As identified by our 2021 marketing & ad trends, South-east Asia is a growing region when it comes to digital advertising and with the changing privacy landscape, there is an increasing trend of organisations moving towards a first-party data-based strategy for their digital in the region. But what are organisations in SEA doing to collect high-quality first-party data?

In this article, we’ll explore the 5 key steps that organisations in South-east Asia are using to collect first-party data, how this impacts the region’s travel industry and how the Google Marketing Platform can be leveraged as part of best practice implementation.

“85% of digital consumers across Southeast Asia have said they’ve tried new digital apps”

South-east Asia’s growth

With a report from Nikkei Asia identifying South-east Asia as the world’s biggest mobile economy back in 2019, its no surprise the region is ripe for organisations that can leverage first-party data to personalise their digital communications across devices where their audience spend their time. This trend was further powered in 2020 with the COVID-19 pandemic driving a further increase by over 60% through the year.

While the above stats look at growth between 2018 and 2019. Marketing Interactive has identified the latest trends by market for 2020 within the region:

  • Singapore - digital growth of 12% was led by social media campaigns (+21%), search (+10%), and digital video (+15%) with only static banners decreasing by 5%
  • Indonesia - digital growth of 6.5% was led by social media (+18%), digital video (+16%) and search advertising (+6%)
  • Malaysia - digital growth of 8% was led by social media (+15%), video (+9%), and search (+7%) with static banners decreasing by 9%

These trends are expected to continue with the Southeast Asia digital advertising market expected to reach $15.35 billion by 2026, representing the fastest growing regional market in the world.

“47% of brands are looking to increase OTT spend in Southeast Asia between 10% to 20% through May 2021”

5 steps organisations in SEA are using to collect first-party data

1. Set the objectives of your first-party data

As with any other key strategic initiative, the first step that organisations in South-east Asia are doing before they start collecting their first-party data is to discuss and confirm the objectives of the data. To help set these objectives, you should be thinking about the following types of questions:

  • Does the application of privacy within my digital offerings satisfy the legal requirements within the market we are delivering it in?
  • What data are we collecting and why?
  • What value are we providing customers and prospects in exchange for their data?
  • What processes do we have in place to collect our first-party data?
  • How are we validating our first-party data?
  • How can we leverage our first-party data as a form of competitive advantage?
  • How can we use our first-party data to tailor and personalise or offerings?
  • Is our data strategy robust or has it been future proofed if the market suddenly changes?

Ultimately, the goal for many organisations is scalable, 1-to-1 personalisation of their marketing with a data-driven engine behind it. Research from Google and the Boston Consulting Group has talked about this in-depth and identified that organisations that want to be successful in leveraging first-party data as part of their digital transformation need to be working with senior stakeholders, particularly early on, to ensure that they are driven throughout the organisation.

2. Document your first-party data strategy

Once you’ve got your objectives set, you must then document your strategy through a detailed measurement plan. For organisations that are using the Google Marketing Platform, this also involves creating a Floodlight plan to ensure you are tracking all the actions of users across your web, app, and ad properties which can then be used for insights, audience activation or creative signals.

Importantly, FiveStones works with leading brands and agencies in the development of data collection initiatives, so contact us for support.

Work with FiveStones on your first-party data strategy >

3. Implement your first-party data collection mechanisms

Once you’ve decided on and documented your first-party data plan, next you’ll need to implement it. For organisations that don’t necessarily have the in-house skills to put the solution in place, this is where a strategic partner and technology expert such as FiveStones can be useful in achieving efficient, cost-effective implementation of your first-party data collection mechanisms, whether on the Google Marketing Platform or any other technology.

A popular Google-based option for collecting first-party data is through the Global Site Tag, a unified JavaScript tagging framework and API that allows marketers to send event data to Google Analytics, Google Ads and the Google Marketing Platform. In addition to this, for Google Marketing Platform users, this step would involve implementing your Floodlight plan on your web & app properties.

Work with FiveStones in implementing your marketing tags >

4. Track progress against your initial objectives

After you’ve had some time to start collecting your first-party data, you can compare your results against the objectives you set in step 1. You should be analysing how effective your data is on a day-to-day basis when managing your campaigns but conducting quarterly, 6-monthly and annual reviews against your initial plan from a strategic perspective will allow you to effectively manage the process and make any important adjustments as you go.

5. Continue to enhance your first-party data strategy

If your organisation is successful in achieving its first-party data goals, it’s important to continue enhancing your first-party data. With first-party data being an effective tool for developing competitive advantage within any industry, the only way to maintain any competitive advantage your organisation creates with its data is by continually refining and enhancing what, how, where and when you collect it. If you can do this, all within the changing privacy regulations globally, you will give your organisation a great chance to achieve ongoing success.

Another important thing to remember is that the building blocks identified as part of the research from the BCG & Google are overall principles that allow organisations to achieve more from their data and digital, but how you implement your strategy over time will be specific to your organisation and industry. As part of your ongoing efforts to develop and enhance your first-party data strategy, you can follow the steps identified in this article on a recurring basis.

“91% of the (Singapore) population own a smartphone, sometimes two, and broadband internet speed is among the highest in Asia”

First-party data in South-east Asia’s travel industry

As one of the core focuses for governments in the region, the travel industry is a good example of where first-party data can have an important impact in growing the market overall in South-east Asia. Using advanced technology like the Google Marketing Platform, the region can take advantage of the growing number of Chinese Tourists by promoting availability of heavily discounted travel packages, using behaviour-based targeting in combination with 3rd party data signals (Google audiences) to granularly reach the right person at the right time on the right device.

Despite the current hindrance from the COVID-19 pandemic, organisations within the travel industry that can use the current opportunity to build best practice first-party collection mechanisms will be in a strong position to immediately leverage the benefits of the data, once wider travel opens up in the region and globally.

As an example, below we explore the success of one of the largest airlines in the Philippines (Cebu Pacific) achieved, using the Google Marketing Platform to drive more effective digital advertising using insights from their first-party data. Note: This video was filmed before the pandemic.

Source: Google Marketing Platform, YouTube


With first-party data becoming an increasingly important strategy for organisations not just in South-east Asia but globally, setting and documenting the right objectives and plan is key to driving continued growth and capability in the long term. Organisations in South-east Asia, particularly the travel industry,  are leveraging solutions such as the Google Marketing Platform to collect, manage and activate their first-party data to achieve better results from their digital marketing activities.

For more information on the Google Marketing Platform and how you can build your first-party data in using the GMP, please get in touch with your local FiveStones team today.