We saw the biggest offline-to-online shift this year due to the pandemic, impacting all parts of our lives. From working to shopping, personal financing to investing, everything can now be done online and from the comfort of our own home.

The marketing industry has acted quickly to pivot their strategies and execution plans to match the market demands. Marketing professionals are driving and championing digital transformation to keep up with the changing consumer behaviour.

As a result of this shift, the general demand for traditional marketing and public relations talent is much lower compared to last year. The role itself has evolved or been replaced with digitally-adept roles in big data analytics and customer experience management. As companies digitise the end-to-end user experience to collect and manage data, marketing specialists will be increasingly responsible for growing and retaining the organisation’s customers.

It is noted that the speed of digitalisation differs from industry to industry, and would determine the job requirements. Technology and telecommunications firms have already started their digital transformation a few years ago and would prefer to hire candidates with relevant data and software experience. Sectors that traditionally require more physical customer interactions, such as property, hospitality, pharmaceuticals and fast-moving consumer goods, have been slower to transform. Companies in these industries are more likely to invest in someone who has strategy and execution experience to accelerate their digital transformation process.

Many international consumer brands are taking this opportunity to build their capabilities in digital marketing and e-commerce platforms in Hong Kong SAR to cater to the Asian markets, especially those within Greater China. However it is not merely about upgrading to an online platform. Companies will need to build a team of marketing professionals who are equipped with niche skill sets such as customer relationship management, data analytics and user experience design to build a seamless online and personalised experience.

marketing industry hiring trends
marketing industry hiring trends

changing talent dynamic within greater china

Companies in hospitality have restructured their team to be more centralised by shifting some of the roles from Hong Kong SAR to either Shanghai or Singapore, where their regional teams are based. These locations offer a more competitive workforce and pro-business policies to companies that are planning to expand their footprint in Asia.

Combining the ill-effects of COVID-19 and the political unrest, the Hong Kong labour market has inevitably experienced some significant changes. According to the COVID-19 Workforce Sentiment Survey conducted by Randstad Hong Kong, 49% of employees were looking for a new job in 2020. However, job seekers have different expectations compared to before. Many are looking to join an industry that is considered to be more recession-proof for better job security, such as life sciences and technology.

digital marketing specialists are sought-after

Due to the rapid changes in the skills demand, employers are facing challenges in finding candidates for specialised digital marketing roles, such as in data-driven customer relationship management (CRM). CRM is not a new skill, but it has evolved in many ways to be more automated and responsive to customer intentions over the past few years.

Digital marketing teams need to collaborate with IT departments to increase engagement and generate better conversions. They will be expected to work together to use data for customer segmentation, predict market trends, and develop unique experience journeys.

Customer service lines are also replaced by chatbots to provide on-demand and round-the-clock services for a better customer experience. Due to the many advantages of analysing CRM data, many companies are looking to set up their own CRM loyalty teams, which require talent with in-depth knowledge and technical data analysis skills.

setting up regional marketing teams to consolidate resources

Many companies are setting up their regional offices in mainland China to build their presence in Greater China, leading to an increasing demand for talent who has the flexibility and capacity to adapt to a different ecosystem.

China’s social media landscape and e-payments processes as well as consumer behaviours are vastly different from Hong Kong SAR’s. These stark differences make China’s social media and digital landscape significantly complex to navigate, and marketing professionals entering this market would need to build their capabilities from scratch.

Chinese consumers have a strong social tendency and highly value key opinion leaders and influencers rather than corporate consumer brands. Chinese companies are constantly coming up with innovative strategies for consumer engagement, such as live streaming and using virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) to build closer relationships with consumers. Brand marketing campaigns also tend to have a stronger social media focus as it has proven more effective in reaching and engaging their target audiences.

Comparing the scale and the current growth potential in the market, many companies have chosen to relocate or consolidate their marketing resources to cover the Greater China or Asia markets. This heightens the demand for talent who are proficient in the Chinese language and who is familiar with all the digital and social media platforms to successfully navigate the vast local consumer market.

Many companies have a preference to hire locally as these candidates tend to have an in-depth understanding of the cultural nuances and language expertise to support the role. At the very least, they would require someone who is trilingual or bilingual (English and Mandarin) to properly manage the end-to-end experience and tailor customer solutions.

surplus of marketing candidates in lifestyle and consumer industries 

COVID-19 has resulted in a candidate surplus of eligible marketing professionals in the hospitality, tourism and retail industries. These candidates tend to be experienced in areas such as branding, storytelling and event management. However, companies are increasingly trying to digitise such traditional roles to have a stronger online presence. Candidates who are able to think outside the box and have a willingness to learn and adapt in the ‘new normal’ will receive more interview opportunities during this time.

On the other hand, there is a shortage of marketing talent in the enterprise industries, especially in technology. Candidates in these fields are equipped with skills such as lead and demand generation, as well as return on investment strategy development. Job seekers who are looking for new opportunities must demonstrate a strong pulse on digital marketing trends and a proven track record in creating unique and positive customer experiences. Enterprise employers are faced with even more challenges when hiring experienced marketing specialists, as there still exists a shortage of local talent who possess technological, digital and strategic skills.

However, due to the current pandemic, candidates have revised their expectations on both the job requirements and salary. Many job seekers are willing to take a pay cut or accept a parallel position for roles they have not tried before as a way to gain more exposure and experience.

longer interview processes with higher expectations

Marketing professionals are also becoming more open to new opportunities, due to the higher demand for digital marketing skills in an evolving market. Similar to other industries, there are two types of candidates in the job market. The first being those who were made redundant due to poor market conditions but are immediately available to work, and the second are those who are looking for a new avenue to further develop their digital marketing prowess.

As the job market shifts towards one that is more employer-led, many organisations are expecting candidates to possess multiple skill sets to meet the growing demands in their roles. With such increasing expectations, it’s no surprise that interview processes have gotten longer and more stringent.

To stay competitive and employable, marketing professionals will need to constantly improve on their digital skills and knowledge to keep up with the pace of the ever-changing labour market. The existing skills gap is more prevalent on the digital side, particularly in the areas of below-the-line marketing, online advertising as well as community engagement. Technical data roles typically seek candidates who can use specific software, which would require them to obtain qualifications from service providers such as Google, Hubspot or Salesforce.

Strategic marketing roles such as branding and content marketing, would involve more on-the-job training as well as a strong brand and product knowledge. As these job roles continue to evolve to keep up with the ever-changing digital landscape, the marketing talent pool in Hong Kong SAR is expected to be more specialised in the future.

Despite the opportunities present in the marketing space, there are still candidates who would reject an interview or job offer if they are made aware of the company’s poor financial health. In the 2020 Randstad Employer Brand Research, corporate financial health is ranked the fourth most important employee value proposition factor that job seekers look for in an ideal employer. A company’s financial performance is a good indicator as to whether the firm is able to afford training opportunities and offer higher salaries to their employees. A financially strong company is also more likely to tide through COVID-19 without needing to implement major cost cutting measures.

If you’re hiring and interested to find out more about our talent recruitment and management services, feel free to get in touch.

We know that hiring great talent who can protect and advance your business growth can be challenging in a market that is in full-employment. With a team of specialist marketing recruiters, we are confident that we can match you to the perfect talent to build your sales, marketing and communication team. Connect with us for more market insights or your upcoming hiring needs. 

randstad blue suite

The Randstad Blue Suite is a collection of personal insights from the Randstad leadership team.

leadership insights in hong kong
leadership insights in hong kong
about the author
elize tai
elize tai

Elize Tai

senior manager, sales & marketing

With close to eight years of recruitment experience exclusively in agencies, Elize manages the sales and marketing team across key economic industries such as technology, banking & financial services, retail & FMCG, property & construction and communications. Keeping track of the digital advancements and modern frameworks, Elize consults her clients on the talent they need to drive the company forward in a highly-competitive and fast-changing environment.

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