Tech in check: 11street’s CMO Jenny Tay

Jenny Tay (pictured), 11street’s CMO, spent 15 years at Pictureworks, a photo imaging services company for renowned theme parks worldwide, before joining 11street. At Pictureworks, Tay was part of the team that propelled the company from a start-up to a well-known brand attuned to the changing needs of the digital industry.

Like most marketers, Tay believes it is important for companies, especially start-ups, to localise their products and familiarise themselves with a country’s culture before venturing into the market. In this edition of Tech in check, Tay explains why she is excited about e-wallet and e-commerce, while also dishing out tips to embrace digital.

Check out some previous editions of Tech in check here:
TM’s chief digital officer Ahmad Azhar Yahya
Coca-Cola’s digital and e-commerce lead Kenneth Phua

A+M: What was your first digital role like?

Tay: My first digital role begun as the co-founder of Pictureworks with my business partner Cheong Chia Chou, who is currently the group MD and CEO of investment holding company PUC. At Pictureworks, I was responsible for the business development as well as the company’s overall business operations.

Taking up this role has helped me understand the business and industry requirements better in crafting the appropriate marketing strategy needed and contributing to the development of Pictureworks.

A+M: What was your biggest tech blunder?

Tay: Given China’s maturing business infrastructure and openness to new technology, Pictureworks took a bold step by venturing into China market. Upon receiving positive business performance in China, we were ambitious and wanted to expand further across the Southeast Asia region to develop Pictureworks’ digital solutions footprint to other theme parks.

However, the team overestimated the acceptance rate towards new technologies in other Southeast Asian countries because we overlooked the local aspects such as user adoption rate towards new technologies. Hence, it was a little challenging for Pictureworks in terms of coping with the local culture and adapting digital imaging solutions towards each country’s societal framework.

We learnt that despite the intention to go digital, many aspects will influence the acceptance of digitalisation in some other developing countries’ businesses. One of those key areas would be localisation, which is a fundamental building block for any business to penetrate other markets.

While most of the theme parks we visited were interested to adopt the technology, the facilities were undergoing a transitional phase to better equip their facilities and mechanisms. Hence, the products we introduced had to fit the local markets’ requirements in efforts to assimilate and localise Pictureworks’ digital imaging solutions and services according to their existing models and technological frameworks.

A+M: How did you overcome it and what did you learn from it?

Tay: A market’s readiness for digitalisation will be influenced by various forces. Therefore, it is imperative that we conduct sufficient research to ensure the company’s products are localised to meet the requirements of the market.

Localisation is ultimately a vital preparation aspect before any business plans to go global or regional. At the end of the day, in-depth research is also needed to understand the populations’ interest.

For instance, we conducted on-ground surveys with the local community and arranged familiarisation trips to the theme parks. Armed with this research, you can then put the foundation in place by way of localisation of your products. Thus, ensuring that your company at least gets a fighting chance and be relatively successful in penetrating the market, as you would already have the relevant information needed at your fingertips.

Additionally, we worked closely with the team on hand and had in-depth discussions with our clients to propose plans which are finely-tuned to the specifics of each local community.

A+M: What are some of the common challenges you face with digital today?

Tay: There’s a common myth that entering the digital industry is easy with no barriers to entry and little cost. However, as someone who has been there, an essential investment is required and the commitment to making the business work is paramount.

It takes a bold step to be a player in the digital industry and we should always be prepared to expect the unexpected circumstances in such an ever-changing world.

Generally, it takes up a lot of effort and passion to be a part of the digital industry. The government policies, consumer behaviors, and societal needs are changing every day and businesses need to keep themselves updated with the trends and changes so that they will not get eliminated from the game.

For traditional businesses that aim to transition their business into the digital industry, they will need to equip themselves with professionals that have the right set of skills and cultural backgrounds to understand the digital industry.

A+M: Are there any digital trends which excite you or that you are wary of?

Tay: Witnessing the supportive government and evolution of technology in China from my past experience has given me a lot of inspiration on how technology changes the economy and culture of the country.

In recent years, the digital industry in Malaysia is gradually gaining strides and has received greater support from the government. There have been many initiatives to boost the e-commerce landscape of Malaysia, encouraging online shopping and cashless payments and even discussing the contributions of e-commerce in our country’s GDP. This is very encouraging for any businesses, giving them more confidence to expand their market and strategy.

Local government support also plays a big role in increasing awareness and acceptance of the society, paving an easier way for businesses to succeed in the market.

Having more e-wallet and e-commerce players coming on board is a positive sign on the development of technology in the country, showing the uprising of the digital and technology industry in Malaysia.

A+M: Any top tips for marketers and brands embracing digital?

Tay: For start-ups that aim to go regional, it is always important to localise your products. Familiarise yourself and be sensitive to the country’s culture, market behavior as well as societal spending habits to produce a strategy plan that suits the society’s need. Always research the societal norms of the country, and leave no stone unturned in exploring your product’s feasibility in entering the market. Once you understand your target market well, you will then be able to feed your product at the right time with the right pricing to ensure better adoption and acceptance of your product.

Goal setting is also very important, as only with these milestones will you be able to accurately measure your company’s business expansion and plan accordingly for the future.

Start-ups have to be prepared and expect that many challenges will come through as they go digital and results will not be immediate. The digital world is very competitive and businesses should always be aware and develop new ideas as there might be products similar to the one that you are offering entering the e-commerce platform.

Despite the challenges and obstacles faced on the digital journey, I think it is still a fun and interesting industry to venture into, as the world is moving towards a digital future.

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