Staff Writer
Aug 9, 2021

Optimising customer engagement in an evolving world

During an executive roundtable hosted by Campaign Asia and Braze, marketing leaders from across APAC took a deep dive into customer engagement, discussing the rising demand for personalised experiences.

Optimising customer engagement in an evolving world

Cross-channel and personalised communication used to be ‘nice-to-haves,’ but are now an essential part of customer engagement marketing strategies. The landscape is set to become even more complex in the future, with hybrid futures predicted for many aspects of our lives. 

According to the Braze 2021 Global Customer Engagement Review, 60% of marketing decision-makers report that customer engagement is one of the top three areas they plan to invest in. However, while great ROI is achievable if customer engagement is done right, 74% still worry that their customer engagement metrics aren’t translating into tangible business outcomes.

That said, marketers from Asia are slightly more optimistic than those in the United States and Europe.

It is with the above in mind that Campaign Asia and Braze co-organised a roundtable with some of Asia’s top marketing leaders to get their insights on optimising customer engagement in an ever-evolving world. 

The roundtable began with Julia Lee, GM & VP, APAC at Braze, sharing thoughts on how to best define customer engagement. She remarked that customer engagement is a big word that has a lot of meanings. “Customer engagement is about using information to gain an understanding of each customer, in the moment. It is not about the segment, the cohort, or the journey stage throughout. It's about the person and the ability to listen and understand,” said Lee.

Pivoting to better meet customers where they are

Many of the customer engagement initiatives that were first deployed in response to COVID have since become part of long-term marketing efforts. In a post-COVID world, customers will still expect brands to deliver personalised experiences

Exemplifying this evolution is Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay, Singapore’s national performing arts centre, which holds about 3,500 performances and activities annually. That all changed with the COVID crisis.

Kelly Tan, Esplanade’s Head of Marketing Engagement, recalled, “The arts was one of the first industries to have to pivot during the crisis and fill in the tech gaps. The most obvious one would be converting from live performances in the physical venue to the online space.” She continued, “The advantage was we were able to reach out to more people and audiences could choose to be engaged with us at the time that they prefer. However, the opportunity to engage digitally is different because there is no personal touch, but we find ways to connect through other communication platforms.”

Vanessa Yeo Barger, VP of Brand at women's fashion retailer Love, Bonito, raised another perspective from an omnichannel brand that is mainly online. “The primary thing for us was retention, knowing full well everyone would be accelerated in the digital space and it would become a lot more crowded.” Beyond styling and fashion, Love, Bonito rolled out a series of relatable, informative, and educational content via Instagram and TikTok content series about how women can live better lives and empower themselves through topics like mental health and investing. 

She said, “In terms of how we operate throughout any crisis, it's always the relationship between what the customer needs at that point of time, and how we can give it to them by content. Content is so important, especially during COVID, because you have to give customers something they care about.”

Personalising contextual experiences at critical moments in the customer journey

The Braze 2021 Global Customer Engagement Review found that the most effective brands provide a valuable, cohesive experience as consumers jump from one digital platform to the next. Today, 80% of brands execute campaigns across multiple customer engagement channels.

At the roundtable, Reynard Laksmono, Regional Marketing and Digital Marketing head, at Barilla and Terry Pang, Head of Marketing at Chope discussed creating 1:1 personalised experiences in the food space, but highlighted their brands’ different areas of focus: Italian pasta brand Barilla is for home cooks, while Chope connects diners and restaurants.

During COVID, people ate at home more and were seeking entertainment value that would educate and inspire them. Barilla launched At Home With Barilla, a live-stream cooking show featuring chefs and influencers cooking pasta recipes. Laksmono observed that the challenge now is to continue to be relevant. “People want to go out and enjoy life. How we sustain the willingness to continue to cook at home is still a question mark for us.”

Pang noted that the restaurant industry had faced a tough year and was still recovering. “We’re all just trying to do an extreme pivot,” he said. For Chope, that means figuring out today’s customer journey. “There's so many different touchpoints and entry points and stages. Is that person coming through the web? Are they coming through Google? And then do we try to move them to the app? If they go to the app, do we try to move them to the first purchase? Or to the first reservation? There's so many different journeys.”

Shifting marketing and technology to improve impact on customer engagement

Joyce Bibby, Regional Growth Marketing head at SES, delivers the company’s message to customers, partners, and prospects in the Asia-Pacific region through various marketing initiatives. Before COVID, the satellite industry relied heavily on conferences, in-person and in-country meetings, and workshops for customer engagement and retention. When COVID arrived, SES had to think of new ways to engage their B2B customers digitally.

“The profile of our customers is what you would call traditional.  We had to find innovative ways to engage them in the digital space, and this entails working closely with our customer-facing stakeholders, especially the sales team, to make this happen. We’ll probably continue with digital even after conferences and travel are back,” Bibby said.

Carro’s CMO Manisha Seewal says COVID-19 has pushed them and their customers to the digital space. “The showroom was gone. The existing customer experience was totally broken. Interestingly, the market had a pent up demand. If people can afford it, they want to get a car instead of using public transportation [due to heightened awareness of crowds during COVID-19]. We made the end-to-end journey completely digital, from the moment when you browse a car to when you want to test drive it. You can do all that without meeting a salesperson.” 

Yien Chye, Braze’s senior strategic business consultant, agreed with these principles about adaptability and agility to effectively engage with customers. The common thread she sees is activation. 

“It's about how you bring what marketing traditionally does, which is telling customers what your product or brand is all about, and how you get them to experience it. So that in between is what I call activation. And I think all of you have done a great job in bridging and adapting to the situation and how you kept your customers in touch.”

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