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Singapore’s Clunky Shift To Digital

Despite impressive digital growth, advertising is not where it needs to be

16Jun

Of the Asian-Pacific states Singapore is without doubt the ripest for entrepreneurship and technological development. The city-state has the world’s second most competitive economy, according to the World Economic Forum, and is the second best at attracting top talent (though, by comparison, it struggles to retain it). But for all its successes, the shift toward digital media in Singapore has been a clunky one at best, with businesses still overspending on print and systematically failing to exploit the benefits of digital publishing.

As a tech and analytics hub, though, Singapore shines. Entrepreneurs in the city benefit from a great deal of government assistance, with tax breaks and government subsidies underpinned by a wave of enthusiasm in the country toward data and technology. According to Recode, ‘for every $15,000 in venture capital an entrepreneur attracts from investors, official Singapore agencies offer $85,000’ - Singapore is actively working to position itself as a global startup hub and, for all the nation’s contradictions and problematic politics, it seems to be working.

Singapore’s data analytics sector is expected to contribute $1 billion to the economy by 2017. It’s this kind of figure that shows just how burgeoning the city’s tech industry currently is, and western entrepreneurs have begun looking east when putting together analytics ventures. Over 2000 data analysts were working in Singapore in 2014, according to the Infocomm Development Authority (IDA) and, over the next three years, some 600 more will be needed.

Much of Singapore’s success, or rather the intrigue around its success, is its mission to become the world’s first truly smart city. Set to be the IoT hub of Asia, Singapore boasts a connectivity unrivalled in the region - nine out of 10 homes have broadband access and the nation boasts the world’s fastest average peak connection speed (135.7Mb/s). Connectivity will play a huge part in the success - or lack of - of smart cities, and Singapore’s relatively small size means it can vow to truly bring the benefits of smart cities to the majority of its people, with innovations like driverless cars already being rolled out across the nation.

Digital marketing in Singapore is seriously lagging behind though. For all the nation’s advancements in analytics and infrastructure, its marketers are still far too committed to print media to properly exploit the dominance digital now has. Econsultancy highlight the ‘enormous discrepancy’ between the 10% of time Singaporeans spend reading printed content, and the 42% of advertising expenditure dedicated to it. The opposite is true for digital media, with 13% of media budgets attempting to cater for 38% of time spent reading content - by comparison, Australia spends 43% and the UK 38%. For a nation that enjoys such widespread connectivity - Econsultancy anticipate Singapore becoming the ‘world’s premier digital nation’ - the underspending does seem odd.

But Singapore will catch up and, when it does, its potential will be sky-high. The city itself has a touch of the eccentric about it, with architecture to match, and has been likened to a business in the way it’s run. Senior officials take home six-figure salaries, public dissent or insult is illegal and the government is heavy on both rewards and penalties. Its this eccentricity that makes it so ready for development. Singapore has been forced to innovate since its ignominious conception in 1965, and its level of government control - coupled with its tiny size - opens doors for technological innovation unparalleled elsewhere. Singapore’s minister of the environment, Vivian Balakrishnan, said: ‘I could put an iBeacon on every lamp post. We have the ability to do medical records from birth. If you have trust, there are great things you can do.’

Perhaps Singapore’s marketers should be as tech-savvy as its politicians. The analytics in use are sophisticated, with 61% of marketers using attribution to measure the success of their efforts - compared to just 34% in the US. Digital marketing in Singapore just needs time to get up to speed with its wider digital revolution. Progress might be stunted, and Singaporean marketers may not yet truly appreciate the necessity for the switch to digital, but the foundations have all been laid for incredible prosperity once the shift is completed. 

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