Data, Analytics and Mix Management: Making a move into China

China is a whole new ball game of its own. As the most populated country in the world, China opens up a range of possibilities for marketers. As such, when eyeing the market, marketers and business development leads are usually armed with data.

With such a wide demographic, and people coming from all walks of life, engaging the right people through the right avenue is important to optimise the already stretched marketing dollars.

As such, in the realm of marketing, the focus has to shift from clicks to data-driven action that ultimately improves efficiency in marketing, says Kosuke Sogo, CEO and co-founder of AdAsia. He added that today there is a clear difference in the way users consume media in different regions and cities across China.

“In order to reach the right audience at scalable efficiency, insights need to be gained that are only available through the use of data,” he said.

Sogo added that becoming comfortable with data now would also “pave the way for the inevitable implementation of artificial intelligence on marketing in the future”.

That said, for a well-known brand such as AirAsia, its commercial director Spencer Lee agreed that data forms an integral part for the carrier in penetrating the Chinese market. AirAsia in recent years has been making strides into the Chinese market. Recently the airline partnered with Everbright and Henan Government Working Group to establish a low-cost carrier (LCC) in China. In addition, AirAsia will invest in aviation infrastructure, including a dedicated LCC terminal at Zhengzhou airport and an aviation academy to train pilots, crew and engineers, as well as maintenance, repair and overhaul facilities to service aircraft. In a press statement, AirAsia group CEO Tony Fernandes said the Chinese joint venture represented its final piece of the AirAsia puzzle as China is a gateway to Europe.

Commenting on the China market, Lee said: “The thing about China is that it’s a really big market fraught with both abundance and challenges.

“Whilst we have been successful as a brand, we do not have the luxury of burning cash to pursue every opportunity at our doorstep.

“At AirAsia, we use data to evaluate options that allow us to focus on maximising impact, while consuming minimum resources.”

Mondelez International’s general manager and director of e-commerce for Asia, Middle East and Africa, Ganesh Kashyap admitted that a data-driven approach was vital for the organisation in achieving the results they want in China.

“Oreo is a household name (in China) with huge brand equity, and our chocolate portfolio is growing there too,” he said. As such, the brand’s opportunity is to play a part in people’s broader online grocery shop and “that’s why a data-driven approach is so important”. With a mobile-first mentality in mind, he said, Mondelez needed to target the right shopper at the right time with the right message to trigger a response and ensure its products make their way into the virtual shopping basket.

First thing first

So, when we talk about effective data-driven marketing, AirAsia’s Lee said companies needed to focus on two key elements. First, the facts and information you can observe that alludes to a risk or opportunity. Second, the supply and demand, by questioning how you can turn observations into commercial outcomes and offer solutions that the market desires.

AirAsia invests heavily in data collection, technology and automation, to expand as well as maintain its edge in all its markets, including China, and it is paying off. For example, there were fewer than four million air passenger journeys within the whole of China in 1982. However, by 2016, that number had reached 487 million.

“The travellers of today and tomorrow want a personalised and seamless travelling experience. By studying our data that we have collected over the years, we will be able to offer this to our guests. Knowing what our customers want, helps us be in a better position to win their consideration and serve them more effectively,” he said.

For Mondelez, Kashyap said one good example of how it uses data-driven marketing effectively was through cross-category targeting.

“For example, we might offer Oreos when you’re buying milk, or if your shopping basket suggests that you’re having a party, we could show a special offer on milk chocolates. For seasonal moments such as Chinese New Year, we can present seasonal offers or gifts you might not have seen before,” he said.

A key part of successful data-driven marketing in China, said Kashyap, was also the ability to have a single-view of a segment of consumers across multiple touch-points much like an e-marketplace, social media and search engine.

The travellers of today and tomorrow want a personalised and seamless travelling experience. By studying our data that we have collected over the years, we will be able to offer this to our guests.

– Spencer Lee, commercial director, AirAsia

However, he added, this was easier said than done, as there’s often no unique identifier that is shared across the touch-points.

Investing in infrastructure and capability for aggregating this type of data, then being able to leverage it in real-time, is essential. Moreover, for Kashyap, it is also helps in finding the right local partners.

“Rather than build this infrastructure ourselves, we tend to partner with e-commerce players in China, who often operate an ecosystem of touch-points, such as online shopping, social media and entertainment,” he said.

Finding local partners

AdAsia’s Sogo also suggests partnering with third party verification vendors to ensure you get effective and actionable data from your marketing campaigns. Apart from that, localisation is also an important to finding the right platforms and marketing activities, when approaching the Chinese market.

“What works well in Southeast Asia will be difficult to replicate like-for-like in China,” Sogo said.

Meanwhile, Kashyap also warned that brands need to obtain this data in the right way to find a good balance: “While there’s a huge amount of data available, finding the right profile tags to target shoppers for tailored communication is key. If we profile too broadly, we lose the ability to target well, while being too specific can limit our reach.”

Lastly, while many marketers thrive on intuition and gut-feel, they must now learn to embrace data and let the information tell a story. Lee urged marketers to “spend some time to do their homework” and options that you might not have considered will start to appear.

Find out more in our Master Report about leveraging data effectively to the one of the biggest market in the world.