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BW Businessworld

‘A Lot Can Be Said Through Digital’

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How did HDFC Life reinvent itself to be a savvy digital marketer? 
We as a brand have followed the customer. If you look at the customer, he or she spends a lot of time on social and digital media. My brand objective is to really engage with the customer, which is why we took to digital in a big way in the last two years. We made a lot of changes. We changed our website to become interactive and a completely responsive channel. This happened last year. We created our social channels. Our Facebook page has 2.2 million fans. On Twitter, we have over one lakh followers. On LinkedIn, we have more than 30,000 followers. On Youtube, we have created different channels for different segments; for customer education, customer service, for products and for brands.

We realised that a lot of things can be said through digital. For instance, if somebody calls our customer service channel, we can send an embedded video to the customer to learn about the product. Digital offers us a big opportunity to communicate, reach out, engage, sell and provide services the customer.

Did you have to introduce certain changes within the organisation to do this?
For complete digital transformation, we looked at a few things: how to engage with people on social and digital and how to sell better to customers. Today, a customer does his own research online. Our aim was to look at how we can convert a person researching (a product) to a purchase.
For that we looked at products and processes. We researched thoroughly to bring changes in our processes in order to convert a customer’s research into purchase. Today, we are number one in the insurance industry and e-commerce business in India.

We sell more than Rs 100 crore worth of products through online channels. But Rs 100 crore is only the tip of the iceberg; our offline business is very big as well. The idea for us is not to convert those buying offline into online. We want to make our online channel as big as our offline — that is make the pie grow altogether.

Internally, what did you have to change for this kind of digital transformation? 
We hired an all-new digital team. Rather than looking at asking the existing guys to do the digital stuff, what we did was to hire digital natives. People who had worked with companies like Google. That has paid dividends. 

We then worked on increasing the digital quotient within the organisation. It is not that one part of the company can go digital. So one has to look at how human resource can think digital, how we can hire through social channels and how operations can look at servicing online and so on.

We also looked at creating employee social media engagement. We tried to consume content digitally within the organisation, so that every employee was more attuned to the online world. The marketing team cannot be thinking about it in isolation. All the teams should think about it.

Today, 30-40 per cent of our spend is on digital. Other companies spend about 25-30 per cent. But more than spends, it is about experimentation and utilisation of technology. That is more critical. 

Five Steps to Digital Transformation
1.    Identify A Unifying Set Of Company-wide Goals: When driving a major transformation to digital, a company should set goals that every employee can embrace. These business objectives giveevery individual a direct, contributory role towards achieving the business goals. This helpsto unify culture, processes and people, and breaksdown organizational boundaries between departments like product marketing and IT support who need to work differently in a digital business environment.

2.    Re-skill And Bring New Skills In: To accelerate the pace of a company's reinvention and digital transformation, an organization must bring in people with digital skills in areas such as analytics, search engine optimization and social media. At the same time, it's important to remember that a digital strategy goes beyond just a company's marketing function. Customers have a much stronger voice today on digital platforms than they did in the past, which makes it even more important for companies to bring in fresh perspectives about how to best design and build experiences that delight their customers.

3.    Use Data To Personalise Customer Experiences: Companies need to market to customers where they are, and in the ways they have come to expect. This means delivering personalized and seamless experiences in real-time across mobile devices and social networks, utilizing data to ensure the best possible customer-company connection.

4.    Focus On The 3 P's: There is no reinvention without risk, and companies need to focus on reaching digital maturity and embracing new technology. Doing so requires organizations to have the 3 P's: best-in-class people, processes and products.Today's data and analytics allow marketers to adjust their strategy, campaigns and outreach based on real-time feedback, which in turn allows companies to intelligently manage their risk exposure on an hourly and daily basis.

5.    Test, Test And Keep Testing: No one has all the answers in this rapidly evolving customer environment. Consumers don't want to interact with a brand as if it's a corporation, but as if it's a person. More tools and platforms are becoming available to digital marketers for them to deliver high-quality creative assets that are genuine and engagingWiththe competition for customers increasing daily, it's now more important to keep testing and find out what works to help optimize marketing success.

Umang Bedi, Managing Director - South Asia, Adobe

(This story was published in BW | Businessworld Issue Dated 25-08-2014)