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Tech in check: DBS SVP and head of digital Venkat Raghavan

A physicist and a marketer, Venkat Raghavan has around 13 years of experience in digital performance marketing and e-commerce, having worked at brands such as SAP, AXA, HCL Technologies and eBay.

Today he is senior vice president and head of digital, group strategic marketing and communications at DBS,  Today he is responsible for several regional MarTech and analytics initiatives. Raghavan re-joined the bank in September 2017. During his earlier stint with DBS in 2013, he led digital marketing campaigns and initiatives for Singapore.

In this edition of Tech in check, Raghavan shares his journey with digital and how he overcame its challenges.

Marketing: What was your first digital role like?

My first digital role was with eBay India and my targets revolved around three areas – get more customers, increase the order size and improve the order frequency. Through several experiments and failures, I learnt some vital things that laid a strong foundation for my digital marketing career.

I understood the value of looking at customer journey in totality with funnel analytics, and not just media and web analytics in silos.

One should be able to test and tweak the customer experience at every stage of the journey and optimise.

Additionally, I learnt the importance of not competing in the marketplace just with price, offers, discounts etc. as it made prospects and customers think that the only good thing about the offering was the price which made it challenging to build customer loyalty.

Marketing: What was your biggest tech blunder?

The biggest tech blunder I made was with a campaign launch several years ago.

We had in place some great creatives along with a good digital media mix and a decent social media led activation plan. The total investment was in the order of a few million dollars and the click call-to-action drove users to a beautifully designed landing page with a great UI and interactive features. We launched the campaign on a Friday. Within a few hours after the paid media channels were live, the site went down due to high traffic volume. We hadn’t estimated the traffic volumes nor tested the server-application stability.

This wasn’t the worst part. After several weeks of demanding work, our media agency was not accessible over the weekend to pause the paid media campaigns nor was the tech support team available to do the site load optimisation. Consequently, we drained significant media dollars over the weekend with no value beyond just impressions.

Marketing: How did you overcome it and what did you learn from it?

While we fixed the problem the following week and the remaining media dollars were well utilised, this mistake taught me several lessons:

  • Do not front-load all your budgets for a short spend duration.
  • Don’t launch a campaign on a Friday, especially when the folks who have worked hard on the campaign launch are likely to have a hangover weekend.
  • Turn on campaigns progressively on various media channels and not all at once.
  • Always account for glitches in tech ops, ad-serving and tag firing.

Marketing: What are some of the common challenges you face with digital today?

Three things come to mind – firstly, the disintegrated customer experience. Often, we tend to look at message, media and mechanism in silos. Not only do we need to integrate these, but also design CX for a non-linear continuum.

Secondly, the lack of mature enterprise wide marketing analytics environment. Several challenges on this front exist including – friction to access quality data whilst maintaining control and having ingested data into the central marketing analytics hub lacking metadata, quality measurement and consistency of usage.

Thirdly, the dangerous issue with half-knowledge. An average well-read traditional marketer becomes a digital marketing genius overnight and continues to apply the principles of traditional medium to digital medium. It simply does not work this way!

Marketing: Are there any digital trends which excite you or that you are wary of?

Several trends excite me, but the problem is that the digital landscape is changing incredibly fast. The tech conversations that we are having today will become obsolete in a few years from now. It is extremely hard to keep pace with application of emerging trends.

It becomes essential to focus on what customers really want and apply technology to find a solution and not the other way around.

Marketing: Any top tips for marketers and brands embracing digital?

Remember the Pareto principle (the law of the vital few), 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. So, you may consider channelling your 20% into some of these areas.

This means transforming your front-end customer experience with contextual, personalised and immersive digital marketing experiments and negotiating the complexity arising from multiple media data sources. Marketers also need to “re-architect” their back-end and designing for minimal/negligible tech operations and create a safe environment to test and fail as no amount of theoretical training can substitute hands-on execution.

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