#MarketingExcellenceAwards spills: NTUC Income's CMO on personalising experiences beyond content

 

Taking home the gold award for Excellence in personalisation marketing at the Marketing Excellence Awards 2020 is insurance brand NTUC Income. Over the course of 2020, Income, like many other brands, had to reassess, adapt and pivot its marketing strategies to cater to immediate needs to consumers during the period of uncertainty that COVID-19 brought upon. The pandemic also gave the brand a chance to reflect on its brand strategy to assess how it can be more customer-centric with its offerings. Acknowledging that personalisation has become a big part of consumers' journey and experience, Income set out to identify specific needs and solutions that each of its consumers has.

Marcus Chew (pictured), chief marketing officer at Income, also told MARKETING-INTERACTIVE that the brand has been investing in building its digital capabilities and accelerate the usage of data signals to create greater engagement with its customers. Income's digital efforts ultimately paid off, as the brand snagged the silver award for Excellence in data-driven marketing at Marketing Excellence Awards 2020 as well. 

What are some of the expectations your consumers now have for your brand?

Chew: We have millions of customers who have grown with the brand through the years and their expectations of Income as a brand changes as their needs evolve as well. It’s no longer just about delivering on product and services, the entire experience from pre to post purchase matters.

Our customers today are well-travelled, tech savvy and well-informed. They want things fast and convenient, at their fingertips. Personalisation is also becoming a big part of the customer journey and experience so it is important for us to see each customer as an individual with different and changing needs, and this impacts how we can stay relevant to them as a brand.

In staying relevant and keeping to the expectations of customers, it has become necessary for us to evolve inside out across the organisation – resources and capabilities, product innovation, new sales processes, digital purchase platforms, marketing and advertising etc.

How have your marketing plans shifted this year?

Chew: It has no doubt been a very different year with unprecedented changes. Overall, we had to assess, adapt and pivot fairly quickly our strategy and plans to ensure it was suitable for the current climate. We also took the opportunity to reflect on our brand strategy to assess how we can be more customer centric during this tough time, and to roll out plans that could better support our customers in their immediate needs. With that in mind, we shifted focus areas to address what people were most concerned about, which started from health concerns and evolved into economic and job related concerns over the span of the year.

As the business objectives and problems changed, marketing plans had to shift quickly to address those issues and respond to ever-changing developments. As there is no “manual” on how to navigate such a pandemic and its impact, we had to be comfortable to pivot swiftly according to situation and stay agile ad adaptive to changes. In addition, it was also very important for us to empathise with the customers in view of these challenging times as it was a period where brands could easily be seen as self-indulgent or tone deaf.

What are some of the trends you see carrying on post-pandemic, and how are you readying your workforce to be ready with these trends?

Chew: Although insurance remains high touch today, customers are increasingly open to self-serve options online. This was evident during the pandemic given social-distancing measures. I believe familiarity with self-serve online options will lead to greater receptivity to other digital solutions and this presents new opportunities for us to leverage rich customer data that we can harness to better serve customer needs better.

As more customers are getting used to navigating the digital space, there is also greater demand for effortless engagement with our brand. Hence, we need to evolve all our digital touch points, refining existing ones and adding new ones to meet our customers’ need.

As such, we will continue to invest in building our digital capabilities and accelerate the usage of data signals to create greater engagement with our customers. We are looking into new tech tools to enable us to better understand our customers in real time, coupled with personalisation and how to serve customers with relevant information at the right time, hence, investment into martech will be increasingly important as we continue to sharpen our capabilities.  

What do you think makes for great marketing these days?

Chew: Great marketing these days go beyond just awareness, recall and engagement. Great marketing should ultimately enable customers to discover or understand something about themselves, and for them to then be able to act on it in the most efficient way possible.

Ideas and content are still king, but how they are being leveraged and distributed is what sets the great apart from the good. When utilised correctly, it can help ensure that messages are impactful and highly relatable when conveyed to the customer. That is why personalisation and customization are also playing a bigger roles in marketing to consumers - It’s no longer one-size-fits-all.

We need to be looking at the customer journey to create specific communication and engagement through data from various channels, which I call “Customer Omini Data”.  Marketing campaigns will need to take a customer journey mindset, creating customised content and engagement within each part of the journey, leading to a higher rate of acquisition.

How are you planning for 2021?

Chew: We are excited about 2021 although we know it will be challenging to recover from this pandemic. With every crisis, there are also opportunities, and we can only tap and maximise these opportunities only if we are fully prepared and equipped to do so. We are working to strengthen all the tech set-ups to enhance and sharpen our omni-channel capabilities and data-driven solutions. Perfecting the entire omni-channel experience will be our priority, especially in driving online and offline synergies to help our offline sales teams better engage with customers as part of the overall Income experience.

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