There’s no overestimating the blow Covid has dealt to business and individuals. In these unsettling times, it’s up to CMOs and marketing leads to engage with clients & consumers in empathetic and meaningful ways. In many ways, the role of CMOs was already starting to shift pre-Covid-whereas marketers of yore focused mostly on the upper funnel, they’re increasingly working with internal teams to gain a holistic view of the customer journey.
One phrase that kept coming up at CMO Circle: Digital Acceleration in times of crisis, a roundtable organised by Campaign Asia Salesforce in late August was Customer 360. As the world goes on lockdown, with customers’ boundaries and references shifting by the day, it’s up to brands to help carve a path in the new normal.
Gaining a 360-degree view of the customer experience
“Customers want brands to serve, not just to sell,” said Marc Mathieu, SVP, strategic customer transformation and innovation at Salesforce. The marketing leader is no stranger to brand crisis-having worked at Coca-Cola, Samsung and Unilever before joining Salesforce. Yet, the pandemic also presents some unique challenges and opportunities - there are now more people online than ever, which has led to an unprecedented shift in the way they buy, sell and consume content.
The question is, according to Mathieu, how do you use this explosion of customer data in an intelligent way? “The CMO’s role is more important than ever. They not only need to lead marketing and communications but work alongside other C-suites, including the CTO and the CCXO, to understand customer touchpoints. If you have a great product, great packaging, but faltering customer service, you’re wasting your effort. There needs to be a holistic approach to customer service.”
Luke Tucker, CMO at Citi Singapore, agreed, “every dollar invested in marketing now has to work harder it’s upon us to prove attribution. But it’s also important to ensure that the brand and brand values aren’t left behind. You need to create that seamless purchasing path, from your app to the person calling up customers. To achieve that, there needs to be synergy between marketing and customer experience teams.”
But how do you gain a 360-degree view of your customers when your business has dramatically slowed in the past eight months?
Cebu Pacific, like many in the travel industry, find they can no longer rely on historical data to do yield management.
“There are many dualities we need to contend with: going digital but still enabling human connection, conserving cash but ensuring customers are getting refunds,” says Candice Iyog, VP of marketing and customer experience at Cebu Pacific. “We’re really taking the opportunity to re-calibrate the customer experience - across the entire organisation. Right now, aside from regularly communicating with our customers, it is more important that we listen closely to them.”
On the other end of that spectrum is Lazada, which has seen an upshot of sign-ups during Covid. Lazada’s CMO Mary Zhou says they’re always looking for ways to bolster their content offerings. “For SMEs [that sell on Lazada], it’s a challenge to navigate the shift to digital, also that struggle between providing solutions and entertainment. We’re always thinking, how do we make marketing efficient but engaging? We’re collaborating with various platforms to bolster our short videos and live-streaming offers.”
Shopback’s CCO Candice Ong concurs, “customers don’t want to just procure a product, they also expect to be entertained. I think that has led to challenges at the bottom funnel, not only when it comes to conversion, but also figuring out the amount of time people spend on channels that businesses are investing in.”
Fostering communities, building trust
The challenge of making real sense of customer data is one shared by Liyana Soh, head of regional category and country marketing at Carousell, “In February and May, we saw an influx of new users and returning users, but there was no way of understanding why, so we had to do a manual qualitative look at data. That has allowed us to come up with campaigns such as MakingtheBest, which encourages people to list items they no longer need during these tough times. We’re also telling more user stories, to create that emotional bond.”
Indeed, many of the panellists say they’re also leveraging this period of lockdown to tell stories.
With people staying at home, the demand for Petronas’ products has gone down-but the Malaysian oil and gas company didn’t go dark. “This period of reflection is allowing us to pivot our marketing. We think of how we can be helpful, and do a lot more story-telling,” notes Ben Mahmud, head of strategy & business development, downstream marketing, VP Marketing Office at Petronas. “When Malaysia came out of lockdown, and people started buying again, our data shows our petrol business is tracking well ahead of recovery growth.”
“We’re all socially deprived, thus we’re all emotionally deprived. This is a time to truly think about customer value and create those lifelong bonds,” Mathieu notes.
The pandemic is considered an accelerator. At a time when people are more open to sharing personal details, it’s also up to marketing heads to ensure that this data is being used in honest ways. Chitravinee Vannakorn, First SVP, integrated marketing communications department, strategy and analytics division at Kasikornbank says, “All of our efforts has reflected through the growth of K PLUS (KBank’s Mobile Banking) Brand) usage around 25% and transaction rose over 60%, compared to May last year. With this data, we’re able to do more personalised marketing, for example, understanding when to offer lending packages to SMEs and customers.”
Looking to the future
That - how to leverage data and tech to deliver relevant experiences while retaining customers’ trust - will be a key challenge for CMOs in the coming year, especially with the growing consensus that we are already living in the new normal, where people are in front of their screens all the time-whether they are at work, shopping or chatting with their loved ones. As Mathieu says, “It has decimated that line between work and life. What implications does this behaviour change have for the role of the CMO?”