COVID spurred the coming-of-age of eCommerce: Hemant Malik

Malik – Divisional Chief Executive - Food Business, ITC shared insights on how companies can stay ahead of the digital curve at the e4m eTechmanch

e4m by exchange4media Staff
Updated: Jun 26, 2021 8:42 AM
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While much of 2021 has seen consumers stay indoors, it's no less an opportunity for marketers as they now have a captive audience to reach out to.

As the transition period to normalcy gets prolonged, what steps can be taken to keep the at-home consumer engaged? At the e4m eTechmanch conference, Hemant Malik – Divisional Chief Executive - Food Business, ITC shared insights on how companies can stay ahead of the digital curve alongside interesting examples from ITC's own playbook.

Malik spoke of how the adoption of digitization by the consumer today is all-pervasive. “You look at the consumer journey of discovering, engaging with, buying brands is becoming increasingly fluid and driven by micro-moments, which actually form web footprints across channels and leaving behind trails of rich data in the bargain. And it's pertinent to marketers to wake up to this reality of chalking out strategies that are connected, and in real-time,” he remarked.

He expounded on how the whole change fuelled by digital is also making a difference in the evolution of consumer insighting processes. “Thanks to digital, concerned consumers are more available as you can not only speak with them, you can also follow the behaviour and understand more in terms of what they're talking about. This has an impact in terms of new product development and how fast you can get into the market. You are lucky you get fairly quick feedback from the consumer as well. And it also gives us an opportunity to learn, to learn fast, and to adopt,” said Malik.

“COVID has actually brought to the coming of age of eCommerce, where you know much more information/data analytics that is available at your disposal. At the same time in the FMCG space, there have been a lot of new channels of distribution coming up,” observed Malik.

Speaking about the role that leadership can play in creating stay at the top of modern marketing, Malik remarked, “The most important role that leaders can play is in terms of being evangelists for this shift. They have to be the chief sponsor for this change.”

He shared how ITC went about upping its digital game. “The first task was in terms of how we go about capability building, how do we give exposure to our people? How do we look at skill development, and what are the processes that you set in place for continuous knowledge enhancement? And we worked on these accordingly,” shared Malik.

Expounding on how the team did it, Malik said, “We had evangelists in the form of Facebook and Google. We created joint business plan partnerships wherein we learn from them in terms of how to develop digitally optimized creatives. I sent a team of my marketing people to Singapore to spend time with Google who actually showed in terms of what and how the advertising needs to be crafted and customized for the digital medium. Then we moved towards creating a digital day where we expose our team to the larger ecosystem that is available. We had a lot of partners who came and presented in terms of what are the new trends to capitalize onto.” 

Furthermore, he advised, “Investment in technology is most critical and I think this is a space that continues to evolve. There is more that is happening. Of course, you need to have a clear vision in terms of where you want to take it, so that information available is easy for people to look at, to analyze and to actually use.”

Sharing ITC’s example he said, “We have also gone through the journey of building first-party data,  a customer data hub leveraging ITC databases. We are able to do a fair amount of targeting to where we want to and we have been able to create our cohorts and actually purpose or communication, depending upon the cohort that we are targeting.”

Malik also spoke of how the company has constantly leveraged social media listening to stay at the top of the digital game. “Social media listening that we did about two and a half years ago, which we call six cents, has become a significant source of trends-spotting,  of insight generation. We've had a number of new launches last year. We launched immunity juice. When COVID happened first in the few days itself you discovered what is happening as far as immunity is concerned and people were alarmed about it. So we tied up with Amway and launched their immunity juices. We also created Sunbean Beaten Caffe, capitalising on the dalgona coffee trend. That's how social listening helps,” he asserted.

Ending the session by sharing his marketing mantra, Malik said with an air of finality, “Plan to change. Accept change. Manage change. And embrace change.” 

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