Brands in Singapore are prioritizing customer experiences to drive growth, but are challenged by reduced budgets, according to new research from Adobe.

To save on costs, organizations in Singapore are cutting their marketing and customer experience budgets – 28 percent have already done so and 35 percent will in the next 12 months, Adobe said in a statement on Thursday.

In response, it said Singapore brands are seeking to drive efficiencies by deploying technology solutions that improve workflow efficiency (70 percent) and implementing generative AI (59 percent).

In comparison, it said only 64 percent of Southeast Asia (SEA) brands across Malaysia, Singapore, and Thailand, are investing in technologies that improve workflows, and 56 percent are implementing generative AI.

Yet, the research suggested that formal business rollouts of generative AI among Singapore brands lags well behind consumer demand and employee usage.

Meanwhile, according to Adobe, consumers in Singapore are excited by how generative AI can improve products and services (33 percent) and the customer experience (37 percent).

Interestingly, 39 percent of Singapore consumers believe leveraging generative AI is necessary for businesses to remain competitive, compared to 35 percent in Southeast Asia (SEA).

In the workplace, a large majority (94 percent) of Singapore employees said they had already used generative AI in marketing and customer experience campaigns.

This is contrasted by only 31 percent of Singapore respondents saying the company they work for currently uses generative AI tools.

Adobe noted that employees are using text-to-image generators to create promotional brand materials and content (58 percent), as well as develop concepts and mock ups for campaigns (55 percent).

Where conversational AI is concerned, it said half of employees (50 percent) use the tool for copy generation as well as research and insights.

Similarly, 95 percent of employees across SEA are leveraging generative AI tools in marketing campaigns, while only 42 percent of SEA respondents say their company is currently using generative AI tools.

“A large majority of employees across SEA are incorporating generative AI tools at work, underscoring an urgent need for organisations to get ahead of the curve in AI usage regulations and policies,” said Simon Dale, Vice President and Managing Director, Southeast Asia and Korea, Adobe.

“As generative AI technologies continue to evolve, an absence of a set of strong guardrails and AI ethics principles can pose risks to the organization and even erode consumer trust,” he added.

The report also showed that Singapore brands fail to prioritize factors that drive trust and spending: data security, sustainability, and accessibility.

Adobe’s research found that in a challenging economic environment, brand trust is a key determining factor for consumer spending.

Almost half (46 percent) of consumers in Singapore said they are more likely to stay loyal to brands they trust, while 36 percent are more likely to spend more.

The report showed that in a challenging economy, the number one factor in building consumer trust is keeping data safe and using it in a respectful manner.

This is followed by the provision of products and services that benefit people and the planet, that are at the same time developed ethically. These factors are also likely to increase the amount a customer spends with a brand.

Conversely, a large majority (93 percent) of Singapore consumers say they will decrease spending with brands that do not keep their data safe and respect their privacy, including almost half (46 percent) that will refuse to spend at all.

An inaccessible experience that does not support the needs of people with disabilities will also prompt 94 percent to spend less, while 80 percent will cut spending if a brand does not comply with sustainability regulations and requirements.

Despite its impact on consumer spending choices, 43 percent of Singapore brands fail to see data safety as important to attracting and retaining customers.

For accessible and sustainable products and services, that number rises to 50 percent and 49 percent, respectively.

“Consumers are growing mindful of data privacy and how brands are delivering on sustainability and accessibility. To maintain brand trust amidst market shifts and evolving consumer behavior, brands must demonstrate responsible practices and social accountability,

“This includes leveraging emerging digital technologies as a business advantage to not only improve engagement, but also keep consumer data safe,” said Dale.

The research is derived from an online survey of more than 16,113 consumers and 4,250 marketing and customer experience professionals globally.

The survey, conducted by Advanis, was in the field in May 2023.

The SEA analysis comprises a sample of 1,005 consumer respondents and 676 marketing and customer experience professionals across Malaysia, Singapore, and Thailand.

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