This is part of an article series for the Power List 2020, created in partnership with Twitter as part of their global #LeadersforGood initiative.
In the past eight months, we’ve seen a raft of brands take their content, products and services online with the hope of engaging with their customers during this period of lockdown.
A virtual launch or a piece of online content might take less time and resources to put together than a physical one but it doesn’t mean that you don’t have to put out relevant content. In fact, it could be argued that it’s much harder to keep a virtual audience engaged throughout your event. After all, they only need to click on that little cross at the top of the screen if they feel they aren’t getting their time’s worth.
Yet, opportunities also abound in a period when the world has gone virtual. For one, people feel less bound by geographical locations. For another, the plethora of online tracking tools has allowed for more targeted and personalised engagement.
Limitless opportunities for engagement
Founded in 2012, Lazada Group started off as an e-commerce platform and while retail remains its strength, it has expanded to include live-streaming and entertainment capabilities.
One such capability is LazLive, a live-streaming app that forms a core part of the platform’s ‘Shopperentertainment’ strategy. Merging retail and entertainment, customers can watch entertainment shows, play games and create their content while shopping online, and brands can sell online, record videos and host live-streaming sessions to speak directly with their customers.
Lazada tested the app at its 'See-Now-Buy-Now' fashion shows last March, where viewers could snag whatever product that caught their eyes on the 'runway'. Showcasing both local designers and international brands, the show drew more than 300,000 views in Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand.
Usage of the app has exploded during Covid, with the number of new LazLive accounts jumping by a whopping 70% in April alone.
LazLive isn't only for selling and buying. During this period of social isolation, it's crucial that brands help people connect with each other. In April, Lazada invited Filipino model and vlogger Mimiyuuuh to host Sing It!, an eight-episode show where local celebrities perform popular songs. The finale clocked up an impressive 158,000 views.
Crucial to Lazada's high engagement is the rethinking of the marketing funnel.
As Mary Zhou, CMO of Lazada Group, notes, the company’s marketing team is constantly “work[ing] with our product team to create strong scalable features and IPs that are focused on consumer engagement.”
In the past, a brand might launch a product, where it’d then make its way through the different sales and marketing channels. Now, that process is more fluid, with marketing departments working closely with various internal teams to come up with integrated solutions that put customer experience at its centre.
“We leverage the many opportunities and tools to listen to what our customers need. Whether you are a shopper or a seller, we have multi touch points and real time feedback channels to understand and adapt to the situation,” Zhou notes.
Hybridity - the future of customer experience?
As brands rush to adapt content online, they’re also thinking about the long-term: what happens when Covid is over (and we hope that’ll be soon) and people could come out of lockdown?
“There’s been a massive shift to online during this period. Consumers are logging onto online entertainment, networking on social platforms, and buying online. Some of the digital habits nurtured during this period aren’t reversible,” says Vivian Wang, CMO at iQiyi.
The future of customer engagement appears to lie in a hybrid model where brands and their customers could interact all the time, regardless of whether they’re in or out, on their smartphones or walking on the streets.
When it comes to the hybrid model, there is no better case study than Asia, a region with more digital and mobile natives than anywhere else in the world. Relative to their American and European counterparts, Asian consumers are more likely to engage with an event or a launch via mobile before the physical event, and are also more likely to make online purchases.
iQiyi’s reality TV show, FOURTRY, is the ultimate manifestation of this on- and offline fluidity.
In the show, four Chinese celebrities were tasked with running a fashion store in Tokyo.
Not only could audiences make use of a VR function to watch the show, they could leverage an AI radar feature to identify the clothing and accessories on the show. Should a piece of clothing or accessory tickle their fancy, a link would direct them to a purchase site. Riding on the popularity of the show, a pop-up store was then set up in Shanghai to sell FOURTRY-themed clothing and accessories, as well as a collection of special edition IKEA furniture and homeware featured on the show.
This hybridity is also seen in Youth with You 2, a show that followed a group of female contestants as they overcome various challenges to become the next ‘idol. It has already racked up millions of views since its release in March 2020.
When viewers were watching the show on the iQiyi app, they could make use of a video tool to zoom into their favourite contestant, or record a message to cheer on a contestant after liking a sponsor’s WeChat page.
On the streets of Shanghai, they might come across a large billboard showcasing the contestants. They might then whip out their phone and use an AR tool to scan a contestant on the billboard, after which they were directed to a page that allowed them to award points to the contestant.
Similar engagement tactics were applied for the show’s 20+ brand sponsors. For a toothpaste brand, iQiyi had a contestant dressed up in a branded outfit to dance in a 10-second ad spot.
In the case of a skincare company, viewers were prompted to like its WeChat account, after which they could record an audio message to cheer on a contestant.
They might look vastly different from each other but at heart of them was the opportunity for customers to engage with the show contestants.
Young people don’t want to be lectured, they want to find something that is fulfilling, they want a kind of two-way [instead of top-down] communication,” notes Wang.
In an era of digital acceleration, it’s easy to see audiences as segments, or as data points. And while there is nothing inherently wrong with that, perhaps Covid will allow brands to take a step back, and come up ways to engage with customers that aren’t only effective in the short-run, but can help gain trust in the long run.