How to play to your competitors' shortcomings

Having a good customer experience strategy can no doubt, help you pull way ahead of your competition. But for Grab, along with a good strategy, playing up its local factor is also important, said Malcolm Koh, head of customer experience for Grab, during Marketing Magazine's two day conference on customer experience.

In Grab's case, it only has one big competitor. And while Koh wouldn't name names, it quite certainly is none other than Uber.

“I can't name our competitor, but in our case, that player is a lot more transactional, and we are a lot closer to home turf,” he said. As such, the brand is trying to leverage on the local brand factor, as a point of differentiation. He added:

To be honest, for Grab, Southeast Asia is our home turf. Whereas the large, American company is less touch and feel, and more transactional.

"So we’re trying to figure out how we can equate that value and derive from that,” he said.

While the brand hasn’t exactly figured out the precise steps, it is getting far more competitive and aggressive in recent times, admits Koh. To understand consumers and their pain points better, it sends members of its teams to get onboard rides to understand the mentalities of drivers and consumers alike. It also monitors how people are using the app.

Echoing a similar sentiment is Wong Mei Wai, business director of Aspial Corporation's jewellery arm. Wong said for her umbrella of brands, campaigns can be occasion driven. But getting out of the chair and into the store is a must for the company to stay ahead.

“Of course, we do have our usual evaluations against the competitor. But good marketers should ideally go to stores to experience what the customers are experiencing," she said. That's how they will know what other retailers and competitors are offering.

"Only then, you’ll be able to tell your team if you honestly feel that your experience is better than theirs,” she said. That’s the only way to identify where a brand is doing well and where it needs improvement.

She added brands can never keep still today because if you find a strategy that works, there will soon enough be copycats in the market.

Maunik Thacker, SVP of marketing for Marina Bay Sands, says the organisation will first try to see what its competition is doing well in and what is making them popular.

Also, the organisation has frequent conversations with consumers on what other properties they would consider staying in, to keep a tab on its competitors. It also uses portals such as TripAdvisor to find out who is ahead in the customer experience game and what exactly is keeping them ahead.

Like Wong, he said, "Go  out there and experience it for yourself."

Meanwhile, on the realm of digital, experience also matters. On this front, Marina Bay Sands is big on A/B testing. It also goes into various markets, from emerging to mature, and picks random consumers to try using its websites and products. It then observes what their pain points in the processes are and fix those.

And while segmentation is important to understand the mindset of your target audience, Thacker said that his team today does not look at segmentation by age brackets. Rather it is by mindsets.

“We've moved away from generational segmentation. We believe that a Millennial, for example, is not defined by the year they're born it. It's the mindset,” he said, adding:

There’s no rule that a 40 year old cannot have a 25 year old’s mentality. I guess the definitions by birth year doesn't really exist in our dictionary.

“You need to look at what drives and motivates the customer. What kind of lifestyles they lead. That's the way we're looking at our segmentation,” he said.

Evolution: Easier said than done

And while new ways of segmenting to understand consumers in a more granular level is always necessary, it is not a simple process, said Thacker.

"It’s easier said than done, but you need to have people who are constantly in touch with what's going on in the market, who do lots of different research work to add to existing segmentation," he added.

To this Wong added on that in the past, marketing campaigns and plans could last up to six months. Today, plans are made in terms of number of weeks.

“We’re not even talking about months anymore. We’re talking in weeks. Things are changing so quickly. There’s really no one rule to follow in segmentation,” she said.

Koh added on that evolution today is so fast that if a company were to simply stick to rules of segmentation from past years, it will not work. He also tells the audience not to dismiss the power of the individual as more power shift to the hands of the single customer.

"There’s no way you can segment the market because one customer can be the outlier and he has the power to change your entire organisation. We’ve seen policies change because of one person. Take United Airlines for example, that was one customer incident that changed the entire rule book,” he said.

He added that in the future, segmenting will no doubt be more data-driven. He added:

The trick is how you filter that data. For Grab, we doesn’t target specific segments, we target everybody.