Marketing: Digital marketing to play a bigger role

This article first appeared in Enterprise, The Edge Malaysia Weekly, on July 9, 2018 - July 15, 2018.
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One can still see billboards and big advertising screens, with companies’ products or services on them, when driving on a highway or stuck in a traffic jam in the city. But the impact of such traditional advertising methods is waning, says VR Srivatsan, Adobe’s managing director for Southeast Asia.

“The impact will come from the digital side. There is a clear trend that the number of mobile users is increasing globally. New electronic devices are being put on the market at a much faster pace than before and quickly adopted by the masses. People are spending more time on their phone surfing the internet,” he adds.

This is where digital marketing comes into play. It helps businesses reach out to a wider audience and more quickly via websites and mobile applications. People not only see the advertisements when they are driving but also whenever they use their computer or phone.

However, this is not the only advantage of digital marketing, says Srivatsan. Its effects are measurable as the activities are done online via electronic devices, whereas traditional marketing methods — such as advertising on billboards — are akin to “spraying and praying”, meaning that companies are unable to quantify the impact of their marketing efforts.

“Companies can gain users’ information when they log on to the websites and apps. They can also analyse user behaviour and interests via clicks and views,” says Srivatsan.

“With this information, they can profile users according to the different entry points — say, age, gender, occupation and others. Then, they can send the right marketing content to users.”

Global sports media property One Championship is among the Southeast Asian companies that have approached Adobe to embark on their digital marketing journey, says Srivatsan. “The company came out with its app to market its brand and content. It also uses the app to reach out to people globally and better understand their needs and preferences. After gathering data, the company analyses and categorises the users into several groups and sends them marketing content and materials they would be interested in.”

Malaysia Airlines Bhd, Astro and Taylor’s College are some of the early adopters in the country. “Taylor’s launched its mobile app to reach out to students with the right profile. Then it provides these students with the right marketing content to retain them on the app. Taylor’s is also trying to reach out to its alumni via the app. All these can be done via digital marketing,” says Srivatsan.

He says companies that have taken the digital marketing route have one thing in common — they serve the consumer market and have to engage with the masses regularly to understand their needs. For instance, One Championship, which broadcasts mixed martial arts programmes in 138 countries, has 1.7 billion potential viewers worldwide. Taylor’s College accepts students from around the world, including China, India and the Middle East.

“These companies have potential and existing customers in different countries and regions. They want to identify these people and reach out to them. They also want to understand them and engage with them with the right marketing content,” says Srivatsan.

User experience is vital in digital marketing and this marketing approach allows companies to achieve such goals, he adds. Companies could utilise the data they collect to send personalised marketing content to users. They could also continually improve their websites and apps to make them more user-friendly.

This compares with sending customers inappropriate marketing material that could annoy them and put them off your products or services. “Things like sending an email with the same content to all your clients and hoping for them to respond are a bit old school. It is an old method and not the way to go,” says Srivatsan.

“You can see that the people today are less tolerant about bad user experiences. And some of those who have done particularly well in providing good user experiences have grown quite large.”

He says two good examples of companies that have strived to provide good user experiences are Grab and Airbnb. They do not own physical assets such as cars and properties. Instead, their business growth relies heavily on the online services and user experience they provide consumers.

In recent years, many companies have started to notice the importance of implementing a user experience programme when launching their digital marketing strategy, says Srivatsan. However, most companies have not done so.

“According to our annual survey, only 36% [of the respondents] implemented customer experience programmes despite the increasing awareness of the importance of user experience. It is still not too late for businesses to implement such strategies. Those who make a move earlier have an opportunity to stay ahead of their competitors in the marketing space,” he says.

Although the digital marketing trend has not taken off as quickly in emerging markets, Srivatsan reminds Malaysian businesses to be mindful of not being left behind. “E-commerce is growing with the support of the government. The total transactions are expected to double between now and 2022,” he says.

“Then there is the launch of the Digital Free Trade Zone, which shows that the country’s drive toward digital will be strong. Digital marketing is going to be more important going forward.”