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How to sell anything to a fickle, digital, multi-screen enabled audience; the marketer's view

How to sell anything to a fickle, digital, multi-screen enabled audience; the marketer's view

Author | Abhinn Shreshtha | Thursday, Jun 12,2014 8:22 AM

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How to sell anything to a fickle, digital, multi-screen enabled audience; the marketer's view

Businessworld launches the Marketing Whitebook 2014-15 at Mumbai. In keeping with this year’s edition’s theme of “Gauging Generations”, Ajay Kelkar, COO of Hansa Cequity engaged Ajay Kakar, CMO (Financial Services) of Aditya Birla Group and Marzin Shroff, CEO (Direct Sales) and SVP (Marketing) of Eureka Forbes in a discussion on the impact of the digital medium on marketing and consumer behavior.

Kelkar gave the example of the apparel business, something that was not considered feasible for e-commerce but which is now a $3 billion industry online. Turning the conversation to Kakar, Kelkar wondered whether the financial services sector would also go through a similar transition. “Just because people are on a particular medium doesn’t mean that they are going to look at my product ad too. If this was the case we could have just advertised outside CST and all our businesses would have done really well,” opined Kakar. He stated that putting too much trust on social media numbers didn’t help. “First look at the low-lying fruits. This is where volume and value lies; this is where the mass of India resides,” he said. According to him, a great use of digital medium could be in educating and empowering customers. “We don’t have a single website, which we can call the Google of financial services,” he said.

Kelkar gave the example of the apparel business, something that was not considered feasible for e-commerce but which is now a $3 billion industry online. Turning the conversation to Kakar, Kelkar wondered whether the financial services sector would also go through a similar transition. “Just because people are on a particular medium doesn’t mean that they are going to look at my product ad too. If this was the case we could have just advertised outside CST and all our businesses would have done really well,” opined Kakar. He stated that putting too much trust on social media numbers didn’t help. “First look at the low-lying fruits. This is where volume and value lies; this is where the mass of India resides,” he said. According to him, a great use of digital medium could be in educating and empowering customers. “We don’t have a single website, which we can call the Google of financial services,” he said.

The conversation then turned to the social media as a platform for receiving customer feedback. Kelkar asked Shroff how this paradigm shift in how customers communicate has affected Eureka Forbes’ servicing procedures. In reply, Shroff pointed out that even if Eureka Forbes has just 0.1 per cent unhappy customers, it translates to 10,000 customers. “In this digital age, having 10,000 unhappy customers is a nightmare,” he said. To keep up with customer expectations, Shroff said the company had to set up new mechanisms to collect feedback like live chats, etc. The speed of response has become absolutely critical according to him.

“62 per cent of customers buy based on word of mouth. In the digital age, this translates to two out of four customers. I would rather have them come and complain on my platform rather than go to a third party like Mouthshut.com,” he said.

Considering the huge amount of data that is generated in today’s age due to the prevalence of digital medium, analyzing and making sense of this raw data is, though a powerful tool, also a nightmare for marketers. Appreciating this issue, Kelkar asked the panelists how they enabled their marketing teams to make use of this huge digital data lode. Kakar pointed out that it was more of a cultural change that companies should bring in. “If the person at the top appreciates the importance of digital data, changes will happen,” he said. According to Shroff, the question is now whether we need conventional marketing teams or digital teams. “Technology has changed so much. We are now able to understand what exactly the customer wants,” he further added.

A recent Gartner study indicated that in the near future CMOs would spend a lot more on technology than CIOs. When asked his opinion, Kakar said that the need of the hour is for both the CMO and CTO to sit down and collaborate. “You need to be pro-active,” he advised. Shroff also agreed that technology spends at Eureka Forbes for marketing purposes have gone up tremendously. Both panelists opined that since the customer is the key, technology investments should be carried out through insights provided by the marketing team.

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