Faaez Samadi
Jul 2, 2018

Singapore's top mobile-friendly brands

Knowing your customers intimately and providing them excellent service are the recurring themes for Singapore’s leading mobile brands, industry observers tell us.

Singapore's top mobile-friendly brands

As part of our look at Singapore's top brands of 2018, part of the Asia's Top 1000 Brands report, we found that Singaporean consumers see DBS, Lazada and Singtel as the country’s most mobile-friendly brands. What are they doing right that others can learn from?

We asked four in-market observers for their insights into these brands and others that are benefiting from their use of mobile, and for an opinion on which social media platform can make or break a brand in the Singaporean market.

Mark Teal, head of business development, Digitas Singapore

All three are doing great work in mobile, but with regards to cause, I would separate DBS and Singtel from Lazada. The former are service-oriented companies born from brick and mortar who moved into the digital space, and the latter is a digital native company born for the mobile era.

DBS and Singtel are seeing success because they are spending the time and energy to really understand what the customer wants, needs, how they behave digitally, and enabling their core services in manners that reflect those behaviours. This makes the whole experience feel more intuitive for the customer. They are also doing a very good job at learning from the actions of their customer to iterate on the product. In short, despite their traditional roots, they are thinking like a digital native in how they develop the mobile services.

Lazada has never faced the issue of having legacy offline systems. So, where DBS and Singtel have transformed many of their capabilities to be more digitally minded, Lazada has looked to the offline shopping world and to other ecommerce players to understand what consumers love and then worked to provide that as hygiene.  

Brands leverage social platforms for their reach and daily user volumes to make impact. In that sense, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and potentially even WhatsApp (if used by the brand in an interesting way) can help to make a brand. One interesting example would be IKEA, and while it's been a couple years since their biggest social hit BookBook, they continue to put out great commentary that links brand and culture in ways that help it to go viral.

But the interesting side of social is that any of the platforms can actually break a brand if there is a crisis and they use the platform incorrectly. Is the brand prepared and organised to handle negative sentiment and feedback? How will they deal with crisis comms and PR? Increasingly consumers demand transparency and social media is a platform where it is expected.

Frederick Tong, strategy director, Ogilvy Singapore

It's heartening as a consumer – and, as a marketer, not surprising – to note that a bank, telco and e-commerce brand fared well amongst the most mobile friendly brands in Singapore. Their 'products' aren't tangible or even particularly high-involvement or significantly differentiated, so it makes perfect sense for them to focus on standing out on the basis of user experience. They understand that a great brand interface matters as much as projecting a certain brand image, if not more so. 

DBS, in particular, set out to be a 'digital bank' and made moves on that front long before "Live more, bank less" officially put a pithy articulation to what it had already been trying to enable for years.  

But a glance at Lazada's mobile reviews (now often the ‘social media’ with disproportionate influence at the last mile) will remind us that for all the elaborate bells and whistles of technology and UX design, it is the huff and puff of customer service, fulfilment and service recovery that give the human element the opportunity to either be the icing on the cake or the chink in the armour. 

Are some lapses beyond Lazada's remit? Yes, when external sellers fall short. Do consumers care? No, it's the Lazada experience they signed up for. They don’t see a line. A former associate used to say, "It's not my fault but I'll make it my problem," which may well be the mantra such brands have to live by now. 

Kim Hoeu, APAC head of paid social, Essence

These brands have done a commendable job keeping ahead of the curve. Accessibility is key for users/clients/potential subscribers and these three brands have relevant apps that closely cater to their consumers’ needs. These brands also have strong engagement on mobile platforms. They know who and where their audiences are, and they are connecting with them successfully on mobile in various ways, for example, using Instagram Stories (DBS) and Instagram ads (Lazada) to reach out to their audiences.

Facebook and Instagram are dominant platforms with a wide reach of users across demographics. The #3dollarballer campaign by Circles.Life to introduce its S$3 unlimited mobile data plan went viral on social media. It even created an Instagram account (@3dollarballer) and used it to generate buzz and crowd for its publicity events.

The #HuntTheMouse campaign, a collaboration between OCBC Bank and Sqkii to generate awareness for OCBC's new payment solution app, went viral on Facebook. By revealing clues on a daily basis, the brands were able to pique the interest of users and engage them throughout the campaign, both online and offline. This campaign showcased the clever use of a relatively small marketing budget to drive virality and awareness for the brands involved.

Ben Poole, APAC MD, Reprise

In DBS’s case, it has undergone a company-wide digital cultural shift that started in 2013. Building a great mobile experience for customers can only happen when all systems throughout the business can be connected, and with tech-focused senior management driving the agenda. The fact that I can do a simple change of postal address on my mobile in 60 seconds, is probably taken for granted among DSB customers – but it’s certainly not the case among other banks and in other countries. I know I can’t do that with my UK bank.

Singtel has accelerated its mobile experiences faster and more recently, and its recent wins of customer experience awards show it is starting to get things right. The major investments it has been making in to its Group Digital Life and Innov8 arms, is starting to have a positive effect across the entire business. Lazada was born an e-commerce business, so digital customer experience is in their DNA. It is easy to buy on the platform, which is what people want. Alibaba’s recent US$2 billion investment should arm Lazada with more know-how and money to successfully compete with Amazon.

I’m not convinced that social platforms can break brands. I can’t think of a brand that’s been killed by social media. Yes there may be a PR crisis on social platforms, but if handled in the right way these things usually blow over. In terms of social platforms making brands, there are really interesting things going on among Singapore startups that are building their marketing around platforms like Instagram. Particularly in the retail and fashion sectors, with products that have incredibly visually appealing content – perfect for Instagram. Love Bonito and Naiise are great examples.

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