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COVID Has “Accelerated Digital Transformation From Years to Months”

12 brand leaders discuss the challenges of digital transformation at a virtual roundtable hosted by Campaign and Appier.


How should marketers invest in digital solutions that allow them to engage with their customers both in the short- and long-term?

That was one question raised at Digital Transformation in Marketing: Boosting customer engagement with data and AI, a roundtable that looked at the various digital transformation challenges brands are facing in 2020.

Hosted by Campaign in partnership with Appier, the session brought together marketing leaders from 13 brands: Citi, Aon, Fuji Xerox, Fairprice Group, Pizza Hut, Yum! Restaurants International, Love, Bonito, Naiise, The Wall Street Journal, Singapore Sports Hub, PropertyGuru Group, MoneySmart and Zespri International.

Michelle Wong, SVP, Enterprise Solutions at Appier, kicked off the roundtable with a short presentation about the challenges facing marketers today.

One of the major challenges in 2020 is the consumers shift to digital. This is accompanied by a willingness to try new apps and channels, increasing the number of potential touch points for marketers.

According to findings by Appier, consumers in SEA are, compared to their North Asian counterparts, more likely to shop outside their home countries, with a staggering 85% willing to try out new consumer apps. In a world of exploding apps and channels, one major challenge confronting marketers is getting a 360-degree view of their customers.

“Digital transformation has become a necessity, rather than a nice-to-have,” notes Wong.

“Marketers need to increase consumer touchpoints but they must also simplify customer communications. This requires real-time monitoring capabilities. Underpinning all that is data. According to Forbes, the pandemic has accelerated digital transformation from years to months. In fact, companies that haven’t adopted digital transformation might not be able to last till next year.”


Data Alone Doesn’t Suffice, It Must Be Actionable

When it comes to digital adoption, one challenge that kept coming up during the conversation was what to do with the data you’ve collected.

Jane Leong, VP data at Love, Bonito, says that digital transformation is not a one-step process. “We have data coming from various sources, from our online store to physical retail footfall. 2019 was all about building a robust foundation; ensuring data accessibility, and aligning on metrics to define and track. In 2020, we focused on developing analytics frameworks such as customer segmentation and the launch of our loyalty program. Now, in terms of customer targeting, the key focus is on how we can further delight our customers through personalization throughout their omni-channel journey”

Sometimes, it’s not simply about integrating data, but to getting people in the organization who have different levels of data access to work together.

As Jaslyin Qiyu, head of existing client marketing at Citi Singapore says, “Like most companies, data is everywhere but pulling it together into a single source of truth is the biggest challenge, especially when not everyone has the same level of access, understanding and appreciation”.


The Need to Ensure That Everyone Is on Board the Digital Transformation Train

For digital transformation to drive performance and competitive advantage, company leaders also need to ensure that both the technology and people are digital-ready.

For PropertyGuru Group’s Director of Brand & Consumer Marketing, Meenakshi Shunmugham, it’s about how “you bring everyone else with you on the journey”.

”We are a 13-year-old company and there are many things that we need to carefully consider in order to embark on and execute the digital transformation process successfully.”

Shunmugham elaborated further for the group, “The first issue is clarity. What does digital mean for you in your industry and for your company specifically? The second is urgency. And that’s a difficult one for many to understand if a company is still performing well. Why should they change? The third is planning. What’s an appropriate plan to do this at scale? Fourth, and this is probably my most important one, is recognition of your current company setup and how to change it to adapt to the new environment. A core component of this last point would be talent management.”

Andrew Tan, assistant director, customer & marketing at FairPrice Group, says the group has a social responsibility to help small businesses digitalize. “We work with thousands of mom and pop sellers. Overnight, we needed to bring them online. At the same time, we needed to convince consumers that digitalization comes at a cost. So it’s about getting everyone on board, from the young to old, from the digitally savvy to those who aren’t.”


Figuring Out What to Invest In – Ultimately It’s About What Will Make a Difference for Consumers

Another question that marketing leaders are asking themselves is ‘What’s the outlook for digital investment?’ With the current focus on digital so closely tied to the shift to digital during Covid, it could be a challenge to figure out what to invest in for the long-term.

Pizza Hut is using AI to transform the customer experience. Claire Leong, the company’s director, performance marketing APAC, says some countries are ahead of the curve when it comes to adopting digital infrastructure. “In China, the team really leverages customer data, and AI drives the way they sell online. If you have the app, you’d find that menus switch in and out throughout the day. It also recognizes past purchases.”

Others are investing in the digital products that allow them to improve physical interactions.

“Say, you’re visiting a friend and you really like their place. You could just point your phone at the property to find out more about it. So that’s using data to bridge online and offline. That process doesn’t exist for customers, who are just seamlessly switching back and forth between online and offline,” says PropertyGuru’s Shunmugham.


* This article was originally published on Campaign Asia.


Let us know the marketing challenges that you’re facing, and how you want to improve your marketing strategy.


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