The 9 trends that will shape digital marketing in the Philippines in 2018

Gary Viray

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The 9 trends that will shape digital marketing in the Philippines in 2018
Digital marketing expert Gary Viray shares his insights and observations on how businesses can reach out best to today's connected Filipinos


Over the past few years, the Philippines has been making great strides in embracing various digital marketing innovations, showing no signs of slowing down. All these are driven by the growing internet and social media usage in the country. According to We Are Social’s Digital in 2017 report, Filipinos spend an average of 9 hours on the internet and 4 hours and 17 minutes on social media every day, the most in the world. 

What do these figures mean and why should you care? Consumers have become more technology-savvy than ever, and their needs are constantly changing. Your brand must be able to keep up with such challenges. You need solid strategies for your digital marketing campaigns so that your brand remains relevant to your target market.

What are these changes we anticipate? Here are some: 

1) More influencers, sponsored posts in social media marketing campaigns

Two developments have triggered the popularity of influencers and sponsored posts on social media. First is the rise of ad blockers that enable more than 300 million people all over the world, according to adblocking authority PageFair, to prevent display ads from disrupting their browsing experience.

Secondly, a Kantar TNS research in 2017 shows that Filipinos are among the world’s most accepting and trusting of brands on social media. About six in every 10 connected Pinoy consumers (59%) perceive the content they see on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter as reliable. Globally, only 35% trust the information they see on these channels.

“Filipinos are very open to interaction online, especially on social media channels. They are happy to trust the content they read on these channels, making them one of the most trusting countries in the region, second only to Indonesia,” notes the Kantar TNS statement.

2) Mobile-first strategies will gain ground

As a marketer or entrepreneur, you should not ignore mobile device users this 2018. An Ericsson report notes that smartphone penetration in the Philippines will grow to 70% in 2018 from 40% in 2015. Moreover, Filipinos use the internet on their mobile devices for over 3.5 hours every day, per the latest GlobalWebIndex data.

Also noteworthy is the growth of mobile shopping or m-commerce in the country. The Philippines posted the highest year-on-year increase in mobile shopping in Asia-Pacific based on a consumer poll conducted in 2016 by Mastercard.  

With more Pinoys getting mobile-savvy and having access to cheaper and faster mobile data plans, brands should prioritize mobile marketing in their digital marketing campaigns for 2018.

3) Videos to dominate content marketing

In the 2017 GetCRAFT survey, marketers rated video as the most effective content marketing initiative, beating popular content formats such as articles, infographics, and e-newsletters. 

Looking back at the past years, videos were obviously the favorite content format among local fast-food chains. The two leading brands, Jollibee and McDonalds, have churned out one tear-jerking video after another. Other brands caught on later in 2017 with light and funny video campaigns, the most popular ones being Max’s eccentric video ad, shown below, and KFC’s search for the first Filipino colonel.


As long as they tell heartwarming stories Filipinos could easily relate to or something to tickle their funny bone, videos will continue to be watched, liked, and shared in 2018. Of course, that would mean more exposure for such brands.

4) Big data will be the next big thing 

The year 2017 marked the emergence of big data in the banking and telecommunication industries. This year, we can expect more industries to invest in this game-changing technology.

Spurring this growth is the institutionalization of big data as a profession, as well as the subsequent entry of big data professionals in the workforce. About four years ago, some universities in the country began to include Big Data and Analytics subjects in their undergraduate business and IT courses.

For any company that strives to understand its customers better, it makes good business sense to leverage big data. Because Filipinos are among the heaviest internet and mobile users in the world, huge amounts of data can be collected to study their online behaviors. The more you know about your target customers’ wants, needs, and dislikes, the better you can decide which marketing tactics will effectively communicate your brand message.

5) More ways to engage customers with AR

A digital marketing innovation that has been around in the Philippines for almost a decade, augmented reality (AR) allows businesses to provide customers a new, immersive way to experience their brand.

Shopping malls use it to entice more families to visit their facilities and more moviegoers to watch in their cinemas. Some major Philippine newspapers and magazines use it to save the declining readership in the country. A local fast-food chain used it to encourage people to visit their branches.

6) Rise of the chatbots

Artificial intelligence (AI) is still in its infancy in the Philippines, with financial institutions being among its first adopters through chatbots. Nonetheless, in the near future, these AI-powered computer programs will redefine interactions between brands and consumers.

In 2017, RCBC and UnionBank launched their own chatbots that use Facebook Messenger as a platform. Although their functions seem to focus more on customer service than brand promotion, chatbots are very promising as marketing tools. For example, consumers can ask a chatbot about the bank’s deposit account, credit card or loan offerings.

Convenience and speed are the biggest advantages of using chatbots. In just a few taps on their smartphones, potential customers can get instant answers rather than go through the hassle of personally visiting a branch or calling a company’s hotline.

Using chatbots will continue to be an effective way to connect with customers, considering that Facebook Messenger is the Filipinos’ instant messaging tool of choice.

However, FB Messenger’s popularity is not enough to sustain the consumers’ interest. A 2017 Amdocs-commissioned worldwide survey found that Filipinos preferred polite, smart, caring, fully customizable, and funny chatbots. Also, 51% of the 500 respondents said they would like to see a human-like bot rather than an avatar.

Thus, the challenge for companies that will use chatbots in 2018 is making them behave, think, and look like a human. If they can do that, we may see higher engagement levels between humans and bots in industries other than banking.

7) Dominance of artificial intelligence in text and voice-based searches

GOOGLE HOME. Screen shot from YouTube.

In 2015, Google implemented RankBrain, an artificial intelligence-based algorithm that returns searchers’ complex queries with more precise results, as Google claimed. While it was launched three years ago, its significant impact on refining search query becomes more apparent in 2018 and beyond.

Likewise, dominant personal assistants and voice search applications —Alexa, Cortana, Google Assistant, and Siri are predicted to rise by up to 50% in search volume in 2020 according to comScore. About 25% of 16- to 24-year-olds are using voice search on mobile as reported by GlobalWebIndex. Most of the voice searches are conversational in nature and are entirely different from the usual text queries we input in our browser-based searches.

Voice search queries tend to be longer because they are mostly in question-and-answer format. Such occurrence is not at all surprising and it somehow tells every digital marketer out there that variation of search optimization approach has to be done for both text and voice-based search channels.

Now, what do these AI-enabled personal assistants mean to you if you are into digital marketing, particularly on search channel? It means that you have to fine-tune your content strategy to be more conversational so that it can specifically answer what your market is asking for.

Context and consumer intent should be more ingrained in the content itself. Paid search advertising should be expanded as well into a more question-centric set of keywords with user intent in mind. 

Will voice search even be applicable to the Philippine market in 2018? I would say, not much yet. But I would advise though that you should already start as early as now to have your content strategy ready for voice search optimization because content marketing takes time to build and to reap its benefits.

8) Blockchain’s potential in digital advertising

There is so much hype aboutblockchain as the technology that powers Bitcoin. But beyond cryptocurrencies and finance, this revolutionary tech could shake up other industries like digital advertising.

Blockchain eliminates the need for paying a third party between advertisers and site owners or publishers. Using blockchain allows advertisers to communicate directly with site owners to have their ad published – no need to go through intermediaries like Google and Facebook. This increases ROI and profits while cutting down costs, offering more value for ad campaigns.  

Increased transparency with consumers is also an advantage. Because the information stored in it cannot be copied, changed or corrupted, companies can assure their customers that their transaction data are accurate and cannot be manipulated. Blockchain also allows showing consumers how their data are used and whom their data are being sold to.

Blockchain has been transforming how contracts are enforced through the so-called “smart contracts” that are executed only upon meeting certain conditions. Let’s say an influencer you partnered with fails to post about your brand on social media. The payment will not be made until the terms of the smart contract is met.

Will blockchain make a difference in the way we do digital marketing in the Philippines? Too early to say that – it may or may not make a dent in the industry. Certainly, it will take some time for us to adopt this emerging technology, as it’s still deregulated and expensive to set up. But if we know how to properly use blockchain, we could benefit much from it sooner than we expect.

9) Mobile payments will play a bigger role in mobile marketing

While most financial transactions in the Philippines are still in cash, more and more consumers are using digital payments. As the latest Visa Consumer Payment Attitudes study revealed, 65% of Filipinos purchase with their smartphones and 41% make mobile payments at least once a week.

Just imagine how broad a customer base you can reach out to if you take advantage of mobile payment and integrate it into your mobile marketing strategy. It is cost-effective, too. Compared to traditional print ads and billboards, using mobile payment to promote your brand does not cost as much. Plus, your marketing message will more likely reach and engage interested consumers.

For example, you can create special deals via coupons to customers who pay their purchases using their phones. When customers redeem those coupons, you can extract customer data that will give you insights as to when and how frequent they buy from you. This enables better targeting and tweaking of your ads based on your customers’ buying behavior.

For customer retention and brand loyalty, mobile payments can also be used for campaigns such as those that offer discounts and rewards for every purchase.

Final notes

Simply implementing all the digital marketing innovations discussed above does not automatically guarantee a smooth-sailing 2018 for your brand. Here is one simple advice I would always give to my fellow marketers and entrepreneurs: review your company’s or clients’ business objectives and align your digital marketing strategies with these goals. This holistic approach to running digital marketing campaigns can help propel your brand forward this 2018. –

Gary Viray is a Filipino tech entrepreneur, marketer, author, data analyst, and the Founder and President of Propelrr, an innovation and digital marketing agency. Brain-pick him on Twitter, @garyshack.


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