Jenny Chan 陳詠欣
Apr 6, 2018

Q&A: Mead Johnson nurtures digital transformation

The infant formula brand tells us how it became less reliant on China's giant digital players to focus on just one key metric: the millennial mum.

Liana Yu, Mead Johnson China's associate director of digital transformation.
Liana Yu, Mead Johnson China's associate director of digital transformation.

Can you explain how Mead Johnson evolved from being platform-centric to placing eCRM at the core of its strategy?

Digital transformation in itself is an adjustment of the organisational structure, in my opinion. Around 2015, when the BAT (Baidu, Alibaba, Tencent) companies were still the giant players in China, we restructured our consumer engagement teams to focus on each player, as well as the main parenting vertical Babytree - thus 'BATB'. This system was more advanced than our competitors at that time. We actually considered the BATB as clients, and ourselves as the servicing company, and we tried to fit our communication strategies into their strongest programs that year. Through this in-depth cooperation, we found digital marketing opportunities for our own brand.

Liana Yu will speak at Campaign's Digital360Festival in Shanghai, 25-26 April.

After that, the idea that digital should not be limited to digital marketing drove us to take a step forward towards more business-related results. According to our data, new mothers tend to make infant milk formula brand choices in the third trimester of their pregnancies. They don't often switch brands once they have tried a certain one unless their babies reject the product, which happens only 10% of the time.

In other words, customer acquisition is the most important part of business growth for us. The lifetime value of a customer can only be maximised from the time of acquisition. So this is why we decided to reset our entire team to a deep eCRM structure. ECRM became the core of all digital engagement, be it HTML5 campaigns, antenatal music, or online prenatal classes. This meant we had to digitalise the whole company's capabilities.

Go where the customers go... Mead Johnson operates a WeChat account to reach
mothers in the places where they're spending time online.

If eCRM is now the core, what are the key considerations in terms of the best digital channels to acquire customer data?

We continue to look at where the consumer is, and then go there to engage and build relationships with them. Parenting verticals are still very important for a category like ours. The dominant position of WeChat is also significant, from the performance point of view. Consumers, whether they are millennial mothers or not, spend a few hours each day on their WeChat, so we have been using our WeChat public account as the basis for our entire CRM system.

There are four big areas of focus: education, services, membership and conversion. Our WeChat account is actually the first large-scale customisation platform in the infant milk formula industry. Out of over 5 million followers, we know which exact trimester 80% of them are in and we find ways to connect with them ahead of major checkups or pregnancy milestones, by pushing customised reminders to them on a weekly basis. As a result, we are the most active Wechat account in the infant milk formula category.

One thing to note - and other brands with multiple SKUs or product lines must have faced the same dilemma - is whether to open a new WeChat public account for each new product or not. If you do, you have to accumulate fans from scratch and engage them all over again. If a single customer is a fan of two of our WeChat accounts, there will be overlap in our CRM system and re-acquisition costs will be high.

[Editor's note: This article was modified on 16 April with elaborations on the types of digital engagement and the frequency of customised reminders on the Mead Johnson WeChat account]

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