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BW Businessworld

Contextual Marketing Leads To Higher Customer Engagement And Loyalty

BW Businessworld organized a roundtable in New Delhi inviting leading marketing and technology heads to discuss the future of marketing in India with a special focus on understanding the expectations from contextual marketing in creating customers for life in a very Indian context

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India is a huge country with 1.2 billion people. The population of urban India is roughly around 455 million and 295 million are active users of the Internet today, and the numbers are only growing year after year. Today, India is also a very attractive consumer market due to its demographic dividend with more than 65% of its population below the age of 35 years. The Indian entrepreneurship model has changed and is unchained from many limitations from the past due to significantly better physical infrastructure in the form of roads and telecommunications. Local brands want to become national brands, and the established ones want to go global. How can the marketing leadership at Indian corporate steer their organizations while they grapple on the proverbial rocks of latest marketing technologies and the big data? Pleased to share the highlights of the Roundtable discussion below.

Why Contextual marketing?
All stakeholders in business are people. The eventual outcome of personalization and Contextual marketing is to offer relevant and contextualized experiences which come close to the interaction between humans. Alluding to that Amit Tiwary, VP – Marketing, Havells said “there is no B2B and B2C anymore. All businesses are people to people (P2P). Customer insights are very important to marketing people. Havells has a passport program which ensures that Havells marketing team connects with retailers, distributors, dealers and end customers on a regular basis.” Jyoti Singh, Global Marketing Head, NIIT Technologies said “B2B Services marketing to be effective starts with a deep understanding of the customer and the buyer’s journey and then engaging with the right content and thought leadership. Customers are looking for domain depth and insights.” Tony Peters, Digital Experience Specialist, Greater Asia for Sitecore said: “B2B is more of corporate speak, but in many instances, we see that B2B customers are expecting a B2C consumer experience via digital for a one on one interaction with the catalogue”.

Anil Porter, Head – IT and GDS services giving an example from his industry said: “ticket booking has become a commodity and personalization through contextual marketing can de-commoditize it.” Sumeet Singh, Group CMO, Infoedge said “Contextual marketing is also a way to effectively engage the customers through delivering value-added content by studying data insights about them from their usage. Such an engagement ensures that the customers keep coming back to fulfil their needs.” Prakash Assudani, DGM Marketing, Carrier India said “Companies following mass marketing end up sending lots of notifications to their customers often leading to customer fatigue. There is a need to clearly understand the needs, habits and goals of the consumer to build a personalized experience which will enable a shift of mindset from ‘customer-centric’ to ‘human-centric’ marketing. And, this forms the core of contextual marketing.” Anand Thakur, CDO, Jubilant Foodworks said “Contextual marketing enables marketing agility in launching new campaigns. For example, we witness an easy increment of 10-15 % in conversion after we launch a campaign as and when the temperature is within a range and its raining. Contextual marketing can also help in the continuous improvement of the curated segments and provide on-demand segmentation”.

Categories come first
The starting point is a significant predictor of the end outcomes in business and life in general and so is true in the world of marketing. The problem is often there are multiple starting points. Further complicating this is the ‘many to many’ relationships between a brand, marketing strategy, and the categories. Anamika Sirohi, VP- Marketing at Hindware shared her personal views on this topic and said “Categories play a huge role and it’s a natural tendency to bring the all marketing technologies to all the categories but I have discovered that selling chocolate, for example, is completely different from selling a bathroom. The customer expectations also differ from one category to the other. Therefore, the grain and the starting point of the marketing strategy should always be the consumer followed by the category” She further added that “each category will have different contextual marketing requirements” Tony Peters, Digital Experience Specialist, Greater Asia for Sitecore said “only the leadership of the performing organization can give the real inputs on the buyer journey and therefore Marketing should take the ownership of defining the category-specific customer journey’s instead of outsourcing this work to external agencies.”

The grain of Personalization
To personalize anything needs a lot of rigour. The grain at which you personalize determines the objectivity at which contextual marketing will operate. We find that the grain of personalization is not uniform. Pallavi Singh, Head -Marketing, MG Motor added: “in the auto industry if you are not thinking about personalization, then you are not thinking about the customer.” Personalization is a way to classify customers and assign them an avatar after doing behavioural analysis in real time and is a step up from using the personal information in customer communications.  Pallavi Singh further added, “Customers can change avatars e.g. a follower can become an early adopter.” Sumeet Singh, Group CMO, Infoedge added: “In our businesses each individual wants jobs or matches tailored to his or her individual needs and thus just personas don’t work, through deep learning techniques one is trying to tailor-make recommendations to every individual’s preference and behaviour”.

Online to Offline syndication
Consumer internet companies across the world are going bi-modal with their brick and mortar investments. On the other side, we see brick and mortar businesses adopting digital. The companies that have excelled in the digital world are facing a unique challenge. Himanshu Khanna, Country head – Sitecore said “the digital experience on most occasions becomes far superior to the offline experience. Quite often people browse online and want to buy offline but everything falls apart at the transaction level” Tony, Sitecore add that “syndication of offers and promotion to all parts of the business is important. It should not happen that customer walks into a store asking for an offer that he saw online the store does not know of” It is therefore important to ensure that all channels are integrated and orchestrated leading to higher transparency across all channels for the customer.

Avoiding Channel Conflict
Digital is the latest marketing channel and like any other channel, it should also complement other channels in the market. Anshuman Verma, Chief Marketing and Digital Officer, DHFL Pramerica said: “a well-integrated marketing strategy ensures that there is no channel conflict.” Amit Tiwary added “the electricians have always been influencers in our channel and now since all of them have smartphones need the same information about the product as was shared with other channel participants like architects, distributors and dealers etc.,” Vishwajeet Parashar, Group Head – Marketing, Bajaj Capital said “Digital is just one more medium. The key is in delivering a good omnichannel experience.”

Winning Customers for life
Rikant Pitti, Co-Founder, EaseMyTrip said “we always think our customers as individuals and not as numbers. Giving each customer that level of importance is key to winning customers for life” Pallavi Singh Marketing Head – MG motor said “becoming a part of customer’s life automatically makes them customers for life” Tony Peters, Sitecore added that “companies should deliver value to their customers every time they reach out to them. It should not come across that you reach out to customers only when you want something from them. This continuity is what assures winning customers for life.” Vinay Gupta, MD, iSango India said “Customer’s value trust and we should ensure that it remains intact as we put their data through the virtuous cycle of learning and thinking.”

The secret to winning customers for life is agnostic of the marketing channels. For example, knowing your customers, understanding their choices and establishing a relationship and carrying it forward to convey care and regard remains constant. And this can be easily possible in the digital space as computers have a timeless memory, unlike a human. Therefore, Indian marketers should at the minimum facelift their digital properties to know the intent and expectations of all visitors entering their property. Information Technology has rejuvenated the Marketing function and we see it acquiring newer areas into its fold. Voice of marketing is crucial in developing products and servicing customers and of course in building a brand and reputation in the market. Confidence in the voice of marketing can significantly bring down the time to market and improve decisiveness in delivering across the full spectrum of the marketing function. Access to data and its judicious use has brought confidence and decisiveness to the marketing function since ages. This is equally true in today’s hyper-connected world and therefore we can be objective in saying that marketers with lots of data and insights are bound to have a more confident voice.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

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Sangram Aglave

Sangram Aglave brings a unique perspective on topics related to Enterprise IT Applications given his diverse professional experience in all functions of the Enterprise IT Applications business like Sales, Product & content marketing , Project management & Software product management. He is a ex-Oracle Business Analytics product manager and has worked at various silicon valley based product startups.

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