As businesses all over the world faced the pressure to pivot their marketing strategies and rely on digital, the need for speed in execution accelerated.
Interestingly, however, marketers at MARKETING-INTERACTIVE’s “Redefining digital experience” round table, hosted in partnership with Acquia, said that today, they find consumers are a lot more accepting of “imperfect executions” and more understanding of the “scrappy” manner in which brands execute their strategies.
Vanessa Yeo Barger, vice-president of brand at omni-channel fashion brand Love, Bonito, said when the brand had to close its physical stores, the team decided to bring its styling services online through style ambassadors on the Zoom platform. Through this, the brand was able to connect to its community and customers on a different medium while providing the style advice they love.
Despite not having a “fully sophisticated platform” to host these virtual styling sessions, Yeo Barger said Love, Bonito fans were incredibly supportive, and that the brand made it a priority that “to ensure the consumers’ digital adoption was as comfortable as possible”.
Similarly, Anders Kuah, key account manager for Asia Pacific and Japan at Acquia, said it saw many companies executing new digital initiatives in a “quick and dirty” manner as they recognised it was important to reach out to the market fast rather than fall behind the curve.
“While [the platforms] need to be sophisticated to a certain extent, it is also crucial for brands to be fast and to integrate very simple areas together,” he said.
However, one challenge that many brands later faced in trying out different platforms for quick fixes lay in the integration of data and layering it to find patterns and overviews, Kuah said. Moreover, many marketing departments also found their teams lacking in certain tech skills to manage and gain value from tech investments.
Adding to this point, Christopher Daguimol, director of brand communication at ZALORA, Singapore, shared that talent might have also been an issue for “very traditional companies” that might have only been in the early stages of embracing digital.
“Some of the very traditional companies would probably have one eCommerce person in charge of the platform, but it’s not just one person’s job to move the whole business towards going online,” he said.
While some brands struggle to comprehend digital platforms, there is also the issue of standardising digitalisation efforts across different markets globally.
Smriti Modi, head of marketing and eCommerce at Oribel, told the panel the global expansion of its D2C business was “much harder than anticipated” as it initially relied on the distributor model in multiple markets.
“We know some of our distributors might not be fast enough to adapt to changes, so we opened a brand website for them, to help them with their marketplaces, but the process was not the most homogenous,” she said.
It’s a mindset shift
Although technical aspects do pose a problem for most brands, marketers at the round table were of the view that going truly digital first requires a huge mindset shift.
Kartik Khare, global vice-president of product strategy & innovation at Tupperware Brands, said that while COVID presented some very real challenges - such as expediting the need for digitasation - they could be overcome with an organisational leadership mindset that was open to change.
In the case of Tupperware, scaling their digital presence and capacity meant a mindset shift not just for them, but for many of their distribution partners, and required a lot of communication and experimentation in the form of training tools, agile thinking and a number of pilot programs.
Parth Patel, vice-president of marketing and strategic planning at Kerry Group, added: “You can have all the fancy tools in the world, but it wouldn’t make a difference unless people [and their mindsets] are optimised to use them, and the customers are there.”
But one surprising sector, which might have been thought of as “traditional” to some, that took a positive approach to this mindset shift during COVID-19 was the luxury brands sector, which Daguimol said was one of ZALORA’s highest growing categories despite the pandemic.
He said luxury fashion brands knew they had to adapt quickly to the new climate, and were now figuring out how to deliver luxury experiences to bridge the gap between their branding and being sold on multiple online platforms.
The role of personalisation
Meanwhile, marketers at the table also added that personalisation will continue to play a big role moving into 2021, and beyond, but, of course, there are also caveats to over personalisation.
Interestingly, a study by Acquia also showed that 69% of marketers in Singapore believe consumers trust brands with their information, yet only 57% of consumers agree But brands that do implement personalisation – and do it right – do see the benefits.
To find out more about CX trends in Singapore, download the report here.
According to Goh Khim Yong, vice dean (communications), NUS School of Computing, if personalisation is done based on third party data, a backlash from consumers can ensue. But on the other hand, if you tell consumers that an ad is personalised specifically for them, based on data they have already shared, then it usually sits right by the consumer, and they might be more receptive.
As such, at the end of the day, it is also about communicating and giving the consumer the right to choose the level of personalisation they want.
Nelson Lee, co-founder and chief digital and marketing officer at JeweLuxe International, said that in the luxury field, personalisation and addressing the person individually was absolutely necessary.
And while it’s often deemed to be a costly affair, he says there are ways to customise and personalise in simple ways without burning a hole in one’s pocket.
“A simple personalisation by addressing the email by name, tweaking by interest or even reaching out via WhatsApp (if the consumer agrees) can go a long way,” he said.
Future marketing trends
According to a McKinsey report in October 2020, most companies said the digitalisation of their customer and supply chain interactions, and of their internal operations, accelerated by three to four years last year alone. The report also showed that digital or digitally enabled products in these businesses’ portfolios accelerated by seven years.
Moving into 2021, and beyond, marketers at MARKETING-INTERACTIVE’s round table said they had their eyes set on artificial intelligence (AI) and content marketing strategies.
Kerry Group’s Patel shared the company is currently pretty big on is AI, as it uses AI to try and predict upcoming trends in relation to food ingredients, flavours and beverages. Kerry Group also uses these insights to its advantage by predicting future trends in its industry that its clients should keep an eye out for.
“We use AI quite consistently in our marketing to create the differentiation, which also helps our customers launch products, which are ahead of the curve,” he said.
Goh foresees the growth of AI-based methods in the future of marketing, especially those that boost eCommerce platforms. Moreover, he brought up the example of the rise in live-streaming in the China market, and how companies such as Taobao are building up capabilities to better support such innovations.
ZALORA’s Daguimol said that at the end of the day content was still the main ingredient leading the charge in digital marketing.
“And that’s why Shopee, Lazada, and every online platform, is now launching some sort of content strategy,” he said.
Not one to be left behind in the innovation race, he added that ZALORA has also adopted a few new technologies to boost its social commerce, and was also exploring the live-selling function.
Additionally, he also predicts that artificial reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) is “just around the corner”.
With a higher proliferation of eCommerce, Daguimol said what brands needed to figure out was how they are able to bridge the gap between online and offline shopping experiences.
Meanwhile, he is also of the view that AR and VR are some of the “cool new tools” brands can use to reach out to customers.
His sentiment echoes a recent report by Accenture published late last year. The report showed that immersive technologies such as AR, VR, and 3D content can in fact enhance consumer purchasing confidence and increase online sales. This is especially so in Asia Pacific, where more than half (54%) of consumers said these technologies make them feel connected with products. It is also worthy to note this percentage is higher than for consumers in Europe and North America.
(Photo courtesy: 123RF)