the highest growth in impressions in APAC region, which is generating a high demand for programmatic. According to DoubleClick Ad Exchange, there was over 150% growth in Programmatic Direct mobile impressions in APAC, followed by EMEA at 120% growth. Mobile impressions grew more than 15X in 2016 at Indonesia and tripled in more than eight APAC countries: Australia, China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, South Korea, and Taiwan.

The huge amount of mobile growth in APAC requires a more sophisticated targeting and RTB which allows companies to distinguish their potential consumer and increase the efficiency of their advertising bidding.

#6: The need for greater efficiency of video impressions

Video emerged as the fastest-growing format in programmatic deals across platforms and throughout the APAC. Video has proved to be an efficient way to reach audiences and monetize the publishers premium inventory.

According to the numbers from 2016, programmatic video impressions in APAC grew to 29X the impressions in comparison with the previous year. Programmatic video impressions grew 6.5X faster than the display in 2016, and India and Australia are leading the way with total programmatic video impressions served in the APAC region.

The fastest adopters of programmatic video in the world are all in the APAC region: India, China, South Korea, Japan, and Taiwan. China is ramping up programmatic video impressions the fastest of all countries in the APAC region.

#7: Retargeting and attribution is the key focus of marketers in APAC

According to the outcomes of the recent study by Adroll, retargeting and attribution are the key focuses of marketers in APAC in 2017. Adroll report shows the average APAC marketer is spending between 25% and 50% of their digital advertising budget on retargeting and 83% of marketers plan to increase their mobile retargeting budget in the next year.

The study shows that the growing cost of development and user acquisition are not slowing down, which force marketers to prefer the engagement with existing users over acquiring new ones who may or may not perform well. Technically there is a gap in this area but the advertisers are facing the pressure of the demand for clearly measurable ROI.

The rise of attribution models is driving APAC marketers to pay more and more attention to marketing analytics and cross-channel attribution. Based on Adroll’s study, 79% of marketers believe attribution is critical to advertising success and 99% of marketers track view-through conversions in this region. Over 30% of Australian marketing professionals said that they spend over half of their yearly budgets on campaign measurement.

#8: What to expect in 2018? AI, Interactive Ads, and Personalization

According to experts in the market, the AI would have a big impact on the programmatic in the region. “Last few years it was about programmatic but this year and continuous years, the market will tend to dive more into 3 categories, 1) AI automated optimization based on Life Time Value LTV. 2) The interactive ad types like Facebook full page ad and Instagram stories. 3) Personalization will play an effective role as personalized dynamic banners give seamless experience. This improving conversion rate.” said JK, a consultant and marketing strategist.


To conclude, APAC has a strong programmatic growth potential but it has also a number of fatal limitations, such as lack of qualified talents, extremely diverse and fragmented local ad networks, issues with access to consumer data, and difficulty to scale RTB transactions. The region still requires a more solid understanding of the importance and benefits of programmatic advertising.

The advantage of programmatic reach is currently critical for APAC marketers to increase conversion rates and decrease the number of resources required to cover this geographically large region. Targeting different locales with such diversity of languages, networks, and consumer behavior are pushing for further procedures in terms of buying audience on premium publishers or local networks and connect a simpler activation on both sides. This demand will keep pushing towards a higher rate of programmatic adoption and budget share coming from performance marketing teams in the region.

Share your insights and thoughts on the topic and write down what do you think will be a key trend? What is the next big thing will shift this market?