In a country where residents spend an increasing amount of time and money online and have an average of four social media accounts, it seems somewhat paradoxical that companies in Malaysia continue to be unsure of just how much impact the digital marketing industry can have on their profitability.
This, however, is about to change. While traditional media formats still accounted for the majority of advertising spending in Malaysia this year, digital advertising expenditure is expected to increase considerably by 2020. Malaysia is on the cusp of a dynamic growth in the digital marketing sector, according to Tom Osborne, Regional Director of Hays Malaysia. “Malaysia is a perfect place for e-commerce to expand. Most people speak English, many are fairly affluent and there is a large middle class, and it is one of the most developed country in Southeast Asia. And most importantly, people are extremely comfortable shopping online and living in a digital world.”
Due to these perfect conditions, there has been a rash of digital startups over the last 12 months, and this has caused an increasing number of the more established companies to sit up and take notice, causing a boom in the digital jobs market, particularly in junior to mid-level positions. “Everybody in Malaysia wants a digital marketer in their company, at least one,” says Tom. “Ofcourse the bigger companies already have heads of digital marketing, with teams in motion for the last four or five years. But for others just starting out, they are turning to the junior end of the market as they initiate movement into this relatively new form of marketing.”
That these newcomers to the sector are not starting from the top down is due to a perhaps unclear perception of what the industry does and what kind of impact it can have. “Companies realise that they have to be on digital, that they need to be on Facebook or YouTube and have a website, or they are going to miss out. But they rationalise that they don’t need a highly paid head of digital, just a junior employee to implement this,” Tom explains.
The effects of this market growth can be seen in the desire of various candidates looking to commence new careers in what they see as a potentially booming industry. This means that candidates currently on the market are from a mixture of backgrounds and skills sets. “Some have been working for the big e-commerce companies, but others may have come from other sectors such as finance or traditional advertising and, wanting to move into digital, become self-taught and self-qualified, either finding positions in companies or becoming freelancers.”
This is leading to something of a fluctuation in skills levels, and companies are concerned that candidates may hold an impressive CV, but are unable to sufficiently perform in a way that can yield results in profitability. “Though it is a new industry and it is still relatively candidate short, to secure a position candidates have to be proficient and well-able. “With candidates for mid-level positions there is a demand for those who may have started out at an advertising, creative or marketing agency. It is presumed that they will be more strategically minded, and not see success simply in the number of clicks, hits, likes and shares, but instead aware of the need to drive these into sales and revenue, and the numbers on the bottom line,” Tom says. “Candidates who not only appreciate this, but have strategies to achieve results will be very much in demand.”
The digital marketing sector is still young and inexperienced, and for now the misunderstanding of its potential significance remains, but Tom is in no doubt that this is likely to improve, and when it does so the industry will explode. “Digital marketing may take some time to truly imprint its effectiveness on Malaysia’s companies’ consciousness. Perhaps it will take 12 or 24 months for businesses to become advanced in its understanding, but when it does it will grow exponentially and companies will realise that they need higher level managers who can make it work for them.
An overview of what other trends have been observed in Malaysia’s digital marketing sector can be viewed below.
• While the image of the average digital marketer is of a tech-savvy millennial, we are seeing increasing numbers of candidates in their late 30s and early 40s looking to branch out into a new career in digital marketing.
• Some larger companies with established digital marketing teams are developing in-house recruitment processes. However, many more are still looking to outsource recruitment to specialised companies.
• Candidates looking to change positions in digital marketing have three main drivers: opportunity for advancement, company brand recognition and salary.
• There is little consistency when it comes to companies’ recruitment of digital marketers, with some attending recruitment fairs, some focusing on online branding and others continuing with traditional advertising practices.
• To solve candidate skills shortage problems some companies are turning to existing staff, with the likes of traditional marketing professionals and brand managers combining the digital roles with their existing positions.
Due to governmental restrictions on employment permits, expatriate hires are limited to digital startups and tech companies with Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC) status.