Big Data: Empowering the world of e-commerce

The revolution caused by Big Data and intelligent technologies is leading to a more efficient, personalized, even automated customer journey, one which a digital marketer cannot afford to miss, says Deepak Mittal, CEO, IntelliGrape/TO THE NEW

e4m by Deepak Mittal
Published: Jun 23, 2014 12:45 PM  | 3 min read
Big Data: Empowering the world of e-commerce

Ever wondered how you get shopping recommendations exactly corresponding to your style. Or even a list of recommended restaurants closely matching your taste buds. Still thinking how your favorite online retail store knew that you are in love. Welcome to Big Data world. Yes, you must have heard this term millions of times. However, it’s not a technology fad but a paradigm shift which revolutionized the face of e-commerce businesses.

For any e-commerce business to sustain and remain competitive, it is imperative that they embrace latest trends in digital domain. And Big Data is one such wave, which is helping e-commerce companies reach customers on a never before seen scale, at the same time offering customers with uniquely tailored experiences.

With the amount of time and money being spent online growing every year, businesses need to keep a close watch on how its customers are behaving online. Big Data Analysis is helping companies gain deeper insights into customer behavior and industry trends, thus letting them make strategic decisions to improve their operational and marketing ROI. 

One brilliant example illustrating the intrinsic value of “Big Data” is of retail store chain, Target. The case made headlines, when Target knew a teen girl was pregnant, before her father did. The reason why Target could peep into her private life was because of her shopping patterns and habits. Such is the power of Big Data.

Online retailers are relying on Big Data to gather valuable, real-time insights that drive smarter, more profitable strategic business decisions. Since the choices are based on data insights, it saves companies from investing energies and funds at wrong places.

A leading bank in Europe used Big Data for accurate customer segmentation. With customer’s transactional behavior analysis, they quite accurately predicted the likelihood to change to a different segment. The result was a more refined list of potential personal / private banking customers, which helped them devise a robust marketing strategy, leading to a significant increase in number of new customers.

As an online retail store, you would always be wondering - What products are my customers looking at? What are their preferences and interests? Which products should I stock? How should I predict product volumes for future seasons? What should be the right pricing strategy? What is the effectiveness of my digital marketing (mobile, search, display, social) campaigns on sales? Big Data has answers to all these.

To provide customers a personalized experience and optimize the search funnel, a US based food e-commerce giant got itself a recommendation engine, which led to a million dollar boost in revenues. Utilizing Big Data analytics, the company got a recommendation system to suggest products and services most likely to appeal to individual audience, based on their browsing behavior, past transactions and other customer’s transactions.

Let’s admit it, Big Data is here to stay. The e-commerce industry will keep witnessing this shift driven by Big Data and intelligent technologies. And this shift is leading to a more efficient, personalized, even automated customer journey. As a digital marketer, you need to jump on the wagon as you can’t afford to miss out.

Deepak is co-founder & CEO of IntelliGrape Software, the technology arm of TO THE NEW, specialising in developing and managing mission critical applications for web, mobile, cloud and social media platforms. He loves being close to technology, is a hands-on coder and regularly speaks and evangelises various technologies in conferences and user group meetings. He has also authored a book on Firebug.

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Amplify your marketing mix with digital video content

Brands have recognised the power of digital video to engage with their audiences and are placing an increasing share of their campaign budgets there, says TO THE NEW’s Dhruvank Vaidya

By Dhruvank Vaidya | Jul 21, 2014 1:45 PM   |   5 min read

Amplify your marketing mix with digital video content

In the UK, Vevo recently announced a seven-figure, 12-month branded content and sponsorship deal with Toyota. This is one more step in big TV advertising money moving to digital video. While this trend is very strong in western markets, brands in India are also taking notice and exploring ways to weave a digital video component into their communication strategies. Brands have recognised the power of digital video to engage with their audiences and are placing an increasing share of their campaign budgets there.

Digital video has several things going for it. Youth, that elusive demographic on TV, spends a lot of time on digital video platforms. As many as 77 per cent of YouTube viewers are under 34 years of age.The digital video content economics allow a lot of special interest content to thrive, thereby allowing advertisers to more sharply target their content. Watch time on mobile devices is doubling every year. With 200 million plus smartphones and growing, this trend is only going to continue in the coming years.

Another big advantage of digital video is its easy shareability. Sharing on social platforms like WeChat, WhatsApp, Facebook and Twitter magnify reach and engagement with content. In India, platforms like YouTube have attained a reach similar to some of the larger TV channels. All this makes digital video an essential part of any campaign. But what about content?

If films and TV are about stars and superstars, digital is about ‘Webstars’
These are talented individuals who are creating self-videos or videos with their friends, and drawing a large number of viewers. YouTube already has big Webstars like Bethany Mota, Shane Dawson, Michelle Phan and Superwoman Lily Singh. Near to home, we have the amazing comic talent of TVF, AIB, Logical Retards and more. Fashion bloggers like Aanam, Guilty Bytes and The Creative Bent are already making waves.

Digital video democratises a talent’s access to its audience. Any talented individual can shoot a video with his smartphone, edit and upload it on YouTube and build an audience. And brands are also reaching out to this audience through these creators; be it make-up tips or highlighting features of a car, they get the message out there for you. The content is consumed over multiple screens, apps and platforms; can be shared, commented upon or liked, etc. – all parameters of true engagement for the brand. A continuous flow of content ensures that this TG is kept engaged and a community is built for the brand.

Another advantage is content creation flexibility and controlled budgets. This allows brands to integrate deeply with content and at times create entire web shows for themselves. A case in point is the recent web reality show, ‘Beauty and the Blogger’. Fashion brand American Swan used it to launch its swimwear collection. The format was a strong blend of web video and social sharing, where the winner was determined equally by herability to shine in the reality show as well as the ability to drive views to her videos. Social media allows viewers to get more deeply engaged with their favorite shows and more and more innovative content formats will emerge that leverage this behaviour.

All this makes for compelling reading, and some of the macro numbers are also well known. But, when actual budgets are being allocated, it still boils down to metrics and ROI. The IAB Online Video Study by Nielsen tried to address just this. As part of its study, it compared a TV-only campaign with the one where 15 per cent of the TV budget is allocated to digital. The campaign that included a digital video component scored high on reach and recall parameters. Specifically, 4 per cent incremental reach (from 58 per cent to 62 per cent), 16 per cent duplicated reach (TV + Digital) and lower cost per reach point.

While executing a TV+Digital campaign, the sequence of exposure also matters. Prior exposure to an ad online enhances the impact of the TV exposure of that ad. When the campaign was first run on the web (on short format content) followed by TV, it resulted in 17 per cent gain in general ad recall, while brand recall went up by 32 per cent and message recall by 50 per cent. To maximise impact, brands should ideally launch the campaign on video sharing platforms like YouTube, WeChat, WhatsApp, Facebook, etc. The YouTube channel should also have a lot of surround content that builds on the core brand message. Technology is also now available which lets one embed call to action links (download app, sign up for test drive etc.) on the videos. Thus, a digital video campaign can work at multiple levels for the brand.

Digital video is no longer the patchy, grainy stuff of the past. It is high quality, high impact, has strong ROI and is here to stay.

The author heads the finance and business development functions at TO THE NEW Ventures. He has extensive experience in Media and Consulting and more recently, as an entrepreneur. He has held executive positions at Star, NDTV Imagine, Turner, Deloitte and Accenture.

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Demystifying Indian e-commerce consumers

With international players like Amazon pushing growth aggressively and Walmart online retail set to enter Indian markets, steep competition and pricing wars will define the next phase of e-commerce in India, says Ashok Patro, Co-Founder & COO, ThoughtBuzz

By Ashok Patro | Jul 10, 2014 10:30 AM   |   4 min read

Demystifying Indian e-commerce consumers

Current state of Indian e-commerce industry

E-commerce has seen unprecedented growth and success lately and that has been widely talked about. Looking a bit deeper, the sheer volume of interest by consumers for online shopping has grown exponentially in the last three years in India. What’s interesting is that the trend of online shopping started out in the South from Tamil Nadu and has travelled to the very northern and eastern corners of India, with now Mizoram, Meghalaya and Manipur accounting for most searches for online shopping as of June 2014.

But this is not the end of the growth story. With international players like Amazon pushing growth aggressively and Walmart online retail set to enter Indian markets, steep competition and pricing wars will define the next phase of e-commerce in India.

What are the market needs?

The three main challenges faced by the e-commerce industry/companies in India are:

1. Everyone targets the same market/audience.
2. Discount and price competitiveness is the main sales strategy used by the brands
3. An Integrated approach is missing

India represents a unique market where the affluent and growing middle class has access to the Internet, are pervasively social, have an increasing purchasing power and high aspirations resulting in intent to purchase the best brands, purchase the latest gadgets and travel frequently. But, purchase decisions are still very price sensitive. This results in large and small ecommerce companies fighting neck to neck for the same customer across different segments with different strategies and increasingly lowered costs.

Question is do e-commerce players take advantage of social conversations to understand the customer needs, segment them and have a unified strategy to build long term loyal customers?

What do the consumers really need?

Earlier this year, ThoughtBuzz, a social analytics business, analyzed social media with keywords specific to brand names and comprehensive list of products and services available in the e-commerce space.

Results showed that the Indian youth is more fashion hungry when it comes to online shopping. The most searched product category is shoes, followed closely by apparel. With a number of online shopping portals like Myntra, Flipcart, Jabong, Zovi and AmericanSwan getting fashionable apparels and accessories at affordable price, it’s a dream come true for consumers. Interestingly, home & kitchen is the next most discussed category on social media. This indicates that the homemakers, the young wives and the working mothers are jumping on the online shopping bandwagon as well.

Promotional campaigns and discounts are the main tricks attracting online buyers. Indian online buyers are not brand loyalists and are more price-sensitive than Singapore or Philippines market. Top two issues faced by online shoppers were delay in delivery and issues around online payments.

What role does social media play in e-commerce?

The two main reasons why social media can play a big role in the future of e-commerce is:

1. Consumers across demographics have embraced social media and are looking for brands to reach and engage them. E-commerce companies need to “be social” to connect with these social first consumers.
2. Right mix of influence marketing, contextualized and personalized campaigns and real-time targeting would enable brands to convert fans into friends into advocates thus impacting their bottom-line.

This brings us to the key question of how can brands identify and tap social consumers? The lead can be a direct lead when a netizen is searching for a product, comparing products, asking for reviews and recommendations or is un-happy with the competitor and looking for a solution. But those who want to champion the lead identification need to take charge of indirect leads as well. These are those netizens who are celebrating an event, going to a party, planning for their prom night, or are going to visit their family after years. If a brand is able to identify such instances and come up with a strategy to reach out to them, then the brand will be able to successfully champion social for business.

To sum it up, below are five pointers for e-commerce industry to crack the India market using social platforms:

1. Differentiate with quality and experience to go beyond just fighting over price
2. Go social and have an integrated strategy for customer acquisition, shopping and loyalty system
3. Do not only compete but create your own market by reaching out to new customers through social monitoring and insights
4. Real time analytics to understand and maneuver your strategy is important for online business
5. Keep your friends close and your enemies closer. Building effective strategies to manage an irate customer online on social media is critical.


Patro is the co-founder & COO of ThoughtBuzz, the social media analytics arm of TO THE NEW, specialising in social media analytics and business intelligence. With a background in technology and passion for market research and consumer behavior analysis, he loves helping clients in solving a problem and taking their business to social.

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Social for business - a myth or reality?

Irfan Khan, Head, Marketing & Strategic Alliances, TO THE NEW, lays down six focus areas that when collectively targeted, will result in tangible business performance on social channels

By Irfan Khan | Jun 9, 2014 8:39 AM   |   4 min read

Social for business - a myth or reality?

The embracing of social media across all demographics of consumers has created a huge opportunity for brands and organizations to use social media for business. Surprisingly, there are still business owners who choose to ignore social media from their business strategy! With the prevailing ignorance of social media amongst many business owners, a simple question arises: Is social for business a myth or reality?

Social for business is not just a reality, brands must become social and connect with digital first consumers to stay relevant today. Those who fail to adapt, will fall behind their competitors, if not already. 

So, how can brands successfully enable business on social media? Below are six focus areas that when collectively targeted, will result in tangible business performance on social channels:  

1.     Marketing: Though this has been the flag-bearer for majority of brands when it comes to adoption of social media, brands still have not covered the whole spectrum. A real social marketing activation has to be contextual, real-time and personalized in order to connect with social and mobile first customers.

Starbucks had rolled out its ‘TweetaCoffee’ Program where it effectively engaged and monetized Twitter fans. The concept was simple: send a message to @Tweetacoffee to buy a gift card for a friend. The program garnered around $180k in 40 days of its launch. That is the power of effectively using social media in a structured way.

2.     Sales: Social channels have the potential to not only increase sales but also reduce the sales cycle for brands. The availability of real-time analytics empowers sales team to connect with the customers at the right time, at the right place and with an enticing message giving them the required edge over their competition. On top of this, an innovative brand should also explore integrating social channels with their CRM to reap maximum benefits.

Chicago based Foiled Cupcakes surpassed their revenue targets by 600 per cent by effectively using only social channels for the sales and marketing of their new products.

3.     Support and Service: It is not just about adding separate support channel on various social platforms. Social media has enabled self-serve options where customers are solving issues of customers. Brands like KLM and GM have really excelled in integration on social media with their customer service framework.

General Motors introduced the FastLane blog to directly engage with the public, which soon became an important unfiltered voice for the company, its customers and car enthusiasts. This direct line of communication with the target audience has helped reduce the customer feedback cost by $180k/yr.

4.     Product and Innovation: Businesses oddly have restricted the usage of social analytics to marketing focused activities. Integration of insights into product management and crowdsourcing for research and development are two focus areas through which brands can transform their social presence into an innovation hub.

Taco Bell identified influencers in South East Asia and started following them on Twitter to interact with the social and mobile first consumers. A mere mention of the influencer helped in 100s of retweets and favorites.

5.     Collaboration: One of the biggest issues which businesses of all sizes have been facing for long is synergy between internal functions. Social technologies provide the perfect platform to facilitate collaboration at all levels to overcome this challenge.

Industrial Toys, a mobile games development company, uses social media internally to channel creativity from different members and help the team stay on the same page for each project in real-time.

6.     Customer Experience: Customer experience is just not about VIP treatment or location based message push. To deliver a seamless customer experience, brands needs to enable social customer insights from all the above focus areas. Companies that have adapted social media have realized the need to fundamentally change the way they engage with the customers and are transforming the way they manage their business.

In an innovative campaign, KLM surprised passengers who had checked in on Twitter at the airport with a personalized gift - something to enjoy on their trip. The endeavor generated a phenomenal amount of good feeling that translated into customer loyalty and there was a powerful ripple effect: the KLM Twitter feed was viewed more than one million times during the month of the campaign.

Social for business is real, is here and organizations simply cannot afford to ignore the power of social media.

The author manages marketing and strategic alliances at TO THE NEW, Asia’s leading SMACK services provider. He is a digital evangelist, an entrepreneur who has been involved in multiple internet-based startups and has mastered the art of building strategic partnerships. 

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"Analytics-driven content strategy helps connect with social first customers"

With increased presence of tools integrated deeply into consumer conversations, it is now possible to have a full-fledged communication model for user engagement says Tangerine Digital's Kesavan Kanchi Kandadai

By Kesavan Kanchi Kandadai | May 23, 2014 8:16 AM   |   4 min read

"Analytics-driven content strategy helps connect with social first customers"

Kesavan Kanchi Kandadai is the CEO of Tangerine Digital, the content arm of TO THE NEW, specialising in content creation, content management, content aggregation and content crowdsourcing services. Besides leading Tangerine, Kandadai is actively involved with new products within the group and has developed a flair of executing them from scratch. In his current avatar, he is focused on capitalising the Social CRM and Crowd Sourcing Space.

In the following article, Kandadai writes on analytics-driven content strategy to connect with social and mobile first customers.

For the past decade, businesses have been spending millions on digital marketing and advertising their products and services. With the sole objective of eyeballs, traditional digital marketing strategies have focused primarily on the message and its aesthetics. However, social media today provides a platform for two-way communication between the consumer and brand. Hence, traditional strategies fall short where customer engagement, and most importantly, measuring ROI is concerned.

Analytics-driven content strategy is designed to address these two challenges. This addresses some basic questions like:
• Who are the consumers? (Demographics, Geography, etc.)
• What are they talking about? (Sentiment, Topics, Brands, etc.)
• Where are they? (Platforms, Time, etc.)
• How are they engaging? (Complaints, Feedback, Likes, etc.)

Thanks to increased presence of tools integrated deeply into consumer conversations, it is now possible to have a full-fledged communication model for user engagement and then analyse every interaction with the user.

A successful firm in apparel space had been using traditional content strategy to promote its products on various digital platforms. Despite investing huge sums, it never translated into desired revenues.

Below are the five steps that the e-commerce company adopted to transform its digital campaign powered by analytics-driven content strategy.

1. Listen to your consumer
After a series of failed attempts, the company finally decided to switch to analytics-driven content strategy. It started listening to consumers across all their channels and also competitor channels to understand the emerging needs and changing trends. 

2. Choosing the right platform
After a careful analysis of Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and its website users’ response, the company found that the FB users were most engaged to its posts, whereas Twitter was used as a platform to log complaints. Also, the posts with appealing graphics, trivia and attractive deals were comparatively more engaging. It also found that its customers were primarily females between 18-25 age group. The company also got exposed to the many deliveryrelated complaints on its Twitter page.

3. Creating a content plan
The firm now understood the key areas to focus on in its content strategy. Based on the information deciphered through analytics, it decided to focus more on denims, shorts and funky accessories because that is what the females of age group 18-25 like the most. The content strategy clearly outlined the number of posts in a day and the ideal time for that, apart from what graphics will go best along with the message line. On Twitter, the firm also set half-an-hour response time in case of a genuine user complaint. Moreover, the content was created to proactively help users resolve their queries.

4. Measuring effectiveness
Now, it decided to measure the average likes on the company’s Facebook posts, average comments on the posts, and engagement in general. The company found a definite increase in all of these. The firm also decided to use analytics to understand the sentiment of its users on Facebook and found that the positive sentiment was on the rise and their brand was now looking more favorable to the consumer. Besides, there was at-least 30 per cent reduction in customer support costs attributed to quick resolution offered on Twitter. Due to the public nature of customer query resolution, the impact created was beyond a single user.

5. Predicting trends
The company successfully studied and analysed the trends of its competitors and also found short kurtis of particular shades to be in huge demand. The company read the market trends and successfully shaped its strategies. The company further engaged a pool of bloggers (around 50) to write about short kurtis, trends, style tips and accessories that go with them to promote this segment. As a result, there was a considerable difference in the balance sheet. For more trends, the company was all ears to its users – the first step.

The author is Chief Executive Officer of Tangerine Digital | TO THE NEW.

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