As a part of our Second Digital Leadership Summit at Mumbai, a panel discussion was held on the future trends of digital marketing - AI, augmented reality and vernacular content. The two panellists were Ms Channan Sawhney - Head, Digital Marketing, Johnson & Johnson and Mr. Prathyush Kukreja – Head, Product Monetisation at Haptik. The session was moderated by Mr. David Appasamy, Head of Brand & Strategy, Social Beat.
Prathyush from Johnson & Johnson enlightened the
audience on how the perception of AI has changed over the years. He said that
in 2015, AI was just a buzz word and no one really knew what AI was. The
preconceived notion was that AI will automate everything, leading to
unemployment. But, in 2018, the scenario has changed. Expectations have become
realistic and technology has come to a place where it can add value to
achieving the necessary business objectives.
According to Prathyush, this is an era of Conversational AI, a subset of Artificial Intelligence backed with data collected by brands and advertisers. Brands must build conversational AI to communicate with the users based on their behavioural and transactional or historical behaviour. Unlike a television commercial or a radio advertisement, conversational AI is not linear and one-to-one. When you use conversational AI in advertising and branding, each and every customer is unique and the content will be customised according to the needs of that particular user. He further added that Artificial Intelligence considers several other factors such as the buying nature and purchase frequency of the user. This where AI is today. AI is no longer a buzz word today, but, it is a tool of competitive advantage. Currently, brands are competing with each other to develop better AI to deliver better ROI in terms of acquiring users and telling better brand stories.
Channan from Johnson & Johnson said that AI technology is not utilised to its fullest in FMCG industry. If used properly, AI has the power to break the clutter and make the brand stand out. Brands can convey right messages to the user in such a way so as to create a long lasting impact on the audience. Johnson & Johnson is employing AI technology rather than AR. Google and Facebook have already started their AI and AR journey. Other brands have huge benefits from this. But, for FMCG companies, implementation of AI technology is extremely important since this is an industry that communicates with its audience on a day-to-day basis.
According to Channan, consumers are always on a look out for good content on the Internet. In the case of Johnson & Johnson, there is a huge demand for content related to pregnancy and newborn care. It is observed that most of the customers prefer consuming the content in their own local languages. If you are a market leader in a particular industry, it is important to take the lead and provide the kind of content that the consumer is looking for. That’s why Johnson & Johnson has adopted an active native content strategy. One of the biggest priorities for Johnson & Johnson is to strengthen their regional content strategy so as to deliver the right brand messages for the audience in a manner that they want to hear.
Prathyush highlighted the importance of integrating voice search and vernacular content to build the effectiveness of conversational AI. Nowdays, majority of people are accessing the Internet using vernacular languages rather than English. The Internet has witnessed a commendable shift with the introduction of voice search. This technology is much user-friendly in the sense that users can directly talk to the device without even touching it. Hence the power of voice search is immense. According to data from Google, after the introduction of voice search, Hindi is the most preferred language for content consumption. Taking this into consideration, Haptik is also working on developing a conversational AI with vernacular capabilities. Many of the leading advertisers are also leveraging Devanagari scripts and other local languages in their lead generation and branding campaigns on various digital platforms.
Channan cited that one of the biggest wins of investing in AI is that market study has become easier like never before. With the adoption of AI technology, brands can provide efficient solutions to customers in a much faster manner. This technology has the huge power to transform the way in which data is processed and maintained for delivering business results
Prathyush spoke about an interesting campaign that Haptik had conceptualised for the Bollywood movie Thugs of Hindostan. Google Maps was a great digital marketing tool for this movie. When somebody asked for directions, instead of the usual voice, users could hear directions from Aamir Khan himself. These innovations by Google and Facebook can be adopted by companies specialised in AI technology in order to help brands and advertisers offer value to their customers.
Prathyush cited a recent case study on how HDFC Life
executed a branding campaign using AI. The brand wanted to create awareness
about importance on investing in Life Insurance among the millennials. For this
Haptik created an AI personality called Shayari
wala who educated the millennials on the importance of investing in the
form of shayaris. The main reasons why HDFC strategised their campaign in this
way is primarily because millennials love story telling and they consume
content that is fun and quirky.
According to Channan, Augmented Reality is a great
story telling tool for brands if it is used for delivering the right message.
For instance, some of the brands have incorporated AR for product packaging. A
well conceptualised AR lead can communicate great brand stories to the
On the contrary, Prathyush said that the use of AR in
branding and digital marketing is still vague and unclear. There is no clarity
on how brands can measure ROI, drive sales and generate leads using an AR
campaign. Augmented reality is a great platform for education and can be easily
adopted by real estate and gaming industries. But, it will take a few more years
for AR to establish itself in the digital landscape.
AI plays a huge role in automation of ads, said
Prathyush. The time taken for education and lead generation have become much
faster with the use of AI technology. According to Channan, marketing
automation is all about programmatic ads, best custom audiences and precision
marketing that help in delivering right brand messages for the right target audience.
Channan also highlighted the importance for brands to
identify ways to migrate content users to vernacular chatbots. For this, brands
must focus on investing in real time machine learning and customised content
that can play a huge role in understanding your customers, drive sales and
This was indeed an insightful panel discussion and brand strategists from across sectors understood the need for adopting such advanced technologies like artificial intelligence and augmented reality to drive sales, generate leads and withstand competition.
One of the key challenges of digital marketing is the herculean task of understanding your target audience and engaging them with relatable content that will ultimately convert them from a lead to a consumer. Social Beat worked in collaboration with South India’s leading optical retail chain – Specsmakers – and broke the benchmark of retail sales and conversions via digital leads.
We implemented the onion peel strategy to understand the buying behaviour of their audience and used the results in our content and social media campaigns to boost conversions. As part of the strategy, we reached out to the existing and potential customers of Specsmakers and asked them a set of questions to get insights into their consumer behaviour. Based on their replies, we broadly divided the audience into primary and secondary circles and targeted them with content they could relate to.
For example, a majority of their potential and existing consumers drive their own vehicles and are working professionals. So, the social media campaigns that rolled out were related to generic topics like road safety and UV exposure to screens targeting the primary and secondary audience.
This survey-oriented strategy has helped us target their audience better, generate a higher number of leads from the online space and increase the number of average walk-ins to the showroom. The online leads generated enabled an 8% conversions over a span of 4 months. With these promising results, it is safe to say that showcasing content that the target audience finds engaging is one of the best lead generation strategies in the evolving space of digital marketing.
When we conducted our Indian Industry Digital Marketing Survey we found that many brands were facing challenges in measuring the return that their digital marketing and social media marketing efforts were giving. Hence, we included an eclectic panel discussion on “Measuring ROI of Digital Marketing” at our Digital Leadership Summit.
We had four panelists moderated by Suneil from Social Beat: Mr. Vijay Anand - Sulekha.com, Mr. Arasu Shankar - Eshakti.com, Ms. Lavanya Hariharan – Zapluk and Mr. Shriram Sanjeevi - Oyethere.com.
Suneil started off by asking the audience as to how many of them believed you could get ROI from digital marketing; it was a pleasant surprise to see that over 60% of the audience believed it could. We as a digital agency couldn’t agree more. The panel started with a discussion on what each of them feels about the results from digital marketing. We also have had a Digital Chai Pe Charcha on ROI of Digital Marketing, and you can read it here.
The entire panel did agree that the choice of the channel varies with the services/products and the consumer segment. It’s also very important to be smart as you scale adverting, as Arasu pointed out. It’s essential to be clear on what is the message you want to give about your brand.
Vijay continued to be a strong propagator of Google Organic and Google Adwords and said it’s the most scalable as SEO efforts now start showing results in a few days, for existing/older sites. Since they focus on services with low engagement from end consumers they, tend to focus less on social media channels. They did spend 15 crores on their TVC campaign earlier this year it only gives 5000 incremental visitors a day which is minuscule for them as they get about 6-7 lakh visitors a day. Vijay added that for brand building to show results, you need to be at it all the time.
On the other hand, Lavanya, Arasu & Shriram all spoke on how social media and in specific Facebook Marketing has worked extremely well for their businesses to get scaleable results. Lavanya highlighted that for a service wherein the consumer still doesn’t know it exists, the search volume on Google is extremely low hence Facebook & Twitter were the driving growth as they were able to achieve leads along with building the brand and engagement around it.
Arasu & Lavanya also touched upon the importance of building the trust factor with consumers regarding answering their questions and doubts and also in terms of showcasing the products/service in a more holistic way. As Arasu rightly pointed out that Facebook allows for better product showcase via the carousel ads, videos, etc. Even brand awareness and the brand story is better executed via channels like Facebook and Instagram. Talking about the social trust that’s built out, Arasu added that they now see existing customers answering queries raised by potential clients and that it’s a game changer for them.
Shriram added that the approach they take depends on the message, the channel also changes. For example, when they ran a huge campaign around Kabali by selling t-shirts, giving away movie tickets and more; Facebook worked very well for that as it’s a mass channel.
We couldn’t agree more with Arasu when he said that "Channel will depend on product and customer segment." For example, if you are looking to target millennials then Snapchat would be an ideal platform. If your product or service is visual and you are targeting a sub 40-year-old audience, then Instagram would be an excellent channel but there is indeed a demographic difference across channels. eShakti also focusses a lot on Pinterest as it's relevant to many a fashion brand.
Emailer Marketing still works if it’s with your own audience. Vijay of Sulekha spoke about how emailer marketing is an important channel and delivers results when done smartly with smart targeting, in spite of Gmail pushing a lot of emails to the Promotions tab. Of course, once a user is acquired it’s up to the brand to retain them and emailers is a great way to do that.
Influencer Marketing was another channel that works very well and eShakti uses it extensively. Arasu shared that they work with 1000s of bloggers and they have built their network over a period. They calculate the ROI of influencers via direct referral traffic as well as transactions driven by the unique referral code given to each influencer. He also gave an interesting insight that there is higher trust from a consumer that comes via an influencer, so the 5-10% off that they give is covered up there.
There was an interesting question from the audience - Dr. Manoj from Dr. Smilez Group of Dental Centers asked about how they got very low engagement low on social as customers were not very keen on sharing their dental experiences. Lavanya shared her similar experiences as not a lot of women would like to share they got a beauty service or a wax treatment as it’s a personal service. The way Zapluk approaches it is to given them an offer or incentive but in the long run, content marketing is the key. Shriram added saying that ROI cannot always be attributed to direct sales - brand building and marketing is also to be measured
Everyone on the panel agreed that the return on marketing spend is not immediate; hence Life Time Value is an important metric to help scale up business and understand whether it’s moving towards profitability.
The LTV depends on different businesses, and we got varied perspective from the panel. Arasu spoke about phenomenal ROI wherein it just takes them 1.2 transactions to recover marketing cost as they have high-value transactions and very high repeat purchase. For Zapluk and Pamperazi it was three transactions to get the back marketing cost. Whereas for a brand like Sulekha, the end consumer was not paying anything, so it’s difficult to ascertain LTV.
Arasu mentioned that they look at the time taken to recover the marketing cost of acquiring the customer and for them, it’s usually the first 1-2 months whereas it is 3-4 months for Zapluk. Key metrics remain around customer acquisition, retention and finally on how to make them spend more and more often. It of courses varies by cohort, seasonality’s (for example, summer is a strong season for eshakti), types of customers, depends on the marketing channel and the marketing campaign that you run.
Shriram again had a very different perspective and said that "The word LTV is over done. Companies that boasted of High LTvs have shut down in the last couple of months because LTV was more of a myth." He gave an example of Chennai’s leading retail chain Viveks wherein in many cases three generations have been shopping there and apparently they are also grappling with LTV. He also questioned how come Flipkart only had 32% growth in spite of the perceivable high LTV.
One of the participants had a very relevant question - Sejal from Zoho asked what are the tools use for calculating ROI. In most cases, Google Analytics along with data from Google Adwords, FB Ads, Instagram Analytics and other social media analytics tools would suffice. Suneil added that Improvely could be a great tool to understand muti-touch attribution as consumers often interact with the brand multiple times before the sale is closed. This tool allows you to see the history of the person and how they interacted with your brand. Read more about Improvely and other similar analytics tools here.
Suneil also added that there is sometimes a time lag between generating a lead to sale and ROI can be improved if you can figure out how to leverage that time frame to communicate about the brand and the offerings.
Vijay spoke about Google Analytics Premium (GAP) which is more relevant for larger organisations as its costs around USD 90,000 a year. He talked about Google Analytics data being heavily sampled; wherein GAP has unsampled data which can also be downloaded. GAP has only around 15 clients in India but Vijay recommends it’s to e-commerce and digital businesses as repeat customers are harder to track in free analytics tools and attribution is not always clear.