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Digital transformation is on the agenda of many companies, with 91% of Malaysian CEOs prioritising long-term investments in this space over the next three years, according to PwC's 24th Annual Global CEO Survey in 2021. Companies are also constantly looking to hire more digital talent too. However, the journey is no easy feat.
In an interview with A+M, Loob Holding's new chief marketing and digital officer, Ng Yau Chuan (pictured), said one of the biggest challenges in the industry is when individuals involved with digital transformation are unable, unwilling or do not have the support of their leadership to keep on upskilling themselves. "The tech and digital space is constantly evolving. It is impossible for any person to constantly be 'an expert'," he explained.
Hence, it is extremely important to invest in people. "Hire the right-minded people, invest in them, and invest in yourself," he said. Ng recently joined Loob from Google and Meta and was described by Loob founder and CEO Bryan Loo as an individual with "the ideal mix of tech, commercial, and industrial experience" to fulfil the marketing and digital mandate. When asked how marketers can get buy-in for digital transformation, Ng said:
Always aspire to the same north star as the overall business. At the end of the day, digital transformation is not an end but a means to the end.
According to him, the end that always matters is sales, profit numbers and overall commercial strategy. "Too often we see digital transformation focusing on silo-ed metrics such as conversion rates, attribution, and data without a strong tie to the overall business top line or bottom line," he explained. Individuals looking to upskill should focus on what matters in their careers and organisations as digital transformation is a wide catch-all term.
For example, Ng said if driving stronger engagement with consumers is one's focus, then digital marketing probably matters more. But if one's focus is on internal efficiency, collaboration and mobility of work, then upskilling on cloud and collaboration platforms will make more sense.
At the same time, digital transformation is certainly more than just having a social media presence or a tech upgrade. To prevent themselves from falling into this trap, Ng once again stressed that digital transformation is a means to an end.
"If your business is about making smoothies, you wouldn’t upgrade your microwave to deliver smoothies faster. You would upgrade your blenders. Similarly, tech upgrades for the sake of having 'more features' or 'doing something faster' is not a good enough reason if it doesn’t meet your end goals," he explained.
Ng's decision to join Loob was not an overnight one. In fact, he spent plenty of time with Loo, the management team and private equity firm Creador before making the decision. According to him, all of them impressed him with their vision to become the largest omnichannel beverage company in Southeast Asia. In a digital era where business models can change in the blink of an eye, Ng said he also recognised their "hungry DNA for innovation which makes this organisation well-positioned to continue thriving not just in the next digital decade, but for many more to come".
While he declined to share specific marketing initiatives, Ng said his team is very excited about using multiple digital touchpoints to deliver convenience, customisation and value to its customers. "We are very excited about our plans and look forward to having stronger relationships with all our customers," he said.
Having spent close to eight years with Meta and Google, Ng said these companies are successful in part because of a philosophy of diversity and inclusion, no matter one's age, tenure, seniority, or background. Diversity and inclusivity of perspectives are what keep an organisation agile enough and collectively wise enough to solve different problems that come up, Ng said, even if one has never encountered them before.
"It doesn’t matter if you’re discussing an issue that’s not within your job scope, or whether you think you’re asking a silly question. Make your voice heard. This will be important to embody and champion at Loob Holding as well," he said. Ng added that leaders should be the change they want to see. "We must give people opportunities to level up themselves and also remember to invest in our own selves as well," he added.
The digital marketing space has been abuzz with chatter about the deprecation of third-party cookies for some time now. With Google officially wiping them out next year, companies have been seeking alternatives in a cookieless world. While Ng did not share specifics on how Loob is preparing for this, he said the company will continue what it has always done: building relationships directly with its customers, understanding their preferences and needs, and finding the best ways to meet them. In the years to come, Loob will augment these efforts on digital touchpoints and Ng does not expect the potential deprecation of third party cookies to impact the company significantly.
Meanwhile, the debate about gut feel and data is an ongoing one in the marketing and advertising scene. While some believe that data is crucial in informing marketing teams of insights and the next steps to take, others also strongly believe that gut feel is still an important and irreplaceable factor.
A Qlik study titled "Data Literacy: The Upskilling Evolution" found that 46% of employees frequently make decisions based on gut feeling, rather than data-led insights, and the same percentage don't always trust that the data available to inform their decisions is up to date and accurate. Similarly for C-suite executives, while 52% of them are fully confident in their data literacy skills, 45% say they frequently make decisions based on gut feeling rather than data-led insights.
When asked how he plans to balance between creativity/gut feel and data, Ng said everyone should aspire to be data-driven, in that they should lean on data that they have at their disposal to make decisions. But data can often lead to multiple options of interpretation.
"These days, there is often an 'inertia' towards inaction because marketers are relying too much on data to make a case that is 100% bullet-proof. In other words, analysis paralysis when we overly depend on data can lead to missed opportunities. Good commercial wisdom, a deep understanding of your brand’s audiences, and a creative spark continue to be equally important to every marketer," he said.
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