Tech in check: Lazada SG's CMO Jason Huan

Singapore's chief marketing officer of one of Southeast Asia's biggest online marketplace, Lazada, Jason Huan brings with him over 10 years of experience defining his role as CMO. He is responsible for managing the overall marketing function for the e-commerce platform, locally as well as overseeing all functional teams nestled under the broader marketing team.

He is also equipped with a skillset that encompasses strategic planning, partnerships, data analysis, and branding. Prior to his role as CMO, Huan led the strategic partnerships team for Lazada Singapore and was responsible for on-boarding key partners such as Citi, HSBC, Standard Chartered Bank, Shell, and NTUC. He also led the 99% SME initiative for Lazada, a strategic partnership between DBS, SingTel and Lazada Singapore that accelerates the digitalisation of small-medium enterprises in Singapore.

Huan’s experience before Lazada saw him developing and leading marketing strategies for companies in the travel, finance, education and talent acquisition industries. His experience spans regionally and globally and has allowed him to work across markets in Southeast Asia, North Asia, Europe and South America.

With knowledge spread across several markets and leadership roles, Marketing speaks to Huan about his journey in the industry.

(Check out the previous editions of Tech in check here:
Tech in check: Havaianas’ SG and MY MD Jaime Syjuco
Tech in check: PropertyGuru Group’s CMO Bjorn Sprengers
Tech in check: Honestbee’s VP of marketing Christina Lim
Tech in check: Carro’s chief marketing officer Manisha Seewal
Tech in check: Liquid Pay’s founder and CEO Jeremy Tan
Tech in check: McDonald’s senior director Daniel Lee
Tech in check: foodpanda SG’s managing director Luc Andreani)

Marketing: What was your first digital role like?

My first digital role was actually a side project to launch a brand on social media. It sounds pretty straightforward, but I was working for an organisation that was rather conservative and it seemed like opening Pandora’s box to them. A brand launch on social media was quite unprecedented at the time, so I had to present my case to the CEO in order to get the blessing. The biggest benefit though, was creating a ton of processes downstream to ensure that escalations that may result in reputational risk were mitigated. From then on, it became so successful that a large part of my daily remit was to ensure engagement rates were kept high, and that customer issues were kept at bay.

Marketing: What was your biggest tech blunder?

It’s not exactly a tech blunder, but often we are fixated on delivering an ROI-based output without a broader view of the impact on the business. In a complex environment such as a marketplace, onsite UX/UI plays an integral part in enhancing the ROI component – where there are larger dependencies.

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

On top of running the daily efficiencies, parking a portion of our budgets to do A/B testing helped us make better decisions on where to better spend our budgets. A large portion of what we do on the branding side, especially for our larger campaigns, also drives a significant amount of free traffic, which we have learnt how to orchestrate in tandem with paid traffic.

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

The challenge I face with digital now is that it seems to be gravitating towards being the single line of truth – by that I mean being largely reliable in providing a responsible view on ROI. Advancements in machine-learning capabilities have greatly enabled snap decision-making and in the realm of marketing, this undermines the necessity for complementary channels that also generate strong RoAS (return on ad spend).

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

AI and VR present exciting opportunities for the e-commerce industry, especially for shoppers and brands. With the recent Alibaba acquisition, Lazada is now able to leverage the expertise of the biggest e-commerce player in the world to provide better experiences to our customers. This is especially exciting because with better machine-learning capabilities, shoppers get immediate, personalised options, and brands can tap into this massive pool of data insights to better target and engage their customers. Together with the increasing adoption of VR, the day will come when shoppers can enjoy the highest level of immersion – imagine being able to try out virtually recommended clothes and furniture, while you’re shopping on the go or at the comfort of home.

Another exciting trend is social commerce, which marries e-commerce with social media. Lazada is leading this integration through the capability to host livestreams within the app, a phenomenon that is widely popular in China. This is an exciting opportunity for brands looking for novel ways to connect with their customers.

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

At the current pace of development of marketing technologies, it’s important to keep the pace of digital spend in line with business needs. A lot of start-ups have learnt this lesson the hard way, embracing new technology in the spirit of enterprise, but burning cash after realising it doesn’t match their growth phase.