How to seize opportunities as a next-gen retailer

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Pavel Bulowski

CPO | Co-Founder As the world slowly reopens, and retail with it – how can retailers continue to capitalise on their investments into digital transformation? The question today is no longer about moving from offline to online but about staying online and establishing online and offline marketing activities that are aligned and relevant.

Quinn Pham, our Director of Consulting & Client Solutions at Meiro started off the webinar with a highlight on some interesting insights and numbers that showcased how brands have been able to migrate to platforms and marketplaces to gain exposure to online audiences. Although this exposure came with several limitations for brands such as a standardised consumer experience that led to price wars, and very limited data-sharing that could be detrimental for growth opportunities.

So while digital platforms may be crucial, brands must also complement their online presence with their owned assets, such as their own D2C (direct-to-consumer) offering. The prime example of Nike which pulled its presence from Amazon to set up its own D2C channel, which now earns the brand more than 1/3rd of its total revenue. This success of Nike showcases the advantages of D2C through websites, mobile apps, and other touchpoints – and being able to reap priceless st party data through those that could be activated to own the customer relationship.

Connecting data points across the customer journey, from intention to research to purchase, into a single view remains paramount to creating a meaningful customer experience. Important steps in this process are to ‘close the loop’ – to understand and communicate with individual consumers, as well as building trust by being aware of data security & privacy to enable a consensual exchange of information.

A Round of Questions

The discussion began with a brief introduction - Pavel Bulowski, the CMO & Co-founder at Meiro acting as moderator and our panel members - Adrian Burton the Senior Vice President Marketing at Valiram, Chye Yien, Senior Strategic Business Consultant at Braze and Jayesh Easwaramony MD/Founder at Spectra Global.

The first question from Pavel to Adrian was how the transition from brick to click has been for retailers who’ve historically relied on traditional marketing channels?

Adrian answered that the atmosphere in SEA still revolved around malls as a destination, but this was very well complemented by an E-commerce strategy through innovative channels such as a ‘chat & shop’ channel that had helped Valiram boost the sales of their brands. This involved using platforms such as Telegram, WhatsApp and using direct conversations to replicate the shopping experience.

The next question was that in the D2C trend, manufacturers suddenly found themselves in a new line of dealing with and delivering to customers directly – why would consumers choose to visit a specific website to purchase a product over an online marketplace?

Jayesh answered with advice to brands to build the most relevant channel to reach their consumers directly – to try and ‘fail fast' and see what worked best for them. Whether this involves leveraging a stronger sense of community or an experiential offer, or even using online niche marketplaces to augment your own data – the crux was in experimenting and finding the correct way to stitch a customer journey together.

Pavel then asked Chye how Braze has been tackling ‘omnichannel’ marketing for their clients, from offline to online?

Chye spoke about approaching omnichannel marketing not just as establishing a ‘presence’ – but in synchronization. While brands may be tempted to look at maintaining communications through multiple channels, the consumer doesn’t segregate the same way. While thinking digital, it’s important to remember it’s still selling to humans. Customers should always be at the forefront – and that’s why brand communications and conversations must always have a personalised feel.

On being asked whether retail clients were now looking at different KPIs as measurements of success, Chye answered that business should be looked at in 3 levers – activation, engagement and monetization. Using omnichannel and cross-channel approaches with a relevant message at the right time could help to maximise returns.

The next question by Pavel was – what were the biggest challenges retailers and marketers faced – was its technology, processes, activation, or anything else?

Jayesh spoke about his observation that while most retailers stretched themselves thin by trying to do too much – the smarter alternative was to instead be ‘consistent’. To not try and personalize every channel but instead break down omnichannel into very clear objectives – with a clear journey and sharp SOP. Another objective was to have the right tools by defining what the brand wanted to achieve – so as to maximise the efficiency of data. He stressed that omnichannel might be a bit of a buzzword – but unless broken down into relevant KPIs, brands would always face the challenge of data insufficiency.

In-depth into Marketplaces

Pavel opened the second route of discussion with his insight into how the pandemic drove the rush to marketplaces across South East Asia and the world – so what was the truth behind it? Was it an inevitability? The question was posed to Adrian – with an aside as to whether Valiram was starting to build its own marketplace for its brands?

Adrian admitted that while Valiram brands were available on various marketplaces due to their high market value, he had a strong POV on the same. Brands that looked at marketplaces needed to understand their objectives to gain from marketplaces, as well as the margins applicable. Which is why, Valiram had started its own to be able to retain its own first-party data and avoid the walled garden problem, as well as the margins - which allowed re-investing into their own business. He reiterated the point of brands establishing their own channels as an invaluable asset and investment.

Pavel agreed that retailers, when opting for a marketplace, need to be sure of what they want from it – do they want to get rid of surplus quickly, do they want to buy traffic but with the trade-off of not being blocked off from data and not owning the consumer experience at all.

Pavel likened the experience to a double-edged sword – with one side of the sword being much sharper than the other. Jayesh opined that marketplaces may be good learning grounds for new brands to create demand for themselves – by managing expenses and other logistics. Over a period of time, these brands could and should take lessons from these marketplaces to build their own channels.

Chye spoke about brands finding their balance and focussing on their strengths to know the best way forward – it was necessary to have a mix of building your own website and having a marketplace to reach different audiences.

Questions from the audience

As the webinar drew to a close, our panellists took on several queries from the audience: Q1. Was it sustainable to deliver personalized content and conversations to a large customer base?

Chye answered that brands needed to be mindful of the concept of personalisation – not too many brands would really be able to personalise on such a large scale. Instead, brands should look at sharper segmentation – looking at niches with similar characteristics or behaviours. This wouldn’t be possible to do manually but would need the correct technologies to segment intelligently and sustainably. Pavel agreed that the key to that would be long-term consistent data to better understand customer segments.

Q2. Marketers now must consider Offline to Online Attribution as a factor too, with consumers researching online and buying from physical outlets. What new gaps or new challenges would there be in considering this attribution?

Adrian commented that the challenge would be in getting the consumer to give the right detail at offline channels. O2O attribution was important enough for brands to consider and to make an effort to implement loyalty programmes to be able to correlate purchases and marketing efforts. In the end, it boiled down to perfectly understanding the consumer journey and building the necessary incentives to keep a constant flow of data and get more actionable insights. Pavel also added that brands needn’t just keep their O2O attribution to one-time transactions, but could instead look at using subscription models or rewarding customers in exchange for their information.

Last pieces of advice

As a wrap-up, Pavel asked our panellists for a few pieces of advice for retailers in 2021-2022:

Chye advised retailers to be fluid – for brands in retail to stay flexible and use technology as an enabler to keep up with the market today and in the days to come.

Jayesh spoke about starting a digital presence and continuously optimising from there, and then regarding O2O attribution using ideas like geocoded vouchers or incremental testing, and lastly being aware of data silos within retail brands and letting data communicate between departments to maximise its effectiveness.

Adrian advised retailers to make product merchandising and allocation their new best friends – any outbound communication needed to be product-led, as well as having an awareness of the product life cycle.

Pavel concluded the very rewarding discussion with a summary – that D2C was a must and brands needed to start somewhere, omnichannel needed consistency more than quantity and that finally, a presence on marketplaces needed a clear strategy and an understanding of what brand objectives were – as well as the limitations of those.

Looking for some more information on what technologies could get you ahead in the D2C data race? Give us a ping and we’d be happy to help you out over a chat or a cup of coffee.

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pavel bulowski
Pavel Bulowski

Pavel stands behind all the smooth operations and business growth. You would run into him in the queue at airports rather than in one place. Besides that, he enjoys chess, boxing, and history.