Emily Tan
Feb 26, 2015

Less face time: New Geometry COO to boost O2O activation in China

SHANGHAI - While the bulk of shopper marketing in China still involves face-to-face, in-store promotions, increased competition and the development of more sophisticated methods are starting to shift client demand, according to Gareth Ellen, who has just been appointed COO of Geometry Global China.

Gareth Ellen: Focus on customer experience, not O2O tech
Gareth Ellen: Focus on customer experience, not O2O tech

Prior to this, Ellen was regional planning director for Geometry Global Asia-Pacific. He relocated to Shanghai from Singapore last year to also head strategy for its China operations. He took on his new duties on 9 February and will continue to be based in Shanghai.  

In his newly created position, Ellen partners with Tracy Fu, CEO of Geometry Global China. He will continue to spend some of his time working on the Geometry business across Asia-Pacific, alongside John Goodman, CEO Asia-Pacific, and Daniel Comar, regional ECD.

The company created the COO post, Ellen told Campaign Asia-Pacific, to diversify the agency’s business streams. “We’ve had a very strong and very good legacy business in our promoter and shopper marketing with clients, but primarily most of that, about 85 per cent of the business, is the face-to-face marketing we do for clients in retail channels,” he said.

Clients are, however, growing keenly interested in online-to-offline (O2O). Connecting in-store shopper marketing with mobile is a key area of development, he adds. “Clients are also asking how they can use their CRM databases combined with shopper touchpoints to drive future sales,” he added.

Placing a COO in China, he continued, lines up with Geometry’s ambitions to offer a more holistic package of services in the market. “The managing directors are running individual locations, and very well too, but there is a need for us to start servicing clients by using the resources we have throughout the country," he said. "For example, when it comes to O2O, we are not necessarily going to be in a position to grow that depth of capability in every office we have. But there’s no reason why we can’t adopt a cloud model, where we service clients throughout the market via hubs.”

One of Ellen’s duties as country-wide COO will be to build that mechanism as the “MDs have enough on their plate”, he said.

Bringing the conversation back to O2O, Ellen commented that there’s too much emphasis on technology and not enough on the shopper experience. “If you go to any O2O seminar, you’ll hear the conversation skewed to tools rather than the business benefits," he said. "We need to rapidly move beyond that phase to something that’s more productive from a commercial standpoint, for clients.”

The technology exists, he concluded, so it's time to stop talking about it and start discussing how to best use it. “Platforms like WeChat, for example, present a solution that we don’t have to build for clients," he said. "It’s readily available and it provides the ability to engage a shopper on the street, to connect with them and drive them in-store where the shopper messaging they will see will be in line with what’s on their mobile.”

Clients, said Ellen, are asking for solutions from agencies. “Not hours and bodies, but solutions. They’re looking to plug into existing platforms and we need to provide the best strategy for that.”

Two years after the merged entity called Geometry launched in China, the company has a real sense of itself, Ellen added. “We have had plenty of time to iron out the kinks and we’ve just had our first global conference. It’s phenomenal to see the network coming together.”


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