#DigitalDialogue: “Dynamic creative tech & data-driven marketing will up efficiency”

Shoma Narayanan, Head - Group Strategic Marketing & Communications, DBS Bank India
Shoma Narayanan, Head - Group Strategic Marketing & Communications, DBS Bank India

The COVID-19 pandemic and the resultant lockdown has led to a challenging economic situation and uncertainty in the market. Some of the businesses are responding by cutting down on spends, salary cuts and even laying off employees, while others are taking affirmative action to gain the most out of limited resources and fortifying themselves for the new normal once the crisis abates.

While digital has been on a growth trajectory even before the pandemic, the global crisis has accelerated digital transformation in businesses. Most industry experts believe that Digital will lead the industry’s recovery and will permeate through every sector.

As a build up to our marquee event DIGIXX 2020, Adgully is continuing with its new series, #DigitalDialogue, which will have a special focus on the digital sector, how Digital is paving the way forward for companies and brands and how it will be a brand-building imperative.

Shoma Narayanan, Head - Group Strategic Marketing & Communications, DBS Bank India, takes stock of the current market scenario and suggests ways in which agencies can stay agile and support their clients with innovative strategies during these challenging times.

How can companies and agencies accelerate their digital transformation process in the current scenario?

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused massive global impact to lives as well as livelihoods, and consumers are facing a level of uncertainty that they’ve never seen before in their lifetimes. Concerns around health and personal safety are paramount, and there are also very real worries around long-term economic impact. Digital and contact-free methods of interacting with brands are preferred as customers want to keep their families and themselves safe. While for some industries this is a difficult shift to make, for others, like banking and e-commerce, it is relatively simple. At DBS, for example, we already had a wide range of digital products that enabled both retail and corporate customers to bank from the comfort and safety of their homes. What we did need to do, however, was to help customers who were using physical channels migrate to digital. This was done using both service channels as well as marketing channels.

For agencies, it is imperative that they stay agile and are able to support their clients with innovative strategies during these challenging times. They need to tap into customer insights, understand what customers are going through and what they are looking for. It is important to get both the messaging and medium right. While a digital-first strategy is perhaps the need of the hour for most brands, the messaging needs to be reassuring and relevant. The use of data will be critical as will be the ability of brands to engage with customers digitally.

How can Digital lead the recovery for brands in the new normal?

The consumption of both TV and digital media increased over the pre-lockdown period by 20-30% (the exact % depends on the metric used). However, data shows that people are predominantly going online for COVID-19 news and updates, for entertainment (movies, TV shows, OTT, gaming), or to connect with friends and family on social media. As the lockdown eases, some of this may change – for brands it is important that they’re present at the right time with relevant communication. Consumers will be even less receptive to hard-selling than they were in the past.

At DBS, we first focused on ensuring that our clients were supported in the best possible way through these troubled times. We launched a new COVID-19 protection plan for our retail clients as well as new digital services for our corporate clients, and we launched the DBS Stronger Together fund to help with COVID-19 relief. As the situation eases, we will ensure we partner our clients in their path to recovery with products and services that meet their needs. Digital has been and will continue to be one of our key differentiators.

As we begin to emerge from the crisis, consumer needs are likely to change and we need to understand, predict and fulfill these changing needs. There will be myriad opportunities for companies to collaborate and co-create solutions, and re-purpose existing tech or manufacturing set-ups/ product lines to meet new requirements. Recovery will be contingent on the ability to do this effectively.

What kind of investments are most needed to create the technology environment that will allow companies and agencies to thrive in the new normal?

This is again very industry specific. The crisis is likely to bring about seismic changes in customer needs and behaviours, and we have to anticipate and prepare for these changes. The tech environments we create need to be agile and efficient as well as resilient.

Marketing teams, in particular, need to work on getting the necessary data and tech solutions to be able to not only build a digital brand but also acquire, cross-sell and service digitally. To succeed, brands need to develop personalised content and creative, leveraging AI capabilities where feasible, and reduce dependence on large-scale traditional brand campaigns. Marketing budgets are likely to tighten, and the use of dynamic creative tech and data-driven marketing will help cut costs and increase the efficiency of marketing spends. Agencies who are able to support clients in making this transition will thrive.

How can digital innovation be turned into a business-building imperative?

The crisis has forced companies to innovate and consumers to go digital. We now have a far larger base of digitally-enabled consumers than ever before. Going forward, it will be critical to build for the future and for the ‘new normal’, perhaps even to prepare for the next crisis. Consumers are likely to adopt new tech faster if it fits into their new requirements – such as contact-free, human connect through digital, focus on health, local consumption, etc. Companies need to be able to shift people, resources and marketing capability to back product and service innovation.

What steps can companies and agencies take to reskill their workforce to work in a new digital ecosystem when the recovery begins?

One of the first and biggest shifts that many companies have had to make is adjusting to a large part of their workforce operating from home. This, in itself, has required a certain level of re-skilling as well as changes to the way teams are managed. Once recovery begins, some things may bounce back to the way they were in the pre-COVID-19 period. However, I do think that many changes are here to stay, and also that consumers will expect a very different kind of interaction even with brands they are currently using. One of the upsides of large-scale work-from-home is that companies and agencies can now tap into talent from across the globe – the opportunities for sharing and learning are immense. Large-scale re-skilling and unorthodox ways of tapping into talent will set winners apart from the rest. Processes and communication protocols to manage large-scale dispersed work forces will be key.

In the midst of all this, it is also very important to keep staff engaged and happy. The current situation enforced remote working and uncertainty around the future can lead to high anxiety and stress levels. For marketing and creative teams, the impact can be even higher – most creative people are used to ‘jamming’ together to come up with new ideas, and being forced to work alone can be very unsettling. A healthy culture will help weather the storm.


News in the domain of Advertising, Marketing, Media and Business of Entertainment