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Marketing in the digital age needs data and a smart approach to ROI, says Shopback head marketer


By Benjamin Cher, Reporter

April 3, 2017 | 7 min read

Being a digital native company in a region dominated by smartphone viewers might be a smart choice for Shopback, a Singapore-based start-up, which offers cash back for users who shop with them.


Marketing in the digital age requires less focus on duration, says Shopback cco

As proof of its online marketing mastery, the start-up has expanded to Malaysia, Philippines, Indonesia, Taiwan, India and Thailand since its inception in 2014.

This in part comes from Candice Ong’s, chief commercial officer, Shopback, belief in performance marketing and an obsession with data.

“We use a lot of data for our marketing efforts, and we believe tremendously in performance marketing, we make sure our marketing efforts deliver ROI,” Ong told The Drum.

“The management of data, how we build the data tables and structure is what drives the business as well,” she added.

As for the debate on the pressure that delivering a return on investment has on marketing efforts, Ong believes the threshold for cutting efforts has to go beyond duration.

“It’s not so much a duration-based consideration, but we think about it as a customer acquisition cost consideration,” said Ong.

This includes a focus on nurturing customers through the funnel, with automation helping to scale along with the customers.

“I think we’ve done a good job in customer relationship management in that we have been pretty effective in having repeat visitation or behaviour. In terms of paid efforts, we focus largely on new customer acquisition, but in terms of systems and efficiency of our platforms we focus on marketing automation,” said Ong.

This focus on scaling also comes down to cost as well, as Wendy Hogan, marketing transformation and strategy director, Oracle CX APAC, points out that acquisition gets expensive fast.

“Focus on scalable tools which help you keep customers, keep them coming back to buy more, as opposed to continuing to acquire acquire acquire, as acquisition can be very expensive, if you don’t have that process in place to keep people coming back,” said Hogan.

Tools maketh the man

Marketers now have an abundance of tools at their disposal, along with the abundance of choice of tools as well. Within this abundance lies the tyranny of choice, where marketers might be tempted to get all the tools just to avoid missing out on opportunities in the digital space.

This was something that Ong and her previous team at Zalora faced as well, as they first embarked on acquiring the necessary tools for scaling with technology.

“Even in 2013, my previous team did a very vigorous vendor evaluation on some of the tools, it was a three to six month effort. Even as we validated tools, we had to convince the whole of Rocket Internet to allow us to move. The team has had quite a bit of experience in terms of vendor evaluation, understanding what to ask and how to ask,” said Ong.

“The tool also needs to be easy for teams to use, even though there are some tools out there that are highly sophisticated, it might be difficult to get sophisticated talent just to be able to use that tool. The tool needs to be sophisticated, yet elegant enough that people could use it easily,” she added.

In assessing tools for use, beyond just scale, integration with other tools is now becoming an important point according to Ong.

“The way we think about it is that we look into the ideal state situation, meaning ideally what could happen, we’ll see if the tool can be stretched that way. We also think about years down the road, can the tool achieve that kind of scale,” said Ong.

“In this day and age, tools being able to integrate with other systems is a big consideration, because I don’t think one tool is about to service everything, but a tool could be integrated in a way with other tools that makes lots of sense in this day and age for marketing considerations as well,” she added.

This extends to the skills and knowledge Ong’s team has as well, as marketers get to grip this digital age.

“In offline companies, marketing and tech teams sit in very discrete boxes, but I think in digital companies, ideally, marketers are actually familiar with technology as well, they are not product people necessarily, but they understand product, we are able to converse directly with product and tech team. Having that understanding of data and how that connects to the back-end is a tremendous asset,” says Ong.

For marketers looking for tools, Oracle’s Hogan points out that there’s no need to buy the entire tool kit or tools from just one vendor.

“The marketer does not need to adopt the whole kit and caboodle for they need to do. If they have specific engagement need or drive for automation, we have a tool for that, if they need to get all their data together and optimise their media buying, we have a tool for that,” said Hogan.

“You don’t have to buy the entire marketing cloud, we recommend to people if you’re in business transformation, you need to test and iterate, pilot something, prove the value, then you start adding things as you start adopting things better,” she added.

Working backwards, moving forwards

Data is the flavour of the decade for digital marketers, as metrics and measurement tools abound in this digital age. Even so, there is a distinct worry that there is too much data for marketers to effectively work with.

However, Shopback’s Ong believes that it is not the case of too much data, but what you do with the data.

“I don’t think it’s a problem with having too much data, it’s about drawing insights and action from the data. In that case, leadership has to be very clear on what they are trying to do and what kind of actions and insights they are trying to take as well,” said Ong.

“There needs to be a readiness to adopt that mindset,” she added.

For those embarking on their first steps with data, Ong recommends figuring out what is to be solved and work backwards.

“The way I approached marketing was trying to solve first principles. Given that mindset and background, I didn’t really have any problems trying to establish what questions I need to answer as well as what data sets I required to answer these questions,” said Ong.

“I needed to be very systematic in what I was trying to solve,” she added.

Marketers in APAC have started experimenting with data according to Oracle’s Hogan, with more curiosity, willingness and adoption in APAC.

“Our customers are definitely trying to figure this out in terms of where they are and what they are trying to do with this data,” said Hogan.

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