The most successful companies in the APAC region excel because they deliver exactly what their consumers want at the exact moment they are searching, instead of the usual “spray and pray” approach.
Successful companies understand that the most valuable asset in a company is not the product or brand – it is the customer. This is what engagement marketing is all about.
How can you apply engagement marketing to your business needs in APAC?
Learn what Grab and Alibaba did differently to engage users better.
Company 1: Grab
“We can grow by listening more.” – Anthony Tan, Founder of Grab
Grab recognised that many Southeast Asian consumers prefer to pay by cash or upon service delivery. Hence Grab accepted cash-upfront payment, in addition to credit.
In Indonesia, ojeks (motorcycle taxis) are commonly used for speedy transportation and convenience. So in Jakarta, Bali, and also Ho Chi Minh City, where consumers often use motorbikes to beat traffic congestion, Grab introduced GrabBike services.
Grab strategically set up recruitment counters at petrol stations selling natural gas, where drivers hang out. Grab management also headed down to local coffee shops, where taxi drivers congregate during their free time, to speak to drivers and show them app demonstrations.
The ability to appreciate nuances and deliver localised solutions helped Grab to pitch itself on par with giants such as Uber in Southeast Asia.
However, there’s more to Grab’s marketing strategy. At a higher level, signs of personalisation are evident for both passengers and drivers.
Pick-up and drop-off points are pre-filled based on consumers’ favourite places, ranked by day, time, and physical location. Once a consumer opens the app, a relationship is immediately established, because Grab knows what this specific consumer wants based on their past behavioural patterns.
In addition, Grab drivers are engaged on a personal level from time to time on platforms that they are comfortable with, such as phone calls, SMSes, Whatsapp messages, email, etc. Engagement occurs at the drivers’ preferred timings, as different drivers have different driving shifts. A morning interaction would not be ideal for a night-shift driver, as he is probably resting in the morning, and vice versa. So every time Grab contacts a driver, they can give the company quality attention at their preferred timing with their preferred communication mode.
Such omnichannel marketing is what shaped the success of Grab’s marketing strategy today.
Company 2: Alibaba
Talk about Alibaba and Jack Ma immediately comes to mind. How did Alibaba establish itself as a leader in e-commerce industry by outshining Western conglomerates?
No one beats Alibaba in terms of B2C competitive pricing. All sorts of special discounts and flash sales are offered on Taobao and Tmall.
The 2017 11/11 Singles’ Day sales were a flurry of online ads, star-studded televised performances featuring Maria Sharapova, Nicole Kidman, and Pharrell Williams. Jack Ma also unveiled a martial arts film that starred in.
More importantly, Alibaba understood the rise in singlehood in China occuring due to the gender gap between males and females. So it engaged Chinese consumers by acknowledging the “treat yourself” mentality among singles. The result? Total sales of S$34.6 billion, exceeding the combined sales for both Black Friday and Cyber Monday in the US.
In addition, Alibaba’s B2B marketing strategy to onboard local SMEs onto their network proved to be a huge success. Recognising an inadequacy of sales channels for local SMEs in China, Alibaba leveraged on this opportunity to set up an e-commerce environment, granting these SMEs ease of access in conducting business globally.
In order to market themselves to these SMEs, they gave out free copies of Shopkeeper™, a package consisting of Accounting, Stock Management, and Consumer Resource Management tools for registered users.
A good grasp of the fundamentals of marketing has helped Alibaba to achieve its status today. But for them to be considered a contender alongside marketing giants Google and Facebook, certainly there has got to be more.
The Special Stuff: Engagement Marketing
A deeper look into Alibaba’s marketing strategies reveals signs of engagement marketing at work.
Secondly, there is meaningful engagement at the personal level for each individual customer based on what they have browsed, duration of browsing, and checkout behaviours. Alibaba shapes their targeting around the behavioural patterns of their customers, across platforms that they may use at different times of the day – mobile, laptop, tablet etc.
Even after purchases have been confirmed, consumers are still actively engaged with real-time confirmations, payment reminders and delivery notifications etc. Alibaba knows exactly what the next objective should be at the end of every action performed by each consumer.
More importantly than demographic and geographic targeting, what Alibaba did differently was to target consumers at the individual level — what we call engagement marketing.
What then is the essence of engagement marketing?
1. Engage people As individuals: Talk directly to consumers with tailored content and meaningful conversations, as they are more likely to reciprocate and respond.
2. Engage people Based on what they do: Listen to your audience and find out what they do exactly, and where they are in their lives. The engagement is more focused on Behaviours rather than Demographics.
3. Engage people Continuously over time: Devote more time to conversations with your customers to understand them, and allow room for relationships to grow. Engagement is not about individual messages or individual campaigns. Every interaction asks for another interaction, and is part of a longer chain of events.
4. Engagement should be Directed towards an outcome: At each phase of the buyer’s journey, your goal is to move the buyer into the next phase. You guide your audience, so choose your content wisely.
5. Engagement should be Everywhere your audience is: Approach your customers via channels that truly allow you to get in touch with them. Marketing is no longer about being “multi-channel”. It is about being “omni-channel”.
Multi-channel means to be everywhere,
while omni-channel means to be everywhere your audience is.
To meet your audience wherever they are, there is a need to deliver a consistent integrated customer experience across the platforms that they are on, providing a unified message and seamless experience to them.
“Engaging with customers throughout their lifecycle isn’t just about individual value – it’s ALSO about the value of their networks.” – Marketo
What does this mean for APAC marketers?
The basics of marketing will still involve knowing your consumers based on segmentation and demographic variables.
But it will become increasingly harder to target general consumer trends, especially so in the fragmented APAC consumer market. These emerging markets are attractive yet difficult to penetrate.
The road ahead for marketers in APAC can be made easier if personalisation can be simplified, and we believe engagement marketing is perhaps, one of the best, if not the best strategies to tackle this.
“Marketers often view personalisation at scale as a daunting undertaking, requiring millions in IT investments. But successful players often start small, generate top-line impact quickly—in a matter of weeks, often—and self-fund the initiative after that. Only then can you invest in the automation and institutionalisation of new ways of working across the whole organization over time.” – McKinsey & Company