'No need for lofty marketing ideas, just simplify consumers' lives'

Companies nowadays have to fight for consumers' time and fleeting attention by creating a more personal and meaningful touch. Doing so can potentially help humanise the brand and bring it to life in the eyes of consumers. According to a trends report by SaaS company Acquia, which surveyed 8,000 consumers and 800 marketers across Australia, France, Germany, Japan, Mexico, Singapore, the UK and the US found that 96% of marketers saw improvements with customer engagement after personalisation initiatives. Also, half of brands see increased engagement with their branding and 41% experience more repeat purchases.

For some, the idea of personalisation and offering a meaningful touch might lead to the misconception that advanced tools and fancy tactics are needed. That, however, is not the case. During a panel discussion at MARKETING-INTERACTIVE's Digital Marketing Asia 2020 virtual conference moderated by Andreas Vogiatzakis, executive director at AMVPlus Advisory, Mastercard's VP, regional consumer marketing, Kaveri Khullar, said the idea of personal and meaningful "does not have to be lofty". As long as the brand is creating utility for consumers and simplifying their lives, then it is meaningful, she explained.

"Digital is an enabler of personalisation rather than being a detractor or a barrier," she added. One way to be personal and meaningful to consumers is of course using data, which Khullar also terms "digital engine". According to her, the digital engine which her predecessor created for Mastercard carries out social listening and harnesses the information generated to create real-time dynamic campaigns.

An example of this was when Mastercard picked up on online chatter surrounding the Roppongi Hills Christmas Illumination in Tokyo a couple of years ago. According to Khullar, several netizens who lived far away from the city centre complained about traffic jams, making it challenging for them to enjoy the lights and drive back home after. Based on this sentiment, Khullar said Mastercard tied up with hotels located in Roppongi and offered one or two-night staycation packages for families. These packages were then amplified and geotargeted to consumers who lived far away from the city centre. "What was beautiful about this, and credit to the team which did it, was that we were nimble and agile. It happened quickly and we received tremendous response," she said.

Another example of how digital and data has been an enabler for Mastercard was when the company had to pivot from physical to digital experiences as a result of COVID-19. It is well-known to many that Mastercard's marketing is centred around offering priceless experiences and it made use of data to find out what consumers' sentiments were and what motivations they would potentially be seeking. "One of the motivations is learning a new skill or enhancing an existing one. Hence, we had cookout experiences and one of the virtual sessions in August this year featured Japanese tennis player Naomi Osaka. During the session, Osaka had the chance to cook with Ethiopian Swedish chef Marcus Samuelsson.

How do you prepare for digital transformation?

The pandemic has no doubt accelerated digital transformation and growth. A McKinsey global survey of executives conducted last month found that companies have accelerated the digitisation of their customer and supply-chain interactions and of their internal operations by three to four years. Additionally, the share of digital or digitally-enabled products in their portfolios have accelerated by seven years.

For companies that are just embarking on the path of digital transformation as a result of the pandemic, the journey ahead might seem daunting. However, Rinkesh Shah, associate director, digital marketing at pharmaceutical company Cipla India said when it comes to learning about digital transformation, it is important to stick to the basics of marketing and navigate around that and see how you can leverage technology to deliver marketing objectives in a more effective way.

"Like what Khullar mentioned, if you want to understand insights, which is the core of marketing, use social listening platforms. Look for solutions around marketing automation too," he added.

[Digital transformation] is about focusing on the core basics and then trying to see if there are tech solutions around it which you can best leverage. This is not about digital marketing but about marketing in a digital world.

Aside from the acceleration of digital transformation, the pandemic has also brought about new behaviours, such as a shift towards eCommerce and higher consumption of digital media. The need to adapt and embrace change quickly is even more important nowadays. According to Mastercard's Khullar, regardless of size or stature, companies need to lean in, unlearn and learn, and very nimbly access all the information that is available to them. "It's no longer just about consumer insights but the whole ecosystem we are operating in. Disruption is happening to all channels and point of sales," she said.

She added that while it is great to see a higher adoption rate in cashless payments by consumers, Mastercard, for example, also needs to ensure that the front end is taken care of. This means that merchants will also need to get on board with cashless payments. 

Although Mastercard has not launched any big campaigns or been involved in sponsorship events this year, Khullar said it was still "an exhausting year" because plenty of work was done by putting their ears to the ground and keeping abreast of what is happening and what are the important learnings for the company. "At the end of the year, we have to sit back and think about what it is that we need to learn and what has changed for good. Sure, recovery will happen and markets are stabilising but certain behaviours are here to stay.

That acceleration that has happened, we've got to respond to it and be ready. The next time this happens, we cannot be taken by surprise.

Will eCommerce cannibalise physical retail stores?

A study by Facebook and Bain & Company released in August titled “Digital Consumers of Tomorrow, Here Today” said the growth of digital consumers in Southeast Asia is expected to reach around 310 million by the end of 2020, with millions more expected to join in the coming years. This growth was originally forecasted for 2025 in the 2019 study, indicating a five-year acceleration within 2020 alone. Digital consumers surveyed are defined as those who have made an online purchase in at least two product categories in the past three months.

This brings about the question as to whether eCommerce will cannibalise sales in the physical retail scene. However, there is no need for brands to panic. Bayer ASEAN's head of digital and eCommerce, Bim Gutierrez, said during the panel that eCommerce is just another channel. In fact, it is a strategic one that has become of utmost importance to brands and consumers during the pandemic. While the company has seen "a massive amount of new users adopting online shopping", Gutierrez said there is some sense of balance that companies can achieve by not disrupting the current pricing system with traditional channels.

"I don't think it's just a pure pricing game. There is merit to be had in the experience you provide to consumers whether it's offline or online. So the focus really needs to be in the value you are creating for the consumers, be it in the traditional store or online," she said.

It's the customers' choice to shop where they want. It is your duty to ensure that you provide value [to them] whatever the experience may be. So it's an omni-channel thrust. You have to deliver equal value regardless of the channel you push your product on.

Join us on a three-week journey at Digital Marketing Asia 2020 as we delve into the realm of digital transformation, data and analytics, and mobile and eCommerce from 10 to 26 NovemberSign up here!

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