Competition is fierce, customer acquisition costs are high and rising, and consumers today have virtually limitless ways of spending their time and money. Strengthening connections with customers is critical for business success.
But how? A new study by Braze delivers the hard data on what many marketers already suspected, that consumers want brands to get better at being more human. Specifically, they want natural communication that sounds like one person speaking to another; that shows an awareness and respect for their preferences and boundaries; and that triggers the right emotions.
So what does this mean for brands in Asia-Pacific? Braze, in association with Campaign Asia-Pacific, gathered marketers from the likes of GoJek, Zalora, HOOQ, HBO and SingTel to discuss how their brands are building humanity, and how technology and empathy are not necessarily incompatible.
How are marketers making their brands more human?
Hear what roundtable participants had to say about strengthing relationships with consumers in the video re-cap below.
For Alin Dobrea, head of marketing solutions and brand partnerships at Zalora, it’s about striking a balance between functionality and emotion.
"Here in Singapore there’s an expectation of same-day or next-day delivery. Everything at your fingertips. You need to make sure from an operational point of view that you can execute on that.
"In terms of building the brand, you need the emotional aspects: how do you deliver on inspiration. How do you make sure your recommendations are top-notch so that if somebody accesses the website or the app they’re finding what they’re looking for as soon as possible.
"You need to have the right back-end to be able to cope with the different channels. On top of that you apply the layer of the tone of voice because you need to assess the situation across different scenarios.
"In our offices we have live feeds with all the customer service reviews and feedback on monitors so our staff can see our net promoter score and feedback from customers."
Are you talking to me?
For more established brands, it can be hard to adjust tone seemingly mid-stream says Elvin Too, vice president, consumer digital at SingTel.
"Some of our longer term customers are used to us speaking to them in a particular way. They say: "Don’t mess with anything, I don’t want any surprises. I just want to be connected all the time."
"At the same time, when we try to go into new things like wellness [on the MySingTel app], it requires a deeper connection. The challenge is how do you leverage upon the core brand’s tremendous reach and recognition, and yet pivot it to different audiences?
"From a scale perspective, it is a real challenge. We wouldn’t have a different interface depending on demographics, we’re still some way from that."
For Adeana Greenlee, head of brand at HOOQ, the concept of empathy at scale can seem contradictory.
"It’s one of the biggest challenges I face because you need certain processes and operations, yet if you’re really talking direct to your customer, to inject a bit of humanity it needs to be quite personal.
So how you do that when you have millions and millions of customers is something I’ve yet to be able to answer."
Is personalization at scale the Holy Grail we’re led to believe though? Consumers are saying they want communications to feel personal, but there is a limit.
"There is such a thing as too much. Sometimes you chat about a certain pair of shoes with your friends and then you see ads for them. You need to be careful not to be scary," says Zalora’s Dobrea.
"The technology that’s powering all these things is evolving. If a person bought a pair of running shoes from you six months ago, and you know they buy a pair every six months, it makes sense they would be looking to buy another pair of running shoes now. But a sofa? That’s totally different. We’re trying to set up a lot of these rules. We are learning."
Humanity in action
If you’re struggling to act on data insights, you’re not alone. Julia Lee, vice president, general manager – Asia-Pacific, Braze, says: "The study showed that all brands struggle with the ability to draw actionable insights from their data and then turn it into human-feeling, highly personalised experiences across their channels."
However, it can be done says Geoff Tan, head of content marketing, media solutions division, Singapore Press Holdings.
"In Singapore, we have a set of Chinese afternoon newspapers. We realised that a lot of parents ask their children to buy it for them on their way home. But children today are a lot more digital-orientated, they want to do away with having to stop and buy the newspaper.
"We found that data point across the group, so we worked with the Samsung Knox team to develop a tablet with pre-loaded digital versions of the papers. Some of the feedback was ‘What if my Mum or Dad touches the wrong button and they can’t get back into the paper?’ So we worked on an initial version that can’t really do anything except read those two papers.
"As the children started to teach their parents that other than reading these two papers you can do more, we started to release more capabilities and unlocked more interaction points, and they started taking that journey with us."
Tech startups are also using data to humanise their communications says Isabel Castro, vice president, digital marketing,
"Typically we always look at RFM (recency, frequency, monetary value). But we realised we can figure out who the foodies are - they’re the people who order from loads of different places," she says.
"Then it’s not just not about revenue, their behaviour can show a lot more than what their monetary value is as a customer to us."
Indeed. And if understanding is the key to empathy, insights like these will become the building blocks of brand loyalty.