In the modern era the use of marketing on digital platforms has pros and cons for Vietnamese marketers and enterprises.
The total revenue for online advertising on Vietnamese websites in 2014 reached $49.136 million, according to data from iTracker, on the 55 largest sites in the country. The figure, however, excludes advertising on Facebook and Google, the two dominant players in Vietnam’s online advertising market, as they are yet to officially publish their figures. Regardless, iTracker’s figures alone show that online marketing not only has potential but has become an integral business activity in Vietnam.
Digital marketing also has a huge impact on certain business sectors. There are five industries in which digital marketing matters most when it comes to return-on-investment (ROI), according to Mr. Nguyen Minh Quy, CEO of Novaon: gaming, e-commerce, travel, education, and fast moving consumer goods (FMCG). “In these industries, digital marketing budgets can account for up to 80 or 90 per cent of the total marketing budget, such as in gaming and e-commerce,” he added.
Advertising networks and search tool advertising have always been the two major tools used since the birth of digital marketing. However, the use of video in social media marketing blossomed in Vietnam last year, with the country’s online video consumption taking the lead in Southeast Asia, according to ComScore Southeast Asia Digital Report. “Over recent years more brands have begun using long and short format videos to communicate to a wider audience, especially young people,” said Mr. Sumesh Peringeth, CEO of the Dinosaur Group.
Videos can catch viewers’ attention on different channels with different methods of interaction between the parties. Mr. Otohiko Kozutsumi, Chief Operating Officer at MicroAd Vietnam, said that Facebook and YouTube are the most popular in Vietnam at the moment “But these platforms have many functions, like Facebook Page, Facebook Advertising, Viral Marketing with KOLs (Key Opinion Leaders), YouTube Video Advertising, Viral Marketing with YouTubers, etc. and have different effects, like customer retention, brand awareness, engagement, purchasing intent, etc,” he said.
Chotot is an example of conducting video campaigns. One was the “Van Mai Huong campaign” last October. The singer sold all of her 21 pre-loved items within 48 hours of going viral, with more than 7 million views on YouTube. “As the videos went viral across both social media platforms and offline, Chotot.vn’s brand awareness and brand engagement increased tremendously, which also led to significant traffic growth on the site,” said Mr. Bryan Teo, General Director of Chotot.
Digital marketing in Vietnam is still in its infancy so the number of experts in the field remains limited. “Only a small percentage of dedicated individuals try to push the envelope, while a whole lot of others are happy doing run of the mill stuff,” said Mr. Peringeth.
The reason for this can be seen from top to bottom. The Ministry of Science and Technology and large associations in the internet industry should pay attention to encouraging experts, according to Mr. Quy. “All they tend to do is agree with each other,” he said. At the same time, from the enterprises’ angle, he believes that they do not have a sweeping view and are not dedicated to improving competitive abilities and management abilities. “Not many enterprises look for experts and pay them what they are worth, even though Vietnamese experts have a high level of skills,” he added.
Looking further down, at international universities there are digital marketing or branding-related courses but neither are official courses at Vietnamese universities. There are only training centers for search engine optimization (SEO), Adwords, Facebook Marketing, and other technical factors. Digital marketers in Vietnam pay too much attention to techniques and not solving problems or creating and implementing strategies, as a professional marketer must do. “In Vietnam, training activities in the sector are merely in the form of sharing knowledge from person to person, in a spontaneous, less formal and less regulated manner,” said Mr. Ho Trung Dung, CEO of Mix Digital. He believes that this creates the limited quality human resources in the field in Vietnam, which lags well behind other countries.
Based on his experience, Mr. Dung said that the most difficult thing when working with customers is getting them to change their old mindsets. “This is not an easy thing to do; it requires a long period of consulting and convincing with creative activities that, for them, are experimental in nature,” he said.
Trend towards mobiles
Mobile phone subscriptions in Vietnam have risen from 15.8 million in 2005 to 128.6 million, marking an 8.14-fold increase, according to Moore Corp’s 2014 report. In the last three years the number of smartphone users increased more than seven-fold, from 11 per cent to 82 per cent of mobile phone users, according to Nielsen’s Media Consumer Report 2014. This shows that the potential for targeting mobile phone users is huge.
“Social media, search tools and ad networks will still dominate the online advertising market but another device for these methods to penetrate into is mobile phones,” said Mr. Quy. Marketing on mobile phones helps a business reach more customers in different time zones, bringing in higher sales. “Mobile marketing is also extremely easy to use,” said Ms. Nguyen Dung, Mobile Marketing Manager at Lazada Vietnam. “It provides instant results. We can monitor users’ reactions and expand relationships with our partners.”
Marketing on mobile phones greatly depends on the use of apps, and enterprises can use the app of a third party to carry out their marketing campaigns. Ms. Dung said that Facebook, Zalo and Line are extremely effective marketing and distributing channels. “Before the Lunar New Year (Tet), in a campaign Lazada created, I sent a message to Zalo, which now has about 20 million users,” she explained. “In just one day, sales rose incredibly, with traffic increasing ten-fold compared to normal days.”
She added that by posting a message to Zalo or Line, she can keep track of users’ reactions through the comments and can answer those questions immediately. This helps users understand that the company cares about them while giving them a chance to experience a shopping journey.
Another marketing method involving apps is to build a unique app for a particular enterprise. These apps should take advantage of smartphone features, such as call, voice, over-the-top content (OTT), notifications, GPS, and camera. For example, Instagram dominates the picture sharing market through the use of cameras, while Uber dominates the taxi industry through the use of GPS.
However, as Mr. Quy also said, “It is not that necessary to turn a mobile phone into a whole industry, like Uber or Zalo. But we can apply the mobility of phones in business development to create better customer engagement and better value.” Apps should have the ability, he went on, to train customers’ mindsets, making it hard for them to stop using the services on offer. He gave the example of an architecture company creating an app to help users take pictures of their houses and then decorating them virtually on their smartphone. This would help create customer engagement and make the enterprise a pioneer in the field.