How Singapore marketers are leading through change

With the Covid-19 pandemic leading to seismic shifts within Singapore’s business landscape, what are marketers focusing on to help drive recovery within their organisations? The Drum and Salesforce brought together some of Singapore’s top marketing talent to discuss the obstacles and challenges that marketers are facing as they lead the recovery for brands.

Innovating for the new normal

As brands adjust to the new normal and marketers prepare recovery strategies, it is no surprise that innovation is top of mind for many brands. Salesforce’s 2020 State of Marketing report revealed Singapore marketers are focused on innovation, as well as unifying customer data and sharing data across business units, as the top priorities to help guide businesses transform their brands for these uncertain times.

“Last year, when we did this same research in Singapore, innovation wasn't number one,” says Jess O'Reilly, area vice president, Cloud Sales ASEAN at Salesforce.

“In fact, it was top three. I find it super interesting that innovation has come to the top. I feel, as marketers; we don't have any other choice. We've got to drive innovation and, particularly through the pandemic, we have to do things differently. But, on the flip side, which is also super interesting, is innovation is also a top challenge, along with being a priority. I think this helps us to identify that although innovation is key, it is difficult,” says O’Reilly.

Part of the challenge with innovation is the speed of change in the market, according to Kartik Khare, global VP, product strategy & innovation, Tupperware Brands.

“I think Covid put [innovation]on steroids,” says Khare. “Online was already disrupting the world and taking down barriers of speed, scale, R&D, talent, and supply chain. Competition has become very tough because the speed of innovation makes it more accessible. I think the challenge that all companies are having with innovation - whether it's a product or a service or an experience - is how do you keep pace while maintaining quality and profitability? The digital impetus during Covid has made accessibility to innovation so easy, that it's just gone to a different level altogether.”

Keeping pace with consumers

This rapid acceleration in the market is also creating challenges for marketers that are looking to keep pace with consumers and the customer experience while recreating their business.

Aishwarya Narayanan, senior marketing manager, Essilor Group, says the pandemic forced the retail company, which was 80% in-store sales versus 20% online, to “modernise everything”.

“Our biggest touchpoint was in-store, and that was not an opportunity anymore. So, the importance of digital channels, especially on the b2b side of the business, became very, very significant for us to improve. It's not just within our organisation; it's also with our partners and retailers; everyone needed to move along at the same time.”

“I think the customer journey has seen a radical change, especially across the marketing spectrum, and it has revealed some of the gaps that we have in our existing approach and also how can we improve these. That has helped us think of innovations in the ways of communication and new tools - it's not just about new products.”

Mi Li, CMO at Atome, agrees, “The brand doesn’t just stop with the marketing effort. The brand should exist at every single touchpoint with our customers.”

With change continuing to be the only constant, marketers are striving for agility in a bid to stay relevant. Delbert Stanley Ty, head of marketing, Circles.Life, says, “Through times like these, what customers want is constantly changing, so our focus is about staying flexible enough to deliver on these. The way we consume media has changed tremendously over a short period of time.

“All businesses, even those that have been more traditional in nature, are now making the shift online, so this means there’s more content out there, boosted by increased budgets. This could mean much fewer eyeballs on your content if you’re not quick to optimise your digital strategy in terms of channels, spend and creative ideation.”

Modernising technologies and tools

The rapid digital acceleration has not only driven brands online, for companies like property developer Oxley Holdings it has also helped to modernise technologies and tools to connect with consumers.

“When the pandemic hit, one of the greatest challenges was how to convince buyers and homeowners to buy a million-dollar property online. This life decision that is potentially one of their most important investments in their whole life,” says Eugene Lim, director, marketing and sales, at Oxley Holdings.

The company had to transform its operations, abandoning its offline working structures and embracing virtual flat tours, new online communication tools and training staff to manage relationship building in the lockdown world.

Building online relationships were also a focus for Tupperware, the peer-to-peer company, which is rooted in physical sales and is highly demonstration and relationship-based.

“The question was, how do you build relationships online?”, says Khare. “We are all used to connecting online, finding jobs online, sharing jokes online, but, we don't really know how to sell online. Selling is very much the purview of ecommerce players. So, social selling was a big unlock for us. How do we get all of these millions of women, many of whom actually probably never touched digital, to sell online.”

“For us, the process is first to create access, then once you have access you go to content, once you have content you go to data because only then you have data and can start putting those insights into innovation,” continues Khare.

“I feel these days that people who are not using [data] are just in a bubble not realising that day-by-day they’re getting less competitive. Innovation is easy to do, but data is the killer.