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Driving Lifetime Retention of Users for Emerging Indian Short Video Apps

Short Video Apps!

Love them..Hate them..Can’t get enough of them! There is something about these apps that both my 6 year old niece and her 40 year old mother are absolutely hooked on to making videos and consuming them! 

These apps offer an opportunity to millions of Indians, to become stars in their own right – something that was till only a few years back, restricted to the “Social Elite”. Which other platform could make you go viral by singing duets or lifting weights or enacting scenes from movies!

The likes of TikTok have entertained masses and truly given a platform to millions of talented content creators, who otherwise would probably never get a chance to showcase their genius (remember the Carrom guy who could literally score any point in the world or the Car Wash guy who enthralled everyone with his dancing prowess!)

Now, with the Chinese app ban by the Indian Government, there is a massive opportunity field created for Indian Short Video Apps like Trell, Chingari, Elyments, Mitron, Roposo etc. to not just step in, but to step up the game further! Over a 100 million content creators and users now find themselves exploring newer avenues for both entertainment and a source of livelihood.

Let’s talk potential:. According to a Times of India article, Indians clocked 5.5 billion hours on TikTok in 2019, an increase of over five times from the 900 million hours spent in 2018. Now consider this: Chinese users are online for six hours a day, mostly to browse content, particularly social media —-Although only 4% of their time is spent on e-commerce, it’s enough to drive $1.5 trillion in annual online sales. The smaller Indian market, with online sales of $40 billion, will want to copy the playbook. 

(Ref:https://theprint.in/india/why-indias-ban-on-chinese-apps-opens-a-gold-mine-for-mukesh-ambanis-jio-silicon-valley/457254/)

Now while these new apps will save millions of dollars on user acquisition cost (there is a ~200 million active user base up for grabs), the real test of time would be how many of these apps will be able to drive lifetime retention.

What these apps need to keep in mind is that the number of initial downloads is not a KPI that counts. Retention is the new growth. What will ultimately differentiate a successful app from the others is its ability to engage and retain its users in the long run.

While each app is trying to out-do the other and come up with innovative features, all it takes is one poor experience for a user to switch to another option, now that the market is inundated with choices.  What it also means is that the creator base that enjoyed unprecedented fan following and engagement on a single platform earlier, is bound to get split up amongst 8-10 apps.

What can such apps do to make the user come back again and again? How do they ensure that users get a superlative experience while creating and consuming content? Here are some pointers to keep in mind!

1. Day 0 Experience is Key!

Did you know that the average rate of uninstalls on Day 0 of installing an app is a whooping 40%!

With ever-decreasing attention spans, it becomes paramount for an app to leave a lasting impression right from the get-go. If a user downloads an app and is not impressed with the functionalities or gets confused with the UI/UX, they will not hesitate even for a moment to uninstall the app immediately. 

The plethora of choices available in the market today also makes it even more difficult to get such a user back to your app. Chances are that such users will probably not give your app another chance in the future if their first experience was unsatisfactory. Which means that designing the Day 0 experience becomes key to long term retention! 

Get the user involved from the moment he launches your app for the first time. Ask them to choose topics of interest when they launch the app. This exercise can be done even without the need to log-in and can help you personalize the D0 experience by showing content that really excites them. Spotify does something very similar – it asks for my music preferences upfront and starts giving me a highly contextual music feed from the get-go, ultimately making my user experience highly engaging from Day 0. Here is what Spotify did on D0 – http://bit.ly/SpotifyD0Experience

2. Contextual Push Notifications to boost repeat user sessions

Now that you have aced your Day 0 experience, the next step would be to get users to engage and re-engage with your app. Push Notifications can be very powerful tools to get the user back to your app. 

Personalize your app push notifications as per the user’s name, place, time, interests and choices. Users are more likely to find value in notifications that are contextual and entertaining, or that feel like extensions of the app rather than generic content trying to get them to engage. A thoughtfully designed, highly personalized App Push Notification can create a memorable experience for the users and encourage them to click on them to engage with the app. 

Go beyond sending plain text based campaigns. Wow both your known as

well as anonymous users with rich, interactive elements such as images,  

videos, GIFs, emojis, and audio! The more engaging and personalized your 

messages, higher the chances of app relaunch, better your DAUs and 

Conversions!

3. Define your “North Star Metric”

It is extremely important to recognize and define your ‘North Star Metric’ in order to drive long term user retention. These metrics will help you identify the most important user behaviors for your business. 

Identify the desired user behaviour that leads to user retention on the app e.g. consuming 30 videos in 2 days or creating a video within the first 2 hours of app install or completing a profile sign up within the first day. 

Once your North Star Metric is defined, it becomes a reference for optimizing the app and user experience. Nudge users to perform activities that improve your North Star Metrics. Contextualize their feed to show them content of their choice, to encourage them to consume more. Create contextual walkthroughs within the app to educate users on how to start creating videos quickly. Get users to start creating content by recommending trending hashtags and exciting challenges. 

Remember, Retention is the new growth – chase metrics that will ultimately lead to long term and sustainable retention of users!

4. It’s all about creating a personalized feed

Personalizing content is passe’. Hyper-personalisation of content is what can make you really stand out from all the noise. Arguably, the best way to outperform the competition is by personalizing your app experience for each user. Giving your users a customized experience will keep them coming back for more.

Utilize the power of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning to personalise your recommendations. Intelligent personalisation happens when your algorithm not only understands the user but also the content. Video information (tags, title, sub-title, music, hashtags) becomes as important as user activity and user attributes when it comes to fine-tuning the feed that is shown every time a user browses the app. 

Go beyond just explicit understanding of the user’s interest – look for implicit indicators (e.g. user did not click on the 1st 5 videos, but clicked on the 7th and 10th ones) and feed these to your algorithms to make it more robust. 

Take it one step further and personalise user experience across all touchpoints – App Push Notifications, Emails etc.

5. Build for the future superstar

While leveraging the “star power” of the existing TikTok heroes to drive user engagement to your app can be a clear go-to-strategy, it is also important to not get restricted by that. Give these famous stars a home and, in turn, bank on their followers to follow suit, but also build for the next super-creator.

Invest in new talent that will stick by your platform and create their own following by adopting your app. Reward such creators, recognize the future stars and promote them, allow them to share their content easily on other social media sites – you make them superstars and they will end up being loyal ambassadors of your app. 

Help creators become the “next big thing” by recommending their content and making them discoverable by users easily!

Closing thoughts

Quoting Jonah Berger from his book ‘Contagious: Why Things Catch On’: 

“Going viral isn’t random, magic, or luck. It’s a science”. 

As content creators keep chasing the ever elusive virality, they will continue to experiment across platforms. There is no doubt in my mind that they will soon figure out which platforms work best for their content and will then eventually settle down to their platform of choice. The ‘chosen’ platform will then have a huge responsibility on its shoulders to drive lifetime retention of such users.

Providing users with an experience that surpasses expectations can really catapult such app to the big leagues. It is easy to fall prey and imitate other successful apps, but the market has never been more receptive to new, refreshing and path re-defining ideas, than today. 

For all of these  new age, Indian apps, the entire world is their playground. As Peter Drucker says – “If you want to do something new, you have to stop doing something old”. After all, you will never become indispensable if you are only trying to play catch-up! 

Choosing the Right CDP

If you’re reading this then you’ve already decided that CDP is the right tool for your business. And it’s easy to see why. Having a platform that can track all your customer interactions from multiple touch-points that gives you a full understanding of every customer gives you all the reasons to have CDP in your Martech Stack.

A lot of thought process goes on behind choosing the right CDP for your company. And while every company has a different requirement to meet there are some basic factors or features that remain common to all Industries. 

When you deal with something as important as customer data you need to be extra cautious about the platform you choose for handling that data. While we know that every company has a different requirement to meet while choosing a CDP, there are some particular factors and features that remain common to all Industries.

We’ve prepared a couple of points here that would guide you as you look for options and help you find the best CDP for your company.

  1. Profile creation.  The CDP must meet your company’s specific needs in terms of which systems it can connect to, which data types it can ingest, how it will transform source data into usable formats, what kind of identity matching is available, how profiles will be stored, and how quickly they will be updated.  The more precisely you can define the inputs, processes, and outputs needed for your business, the greater your chances of finding the right system.
  2. Training set preparation.  AI systems rely on properly prepared training sets as inputs.  Details depend on the AI system but, in general, cleaner training data is likely to yield better results.  Also bear in mind that the trained system will be expecting comparable inputs during operation, so ensure that any processes used to prepare sample inputs in the training set can also be applied to operational inputs. 
  3. Operational access.  Data needed for dynamic personalization must be readily available.  This often requires real-time access to profiles and real-time or near-real-time updates to profiles using data from source systems.  Be sure to consider the time to execute complex update processes, which can range from seconds to minutes or hours.  Running the AI-based models themselves may also add time to execution.
  4. Deployment effort.  Setting up and operating your CDP is a major task. Build a clear understanding of the resources you will need and assess the tools provided by each system.  Features such as visual process flows, seamless data ingestion, and prebuilt connectors to source and delivery systems can substantially reduce support workload and enable faster response to new needs. 
  5. End-user capabilities.  The more end-users can do for themselves, the less work they require from CDP support staff.  Look for interfaces that let non-technical users create customer segments, capture events on Website or in a data stream, derive calculated variables from existing inputs, build and deploy predictive models, and define customer journey flows.   Be realistic in how much you can expect end-users to do and consider creating a core of expert users who can execute complex tasks for others with minimal help from technical staff.
  6. Vendor considerations.  System features are not the only factor in picking a CDP vendor.  You’ll also want to consider cost, support services, industry expertise, and results at similar companies, financial stability, and product direction.  If AI-based dynamic personalization is your goal, pay special attention to development plans in that area.
  7. Non-CDP issues.  Your CDP plans should also take into account other factors that impact what’s possible. Dynamic personalization may require cooperation across organizational boundaries, expanded content creation, new integrations with data sources and delivery systems, innovative measurement techniques, and larger budgets. If this is your company’s first major AI project, you’ll want to make special efforts to ensure people understand how it works and that you deploy it properly.

After considering all these factors, you’re ready to make your decision. The factors listed, form the heart of the requirements section in a CDP Request for Proposal.  A complete RFP would include:

  • Proposal instructions including project schedule and contact information
  • Background information on your company’s business and project objectives
  • Requirements the CDP must meet
  • Cost estimate and delivery schedule
  • Vendor background including history, financial status, and reference clients

Visit the CDP Institute Library www.cdpinstitute.org for several papers describing RFP creation in more depth.

Technology is only a piece of the puzzle while choosing a CDP. There’s much more to it. It takes a lot of Strategic thinking to lock the CDP that best meets your needs. And choosing the right CDP for your business is essential to unlocking the potential business value that it can deliver.

Want us to help you get started? Contact us, today!

6 Benefits of Customer Data Platform you must know

As marketers we all want our brands to build long-lasting relationships with customers. This is exactly what we expect our teams to achieve. But how can you really build these relationships until and unless you provide your teams the right tools or I would say platform to know your customers and keep them engaged?

You’re loaded with customer data but if they’re not actionable then it’s nothing more than a heap of wasted opportunities to engage your customers.

So here’s where the Customer Data Platform (CDP) plays its part. All the information CDP gathers from the multiple customer touch-points is placed at your fingertips, absolutely ready to be used. The insights make it easier for you to keep your customers satisfied and engaged every time they interact with your brand at every stage of their customer journey.

If you’re reading this you already know that a CDP gives you a 360-degree view of every individual customer. This is the formation of individual customer profiles that CDP creates on the basis of the information it gathers.

Of course there’s much more to this. So let’s tell you exactly what CDP brings to the table.

  1. Breaking the data silos – You probably already have a tool to give you a 360 degree view of your customer. Chances are that all this data is stuck in different platforms.  But what you don’t have is a platform that breaks these data silos and connects all your marketing platforms.  Enters CDP. It gathers data from all sources in any format, puts it together for you and gives you the right insights to plan all your marketing campaigns.
  • Customer Segmentation – Once all the customer data is at one place, the next thing in line is to profile and segment customers (that too detailed) and adding even more value to your offerings.
  • Tracking customer journeyCDP goes much more beyond simply giving you insights on your ads or say email campaigns. Every customer interaction in terms of how many times your customer viewed a product, number of times your website was visited, which part of your app they’re engaging with the most, and many more questions that we marketers have to tackle on a daily basis is answered by CDP.
  • Real-time information – It’s one of the best parts of having a CDP. It keeps all the data of your customers updated in real-time. This is what enables marketers to keep at par with the changing customer preferences and offer real-time solutions to every customer problem.
  • Personalized Journey – Most of the companies today recognize the importance of a personalized customer experience. Today’s customers expect brands to offer them an experience that is unique to them. This goes on to show that you care for your customers and you exactly know what they need, when they need it and where they need it. This has made personalization a key strategy for marketers in every Industry today. All said and done, the only way you can personalize your customer’s journey is if you have enough data about them. This brings me to my point. CDP is the way to get the all the data (the right ones) you need to be tuned-in with your customers’ needs to make them stick to your brand.
  • Increased Revenue – Let’s get down to the real deal. Let’s talk numbers. The bottom line for all your marketing campaigns is to get revenue for your company. I think it’s safe to say that any marketing tool is as good as the monetary benefits (In addition to other qualitative benefits) it gives you. All these points I talked about till now boil down to the fact that every business wants to be a customer-centric one and at the end it’s those repeat business from customers is what churns your company’s financial wheels. This is how CDP benefits you. With your data in one place, you exactly know the ‘Next best offer’ you need to make to your customer. Once you know that, rest assured you’re ready to make your customers click right on purchase.

All in all with the right Customer Data Platform in place you can be sure to not miss out on any customer milestone. The hype about Customer Data Platform seems worth it, doesn’t it? You are already on the right direction to make you and your customer’s life simpler, so take the next right step and Schedule a Demo with us to actually see the benefits of CDP.

The ‘Data’ in the Customer Data Platform

CDP, as you know it, is a platform in the marketer’s tech stack that provides a unified view of every customer that has ever interacted with their brand. The key to unlocking exceptional customer experience is knowing your customers. Well, CDP does hit the bulls-eye with this.

Okay, so consider this. As a customer, before you lock in what you want to buy, you’re most likely to Google search the product, read up reviews, check out the retailers offering of what you want, scroll through the website, navigate the app so on and so forth. Chances are that you’ve visited multiple channels where the brand is active before you actually click on buy. And of course you will relate to the email follow ups, the push notifications or say the Facebook Ads that have been following you since the moment you started looking for your product.

The point I am getting at is that all of the things I have said above is only possible because marketers have the data to know exactly what you want. Clearly, CDP needs data to deliver what it promises. And Data really is the base for building on your marketing efforts. There’s more to it. As important as it is to gather data from all possible sources, it’s equally important or I’d say more important to get the right kind of data and have a CDP that can stitch it together to give a 360 degree view of all your customers.

The data CDP deals with

If CDP is on your marketing tools list you will have to understand what customer data does CDP look at and how this data is integrated.

To begin with, CDP collects data from both online and offline channels like web tracking tools, marketing automation, CRMs, and data warehouses, typically through APIs and pans out the entire customer journey right across all these channels.

It starts with knowing ‘Who your customer is.’ CDP identifies customer’s Identity or attribute essentially in terms of name, contact and other personal details like birthdays.

The next thing a CDP is looking at is ‘What is your customer doing.’ This taps into the actions customers take every time they interact with you. This data includes a customer’s website visits (page clicked on/product viewed), emails opened/clicked on, app engagements, and the activities across any other channels you’re active on.

Then there’s the transactional data of the customer in terms of purchases, returns and the sorts of these.

All campaign metrics in terms of engagement, impressions, reach and data gathered from other data management systems like CRM, is also captured by CDP.

The data that CDP works on fits into one of the above categories. And all of this data we just talked about comes from all possible sources and in all possible formats and the chances of your existing system to read all formats are rather bleak. But that’s not something you would have to worry about with CDP as it comes with the ability to ingest data in any format and create something useful out of it.

The bottom line is that every useful piece of customer data is gathered and analysed by the Customer Data Platform to give you a single unified view of each customer.

How does it work?

You’re probably wondering how CDP does this. In a nutshell, it works in three steps.

So whether you want to give special discounts to your most loyal customers or recommend products to a user navigating your website or sending out personalized emails to your customers, CDP makes it easier to implement with its repository of real-time data. Still curious about how it works?  Schedule a Demo with us and see what CDP has to offer you.

Customer Data Platform: The ‘what’ and ‘why’ and of it

If you are a data-driven marketer (which you should be) then you’ve landed just at the right page. With improving AI &ML technology, it has become a lot easier for marketers to gather information on their customers from several sources and use it to reach out to their customers.

The power of AI has given the world of marketing yet another promising technology, The Customer Data Platform.

What is a Customer Data Platform?

Looking for that one perfect dress for some occasion I must have visited a number e-commerce websites, social media sites, physical stores and all other possible places. And this is how the shopping pattern is for most of the customers. They will be hopping from a brand’s e-commerce site, social media page, mobile app and the store itself. The question is how can brands keep up with these multiple customer touch-points?

This is where CDP comes into the picture.  The CDP integrates data from across all these touch-points to create a unified profile of all your customers, their attributes and all the information they leave behind every time they interact with your brand (online or offline). It builds the customer’s profile on an individual level.

So, all in all, the data you have on your customers be it transactional, behavioral, demographic from multiple sources is linked to the customer associated with all of this.

Why Should You Use a CDP?

The need for a Customer Data Platform arises because of the sheer volume of customer data coming in from multiple sources and channels that marketers have to deal with. I agree that managing data is not a new thing, but the number of software’s that are available to do so can truly be overwhelming.

The marketing world is a complex place and the expectations of customers are very high. Here’s where the existing systems fail to utilize AI to its full potential.

  1. Lack the ability to incorporate semi-structured and unstructured data sources that frequently introduce new customer attributes and behaviours.
  2. CRM, marketing automation, and marketing clouds are all specialized systems built to interact directly with customers and prospects.  As such, they work primarily with data they generate internally.  This data is important but not complete, since other useful data is collected in other systems such as Web site management, order processing, and customer support.  Most CRM, marketing automation, and marketing cloud systems lack features to ingest this external data, perform sophisticated identity matching, or easily share unified profiles with other systems.
  3. They lack the precision needed to offer the right product to the right individual at the right moment. Some of the systems like DMP almost never store personal identifiers such as names and addresses to ensure they don’t violate privacy rules. This limits their ability to do data unification and support marketing processes they rely on personally identifiable information.
  4. Data integration platforms, such as Mulesoft, Informatica, or Boomi, move data between systems but don’t perform extensive processing or store data internally. This means they cannot assemble the historical data sets required for AI training or to execute AI-based models. 

Here’s how the Customer Data Platform fills the gap that exists in the current solutions:

Unlike other systems that work with customer data, CDPs were designed specifically to assemble and share unified customer profiles.  This means they have the data ingestion, identity matching, profile creation, and access features needed to do this efficiently.  Specific advantages of CDPs include:

  • Universal data ingestion.  The CDP can ingest any data type and store the original detail, similar to a data lake.  This is achieved by using multiple data stores including relational databases for structured inputs and NoSQL databases for unstructured and semi-structured inputs.
  • Flexible data models.  The CDP can convert the input data into usable formats, applying data quality, standardization, identity matching, and reformatting tools as needed.  It includes or integrates with specialized tools to extract structured information from unstructured and semi-structured inputs, making data from those inputs available for analytics and personalization.
  • Open data access.  The CDP makes its profiles available to other systems, typically through an open API that lets those systems request CDP information.  Other options may include file exports, segment selection, and database queries. 
  • Privacy and security.  CDPs include features to ensure that sensitive customer data is used in compliance with privacy rules and security controls.  This may include policies that apply different constraints based on where a customer lives, features to gather and manage data usage permissions, and features to respond to data access and deletion requests.  Security features include access controls, usage logs, encryption, and anonymization.  CDPs that lack these abilities often have prebuilt integrations with specialized systems that provide them. 
  • Real-time and nearly real-time execution.  Optimal customer experience often requires making decisions based on current data.  During a real-time interaction such as a Web site visit, this requires both capturing behaviors during the interaction and instantaneously looking up the customer history to help select the most appropriate response.  There’s often a need to share information across channels in real-time, such as adding information about recent Web interactions to the customer profile so it is available to call center agents and chatbots.  
  • Prebuilt process flows.  CDPs are provided with standard process flows for common activities such as data capture, transformations, identity management, data modeling, profile creation, and output preparation.  This makes deployment much faster than constructing such processes from scratch, even when suitable tools are available to do the work.  Prebuilt CDP processes reflect the best practices developed through CDP vendors’ previous experience, further reducing the time to deliver a well-functioning solution.

This sums up the specific reasons why CDP is coming up as a preferred platform for being more than a simple data gathering and managing platform. This platform makes it easy for the marketers to access a single, 360 degree view of a customer in real time. For marketers, this a real bonus that saves up hours and hours of their time that goes into managing data. It’s an easy and rewarding way out for marketers to unify data, decision and delivery systems to stay engaged with their customers, in real time and across every stage of customer journey.

To know more about what CDP can do for you, Schedule a Demo with us!

Expert View: Iti Mehrotra on how 5Paisa saw 3X improvement in customer acquisition using AI and ML

BFSI sector has always been at the forefront of using technology and is known to be a digital pioneer. From SMS banking to app-based banking, win-back campaigns to predictive modelling, one fits all to n=1 approach, the financial sector has been perpetually shifting towards the best marketing technology available.

One such example is 5Paisa.com, which has used AI and ML to become a 100% digital platform with 3X improvement in customer acquisition. As a part of our expert view series on AI-led personalization in association with ResearchNxt, we had an extensive conversation with Iti Mehrotra, the head of marketing and strategic alliances, who gives us some interesting insights into her long journey in the BFSI sector and how it has always been at the forefront to adopt technology to connect and engage with its customers.

She also shares how 5Paisa leveraged the power of AI and ML to enhance its digital presence and achieved a massive scale in a short period.

Your key takeaways from this interview will be

  • How 5Paisa used real-time and behavioral data to personalize the customer experience
  • How to segment a large customer base and ensure end-to-end  personalization for each customer
  • How  AI and ML resulted in 2.7X growth in leads and 3X improvement in acquisitions

Here are some extracts from the conversation we have had with Iti.

Netcore: How has been your experience as a marketing leader in the financial services space, and what’s your observation w.r.t the use of technology by marketers in the financial sector, which is known to be a digital pioneer?

Iti Mehrotra: I have been associated with the BFSI sector for my entire career span of 11 years, and I agree that I have always seen the Financial Services sector at the forefront of using technology. Fortunately, I have been part of the teams that were leading these changes and got the opportunity to closely see the shifts from welcome call to onboarding journeys; from SMS banking to app-based banking; from win-back campaigns to predictive modeling; from one fits all to n=1 approach; from Sales team excels to Sales Tabs and now from centralized call centers to decentralized set-up at every employee’s home with better productivity and tighter security. 

Of course, a decade back, a handful of organizations used to lead the change on the marketing side as making the user adopt or accept change used to be a challenge too. When SMS Banking was launched, it was difficult to convince people to check balances on mobile and not call customer care. At ICICI Bank, I think in 2014 or 2015, we had personalized the website’s homepage with the customer’s name, among other things. However, this was a real concern for a set of customers as to how they were identified without logging in. At that time, we had to stop showing names and opt for subtle personalization. 

This has now changed post JAM and the wallet wave. The consumer is more open or rather expecting different offerings, relevant communication, and a proactive approach. And I feel that the sector is very much aligned or rather ahead of these expectations.

The use of Martech does not limit itself to engagement only; we are also using it to identify the right moments to take user response, thereby generating continuous feedback for future enhancements.

Netcore: 5paisa.com is now amongst the Top 3 Investment apps in the country. Additionally, your app is currently available in 4 different languages. How do you manage visitor engagement on the platform with relevant content/products across the customer’s journey?

Iti Mehrotra: 5paisa Capital Ltd is one of the fastest-growing Discount Brokers in India. Since its inception in 2016, our focus has been to enable a seamless DIY investing experience for the customers. We have a ‘look beyond Tier 1’ approach, and mobile is the key to scale. Initially, the focus was on building a unified and better investment experience. Today 5paisa is a Finance Super App with a wide range of products- equity, currency, commodity, mutual funds, digital gold, insurance, loans. Then as you said, we recently launched our app in Hindi, Gujarati, and Marathi, helping us connect with the customer better, especially beginners in the investment space.

Of course, with a rapidly growing base, there is a need to educate, engage, and cross-sell to ensure ROI on the acquisition costs and to get optimum CLTV. We are utilizing the power of ML and AI to personalize the customer experience using real-time behavioral data. We are able to make use of timely, relevant engagement opportunities based on each user’s exact needs. 

From the time user installs the apps, our campaigns kick-off and then keep on modifying based on customer behavior or life stage. Whether it’s the account opening journey or whether drop out during purchase, there are journeys build in to help him continue the course. Touchpoints and behavior patterns are identified to decide whether the user needs to be engaged with a notification or whether he needs a hand holding via call. 

As we all understand, engaging with the customer cannot entirely be the play of AI/ML. To set up campaigns, marketers need to understand the customer and the underlying enablers for the demonstrated behavior. A team of data scientists helps us see the trends and behavior patterns to develop our own insights into the user behavior, a UI/UX team helps us redesign a simple screen removing the need to do a campaign in the first place, product manager plugs in a solution that reduces a five-step process to two. The communication specialist speaks the customer language to improve response rates. 

The use of Martech does not limit itself to engagement only; we are also using it to identify the right moments to take user response, thereby generating continuous feedback for future enhancements.

Netcore: 5paisa.com has an extensive subscriber base of 6 lakh retail investors and high volume traders, and all of that on the online platform. How do you segment your customers, and how are you ensuring personalization at this scale?

Iti Mehrotra: We are a 100% digital platform with no branch or RM network, and this has been truly instrumental in achieving this scale in such a short span of time. More than 90% of customers prefer trading on the app.

For us, personalization begins at the lead stage itself, where we identify the user’s state, and the prospect is mapped to the agent who is likely to speak his language in case of a drop-out.

Using a combination of factors like life stage, product stage, vintage, networth, and so on, the personalization happens in various forms:

  • Offerings: Base and Premium Pricing Plans are available for customer segments, and features are bundled keeping in mind the need of the customers in the respective segment
  • Look and feel: Customers with upgraded plans have different color schemes to give a differentiated and premium experience
  • Communication: Propensity and affinity models are in place to suggest the right product at the right stages
  • Offers: The offers for up-sell and cross-sell are extended basis users past interaction with the product and the propensity to buy 
  • Language: As mentioned earlier, the 5paisa app is now available in 4 languages, which helps us speak customers’ languages during his entire interaction. This information now can further be moved out of just UI/UX experience and extended to the campaign communication, thereby improving the response multi-fold.
  • CTAs in Campaign: Young and higher vintage customers are likely to stick to self- help channels and prefer no calls. Alternatively, beginners or clients in older age groups prefer call support. These considerations are taken into account while building journeys

We are not limiting the use of AI/ML to just customer acquisition or engagement. Customer service is another aspect that we feel can be a game-changer in the long run.

Netcore: What kind of AI enablement are you leveraging in your overall marketing strategy? 

Iti Mehrotra: We use ML, and AI capabilities across our legs of performance marketing, be it search or display campaigns or for fraud detection or lead assignments. On the search side, ML had resulted in 2.7X growth in leads at 42% lower cost. This, coupled with the investments on the LMS side, led to 3X improvement in acquisitions. 

On the customer engagement side, as I mentioned earlier, we have a stack of automated affinity and inaction campaigns set up. So we are able to retain a customer if he drops out from a purchase or propose to him Product A as we know that other customers like him prefer this same product. A combination of such campaigns has helped us improve client engagement leading to ~40% contribution to overall cross-sell revenue and an 8% improvement in client retention. 

However, we are not limiting the use of AI/ML to just customer acquisition or engagement. Customer service is another aspect that we feel can be a game-changer in the long run.

Understanding the queries: Sentiment analysis is something that most of the brands have been doing. However, we feel that it is essential to have a real-time understanding of customer queries and complaints, especially from play store and app stores, with an index to indicate severity. Such real-time analysis can help us flag issues in time, understand customer exact pain points, and quantify them. We are doing a POC in this area to have actionable insights for the product and customer service teams. 

Solving the queries: As a discount broker, the focus is to enhance the DIY eco-system. While self-help channels are available, there can be a lot of queries that do not require human intervention and be responded to immediately. We have partnered with Haptik and launched a chatbot for our clients with a vision that users can access support instantly while on our platforms. 

Netcore: What kind of themes have you observed w.r.t the change in customer behavior in this volatile market, and how are you supporting your customers to make the best decisions?

Iti Mehrotra: Traditionally, retail investors tend to buy at highs and panic and sell at low levels. However, in the last few months, retail investors have not lost their appetite for buying stocks at lower levels. This behavior is a combination of many factors like more awareness and access to information, millennials having higher risk appetite, and the fact that the customers are at home with slightly more time at hand to research the right stocks and opportunities. 

When the investor is showing drive and passion for investing, the onus is also on the brokers to provide a favorable eco-system. At 5paisa there is a range of features available to support the customers:

  • Online and free account opening: To encourage retail investors, we have ensured that the account opening is a 10 min process an absolutely free
  • Stable systems: The rising customer and trading volumes have created pressure on online broker systems. At 5paisa Capital, we have invested in scalable backend so that users are not left stranded on high volatility days
  • Economy Updates: We understand that users need some insights into the economy, sectors, and markets and we have started covering these in our weekly content doses
  • Stock and MF recommendations: Regular recommendations on stocks or mutual funds are generated to help users make investment decisions. We also offer smallcases on our platform which are basically theme-based stock baskets
  • Research tools: For intermediate and advanced investors, we have in-built research tools that can be used to evaluate short and long term investment ideas
  • Live Webinars: We conduct a weekly webinar with experts on a range of topics from investment climate to sector performances to algo trading to tax filing.

Well, that was quite a remarkable conversation. It’s interesting to know how innovative brands get when it comes to using AI and ML. They are not just limited to using Martech for customer acquisition and engagement, but they are also leveraging it to ensure the best customer service. Whether you are an e-commerce brand, financial service, or education technology, every customer wishes for a relevant and personalized experience. It’s important for brands to value their customers’ time and effort. Personalization benchmarks are so high that you can’t afford to use a one-size-fits-all approach and lose your customer forever. It’s imperative to put a powerful personalization strategy in place to survive the cut-throat competition.

Expert’s View: Ravi Santhanam, CMO, HDFC Bank, Talks About Digital Transformation & CX Journey During Pandemic

Banking industry is one of the most competitive sectors in the market. Like in any other business vertical, here too, offering 1-to-1 personalized services and experiences to the customers is the need of the hour.

To understand how the leading banking brands are looking at marketing technology and AI to personalize their marketing strategies, and how are they dealing with the coronavirus crisis, we have been having conversations with the experts from the field. As a part of the series, we had an insightful chat with Ravi Santhanam, Chief Marketing Officer at HDFC Bank. He shared HDFC’s approach to personalizing the customer experience, what it means for the bank to be contextual and relevant in their customer interactions, and why the use of analytics and machine learning is critical for marketers today. Ravi also shared important insights into the consumer banking experience and the impact and response to the pandemic.

This conversation is a part of our exclusive interview series with top marketing leaders, conducted in collaboration with ResearchNxt, a leading marketing research company that does in-depth research on trending enterprise technologies.

Revenue marketing is what I look at. I don’t look at marketing for the sake of branding or communication, or marketing for the sake of anything else is not acceptable to me.

Netcore: You have been a senior marketing leader for over two decades. We wanted to start this discussion with your journey as a marketer – what impact have you observed of the changing marketing landscape in the industry?

Ravi: I’m an accidental marketer. I was almost seven years in hardcore finance – working for ICICI bank on the tech side and then a UK based Energy Company on the equity side. So, I’m a business guy, and then I moved into telecom to handle multiple business roles, and then moved into marketing pretty late in the day.

Revenue marketing is what I look at. I don’t look at marketing for the sake of branding or communication, or marketing for the sake of anything else is not acceptable to me. I have defined marketing in my own language as understanding consumers, creating demand, and generating revenue.

So from that perspective, it’s more about bringing revenue on the table for the company. Obviously, we talk to the consumers, and it’s about how you solve the consumer’s problems. It has to be a win for the customer, it has to be a win for the company, and it has to be a win against the competition, and if you can do that, you’re going to be always on top.

I strongly believe that while we all have a role to play in the function we work, one needs to consider how it impacts the end delivery of a product or a service for the customer? If you understand that and can improve on that, the company does well.

Now the “talking to” had to change to “talking with” the customer – the marketer had control over the brand and could have the narrative in control.

Netcore: You have worked in two of the most significant consumer-facing industries – telecom and banking. What are your observations when it comes to technology in marketing? What are the best practices and challenges that you have observed?

Ravi: When we look at it from a consumer’s perspective, things have fundamentally changed over time. From an organization’s perspective, you want to reach the consumer. You want to communicate with the customer saying – this is what I have, and this is the problem of yours that I can solve. When television came, everybody said it has all changed, and there were big changes in terms of the one to many communication, and that’s how it was for a long period.

As a brand, I talk to my customers – the operating word is talking to my customers. I will say – this is the product I have, and this is the benefit that you may have. There is always this consumer benefits ladder as marketers where we keep on pushing ourselves in terms of – what is the rational need that we can take care of and the emotional need at the top level that we can fulfill based on what we serve the consumer with. We keep pushing ourselves in that direction.

A brand was invariably built by the company having a thought in its mind and communicating that to the customer and there was an intermediary standing in between. It could be the agency, could be the distributor through which we were communicating with the customer. That was how marketing has happened for a long, long time.

But then something which changed this way of looking at things was the advent of digital technology because it gave the power back to the consumer to talk to us. Now the “talking to” had to change to “talking with” the customer – the marketer had control over the brand and could have the narrative in control.

Now with digital technologies in place, and social media coming together and devices in the hands of the consumers, what is suddenly happening is the consumer can talk back, and over a period of time the trust factor, which used to be with only the brand, slowly started to shift.

People now say – “okay, I’m going to trust the bank as much as I’m going to trust my neighbors and friends, as much as I’m going to trust this person who I don’t even know because they are going and rating the product I want to buy.” Why would they give a poor rating or why would thousands of people give a good rating? So suddenly, the consumer’s ability to connect in this internetworked world has moved who we trust to unknown people.

Unknown people’s ability to review and rate a product that you want to buy influences your choices. So the narrative of who talks about the brand is influencing what a brand can do and cannot do. This is a very different sphere in which we are operating now. COVID or not, nothing changes this perspective.

The second thing which also comes out of this is data proliferation – there’s so much information that we all leave behind at various places. While everybody talks about privacy and other things, in the banking industry, which I’m now part of, I see various changes.

What is trust? Some decades back, trust used to be about – keep my money safe. Bank as trustworthy means – whenever I want my money, I’ll get it back. That’s the only condition on which trust was defined in the banking industry. Now, when we looked at what is trust definition, and it has changed.

The safety and the trust that we talked about in banking keeps coming back to money when there is an issue of a financial crisis. Maybe once in a decade, that happens. If it doesn’t happen, what is trust? The definition of trust needs to be – if you know so much about me, why can’t you be relevant?

Customers voluntarily give us information, because we do KYC, so obviously, we know who the customer is. We also know where the money is coming from, where the money of the customer is going. Today, they’re experiencing an Amazon, a Facebook, and the Ubers of the world as the same consumer. Data is being used to create more and more new and richer experiences.

That data is also something that people don’t understand how companies are getting it. That’s the real core technology that many people will not understand how it all works – cookies, identification, triangulation, and humongous amount of data being consolidated to get some insights into the personas of the customer.

Customers voluntarily give us data in the case of HDFC Bank or any other bank in the industry. Because of the laws of the land and the regulation, you need to give me a lot more information to start the account, and then when you actually put in the money. We know when you swipe your credit card, and we know where you stay, what is your electricity bill, what is it that you’re purchasing on your credit card – if you go to say a Vijay Sales and swipe, I can easily figure out that you actually bought a TV.

We have a tremendous obligation to keep this data secure. That’s fine, and it’s all within the firewall for the bank. Now the question is, now that you know so much about me, why are you telling me something which I am not interested in and irrelevant? So what should I talk about? Technology forces me to “talk with them” and not “talk to them.”

There is an interaction possibility now, so as a brand, are we talking with our customers now or talking to them? I can’t come and suddenly have a conversation with you, and it is unrelated. If I have to increase the relevancy quotient, I need to understand more. Are you using the data you already have?

For example, if you think I’m a 45-year-old male already owning a car, do you think I would want to buy a two-wheeler? Why are you sending me a two-wheeler loan offer? Can you not see that an insurance premium payment is made in the name of some insurance company every year at a certain point in time? It has to be vehicle insurance because I’m paying a general insurance company, can you not see that I own a car? Anyway, every month I’m using a credit card to buy fuel.

So the customer is going to be very unhappy if you are irrelevant. The relevancy question keeps increasing in order of magnitude when we have this kind of data. If you do not use this data to increase the relevance when you’re talking with customers, then what is marketing doing?

In my view, it is no longer a choice for marketers – the use of new-age data science and AI/ML technology. This is what customers are looking for. How to use it and what technology is your choice, but if you are not going to use it, I think you are going to be irrelevant.

Netcore:  Given that there is this massive amount of data and analytics going on, is there any use of AI-led personalization wherein you’re trying to be contextual and relevant, and could you share some use cases which are AI-driven at your end?

Ravi: We believe this is the directional wave, and the second aspect of being relevant is about presence. As marketers, we have always chased customers, and the choice of the media that we have always used to communicate with our customers has been the medium that the customer is actually using. As mediums continue to change – from press to a magazine to television, to social media to the internet – I need to be present in every media where the customer is present.

Presence is also about a soft presence. When you as a customer are thinking about a need, I need to be present wherever you are. So one is an aspect of relevance that I need to be relevant for you. I also need to be wherever you are, and whenever you think you need something.

How do I know where you are and what do you need from our brand?

As a bank, you have a tremendous amount of user-generated data. The first thing is to put it all together and when you put it together, you are in a position to do a lot more effective 1-1 communication – about what is the right thing for the customer to do at any point in time, and what needs to be done next.

When you have to crunch this kind of data, you need to have phenomenal computing power. We need to have human intelligence which is supported by machine language and learning algorithms. How good are you in terms of looking at a certain trend and then predicting that somebody else does it? There is a set of people who might end up doing it and when it comes to natural life, we can very easily segment and predict.

For example, if we look at a typical corporate employee in India – they will first join a company somewhere between the ages of 23-25. They will open a bank account for cash, maybe they want to buy a bike, and then they will go ahead and take a credit card. After marriage only can they even think of a life insurance policy. If a child is born, you suddenly start thinking that there is somebody who’s dependent on me, and life insurance can be talked about at that point.

When they start earning a little bit extra, we’ll come in to talk about tax saving instruments. Initially, the tax-saving instrument will be a simple NPS or it could be a mutual fund. From there, you will start building your portfolio, and until the time you’re 32-33, we are not talking about home loans.

In between, there will be a car loan, and after that a home loan, maybe I’ll talk about a second home, or I’ll start talking to you about investments, then I’ll start to talk to you about personal loans for a holiday, or a revamp of the house or something of that sort. Then I’ll talk to you about increasing your investment or insurance cover. Over a period of time, I’ll start talking about regular investments and then finally a retirement solution. Very natural, right?

Now you have to prove it day in day out and not only on that level but also at a moment marketing level. How are you going to structure the data, so how are you going to get this natural intelligence shifted to the machine? Maybe once in two to three years, people take these kinds of decisions, but on a day to day basis we make a lot of financial decisions. What should I spend and what money do I have in balance? If I swipe my credit card, what will happen? This is all day to day stuff.

Between the mix of today’s financial decisions and tomorrow’s financial decisions, unless you have a huge amount of data crunching capability and ability to do it on the fly, it’s not going to happen.

What we have done is invest in a lot of technology which predicts what is going to be the next best action for any one of our customers. On each of these dimensions, where is the better customer signaling what they may do next? Then we can correspondingly go and talk with them and say – “if you’re interested in this area, this is what we do.”

For example, somebody is going and breaking a fixed deposit. If there is no cash in your account and I’m breaking the fixed deposit, it’s a very different meaning. If a customer would break a fixed deposit of fifty lakh, when cash in the bank says only 1 lakh, it is probably an emergency. But if you have one crore in the bank, it is a very conscious decision. There’s something more that is happening there, and I need a little more data to figure it out. One has to understand the personal history of the last two-three years.

I know there are these triggers, and I have signals available for people who are breaking a deposit of fifty lakh with one crore in the bank. They have gone ahead and taken a conscious decision to go ahead and buy a house or some serious investment. If the investment is made through me, then I need not bother talking with the customer.

If your intelligence can figure out the customer has an emergency, you can go back and say, “Hey, here’s an opportunity. Don’t break the fixed deposit. I’ll give you a loan on this deposit.” That loan can be taken out by just pressing two buttons so that we can continue to earn interest. This understanding is easy to do for one person when I give you an example. But how do I do it for a five crore customer base? It is not possible without the involvement of technology, without the ability to personalize based upon context. By understanding the full data, I can understand the first context, and then I can personalize, and then I can hyper-personalize. Just looking at the basic customer record, you can’t generally be very good in your dealings with customers.

In my view, it is no longer a choice for marketers – the use of new-age data science and AI/ML technology. This is what customers are looking for. How to use it and what technology is your choice, but if you are not going to use it, I think you are going to be irrelevant.

From a brand perspective, and from a hardcore digital technology perspective, we have effectively used this time to get our models sharpened.

Netcore: How have you ensured your consumer base was served well during the lockdown phase? As a marketer, what changes have you observed?

Ravi: First off, it is the first in our lifetime that you’re seeing a health crisis like this. A health crisis leads to a public policy change. There are the social dynamics which change – social distancing is something that is happening. There are a lot of consumer behavior changes. Some of them are here to say, some of them will increase, some of them will vanish. These things are extremely difficult to predict as we speak. We will learn over a period of time.

One of the things we are very sure is digital will continue to increase its space. The space was anyway growing, and social distancing has pushed people to digital. That is not going to change; I think that we will get pushed further and further. The second thing is that experience is key. If the experience is not being delivered even today, people are not going to like it. They are sitting at home, they have a lot of time, and everybody is looking at the experience which brands are providing.

Now, if you look at those who are actually the winners, they are always the people who have been investing in customer experience. They’re the people who leverage technology to solve the consumer experience problem.

Today, people are very worried about personal safety and family safety. That has also slowly translated into income uncertainty, and this income uncertainty has two angles. People are thinking – first, whether I have the money, and second, how long will it last? People growing their salary or were looking forward to growth in the next three years, and this has put paid to those hopes – it may now happen in five years or ten years. This is creating a lot of worries in the minds of people.

The first thing we decided is there is no rule book. Whenever we encounter any kind of problem, we have always looked back in history. Whether it is your personal experience or the wider industry experiences or even cross-industry experiences, you will not find examples of people who have come out of this situation. So, the first thing we decided amongst ourselves is there is no rule. We told ourselves that we would break conventions and be ready for the new. Anything and everything that we need to do as the marketing organization, we will look at it. I read an interesting thing which somebody said – “Don’t Restart, Start.” Interesting coinage of words, but it is a very powerful coinage of words in our understanding. Restart assumes that I stopped something for a reason, and everything is back to normal. Whereas start means I’m going to look at what is available today, and I want to see if it will work for me or not.

We want to start with the current context. So, primarily, we start looking at reimagining the customer interactions because people are suddenly not coming into your branches thanks to social distancing and virus fear. We’re a bank, and we have a lot of physical sales capability where people came and meet with you. If you want to take insurance, you want somebody to come and sit in front of you and explain. People who are used to having that physical sale need to be converted into a tele-sale or video-sale customer. Now, we get a lot of clues from your body language when speaking to you in person. On the telephone, people are not as qualified to understand how you are reacting. So I need to learn a lot of new skills because body language is not going to be a key influencer anymore. In which case voice empathy is key to looking at things like: Are you allowing the customer to speak? Are you countering the customer?

Looking at this kind of stuff, we started thinking, how can we reimagine our customer interactions? How do I embrace digital and also look at the fact that there are a lot of senior citizens? Many people are not comfortable using the mobile or the desktop to fund transfers or to take cash out. We have to help them. So how do I help people move from offline to online?

We also see that there is a lot more ‘Do it Yourself’ possible in India. We are a country where we expect services like washing your car, driving your car and so on. Whereas “Do it Yourself” in western economies is very famous. Mainly because of this virus, in India, we have started doing a lot of things at home. That might continue after this period if people can manage it. Who knows what is going to be possible, so we need to be more digital. This digital transformation is very different from the digital we have always followed. It has to be as agile and as digital as can be. It’s not going to be one of those small micro-changes that we do. Suddenly within one and a half months, the organization came up with a new car loan; they came up with instant Demat account opening, also starting our normal savings account.

Within 45 days of lockdown, we have converted many of our journeys into digital. Earlier, we were very clear that the journey for a bank account should be made in a physical branch because we never are interested in a zero balance. At the end of the day, people are going to downgrade because of income uncertainty. As a financial service provider, how are you going to have some of these products introduced? For example, we always had long term loans, but we might have to go into short term loan products for people who don’t want to borrow for a longer period. It is a very different set of people who will borrow now, and borrowing for a European holiday, for example, is almost out, even if you might have the money.

We have lots of uncertainty from these areas, but there are enough people to talk to about our products. Because they might have to tide over a three month or six-month cash crunch. Also, what we always wanted to do is to engage with our employees. They have been working in the days of lockdown – there’s a lot of people in our team who are brave souls too, going to the branches on a day to day basis, so they fundamentally kept the economy moving, whatever economy was there. The bad stuff would have happened there on the ground, so we wanted to convey a lot of attention to our people, that you can start.

So as a brand, we did two campaigns that were mind-blowingly different. Normally we would never actually put our brand logo on the ground. We called it a “Safety Grid” with our brand logo as a beautiful center spread that has four arrows. From an outside perspective, it will look like this nice rectangle or a square. We printed it and put it on the ground with a distance of one and a half meters away so that people can stand on it, and they can practice social distancing across 5000 shops, primarily pharmacies and groceries.

There were a huge hue and cry, with people saying, how can you put your brand on the ground? We told very simply – put it. We are no bigger than the society that we operate in, and society is undergoing a crisis. We are known for safety and security. If my safety and security can be taken to the ground to help society, then I will do it. When I put the brand on the ground and ask people to stand on it to practice social distancing, the entire company suddenly looks at it and says, Wow, here is the company coming and telling everybody to stand on my brand logo. I feel that the brand affinity for the employees increased dramatically wherever I have done this. Obviously, at 5000 outlets I will not be able to cover the entire audience, but the employee’s ability to perceive things is very different.

To follow up on that campaign, we also wanted to create engagement, and we wanted to create hope. People are very worried, and we want to overcome it, and we will overcome it. So we wanted to inspire people. We tied up with AR Rahman, and we came up with a music video called “Hum Haar Nahin Maanenge.” You might say that everybody has done a music video in this kind of situation. But you must understand HDFC Bank has never advertised in this way, and we have never done this kind of brand investment. We got AR Rahman and Prasoon Joshi to come and compose during the lockdown period, and hundreds of big names are all singing for us together in a song, and we spent a lot of money on that.

What happened is suddenly the entire organization looks at it and says, Wow, we are different. Suddenly the employees’ energy levels are very different – they get that energy and inspiration – that I can do a lot more and nothing is going to stop me. You have to follow that up with actions on the ground, and you need to break conventions. So when you get a message back into the system, they understand these are not empty words. My consumers understand these are not empty words. HDFC bank will break the rules, and we will be bold. We will break the mold and be ready for the new – my consumers know for a fact that never has HDFC bank done anything like this before. My consumers would see the brand logo on the ground and remember that. My consumer will say, yes, I saw that video by HDFC Bank. We had two and a half crore views on that video. People would have seen it and said, yes, there is this energy, which I’m getting. This is what is going to stand me in good stead.

From a brand perspective, and from a hardcore digital technology perspective, we have effectively used this time to get our models sharpened. We’re having a lot of discussion about whether our models will work in these kinds of situations. Ultimately, you will not know until the time the event passes by.

On this hopeful note, we ended our conversation with Ravi.

We particularly enjoyed this chat with him, and found it very rational and inspiring. Banking sector certainly has kept the economy going during the recent trying times. And the silver lining in the dark corona cloud is the rising digitalization of banking, and hence more and more adoption of AI-powered marketing technology.

As Ravi pointed out so aptly, embracing AI is no more a choice, it is a necessity to stay in the game.

Expert’s Views: Rahul Mishra, Head of Marketing & Communications, ShemarooME on Carving an Identity in the Crowded OTT Space

India currently has 95 OTT platforms across video, music, podcast and audio streaming category. And the average time spent by Indian users on OTT platforms has increased by 30-60% since early March.

As the OTT viewership is growing, more and more content creators (film makers, TV-show owners, etc.) are choosing OTT platforms to release their content. This indicates the great growth that media and OTT industry is experiencing, and is set to achieve more.

In our Expert’s Views interview series, we spoke to Rahul Mishra, Head of Marketing & Communications at ShemarooME, a part of  Shemaroo Entertainment wherein he shared some really great insights about the current landscape of the OTT industry in India.

Rahul spoke to us about marketing in the OTT streaming media space. We discussed the shift in terms of customer experience and personalization and the impact of technology on marketers. Rahul explains Shemaroo’s go to market strategy for its OTT platform ShemarooMe. He discussed the importance of using technology to make customer’s experience better and talks about the need to develop a brand association in a battle for customer attention. He also shares how Shemaroo has tried to develop deeper relationships and be empathetic to customer needs amid a surge in usage, due to the lockdown.

This conversation is a part of our exclusive interview series with top marketing leaders, conducted in collaboration with ResearchNxt, a leading marketing research company that does in-depth research on trending enterprise technologies.

With the advent of OTT, we have seen, for the first time, marketers in the media industry moving away from the term ‘audience’, to now using the term ‘customers’.

Netcore: You’ve been in the media and entertainment broadcast industry, and now in the OTT space. What are your observations of how marketing has evolved in this industry and the direction it is taking?

Rahul: I have spent over a decade in the marketing function for media and entertainment companies. I spent a lot of time on the news side of it, where I have seen early success stories on the digital front as well. One of the early movers on digital content was news and I learned the power of digital as a publisher. Then I worked with mainstream broadcast brands to eventually now working with Shemaroo, where we operate both broadcast and OTT as well. The kind of shift as marketers in media we have seen in the last five to six years has been mind-boggling.

With the advent of OTT, we have seen, for the first time, marketers in the media industry moving away from the term ‘audience’, to now using the term ‘customers’. That is a big shift that we are seeing right now. If you are to define an audience, it is an assembled spread of spectators or listeners at a public event or watching something together. However, the customer is somebody who buys something from you directly. That has happened very rapidly in entertainment. From a broadcast mindset where you will be sending out one piece of content to watch together, now you are trying to personalize your offering, and talk to a customer so that the customer comes onto your platform and pays for it or spends time. That shift is also taking place in the way traditional media has been operating. Even the broadcast business is starting to refer to them as customers because customers are now paying for those television channels as well. This shift is very interesting to see.

Earlier I would look at basic audience demographics before I plan a marketing campaign or work with content teams on a content idea. Now we are moving more towards buyer personas. So, it’s different from typically how we would target audiences. When you target audiences, you will define a crowd or a set of customers. But when you create buyer personas, you create archetypes of individual customers – go deep into what their thought process or buying process is. Then you can determine how to market to each of them effectively.

Earlier in a broadcast set up, you would have, say, four to five consumer cohorts for audiences I want to talk to – young, urban, rural, etc. But now the number of consumer cohorts we are creating, thanks to the data and technology available to us, and specifically marketing to those audiences, and this customized approach is very interesting.

Overall that’s the major shift I’m seeing right now – how we are moving away from mass dissemination to personalization, in the media industry.

Data comes to us in various formats, including content data on how does a piece of content performs. We capture all of that and use it for better buying decisions of content.

Netcore: Shemaroo has been around for a very long time with such a large content library. What kind of distribution and partnerships are you focused on – what is the go-to-market strategy for the OTT platform in different markets? What type of data are you using to determine things like pricing, content promotion?

Rahul: To give you a quick background, Shemaroo has been in the business for over 57 years now, and we have been pioneers in getting Bollywood to people’s homes. VHS is what took Bollywood to people’s homes for the first time, and we were pioneers in that. Then we evolved as technology changed and as content preferences changed in India, from VHS to new formats like DVDs, Blu-ray, going to digital, and finally, the OTT avatar we are in right now.

In the last decade, Shemaroo was operating as a business to business brand. Because it was working with multiple partners, be it broadcast, OTT players, digital platforms, and telecom providers – we were enabling their content requirements very well. So when we entered OTT, we knew we had to ensure that business is secure.

We were the 34th player to enter the OTT space in India, so the question is why did we launch our OTT? Because we have a great understanding of the Indian audience, as one of the oldest media organizations which continues to thrive and entertain Indians. True to our tagline which is “India Khush Hua.”

We knew that when we enter the OTT space, we have great content to offer – content from Bollywood and curated regional content to niches like devotional, which are emerging as popular content buckets.

But at the same time, we also must ensure that while we build a consumer journey, we also secure our B2B business. To do that, when we launched, our initial focus was to ensure that we still work with all the partners in the ecosystem. It is a journey we have started, and we did some amazing partnership and built a strong model.

Within a year of launching ShemarooME, we had partnerships with most telecom players in the country, and with OEMs. We did partnerships with large audience websites like Ixigo, where consumers are coming to do a transaction and to increase engagement Shemaroo could provide video content there.

There are many such unique partnerships we have forged over the last year, including international partnerships and taking Shemaroo to different countries through alliance.

For the last 12-14 months, the product was also evolving. As you know, these products take time for machine learning to set in – you need large sets of data to come in and make it work. We used this time to understand our end consumers, partners, and partner’s consumers. That was the go-to-market strategy initially, and as we are securing that, all times as we keep evaluating the consumer business.

How does data help us in all of this? For Shemaroo, the term big data may not apply to us as much at this stage, because we are not playing with the volume of data, like an Amazon or Netflix. But we have a great sense of understanding the data and making it useful for ourselves. That is something we are doing very well.

Data comes to us in various formats, including content data on how a piece of content performs. As an example, – how does a piece of content perform in a theater? What was the revenue, the outcome, and how content was performed on a TV channel vs. an OTT platform? We capture all of that and use it for better buying decisions of content. So a combination of all that is what we use data for, and it’s still fairly early days for me to comment on how much does data helps us in all aspects of an OTT – which is pricing, content, and advertising.

As marketers, we should use technology to make consumers’ lives better, I think that is something that every organization, including OTT platforms, should adopt.

Netcore: OTT leaders like Netflix pioneered using AI-driven personalization to boost user engagement and retention on their platforms. What’s your approach towards personalizing the experience, and what tools are you using?

Rahul: Investment in technology and AI-driven personalization is the buzzword right now, companies are making sizable investments in it. The reason why we do it is to make it convenient for customers. Not only Netflix, but many organizations are using AI very well. Large organizations like Uber and Ola do a high level of personalization to ensure that the customer journey is as smooth as possible.

You also notice that the overdoing of personalization can cause a bit of retaliation from the customer. It could be around privacy or around not getting to see other parts of what the brand has to offer. Even Netflix has started to offer the top 10 in every region, and the reason they have done it is that customers want to know about things beyond their interests and requirements. A good balance is what we need to have, keeping the customer in mind always.

As marketers, we should use technology to make consumers’ lives better, I think that is something that every organization, including OTT platforms, should adopt.

Most of our tech stack at present is around marketing automation. We have built some of our stacks through the app developer, and apart from that, we work closely with Netcore. Though we also use attribution and programmatic tools.

Netcore: How are we seeing OTT platforms enabling marketers or brands with video-based content?

Rahul: With the lockdown, people essentially had two screens at hand – a TV screen and a mobile screen. These became the two most important outlets for any brand to reach consumers. In the absence of outdoor and reduced print or other options, these became the only options available, and I would say many brands have used it very well. For brands to create segmentation, geographic, and psychographic, OTT is great. Brands that are looking at impact and reach have benefited greatly by partnering with OTT platforms for advertising.

The second part is that OTT platforms can incorporate the brand story very well because they are in the business of storytelling. It is somewhat in the range of content marketing, and that’s another opportunity which OTT players offer many brands, as against broadcast or more mass dissemination media outlets with limited personalization. So that is the real benefit of OTT platforms.

During the lockdown we wanted our OTT platform to have a connection with the customers as well, more than just be a content platform.

Netcore: The Indian OTT space is booming, and there are many different types of OTT platforms, producing different kinds of content. There is this battle of gaining consumer attention, so how are marketers leveraging technology to do that?

Rahul: I think every marketer is using technology to get customer attention. Technology is here to stay, and the sooner we adopt it, the more benefit we can extract for our brands. For OTT players, technology needs to identify the overlap between good content and the consumer set that will appreciate it.

At Shemaroo, we run multiple consumer-facing businesses, so let me share an example of how we use technology even for what is considered a traditional business. We recently launched our Hindi GEC TV channel – ShemarooTV, on May 1st, 2020 in the lockdown. We did a very interesting partnership with Facebook, where we were simulcasting our TV channel on Facebook to build higher loyalty with our Facebook fans, and it gave us a bit about 1.6 million views! So we’ve taken a traditional medium onto a technology platform, and that is boosting both platforms at the same time.

We have data that many people watched the channel on Facebook, but I’m sure many people from Facebook probably went on to ShemarooTV and watched content there. So these fans sampled our content, followed us, and saw our simulcast on Facebook, and we engaged with them and got them to watch us on television as well.

Netcore: During the current lockdown, OTT apps have witnessed a surge in terms of usage, as you’ve already mentioned. How have you been able to respond and calibrate your marketing communications for the current pandemic and be still empathetic to users who are on your platform?

Rahul: Streaming services, not only in India but around the world, have been capitalizing on the increase of subscribers they have seen due to lockdown. What we discuss right now within Shemaroo is that we hope this passes off soon and things return to normalcy. However, at the same time, it is bound to happen that our viewership and subscriber numbers will fall as people start to resume their day to day activities, including socializing and going out for work. How can we still play an important role in a consumer’s life is a question we keep asking ourselves? How can we ensure that subscriptions are renewed, and we are still having good engagement with the platform?

To stand out, we are looking at various ways to retain our customers. It could be on the back of differential content offerings, differential models of subscriptions, etc. It is also critical for us as an organization to have a deep understanding of the content preferences each of our consumer cohorts have. Understanding the product requirements well, changing the product requirements as required, and adapting to changes for consumers like payments, subscription plans, etc.

During the lockdown we wanted our OTT platform to have a connection with the customers as well, more than just be a content platform. We are confident about our content, and if we can couple that brand love, we are sure audiences will continue to renew and come back to us, and also bring new customers to us.

So we did a series of exercises for that.  

We did a partnership with DocApps, where we were offering ShemarooME customers a DocApps subscription worth 999 for free. We also realized because of the lockdown of temples; people’s devotional needs were getting disrupted. So, we tied up with over more than 15 major temples and offered live streaming of those temples to our customers on ShemarooME so that they can continue their daily routine of visiting a temple, only this time virtually but live.

A lot of small initiatives like – when you click on ShemarooME, the first pop up will ask you to ensure you wipe your screen and be safe and healthy, just as a reminder for people, as they continue to engage more with ShemarooME.

So at a brand level, we’ve played a couple of roles, and on the content side, we have tried to make more content for our audiences. We have created interesting comedy movie buckets for family viewing. We also did a campaign – “Ab rumor nahi, humor phailega.” Essentially we tried to educate consumers that don’t go around spreading rumors, rather watch some interesting comedy films and stay calm during the lockdown on ShemarooME. We did a series of such activities to ensure that our audiences engage, and new audiences that come to us are also engaged.

And that brought us to the end of our chat. Quite interesting customer engagement and retention initiatives by ShemarooMe!

The degree of promise that the OTT industry holds right now, it is only up to the brand how well it can engage its customers through personalized content recommendations and overall platform experience. And needless to say, to be able to offer such services, a strong data-driven AI-powered platform is absolutely indispensable.

Expert View: Ayush Agarwal on how Seniority achieved 20% revenue from private label products using data-driven marketing

“Over time, the aim is to make the website module by module completely personalized for any given product you are searching for”, says Ayush Agarwal, co-founder Seniority.in, while talking about the segmentation and target market they work on.

Well, there is a reason why entrepreneurs and marketers like Ayush have been aiming to provide their customers with a personalized experience online. Whether your target audience is youngsters or senior citizens, everyone likes customized shopping offers and recommendations. And data plays a vital role when it comes to defining and refining your customer personas as well as launching new products.

In this interview, Ayush shared some interesting insights that led to the launch of Seniority.in and how they made it possible to get senior people to discover new products and shop online. He also talks about how AI-based recommendations help them drive incremental revenues.

Your key takeaways from this interview

  • How Seniority makes use of AI-powered tools to target certain ads for certain buyers
  • Why personalization of customer experience is important
  • How Seniority uses advanced analytics as its key revenue strategy
  • How did they respond to COVID19 disruption and its impact on the business

Here are some extracts from the interesting conversation we have had with Ayush

Netcore : To start with, we would love to know about your journey – how you started Seniority, what led to the venture, and what’s the business model?

Ayush: We started Seniority over four years ago now. To give you a little background, before that I was actually part of the RPG group. I was hired as part of the General Management Programme. A lot of large corporates in India have these programs, where they hire folks straight from B-school and give them these various combined challenges to solve across the Group in various companies in marketing and strategy roles trying to solve specific problems.

One of the things that I did was a part of the team handling the go-live of CEAT Specialty Tyres – to ensure a smooth launch of the new subsidiary focused only on off-road tires, with a specific focus on the US and the Europe markets. As part of the team that runs that company, we did a lot of extensive and exciting work in Europe and the US, trying to figure out where the demand pattern was going. So that was a very exciting time for me to be part of launching a new product and company.

In 2015, RPG announced the launch of RPG Ventures, wherein they were looking to invest in early-stage startups and also looking at incubating startup ideas. I was very intrigued, and that startup bug had bitten me during the launch of CSTL, so I really wanted to do something of my own, starting an idea from scratch. So we started trying to figure out what can be done, and what are the broad overarching trends in India.

One of the things that really stood out to me was how, while India is a young country, people keep forgetting that India is also a rapidly aging country. Like in the US, and Europe, where the population demographics shifted, even in India right now, seniors are growing at 4% year on year, whereas the overall population is only growing at 2%. These kinds of trends stood out – senior’s population going up, pensions going up, the nuclearization of families going up, combined with our own personal experiences.

At the time, I lived alone, and my parents were in Ghaziabad, and my colleagues as well had the same experience. All of our experiences were around how we want to do well for our parents, but there’s no way for us to do so. On Flipkart or Amazon, there are only so many smartphones or shawls that you could buy. If you wanted to discover something to buy for seniors, there was no platform.

At that time, FirstCry was doing well in the younger age group for toddlers and infants. Expecting mothers and families could go to a FirstCry to discover products, but I realized if I want to buy something for my mother’s birthday or my parent’s anniversary, there’s no place I could go and discover products. So that was the crux of the idea.

Over time, we defined it, and we figured out what good markets would be and what channels would be good, but the crux of the idea has been sort of a combination of the overarching trends that we saw in the country, combined with some very personal experiences of our own. The two things combined gave rise to Seniority in early 2016.

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We were able to convert these tech-savvy seniors into eCommerce savvy seniors as well. It made a huge impact in the way we targeted our various audiences.

Netcore: How do you define your target market, and what kind of segmentation do you work on from a marketing standpoint?

Ayush: When we looked at the senior market at that time, a few players were in the market with different slices towards capturing this market. Be it travel, for example, where a Thomas Cook would target seniors as the largest segment, or real estate developers might launch new properties that are seniors specific, but there was nothing in the eCommerce space.

We also realized that we would have an omnichannel strategy since we assumed youngsters would buy online for their parents, and seniors would want to buy offline. Because they want the relationship aspect of shopping – for them, shopping is not just a transaction. People talk about the relationship aspect and going beyond the transaction, so on the website, we added a lot of other features that went beyond the transaction. For example, we added a feature that lets people call or WhatsApp us, so there is an in-person interaction before making the purchase.

So to answer your question on targeting and segmentation with this context, what this led to was that our initial assumption that youngsters will buy online and seniors would buy offline actually got flipped. So through these innovative interventions, what we were able to do was convert tech-savvy seniors, seniors, who are on smartphones and Facebook or WhatsApp, but weren’t comfortable making eCommerce transactions.

We were able to convert these tech-savvy seniors into e-commerce savvy seniors as well. It made a huge impact in the way we targeted our various audiences. We realized that even in our online business, it’s not just youngsters who are buying.

Over time, the aim is to make the website module by module completely personalized for any given product you are searching for. 

Netcore: Social media is one of the primary channels through where you are doing targeted messaging, and you have a very large pool of prospects that you’re targeting there. What kind of technology stack are you utilizing at your end to ensure that you can manage personalization at this scale?

Ayush: So far, we’ve been using Unboxd, which was for our search and recommendation engine. We are now experimenting with a tool called boxx.ai, which coincidentally Netcore has recently acquired. As we speak it’s being implemented on our website, and we can do an apples to apple comparison between the two tools so we can make a decision

We have realized that because our audience personas of people landing on the website are so different, we can’t show the same plain vanilla website to everyone. Of course, it will take time. We are not at a stage where the entire website is personalized for every single user. It will happen in phases.

Right now, we’re implementing this on certain product showcases, but the banners and so on are still common across audiences. But over time, the aim is to make the website module by module completely personalized for any given product you are searching for.

Netcore: Since you’re using tools that enable you to utilize AI, please share AI use cases for personalization that you are working on.

Ayush: At our size and scale, we are using the tools that are already out there in the market, we are not creating any new AI-based tools. But from a customer experience perspective, there are two places where we use AI quite extensively. One is on our advertising platform itself. Earlier on Facebook advertising, we used a tool called Nanigans, which could enable you to do a very quick multivariate testing across different copies and captions and creative ideas.

Now incidentally, Facebook itself has been able to implement those capabilities onto its base advertising tool. So we can leverage the power of AI quite extensively on Facebook itself. The way we can assign certain interest groups or look alike audiences for Facebook to be able to showcase that ad to very relevant people is quite phenomenal. That is one place where we see AI as a great enabler of Seniority’s business.

The other is on the website itself through the customized search implementation and the customized recommendation implementation. Again, a very strong use case of AI and ML wherein as a user keeps on coming back to the website, the tool keeps on learning more and more about that particular user. To be able to showcase relevant products to them is also something that’s been pretty interesting for us in terms of being able to drive incremental revenues.

So both on Facebook to drive down costs, and on our website to drive up revenues – on both of those key pillars, we’re seeing a great use case of AI and ML.

Our product sourcing engine as well as the product analytics engine are both working very well in sync – to get the right kind of products on to our private label. So much so that within a year almost 20% of our revenues are being driven by private label products. 

Netcore: You’ve come up with your own branded products. What was the thought behind coming up with your products, and was this decision based on the data and pattern that you’re observing?

Ayush: Absolutely. There is extensive analytics that goes into the choice of products that we choose to launch on our private label. I won’t call it AI because that term gets thrown around quite a lot. In our case, when we decide on which products would work well as part of our private label strategy and then analyze whether our initial hypotheses of this product will do well post-launch.

Both pre-launch and post-launch, we do quite a lot of analysis to ensure that we are getting the right products. And then our initial hypotheses of the product selection is validated by the market, in actually seeing an uptick in sales or a downward trend in marketing costs for those set of products.

We use both Adobe analytics as well as Google Analytics to track these numbers. There have been quite a few examples of us being able to show that our product sourcing engine and the product analytics engine are both working very well in sync – to get the right kind of products on to our private label. So much, so that private label products are driving almost 20% of our revenues within a year.

Right now, we are at around 15%, but the trends show that over the next couple of months, we’ll be seeing almost 20% of our revenues being driven by private label products. So that’s quite phenomenal for us – to be able to go from zero to 20% within such a short span of time.

Netcore: Well, that’s, phenomenal in terms of the growth you have realized, please share some success stories where these data-driven decisions worked for you.

Ayush: I would say that any product that you see on our private label portfolio would fall under that. For example, for a product like a Zero Block Syrup, A very interesting product that is great for cardiac health. We launched that product under the third party brand around 12 months ago, and then about eight months ago, we launched it under the private label brand name. For that product – pre private label and post private label – purchases went up by nearly 30%.

We were able to incorporate masks and PPE kits onto the product portfolio and showcase sanitizers, adult diapers etc., as hero products – that we are someone still selling these products while your local shops may not be. 

Netcore: Every industry has got impacted by the COVID-19. There is a surge in online purchases, but on the other side, in terms of fulfillment, eCommerce companies have faced challenges. What’s been your experience during this time, and how do you see things changing post-COVID? 

Ayush: As a matter of fact, we see far greater demand post-COVID than pre-COVID. Since the government announced the restriction of curbs starting mid-May, wherein eCommerce products could be delivered all over the country, what we’ve been seeing is almost a doubling of our daily run rates.

Compared to the pre-COVID era, you could put it as a doubling of run rate or the reduction of marketing spend by almost 40% to drive similar revenue numbers.

Because of third party logistics providers that we work with being able to deliver it to the end-user, our delivery rates have also been as good as they used to be pre-COVID.

Users are now much more willing to experiment on eCommerce than they used to be, maybe six months ago. People are forced to move out of the reticence to shop online, because their local shops haven’t opened, or the local supply chains are still disrupted. So they’re forced to experiment with eCommerce. The other thing is that people are a lot more flexible now, because they recognize that supply chains are disrupted. So if a product delivery is delayed by two days, while earlier we could maybe get punished by the user, in terms of a refund or a cancellation. Now I think people are taking it in their stride.

The impact is that our standard delivery rates have gone up by maybe two or three days. Whereas, earlier, we used to be able to deliver products in four to five working days now it may be taking a sort of seven to eight working days across the country. But people recognize that yes, it is a challenging time for everyone – and it’s not like this product is available elsewhere anyway, so I might as well wait for a couple of days.

So in that sense, it’s actually not been too shabby a time for us, purely from a business perspective.

What we were also able to do immediately as the lockdown was announced, is we were able to pivot our product portfolio. Because we’ve always had essentials and non-essentials on the platform. Essentials like sanitizers, ayurvedic products, and immunity-boosting products – we’ve had those products forever on our website. These products are something that people do consume, but it wasn’t as much in the common person’s top of mind as it has become now.

Because the consumer demand shifted in a certain direction, we were able to showcase certain flexibility in pivoting our product portfolio to showcase those products front and center.

We were able to incorporate masks and PPE kits onto the product portfolio and showcase sanitizers, adult diapers, etc., as hero products – that we are still selling these products while your local shops may not be. Also, be there first, before even any of the other larger eCommerce players, to get our supply chains, both in terms of first-mile sourcing and last-mile delivery to the end-user. 

We were able to reselect our supply chain ASAP and deliver it to the end-user, very quickly. So that’s something that’s worked out very well for us.

We totally loved the practical insights Ayush shared with us. Advanced analytics can indeed do wonders for any business that operates online. When you understand your customer personas, what are they expecting, what exactly they want to buy, and which newly-launched they are most likely to buy, you are doing everything right in terms of using advanced analytics and AI-powered recommendations.

Expert View: Ritesh Ghosal on Croma’s customer-centric initiatives and how to scale fast approach

“Data is like the letters of the alphabet – the story has to be woven by the marketer” says Ritesh Ghosal, the Chief of Marketing and Insights at Croma, while he talks about how to use data to scale growth.

Ritesh talks about Croma’s customer-centric initiatives, how to scale fast, and a lot more during an extensive conversation we have had with him as a part of our expert view series in association with ResearchNxt. He also discusses his journey with top retail brands and how he prefers working with organizations that strive for growth and innovation.

Your key takeaways from this interview will be

  • How Croma empowered its internal teams and optimized inflow and customer stickiness as a result of its start small and scale fast approach
  • How modern marketers can leverage mobile technologies to expedite campaign development and launch
  • How marketers can efficiently use data to start small and scale fast
  • What customer-centric initiatives will the new tech-heavy stores of Croma will adopt

Here are some extracts from the insightful conversation we have had with Ritesh

Netcore : Hi Ritesh, tell us about your role and journey through top retail brands until now. What inspired you to take up the position at Croma, Infiniti Retail Limited?

Ritesh : I have been a bit of a nomad throughout my working career. I have shopped for assignments that interest me rather than organizations that offer stability or a long career path. Starting my career as a media planner when India was opening its skies to satellite television, I have always looked for opportunities that put a premium on growth and innovation. In my experience, a team or an organization chasing growth offers a more energetic and engaging work environment.

What attracted me to Croma back in 2015?  Croma was a pioneer in modern retail whose fairy-tale start had lost its path in the face of aggressive discounting by online marketplaces. Croma was convinced that superior consumer insight and sharp, targeted marketing programs would be their approach in the battle for the Indian consumers’ heart and wallet. I was offered a large canvas and a relatively free hand in shaping the strategy of the company. As most organizations these days tend to restrict marketers from just delivering “pretty picture” communication campaigns, I found this assignment extremely attractive.

“Data is like the letters of the alphabet –the story has to be woven by the marketer. “

Netcore : As the owner of the marketing organization for Croma, how do you empower your team to optimize the inflow and stickiness of customers? Are you leveraging AI and ML to deliver marketing ROI, and how?

Ritesh : All decisions taken at Croma are based on insight, and all large-scale marketing programs are based on the premise of start small, scale fast. What this means is that we need access to much data and as near real-time as possible. Every vertical in the marketing team is engaged in understanding the impact of decisions taken last week, assessing pay-offs, and deciding whether to continue, refine, or desist.

We have invested in data collection tools right from social listening and internet crawling to doing conventional market research surveys. Each of these tools provides KPIs we track and lead metrics of those KPIs.

While it sounds very clinical and mathematical, it’s not. I have never believed that data tells the full story. Data is like the letters of the alphabet –the story has to be woven by the marketer. I like my team to build the hypothesis of what might be happening or might happen in the future and use data to support this hypothesis. If the interpretation is convincing, then we design an experiment to test the theory. If validated, we expand the scope of the program. Every change that has happened at the Croma stores and on the croma.com website has followed this strategy of start small, scale fast.

As you would have understood from the above, I am not much of an automation guy. We do use AI-driven algorithms in consumer targeting of communication in digital media, but its minimal and one of the few areas where we do not yet have a firm assessment of the ROI.

Reliable data at good speeds and reasonable prices combined with low priced smartphones are silently revolutionizing the country.

Netcore: Which aspects of marketing and technology integration interests you most? Something that excites you on a personal level, and why?

Ritesh: I think the entire digital revolution that our country has observed starting with the advent of smartphones in the pre-2010 era is a fascinating story – one which has many chapters still to be written. IT has transformed India once, and I think there is room for one more transformation. Reliable data at good speeds and reasonable prices combined with low priced smartphones are silently revolutionizing the country. I started my working life when “boot floppies” and “telexes” were still in use. For me to be able to access everything I need from the office sitting in the comfort of my home is simply incredible. Indeed, I have lived through probably the most transformative 25 years; and with this COVID episode, I am probably looking at a period of even more rapid innovation.

In terms of marketing, too, the smartphone has completely altered the scenario. Gone are the days when a marketer could spend months developing a campaign, launch it, wait for the media plan to deliver “4 OTS” and then wait four weeks for Nielsen to report the market share outcome. Today, if a campaign is effective, it triggers an action right away on the smartphone. Indeed, smartphones are not just brought frequently, but they also influence everything else a person consumes.

Netcore : With 170 Croma stores in 40 cities across India, how does Croma enable personalized and unified experience for the customers?

Ritesh: We have been rapidly scaling up, and we will have 170 open by the time the lockdown ends. The personalized experience is delivered via the store staff. We have an extensive training infrastructure that ensures each of our new hires is trained to follow the Croma sales process – what delivers our signature “We help you buy” experience. To ensure every store is complying with these SOPs, there is an elaborate system of internal audit checks and a 3rd party mystery shopper exercise. Besides this, every purchase is followed by an exit survey to determine the experience was satisfactory for the customer.

Netcore : In one of your recent discussions with ET, you mentioned that Croma doesn’t plan to pull back or pause the expansion plans due to the COVID-19 crisis. So would you please share the status of the Croma app and the new tech-heavy Croma stores as of now?

Ritesh : There are three separate and independent initiatives going into the new “tech-heavy” stores as you call them (1) Making our stores shoppable from the comfort of one’s homes. This requires us to be able to show store-level inventory, offers, deals, experiences, etc. to customers via our website or app (2) Enabling every store to access and sell chain-wide inventory from the store and (3) Training our staff to be able to assist our shoppers digitally.

Each of the three initiatives is proceeding in parallel and new deployments/capabilities going live every other week. For instance, as part of making our stores shoppable from, we have just gone live with a request-a-call feature and book an appointment feature. Most of the significant features will be live by the end of September this year – including the release of a Croma Shopping App.

Well, that was quite an interesting insight into Croma’s customer-centric approach by Ritesh. Whether its instore or online experience, keeping your customers’ best interest at the core of your marketing and sales initiatives is imperative. Whether you are a brand that extensively thrives on data-driven marketing or automation, your ultimate goal should be to provide your customers with a 1:1 shopping experience. A D2C brand like Croma is now foraying into ecommerce. They are also releasing Croma Shopping App to engage, connect, and get a deeper understanding of its customer behaviour. COVID has compelled a lot of big brands like Croma to revamp their retail strategy to meet customers’ expectations. And the only motivating factor is to provide customers with a personalized shopping experience to build brand loyalty.

Expert View: Divya Dixit on How ALTBalaji uses customer data and AI to predict and personalize engagements

One can’t talk about OTT platforms without mentioning personalization and recommendations. Ecommerce and OTT platforms have been heavily thriving on AI-led personalization for all the right reasons. Time and again consumers have shown an inclination towards personalized content. OTT platforms like Netflix and Amazon Prime consistently talk about how their consumers respond to personalized communications and recommendations positively. AI and ML have made it easy for them to know why their consumers are watching a particular show or why they are “not” watching a particular show and most importantly, will they like an upcoming series or not.

As a part of our ‘expert view’ series on AI-led personalization in association with ResearchNxt, this time we had an extensive conversation with Divya Dixit, SVP Marketing, Analytics, and Direct Revenue at ALTBalaji. In this interview, she talks about how they leverage customer data and AI-enabled tools to predict consumer behavior and personalize consumer engagement for their OTT platform.  

Your key takeaways from this interview

  • The role reversal of marketing budgets between Ambivalent Media (TV) to digital media. AI and ML for personalization and better engagement.
  • What’s ALTBalaji’s mindset marketing strategy and how it helps leveraging customer data analytics to personalize user experience.
  • AI use cases to predict user engagement or behavior even before the show is launched.

Here are a few extracts from the interesting conversation we have had with Divya.

“Across the media and entertainment industry, I would say the latest trend is going digital all the way.”

Research NXT : You were part of many organizations across multiple industries over the past two decades, and now you are a marketing leader in the Media and Entertainment space. What are the key trends you have observed over the past decade across various industries? 

Divya: I started my journey as a marketing executive in retail, and from retail, I moved to broadcast media, then to music, to telecom, and finally now in the digital space.

The trends that I observed in retail were quite a few; however, the most interesting was being called “The Barista Generation” because the key trend then was the start of the coffee culture and socializing over a cup of coffee in a chic ambiance. Another trend that I started at Barista was creating merchandising and space selling categories that got later adapted by many coffee chains. Moving on, when I shifted to broadcast, I observed the fact that the broadcasters then, could create mindset changes via content and there are multiple examples like Balika Vadhu with a social message, Indian Idol, Big Boss, Jhalak Dikhla Jaa, etc. which gave rise to reality shows viewing culture. At Tata Docomo, we created the trend of “pay per second,” while the industry trend was “pay per minute” therefore exceeding the subscriber count by 3X of what was expected. Six months later, TRAI made it mandatory for every telecom player to introduce the plan of pay per second. The music industry introduced the trend of EDM – Electronic Dance Music, and LeEcO started the trend of creating a 360 degrees ecosystem comprising of content, apps, and peripherals.

Across the media and entertainment industry, I would say the latest trend is going digital all the way. From a time when only 7% of marketing budgets were allocated to digital, it has come a long way now that digital gets at least 70% of the same budgets. It is a considerable change in how marketers across industries depend on digital, AI, and personalization for consumer engagements rather than using the ambivalent media or TV.

“We are using personalization, predictive analytics, and measurement using AI to interact, engage and serve our viewers with their content and communication preferences in mind.”

Netcore: I am sure that this shift comes with its own set of inherent challenges because you also need to have content concerning consumer trends. How are you leveraging technology to meet consumer demand in terms of personalization of content? Is ALTBalaji using AI in any form to manage content personalization at scale?

Divya: Yes, there are challenges, and that is where the analytics behaviour comes into play. We at ALTBalaji not just look at segmentation across basic demographics, i.e., age, location, and social attributes, but also emphasis on something called mindset marketing. Here is an example of mindset marketing.

Last year we launched season two of a show called “Broken but Beautiful” meant specifically for the urban women and men. However, after a certain point in time as our regular exercise, we tried to identify the behaviour of the viewers who were churning out to find out what had they been doing on the app, time spent, other shows watched, and which top five shows were there on their priority list. The results were quite an eye-opener for us. The first show that they onboarded with was “Broken but Beautiful,” but the next show a certain segment of that audience saw was “XXX,” which is from a completely different genre. This shows that there is a tendency among the viewers to change genres at the flick of a button and busts the myth that women do not see sensual shows. We also identified that not just the young women, even the ones above 45 or even from the small towns, watch sensual shows. So, there is multiple interesting behaviour analytics that can be found through data science. Using AI, we reached out to these women viewers and sent them personalized messages that they anticipate. This means that a certain segment of the viewer community is more open to various content genres, and there is a possibility of engaging more with these sets with multiple pieces of content at once. These are the kinds of discoveries and actions we are leveraging out of analytics and trying to personalize the communication and improve engagement and subsequent action.

Netcore: Are there any other AI use cases that you would specifically like to mention helping ALTBalaji achieve business growth?

Divya: We use personalization in our messaging across business WhatsApp, emails, SMS, and push notifications to reach out to various consumer segments daily to control the churn. We also use AB testing across our viewer base with offers while onboarded by serving segment-specific content using AI-led personalization and hyper-personalization. We subsequently track the response that lets us understand how each consumer is reacting to what type of personalization. However, we must realize that AI, for us at this point, is still at a very nascent stage and can only improve with the data wisdom we acquire. 

Another case is that we are now going to use AI to measure and predict user engagement based on their behaviour for specific shows daily. This will help us create a predictive user journey and a model that allows us to map a show performance well ahead of it being launched. So, to sum it up, we are using personalization, predictive analytics, and measurement using AI to interact, engage, and serve our viewers with their content and communication preferences in mind.

Our goal of content discovery during this phase has not changed, and it is the mediums through which we reach out to the consumer that has changed.

Netcore: Very recently, ALTBalaji and Vijay Sales formed a first of its kind strategic alliance for in-store branding for a web-series, creating visibility to a captive high net worth audience, maximizing brand recall, and business ROI. What other vital initiatives have you been executing as a marketer in the OTT space?

Divya: OTT is typically divided into a few kinds of business models for apps, and one of them is SVOD (subscription video on demand) business model. Examples of some SVOD apps are ALTBalaji, Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, which are strictly subscription-driven platforms. We have no AVOD (Ad-based Video-on-demand) content available. With us, at ALTBalaji, most of the first episodes of a series are free, and the rest is entirely behind a paywall for which viewers must subscribe. Network backed apps like Hotstar, ZEE5, Voot, etc. are a combination of AVOD and SVOD. They have their broadcast channels catchup content on an AVOD platform; however, original content or movies are always a part of their SVOD offerings. Typically, AVOD platforms are supported by advertiser revenue, whereas the SVOD platforms will have opportunities available so as not to disturb the consumer ad-free viewing experience.

We allow brands to participate in advertising only on the first free episodes, we do co-marketing on already shot content, and then we have content integration opportunities for advertisers. However, we are very particular about how the integration happens so that the consumer has a seamless viewing experience.

We have executed Virtual Reality of 10 mins around Ragini MMS 2 that no other OTT platform in India has done; we have done the Breast Buffer campaign that got us nominated in Cannes as well, and many such initiatives.

Netcore: Content production almost at a standstill for all production houses due to the Covid19 pandemic. However, there has been a spike in subscribers for ALTBalaji in Q4:2019–20 plus most of April. How do you manage the creation of new content and the distribution of existing content to keep the user stickiness intact? 

Divya: As India grows more digitally savvy and adds almost 10 million active internet users per month, as per a Google report, we can still target new viewers as for them, our library is new. We have the most extensive Hindi originals library compared to all digital platforms with 60+ original series. So for us, the tracks are parallel, library push, and the launch of new shows. We have already launched three shows during Covid-19 and planning to launch our fourth show, as well as we have several shows in the pipeline to be edited and launched over time.

Netcore: As a marketer, in the post-COVID-19 situation, what kind of trends do you foresee across industries? It can be specific to the OTT if you want to share that, or it could be just across in general for a marketer?

Divya: During Covid-19, as I said, our work hasn’t gone down as an OTT platform. We’re continually working and delivering to the consumer to keep them entertained during this tough phase. Our goal of content discovery during this phase has not changed, and it is the mediums through which we reach out to the consumer that has changed. In the current phase, we are not using OOH, print, or radio as an advertising channel. Instead, we are focussing on digital mediums, other OTT platforms, Television news channels, etc. 

The second trend we will see is the small-town focus. We are focusing more on acquiring smaller town, web viewers using a web light version, PWA app, for our library of content. So, from an AVOD perspective, things may not look good at the moment; however, things have moved up from a subscription perspective. Also, the advertising revenue for the broadcast industry will change in the equation as the post-COVID situation will see a lifestyle remodelling, and ultimately new normals will emerge for marketers to connect with the consumers. 

The third trend that I see emerging is virtual reality, digital engagement like gamification, digital payments and delivery, and digital healthcare and digital education that will be on the surge.

And on this note, our conversation with Divya ends. However, the insights she gave into OTT consumer behaviour were quite practical and useful. AI-powered personalization tools allow you to know where and why consumers churn, and what actions can be taken to win them back. And not forget about personalized content recommendations and keeping them seamless across all platforms. AI also helps predict behaviour of new users based on the behaviour of old users which ultimately leads to consumer retention and brand loyalty.

Expert’s View: Akshay Matkar, Marketing Head, Candere Talks About Personalization to Drive Growth

According to McKinsey and Company, 18% of the jewelry sales are expected to be made online by 2025 taking its worth to about $79 billion annually.

With online shopping trends rising more swiftly than ever, the demand for online jewelry shopping is predicted to witness great growth in the coming years.
Akshay Matkar
, Head of Marketing at Candere, takes us through his journey as a marketer and explains the strategy behind the growth of Candere as an online jewelry shopping destination. He shares the brand strategy and insights into the mindset of jewelry shoppers and establishing Candere as an omnichannel brand. Akshay discusses the merger of Candere with Kalyan Jewelers and how AI-driven personalization is a heavy focus for their online strategy. He discusses the importance of replicating the family jeweler personalized customer experience online and also talks about the responses and implications of the COVID-19 on marketers in this space. 

This conversation is a part of our exclusive interview series with top marketing leaders, conducted in collaboration with ResearchNxt, a leading marketing research company that does in-depth research on trending enterprise technologies.

Netcore: Let’s start with your journey as a marketer to the senior leader in marketing and your role at Candere.

Akshay: I come from a background in computers. I joined engineering because those were the days when everyone was doing engineering, and I followed the flow. While studying, I and some friends experimented with selling firecrackers online, trying to utilize our newly-learned programming skills. That was in 2009 when digital was gaining popularity, witnessing the evolution of eCommerce and digital devices. During this venture, I researched deeply into digital marketing and was fascinated by it.

I decided to switch my career after college. I joined a digital agency, working for close to two years in a digital account manager role, handling a portfolio of clients into real estate. Then I wanted to get into the eCommerce side of the business – to explore more towards data, user journeys, and getting to witness the completion of funnels from top to bottom. I joined Candere in 2015 as a part of the marketing team, when we were expanding and got funded. A few years later, I was promoted to manage the marketing duties. Here, I would say, I learned the art and science of marketing, along with growth and innovation for business expansion.

I took on the role of heading marketing in 2019; I was in a managerial role earlier. The entire infrastructure of marketing – building systems, setting processes, and getting agencies – I was able to witness all. The foundation of marketing as the whole we had to build, and I closely worked with the internal stakeholders to build up the marketing to where we are right now.

We were nowhere in the picture when I joined. Now we are in the top three. The second and third position is very competitive. We got associated with Kalyan Jewelers in 2017, and it expanded our horizons.

How to tightly integrate offline and online and provide an omnichannel experience, is the next big journey we at Candere are working on.

Netcore: You are selling a very traditional product online. Are there any specific challenges you have faced that you think usual brands wouldn’t face when selling a product online?

Akshay: Jewelry is a higher ticket size product. If you see the buying pattern, I would say that maximum jewelry purchases happen via family jewelers. So the experimentation is less, and there is a lot of emotion attached to the jewelry. It’s not just another product like buying a mobile phone, which I’m not very emotionally attached to because I’m changing it frequently. But there are pieces of jewelry which I’m keeping for a considerable amount of time in my life, say 25 years or more. So there are a lot more emotions attached, hence convincing users to come to digital is a challenge. 

But with respect to the entire development of technology, there are modern age shoppers who do not hesitate to experiment as long as they are getting services because that’s their usual buying pattern. They are the ones who like to shop online not only for their essential needs but also for non-essentials, and they like experimenting with different apparel, beauty, and electronics brands. These are the set of audiences we are also catering to.

Netcore: Candere merged with Kalyan Jewelers, one of the largest conventional retail chains in India. Did this result in any challenges w.r.t technology implementation, customer management, and what is the journey ahead?

Akshay: When we merged with Kalyan Jewelers, the entire question was, how do we capitalize on the audience of Kalyan Jewelers? They have a huge audience base, and they are also at the same time looking for purchasing online. So how do we make the entire omnichannel experience for their customers? 

We also witnessed that many jewelry purchases that are happening in Kalyan stores, but decision making is done online. Some users like to browse the products, select what they want, and then walk into a store and purchase. Second, some users would like to purchase online but take delivery at stores. 

So this is the audience we are catering to, and the entire agenda is how we capitalize on this. How to tightly integrate offline and online and provide an omnichannel experience, is the next big journey we at Candere are working on. 

Personalization is not a trend – it is a marketing volcano which has erupted! So every marketer needs to adjust their strategy towards personalization now – that’s the new mantra. 

Netcore: Extending further on the omnichannel experience, is there any use of personalization to make smarter decisions around pricing and promotions across these channels?

Akshay: I think every new age buyer likes personalization. That’s done and dusted. All our offers are personalized according to activity and behavior. We don’t have a single offer for all users. Once the user enters the website, we collect a lot of data signals. Through that, we have constructed our very personalized offers based on the behavior on the website. 

With regards to inventory, we don’t hold any large stock; our products are made to order. We have a very interesting product called double gold protection, which is designed for buyers who can purchase and safeguard their gold value. So you can book the product at 10% of the total cost and pay monthly installments for the rest. We do have some ready inventory, which are among our fast-moving products – mainly our best sellers. 

Here we use the power of AI for prediction of sales and how we pre-manufacture and keep ready inventory, depending on seasonality. So prediction modeling comes into the picture, and the power of AI helps, so that’s one advantage we get.

Looking at our customer demands, we have created a complete bundle of offerings for different customers.

Netcore: Since you have an omnichannel brand, is there any AI in use for this personalization and experience you are creating for your customers, please share some use cases that you have been working on.

Akshay: While our one hand is selling gold, the other hand is busy collecting gold, which is none other than data. Our current roadmap is to have a tighter handshake between all the systems and tools we are using. There is no bigger threat than data sitting in silos; that’s what we believe. We are focusing on investing our resources toward building customer experience. 

We’re also working on a chatbot project for a shopping assistant, so that’s one use case I would like to expand upon. Currently, when you are purchasing jewelry, it’s not like a very usual eCommerce purchase. We have observed that 50% of shoppers require shopping assistance. Currently, we have our customer relations team, which is helping them during the purchase cycle.

Now we have started the process of getting a chatbot – which via its AI algorithm handles many queries from customers, and at a certain point, if required, it passes on to our customer relations team. We are also planning to automate our call center by the end of this year – wherein the entire call centers could also work using AI and not necessarily have to reach out for agents. Wherein automation as the whole can come into the picture and help us resolve the maximum number of queries.

We have been using AI-led personalization for the past two years – right from our listing page, to offers, to communications. Everything is personalized based on signals collected from user’s activity. We have witnessed about 2X growth year on year on our personalization based campaigns.

Personalization is not a trend – it is a marketing volcano that has erupted. So every marketer needs to adjust their strategy towards personalization now – that’s the new mantra.

The war on customer experience has started. Brands not paying attention to this are going to shut their shop in the next five years. We strongly believe customers are our best teacher, and we try listening to them as honestly as possible. 

Netcore: Are there any specific trends in the jewelry space you have observed when users are buying online versus offline?

Akshay: There are two interesting data points. We have seen that although many purchases are coming from the metro regions, our primary market, we have also witnessed purchases coming from tier 2 cities, and the ticket size is very high. This is mainly because they don’t have the facilities available in their locations or to get the new design trends. Even if they have a store in their location, it might not be carrying trendy collections as in the metro cities. So I think there is a desire of customers to buy how people in metros are purchasing. 

The second is about the digital journey. We have witnessed that the first purchase is not significant in terms of ticket size. They will experiment small, and if the right service is provided, then the journey follows. So those are the trends we have observed.

Netcore: Is there any specific segmentation that you see in your target market, and are there any personalization strategies around that?

Akshay: The war on customer experience has started. Brands not paying attention to this are going to shut their shop in the next five years. We strongly believe customers are our best teacher, and we try listening to them as honestly as possible.  

All our development at Candere revolves around customer needs at the center. We hustle to fulfill those demands day in and day out. We also continue reaching out to customers for taking opinions via various mediums. 

The jewelry funnel is very different – unlike other industries, it is more of a planned purchase and less impulsive buying. So there are purchase decision influencers – it’s not necessarily the buyer always makes a decision. Decision-makers can be a spouse, parents, or children helping parents by doing the research and getting validation on social media. So we are targeting not only buyers but also decision-makers segments.

On the personalization of jewelry, a good point to mention is that personalizing your jewelry is an age-old practice followed by local jewelers for ages. That’s why local players manage 90 % of the industry, and most customers purchase from their family jewelers. We are trying to provide the same experience provided by local jewelers – by understanding the buying pattern. On the digital front, this is very fresh and new, but in the offline world, it is the main buying pattern – where my family’s jeweler knows my mind and will recommend the product based on my budget, taste, etc. 

We are just trying to offer the same experience on the website.

Netcore: eCommerce is one space that has picked up during the COVID-19 pandemic. So what are your thoughts on how marketers can react and optimize their operations in the current scenario?

Akshay: Innovation is going to play a key role in driving the business for the next six months, right from the marketing campaigns to business offerings.

Users are slightly hesitant to make purchases offline, and this trend is going to follow for a few months until we return to normal. There is a lot of research data coming in about a lot of different reactions happening amongst buyers. The purchasing pattern between different age group audiences has shifted. 

What we had planned and what we are currently experiencing – it is a complete reset scenario. Reworking on the strategy or planning the media buying, the brand campaigns we had decided – much alteration needs to be done. 

For us, it has reacted well – we don’t see a huge dip in our numbers during COVID-19.  

Also, businesses need to alter their offerings and do modifications to suit the existing situation and address the COVID-19 situation. 

Like I mentioned, we have a product known as double gold rate protection. So we made slight changes, and now it is suiting the requirements of our consumers. Users who have a wedding or many bigger occasions planned towards the end of the year, have started to invest in gold rate protection and are safeguarding themselves from the rising gold rates. 

So these are things every marketer should understand. It is a difficult situation, but we don’t have to panic. As a marketer, there is always a race for numbers, but the one who plays smartly wins the race. 

And that’s all from Akshay.

Earlier last year, it was estimated that online jewelry business would capture 10% market by 2020. Given the pandemic situation, customers aren’t shying away from buying jewelry online. It wouldn’t be unreal if brands expected a still bigger growth rate.

Since jewelry is a high ticket item, the challenges in shifting this industry to eCommerce were more than other industries. This is one reason that this sector remained unexplored for a long time even after the success of the online business of other product sectors. But AI-powered advanced technologies are paving the way to the digital boom for jewelry brands.

Expert View: Abhishek Joshi on How MX Player improved brand loyalty with AI-Led Personalization

Believe it or not, the global pandemic has brought a major shift in consumer behavior as well as brands’ perspective towards their consumers. Many brands have now either adopted the consumer-centric approach wholeheartedly or they are striving to be customer-focused. Either way, it’s good news as it’s eventually going to pay off in the form of customer retention, brand loyalty, and higher revenues.

As a part of our expert view series, this time we had an extensive conversation with Abhishek Joshi, Head of Marketing & Business Partnerships at MX Player, in association with ResearchnXT, a leading marketing research company that does in-depth research on trending enterprise technologies.

In this conversation, Abhishek talks about his 19 years of career media and entertainment industry and also shares some useful insights on how personalization helped MX Player improve brand loyalty and revenues.

Key takeaways from this interview

  • The significant role of AI-powered personalization in improving brand loyalty and ROI for MX Player
  • He discussed three primary use cases for any app – onboarding, re-engagement, and new feature rollout
  • What marketing innovations taking place in the OTT ecosystem in terms of how to reach out to the end-user
  • His top observations about OTT space for the remaining part of this year

Here are some extracts from the insightful conversation we had with Abhishek.

Netcore: We would start by learning about your background and how you came to be the Head of Marketing & Business Partnerships at MX Player?


Abhishek: I didn’t plan my journey as a marketeer, but when I finished my MBA school back in 2001, I landed up in a media print company (Ananda Bazaar Patrika Group) out of campus placements. I started in sales, like every other management trainee, where I used to sell newspapers (Circulation sales) at 4 am every morning in remote places of Jharkhand. So I started doing that and then advertising sales, then branding and strategy till 2011. However, one thing that has been constant in my 19 years of career is that I have always been in the media & entertainment space. I have done print, TV, sports, movies, digital, etc. The only couple of things that I haven’t done is radio and gaming as yet, but apart from that, I’ve done almost every aspect of the media and entertainment ecosystem. 

Prior to MX Player, I was the head of Marketing, Analytics, Subscription, and Licensing for the digital business(Sony LIV) digital business of Sony Pictures to MX Player. My role here is everything related to the growth of the brand and the platform and to make MX Player the go-to destination for everything entertainment.

“Technology is acting as a catalyst in exploring the power of personalization at MX Player.”

Netcore: From a marketing standpoint, how important is personalization in the app and the OTT platform? We would like to know more about how you are leveraging technology at your current role in MX Player and how vital is personalization at the scale for your brand?

Abhishek: The journey of MX Player has been inspiring, to say the least over the last 18 months, since we launched in Feb’19 in India with the OTT streaming app. We have grown leaps and bounds, thanks to our users, who have shown immense trust and respect in the product and content offerings. Right now, as we speak, the OTT ecosystem is very highly competitive. So we are focusing on personalization to ensure customization of messaging and experiences to our audiences, based on their preferences and behavior. Personalization has significantly improved the MX Player brand loyalty, helped in reducing our user acquisition costs, enabled us to increase the revenues, and improve ROI.

Secondly, we have been adopting technology to capture information about the customer’s needs and intentions through multiple sources to extend personalization at scale. For example, we are monitoring social media posts, comments, likes & dislikes, preferability of genres to automate, and render customization at scale. For us, technology right now is acting as a catalyst in exploring the power of personalization.

Netcore: Are you using AI-led content recommendations for curating and creating the program content in your platform like a lot of global OTT players? If so, could you please shed some light around it?

Abhishek: Out of the many things, home page recommendation is something we care about extensively. A user is likely to spend most of their time on this page, and the maximum traffic tends to be generated here. Hence, it makes much sense to have personalized homepages for each of your users as it improves the relevance of the content, the suggested offering, which effectively results in better engagement. These recommendations are based on multiple user attributes, like their viewing history and engagement data. We also focus on genre-specific recommendations based on real-time reading and listening history.

The other thing that we do is create personalized watch lists or playlists, which can be customized by the users.  These kinds of personalization are based on a variety of factors, such as the kind of content they consume, the propensity to consume a particular genre, which could ultimately improve the CTR by a considerable margin.

Thirdly, we communicate with our userbase through personalized emails and personalized notifications for better customer experience.

As far as use cases are concerned, I think there are three primary use cases for any app. they are onboarding, re-engagement, and a new feature rollout.

Starting the Onboarding Process: While onboarding the first time users, a messaging campaign is created to introduce the new users to the app and educate them via notifications to try the app features for increased granularity. Secondly, there will be some user segments from specific niches who wouldn’t be active after signing in. This segment needs to be targeted as well to push them a step ahead.

The re-engagement initiatives: This activity targets the dormant users, which can have various definitions based on the platform. These segments are the ideal candidate for AB tests, push notifications, and email outreach with personalized approaches for bringing them back to the platform. Once they are active again, it’s time to analyze the segments and see triggers for conversions, and this analytical intelligence is essential in the long run.

The new feature rollout phase:  This phase involves segmenting the users who are on the older version of the app, use push notifications to coax them to upgrade the app and avail the advantages of that new features. Additionally, these users are also prompted to leave a review and rate the app on the Play Store or the App Store. We have also been focusing on onboarding offline viewers towards the online version and keeping them engaged with the video content as we now have music and games too on the app.

I believe that irrespective of the product, the way you communicate, and the way you address the user will almost be the same across all B2C business categories what we deliver to the user who requires that particular product should be the focus. As businesses, we need to be ensuring that we are speaking to the right audience in a manner that quickly communicates the message in an enticing way, either through offers or any other form of marketing tactic.

OTT advertising investment will significantly increase in 2020 as there is a surge with digital media content consumption by at least 2X in India.

Netcore: I think, apart from the subscription-based revenue model, you also have a revenue model where you help advertisers target the right audiences through your platform. Now, could you please share more details on that and how you are assisting relevant ads to come to your subscriber base?

Abhishek: We are yet not an SVOD platform; we are a complete advertising lead platform. We help advertisers and brands leverage our massive data points in terms of segmentation and all audience inputs, which effectively helps them target better because doing it at scale ensures efficacy in execution.

Netcore: You are working with many marketers from different brands. During the current pandemic situation, what kind of marketing innovations in terms of outreach to the end audiences are happening?

Abhishek: I wouldn’t say, marketing, but much advertising is happening on digital, and that’s the first piece. The second piece is that the advertising is happening through video on digital because the uptake of the digital video ecosystem has been substantial in the last six or seven weeks. And in the online streaming space, there are a few observations that I have or maybe trends, which I think will happen this year. They are:

  • One, everybody knows that content will grow faster and deeper.
  • Mobile will become the main channel for content delivery. That is going to happen very soon.
  • Increased content fragmentation will happen due to the competition.
  • OTT advertising investment will increase significantly this year. That’s for sure because an average Indian spends about 5-6 hours consuming online content every day. Going forward, spending per month on digital media content is expected to grow by at least 2-3X.
  • With Covid-19 and the lockdown, the presumed growth that I had for this year has already become 2X of what was expected.
  • Video-based content is becoming the most preferred content type, I mean it’s been more than 65% of the users, choosing it over text-based content.

And the same is evidenced in massive scales by platforms like MX Player or YouTube that they have achieved in the last year and a half. Combined with the demand for video first, vernacular content has also emerged as a key for the Indian consumer, which is going to be the driving force in terms of content delivery for this year.

And on this note, our conversation with Abhishek ends!

Well, whether you are an online streaming service, an e-commerce brand, or a banking business, giving customers exactly what they are looking for has become the need of the hour. A lot of consumers have shifted to online shopping and OTT for entertainment. They are expecting brands to provide them with 1:1 personalized experience to win their loyalty. It’s that era of marketing where retention has become a new acquisition because acquiring new customers is a lot costlier than retaining the old ones. And hence the reason brands are zeroing in their attention on retaining customers by providing them seamless, consistent, and customized online experiences. So have you optimized your customer retention strategy yet? Are you ready to meet your customers’ expectations? If you are not sure about this, it’s high time you have a powerful personalization strategy in place.

How Fashion & Apparel E-Commerce Brands Can Use Product Recommendations to Increase Revenues- Part 2

The fashion and apparel industry is in continuous evolution and the brands that don’t adapt and innovate could be in danger of slipping behind others that do. Modern-day marketers have also realized that they need to evolve and provide customers exactly what they desire. 

1:1 personalized experiences are what all your customers need and seek. The onus is thus, on marketers like you to ensure that customers are served relevant personalized experiences that keep them engaged with your brand. 

How important is Personalization for Fashion & Apparel E-Commerce Brands?

E-commerce brands rely on customers returning back to purchase more and more products. To ensure this can happen, customers will need to resonate with a particular brand to become a repeat customer. 

In an era where there are multiple channels through which a customer can associate with your brand, it’s important for you to grab their attention and offer them individualized shopping experiences with the most relevant product recommendations at the right time. 

Right from the time a new customer enters your website for the first time, you need to focus on gathering and processing all possible customer-level data-points. You can leverage the data to provide your customers the best possible experience. 

How Can You Deliver Personalization?

Customers want to see the products that they are looking for at the earliest and with minimal effort. The solution to this is omnichannel personalization

In the first part of this two-part blog series, we highlighted how marketers can build a data-driven foundation for personalization. We also outlined how Netcore Smartech can help marketers personalize the journey for their customers by offering 1:1 discounts, showing relevant product recommendations across the website, and most importantly, deliver a memorable shopping experience.

This post digs deeper to showcase more compelling use cases on how fashion and apparel e-commerce brands can maximize conversions through personalized product recommendations.

1. Cross-sell complementary products through dynamic product bundles

Cross-selling is a very commonly used marketing technique that encourages customers to buy more, and in turn increase their average order value per active session.

Our AI engine, Raman, analyzes historical and live customer behavior to come up with relevant complementary product recommendations that can go along with the product that is most likely to be purchased. 

In the fashion and apparel industry, cross-selling offers you great potential as the products are all interconnected and complementary product recommendations can be given easily to encourage customers into buying more. Even a customer who was initially not looking to buy those complementary products can be tempted into buying them based on accurate product recommendations. 

For instance: Here’s an example of a customer who visited the page with the intention to buy a formal shirt. Once he selected the shirt that he liked, he was given product recommendations that included trousers, blazers, and accessories to complete the look. 

Now his intention was only to buy a shirt but he may consider buying the trousers that complement the shirt. Such product bundles can trigger enhanced purchasing intent by tapping into what individual customers’ tastes and preferences.

2. Upsell superior products to increase average order values per customer

Upselling is another commonly used marketing technique to increase conversions. 

It needs to be done subtly to ensure that you highlight the value that the superior product can provide, in addition to the product that a customer is about to purchase or most likely to purchase.

For instance: Here’s an example of a brand showcasing similar shirts that are marginally more expensive. The right product recommendations displayed at the right time can open up upsell opportunities every time a customer transacts on your e-commerce platform. And, the power of AI on Netcore Smartech turns that dream into reality.

3. Implement personalized recommendation widgets on different web pages

You need to design and deploy personalized widgets based on your customers’ interests, preferences, and behavior across different pages of your e-commerce website. 

At Netcore Smartech, we empower you to deploy these personalized widgets on high conversion web pages such as the Home Page, Product Listing Page, and Product Display Page. 

These widgets group together a similar category of products as the more relevant recommendations under. These widgets promise higher CTRs and conversions as these are tailor-made to individual customers.

Some of the common widgets include:

  • Recommended for You
  • Similar Products
  • Recently Viewed
  • You May Also Like
  • New Arrivals
  • Best Sellers
  • Trending Products
  • Customers Also Bought

These widgets when used effectively can lead to an increase of 90-120% in the CTR of the web pages. 

4. Showcase products most recently viewed by the customer 

There could be occasions when a customer browses products without actually buying it. They also sometimes end up forgetting what they had viewed in their previous session. 

In such a situation you can display those products that the customer has viewed recently the next time the customer arrives to re-trigger purchase interest. 

5. Create an exclusive personalized virtual storefront for every customer

Brands can rise up the personalization mountain by creating a specifically curated boutique page for each customer. Netcore Smartech’s AI engine, Raman, can create such a virtual storefront based on past and real-time customer behavior – containing only those product recommendations with the highest probability of being viewed, clicked on, or purchased. 

Given the degree of hyper-personalization on this page, the product recommendations need to be refreshed dynamically, based on customer eyeball data as well. 

Your customers need to feel that this was a page curated specially for them. They should also be able to interact on this page by clicking on ‘like’ or ‘dislike’ button to share real-time feedback about their choices and preferences.

And, these are all actions and factors that we account for while enabling leading e-commerce brands curate such personalized storefronts.

Building a personalized boutique page can actually enable brands to increase CTR by almost 120-150%.

6. Trigger exit intent web pop-ups

You can also trigger web pop-up messages when a customer lands on a certain pre-defined web page or is about to exit the web page. These messages are targeted at customers who may still be hesitant to buy. 

These work best when personalized product recommendations are showcased and some incentive – in the form of a discount or promo code – is offered to entice customers into completing the purchase.

These pop-ups, when implemented effectively can even lead to a 10% increase in the conversion rate. 

7. Trigger relevant multi-channel messages on cart abandonment

There is always a chance that the customer is browsing products, has added a few to the cart for checkout, but has then dropped-off without completing the purchase. In such a case, a web push notification can be triggered to remind the customer that there are products that have been added to the cart. 

If the customer has not reacted to the web push notification for a specific duration of time, a personalized email can also be triggered, notifying him of the abandoned cart. Additionally, cross-selling can also be done or discounts can be provided as a part of the email campaign.

Such an approach leverages the power of data-driven marketing automation to further drive personalized shopping experiences. 

8. Reactivate dormant customers to encourage re-purchase

As a data-driven e-commerce marketer at a fashion and retail brand, you need to focus on customer retention every single day. You need to ensure that your Customer Lifetime Value (CLTV) exceeds your Customer Acquisition Costs (CAC).

There will always remain a situation where some customer segments remain dormant and don’t make a purchase on your platform for some time. These customers are usually re-targeted with a ‘We Miss You’ email, app push notification, or web push notification campaign.

This is a strategy to spike up the interest of customers who are dormant or likely to have churned. By providing personalized product recommendations, you can attempt to regenerate interest in a dormant customer. 

9. Offer 1:1 product recommendations that take your inventory into account

There are cases where certain products remain in the inventory for too long. For numerous brands, the cost of inventory is the heaviest expense item that leads to the most financial woes. 

You will be aware of the products that have remained in stock for the maximum duration. You will also know the kinds of products that your customers are looking for. You can combine the data you have at your disposal and push those products that have remained in stock for a long time. 

You will have greater control over how you want to ensure that these products can catch the customers’ attention. You can offer customers exactly what they desire from a wider assortment of products- at more affordable prices. This can be achieved by offering these products on discounted prices or sold on sale to manage inventory costs more efficiently. 

The COVID-19 pandemic impacted the sales as customers were slow to purchase fashion and apparel products due to cash crunch and the lockdowns that were enforced. This resulted in products lying in the inventory for an extended period of time. 

In such a scenario, with the understanding of your brand’s situation and the customer’s interests, you will be able to offer your customers relevant products that stand a better chance of leaving the inventory. 

Key Metrics that Omnichannel Personalization Can Impact

There are a number of key metrics that you need to track to identify the effectiveness of your omnichannel personalization strategy. Here are the key metrics that would get impacted:

  • Improve individual customer-level behavioral predictions by 20%
  • Elevate website click-through rates (CTR) by 30-60%
  • Increase add-to-cart rates (ATC) by 6-9%
  • Increase e-commerce website conversions by 8-13%
  • Uplift marketing ROI by 10-12X

The Exciting Future for Fashion & Apparel E-Commerce Personalization

The most exciting thing about omnichannel personalization for you, as marketers, and customers alike is that it is constantly evolving with the development of technologies like Data Analytics, Artificial Intelligence, and Machine Learning. We may have not seen the best of it yet. 

Personalization is all set to become an integral component in marketing. It is said to grow manifold over the coming years giving your customers exactly what they desire the most.

Now that you understand the power of personalization and 1:1 product recommendations – why not see the magic yourself?To understand how we can help your brand develop and deploy a game-changing personalization strategy, powered by AI, get in touch with us today

The Anatomy of Success with Web Push Notifications – Netcore + Nykaa Fashions

When it comes to channels which excite a marketer’s drive for higher revenues, Web Push Notifications typically don’t figure into most lists. But this long-ignored channel ended up helping a leading online fashion store from India, Nykaa Fashion, to increase their sales despite the slowing demand across the eCommerce space due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

A Background on Nykaa Fashion

Nykaa Fashion is a one-stop destination for designer women’s clothing. Their belief in finding beauty in diversity led to them shelving the one-size-fits-all approach in favor of one that celebrates differences, of every kind. They celebrate a women-first, in which no matter the style, size, or spending power, they want each woman who shops with Nykaa Fashion to feel welcome, inspired, and excited. This has resulted in the housing of over 500 labels and 75,000 styles which encourages the harmonious cohabitation of lesser-known brands with luxe and high-street names.

The Fashion Challenge

Nykaa Fashion and Netcore united in an effort to improve the revenue potential of a channel, and the channel we chose was Web Push Notifications. The challenges that faced us were unique. Despite the amazing discounts on offer, customers typically ignored these notifications. While this might be attributed to the fact that most Web Push Notifications sent were text-based, Nykaa Fashion had tried running image-based notifications, with unsatisfactory results.

Measuring Up

With an analysis we soon found a possible reason as to why Nykaa Fashion’s image based Web Push Notifications didn’t work as planned. The sizes were inappropriate, causing an inconsistent rendering across various browsers. While the image might look great in Chrome, it would look stretched in Firefox and Safari. We also discovered that while Nykaa Fashion provided great discounts, they weren’t well advertised in their Web Push Notifications. We believed that if the offers were given primary focus, Nykaa Fashion would achieve a much higher conversion rate. And with that in hand, we got to work.

Fit for the Runway

Our team from Netcore realized that we needed to redefine and redesign the channel for it to work to the potential it had.

First, we started simple. We decoded the right dimensions that needed to be used in Web Push Notifications. These dimensions would ensure that the images looked great in all browsers.

Second, we defined the ratio of sizes for images to the size of the text in a Web Push Notification. These ratios ensured that neither the text nor the image overpowered the other. It would also ensure that a customer’s attention would be grabbed by the image and the text would have enough space and size to give the complete information on the discounts on offer.

Third, we made sure that the creatives that we had in place for these Web Push Notifications accentuated the discounts on offer. For this we worked on the placement of the text and image, such that the offer was obvious at the first glance. We also used contrasting colors, making the image and the text easily readable in every monitor despite the contrast or brightness settings that might be set in place.

Showtime

A Sample Web Push Notifications

Despite the pandemic, which saw a drop in overall purchases for all fashion retailers, Nykaa Fashion experienced a spike from their Web Push Notifications. The spike was directly attributed to the implementation of Netcore’s suggested strategy to Web Push Notifications.

The Numbers?

  • 8.9% increase in Web Push Notifications click rate.
  • 14.28% increase in cart additions from Web Push Notifications clicks.
  • 4.7% increase in the number of orders placed through Web Push Notifications.
  • 32.41% increase in cart additions to Web Push Notifications visits ratio.
  • 50% increase in revenue via web-push as a channel.

An oft-ignored channel has now become a profitable one for Nykaa. Smartech’s tools and team will continue to help eCommerce brands achieve higher numbers through even the most unlikely of channels. Be sure to contact us to know how we can help you.

Smartech Contributes to 1 in 3 Policy Renewals of a Leading General Insurance Provider

For any insurance brand, renewals matter more than new policy purchases. It forms the backbone of their income statements being a recurring revenue source. But it is also one that is most prone to be hurt by economic stress. For example, the COVID pandemic resulted in a drop in renewals. Hence, it is no wonder that many General Insurance companies have shown a specific interest in optimizing their renewal process through automation and digitization, so much so that there are now awards that celebrate digital innovation.

As a leading provider of marketing automation solutions to BFSI organizations in India, it came as no surprise to us, at Netcore, when a multi-award winning General Insurance company came to us with challenges typical to organizations digitizing their processes. This organization, a joint venture between an Indian NBFC and a German financial services company, had received multiple awards for their innovations in digitizing the insurance process but had faced multiple issues in optimizing their automation communications to their large base of customers and make the most of it.

The Frustrations of Over Enthusiastic Digitization

Typical to any unstructured digitization process, the organization had their information in multiple silos. Each silo had its own system for updating its information, which led to conflicting data points for the same customer across these silos. They also had their own communication processes that didn’t speak to the other silos, which lead to the customer receiving multiple communications with conflicting proposals. In effect, there was a lack of a central database that could be updated with the most recent customer information, with all the policies that he/she had bought into.

Apart from potential answers to their frustrations with siloed data, the organization had two specific objectives setup for Netcore:

  1. To automate their renewal process.
  2. To enable them to send hyper-personalized communications to their customers.

Effectively, the needed Netcore to enhance their customer communications, effectively improving the customers’ experience with their outbound touchpoints.

The 3 Step Strategy

Netcore’s team came in with a 3 step strategy and pitched it to the general insurance organization.

Step 1 – Integration

We would start by integrating Netcore’s Smartech with the organization’s CRM tool. Smartech’s servers would collect daily updates on each policyholder through an API call. This would target the issues of siloed information. It would ensure that Smartech’s servers would have the updated information that we need for every communication.

Step 2 – Segmentation

Next, we would work on segmenting all customers. After appraising the organization’s customer base we decided on 90+ segments as per their line of business (LOB), product, expiry date, and policy renewal status. The idea was to target these segments with unique journeys based on their attributes.

Step 3 – Hyper-personalized Communication

Finally, we would work on hyper-personalized ‘Renewal Reminder’ communications for the organization’s customers. The focus here would be people from the rural parts of the country, where there would be the added personalization facet of language. We would send the communications, email and SMS, in one of six languages.

The Launch and the Aftermath

Netcore’s pitch worked, and we went to the field.

1.8 lakh (180 thousand) users were targeted every month.

Sample of Personalized E-mail

Sample of Personalized SMS

The customer base was segmented into 90+ units and classified into more than 4 Line of Businesses. We targeted these segments under 3 product categories, 2 Wheeler, 4 Wheeler, and Non-motor, under each Line of Business. A thing to note is that a customer might be in one or more product categories, or under multiple Line of Businesses. Once the customer database was put into place, we got to work setting up automated emails for each segment. We also used Smartech in conjugation with information in the customer database, like the customer, policy, and renewal information, to send hyper-personalized SMS and email under predefined automation triggers. Finally, as we’d planned earlier, customers from rural communities were targeted using the most applicable one of six regional languages.

Interestingly, through the process of implementing our strategies, we identified 3 types of customers:

  1. The early birds, who were customers who renew at least 5-6 weeks prior to their expiry date.
  2. The last moment users, who renew in the last week of the expiry date.
  3. The late risers, who renew after their policy has lapsed.

We used this information to further fine-tune our automated and personalized communications.

Below are the results we observed after implementing Smartech:

  • Sending hyper-personalized communications resulted in an open rate of 31% and CTOR of 11%.
  • Sending multiple reminders to customers at various intervals starting at least 2 months prior and 15 days after the policy has expired helped to increase the renewal rate.

Smartech contributed to 1 in 3 policy renewals (overall) made in the financial year 2019-20.

The investment in Smartech has been highly rewarding in terms of the ROI, both in money and time, for the brand. We shall continue to aid them and other BFSI brands to achieve their goals and more. For now, take the first step by letting us show how we can help you.

Raman Insights & Nudges: AI-backed Marketing Insights that Maximize Revenues and Customer Retention

In today’s ever-changing marketing landscape and customer trends, adaptivity is vital. Being able to take effective actions on-the-fly can make or break your marketing campaign/strategy. At this point, it is obvious how important data is to marketing. 

Endless analytics relating to clicks, conversions, revenue, app uninstalls, DAU/MAU, and far more all make up the core of what really drives digital and mobile marketing. All these data-points allow marketers to understand their customers, produce real-time responses, and adjust their campaigns/strategies in real-time. 

As effective as this sounds, unfortunately, so many marketers still struggle with adaptivity and data. 81% of marketers consider implementing data-driven marketing strategies on-the-fly to be extremely complicated. The struggle is real! 

Why is it challenging?

  • Condensing your customer data across platforms into a single holistic view 
  • Enriching data quality and completeness in real-time
  • Using that data in real-time to gain actionable insights
  • Leveraging these insights to make intelligent marketing decisions

How can we tackle these challenges together?

At Netcore Smartech, we believe in the unquestionable power and influence of customer data, campaign performance data-points, and extracting intelligent actionable insights from it.

But first, before we deep dive into actionable insights, we urge you to take a step back and start with a basic but crucial step – recognize your customers as unique individuals and not just as numbers on your dashboard. 

We bet you have heard this before….

But, what does this actually mean in reality for you?

In reality, it is a painful and time-consuming task to gather customer data across all digital platforms and the unavoidable harsh reality of data silos. 

You know that you should be using your valuable time to make creative and strategic decisions; so allow us to help you easily process diverse data-points on every single customer that uses your mobile app, website, email, SMS, social media, etc. and develop rich, real-time individual customer profiles. 

With this 360-degree view of your customers, we can now leverage this data intelligently – to perform the one feat of magic all marketers want to achieve: transforming marketing ideas and goals into actual measurable revenue and customer retention.  

To unleash the true power of this 360-degree customer view, you need real-time answers to 3 key questions, with regards to your digital or mobile marketing strategy:

  • What is happening?
  • Why is it happening?
  • What to do next?

We understand that sifting through various data-points and dashboards to analyze your data and generate these insights can be time-consuming and manually painful!

Imagine harnessing the power of AI to simplify your lives!

Enter, Raman!

OUR intelligent, analytical, and data-driven AI engine. YOUR go-to data analytics guru and marketing best friend!

Raman is omnipresent across Netcore Smartech and has several capabilities like App Churn Management. He helps you optimize your campaign title in real-time, empowers your marketing communication efforts by helping you identify the right time and a customer’s preferred channel to communicate. All in all, he helps you maximize your revenue with a full-stack omnichannel personalization and marketing automation solution.

But in this post, we’ll focus on the real-time, razor-sharp, and relevant insights that he can empower you with on Netcore Smartech through Raman Insights. These insights can help you:

1. Understand Ground Reality: “What is happening?” 


Sounds like a simple question but in reality, this question can be broken down into N-number of critical questions that need to be answered by you; like:

  • How many users are on my app/website now?
  • How many users are uninstalling my app?
  • How much revenue did I generate?………..and this list can go on.

Welcome Raman on your team and simplify your life!

How? 

  • Let Raman do the data-crunching, heavy lifting

You can’t sit glued to your dashboard 24*7 to observe trends and patterns. But that won’t stop your higher-ups from asking you “Why didn’t you tell me before that there was a drop in our revenue?”, “Why did this happen and how can we correct it?”

While you are sitting there with a lot of possibilities that could have resulted in this drop, but unsure about the actual reason…sounds familiar?

But, with Raman on your team, your customer behavioral and campaign performance data will be analyzed  24*7. He keeps a close watch on your data, observes patterns, trends, and abnormalities. 

When an abnormality – good or bad – is detected, Raman raises a green or a red flag in the form of contextual alerts on the Raman Insights dashboard even when you are away; like this:

Raman will critically analyze all relevant data-points to produce fresh insights everyday. You can then decide which insight you want to act on to further optimize your campaigns. 

So what metrics does Raman track and give you insights on?

  • Metrics that matter the most

Raman helps you receive daily insights on the following crucial metrics:

  • Overall Revenue 
  • Revenue contributed by Smartech 
  • Average Revenue Per Paying User
  • App Uninstalls 
  • App launches 
  • Daily Active Users
  • Monthly Active Users

Not just that, you can also tell Raman to track custom activities and funnel conversion events that are relevant to your business. Based on your business goals, let Raman know what you need insights on, and for the duration, you need it and leave the rest to him!

Now that you have left Raman in charge of giving you timely insights that help you figure out “What is happening?”, it is natural that you would want to understand “Why is it happening?”

2. Dig Deeper: Identify the “why” behind every insight

If your revenue drops or increases, there is never just one reason behind it. There could be several contributing factors.

Raman digs deeper across all data-points and unearths the reasons behind an abnormality – good or bad. He then categorizes the possible factors into 3 major buckets:

  • Smartech campaign-associated indicators


For instance: Using Netcore Smartech – let’s say you executed a particular campaign on email and app push notifications as your engagement channels. This campaign executed across the two channels could have resulted in different performances and one of them could have become a contributing factor for your revenue drop or increase. 

Raman will point out to you the exact details of how it affected your revenue. 

  • Business metric indicators 

For instance: Your app downloads or uninstalls, web message views, your daily active users, click rate of your app push notifications, etc. could affect your revenue positively or negatively. 

Leave it to Raman to tell you which business metric contributed in which way to such an increase or decrease in revenue.

  • Trend and seasonality indicators


For instance: Let’s say you ran a special campaign for Christmas, the CTRs from email or website conversions could have affected your revenue – positively or negatively. 

Now backed by Raman, you can say for sure if this was the case and bid mere speculation goodbye!

See for yourself:

Raman looks at your data from a longer horizon and at a ton of data-points simultaneously. These data-driven insights will help you make better strategic decisions, faster. 

Now that you know “What is happening?” and “Why is it happening?” – you need to act upon these insights to magnify their impact.

3. Take Real-time Recommended Action: Let Raman tell you “what to do next”

Raman will suggest corrective actions to reverse a negative trend or how you can double down on a positive trend. 

For instance: While you are on the dashboard Raman will remind you to optimize your email subject line to get higher conversions or will remind you to re-engage with the users who are ‘most likely to churn’ or will nudge you and ensure you use the right channel and choose the right time to communicate with your customers 1:1. 

Raman is already enabling leading brands to increase customer engagement and retention with his cutting-edge suite of capabilities:

See how Raman helped TVS Credit to increase their user retention by 26.1%

Dive deep to understand how Raman and FBB Online collaborated to boost their email open rates by 39%

Parting Thoughts

As a marketer, you shouldn’t spend most of your time grappling with data. You need to focus on creating more bandwidth to craft and execute powerful omnichannel marketing campaigns. You need to identify how you can deliver personalized customer experiences at scale. Consistently.

And, with Raman by your side – you get to do just that. Allow his insights to fuel your marketing strategy and increase marketing efficiency; one carefully engaged and retained customer at a time.

Ready to make room for Raman in your Playing XI and unleash the true power of AI in your marketing strategy?

Expert’s View: Sweta Aggarwall on SBI’s mobile-first and customer-centric approach

We’re in a digital era and the way industries look at marketing today has truly changed. The focus today is more and more on meeting customer expectations and the banking industry is no exception to this. With increasing competition and easy availability of services online, banks need to offer much more to retain and acquire customers. As a marketer, you need to focus on the ‘more’ which is the ‘Customer Experience’ that is the heart of all marketing technologies and trends that can make or break a brand.

In this interview, Sweta Aggarwall, the Chief Marketing Officer at State Bank of India, takes us through her journey towards becoming a marketer. She shares her enriching experience while working for different industries with some of the key takeaways. She also talks about her current role in SBI and highlights focus on the enhancement of customer experience and simultaneous up-skilling of her team to take the market hands-on.  

This conversation is a part of our exclusive interview series with top marketing leaders, conducted in collaboration with ResearchNxt, a leading marketing research company that does in-depth research on trending enterprise technologies.

Key takeaways from this interview:

  • Evolution of marketing technology in the last two decades; how marketers leveraged it to completely overhaul marketing as it’s done in the present day
  • SBI’s YONO app, an integrated digital banking platform, evolving as a financial planning tool moreover to just being a transactional interface
  • SBI’s mobile-first approach to boost customer experience and how marketing teams within the bank are joining forces to develop performance-based marketing metrics while customer-centricity remains the central point of all marketing activities

Here are some extracts from the insightful conversation we had with Sweta.

Netcore: So, you have worked across industries as a marketer, and now you are leading marketing at India’s largest bank that is SBI. So, what has been your journey so far? What have you observed with respect to the shift in marketing technology, over your career stint?

Sweta: In my career spanning 15 years, I have worked across industries starting from marketing agencies to airlines, digital payments, and banking. My career took off with a marketing agency where I learned different facets of one-to-one marketing i.e., personalization. I realized how imperative it is for a marketer, with substantial data sets, to carry out customer segmentation for targeted campaigns.  Nowadays, with AI and Marketing Automation, creating customer clusters and cohorts has not only been simplified but has also led to the possibility of driving hyper-personalization and multi-level customization. This has helped in the further refining of the customer journey, achieving higher conversion and maximizing CLTVs.

Even though today, TV, print, OOH, etc. continue to play the mass medium reach, personalization and customer interactivity still hold high affinity. Direct Mailers like postcards, in-land letters, etc. of the pasts are presently digitized in the form of Email, Social Chats, and SMS marketing, while feedback and product reviews have been in-formalized with the advent of social media. Over the years, the evolution has been fast-paced from the world of Dotcom to search engines, online ticket booking, social networking, Google Maps, and to a whole new era of AI, ML, Chabot’s, IOTs, Robots, etc. As a result, enhancing every stage of customer interaction and providing enriching customized experience with the help of evolving technologies is possible now. 

Netcore: Yes, indeed. Things have progressed immensely in terms of how things are evolved on the marketing technology front. If you could share some more details on your current role as the CMO of SBI, and what are the key projects that you are leading at this point?

Sweta: SBI, as an organization, has already embarked on its journey towards digital transformation, and my job is to carry the baton forward hereon. SBI has digitized most of its banking services for accessibility through a mobile-first approach. To that end, all aspects of marketing are transforming to become digitally advanced, making the core of all marketing activities, mostly performance-based and customer-centric.  

We believe in offering the right digital experience to the right audience through the right medium with the right tonality to meet our marketing objectives at SBI. 

Netcore: SBI has the most extensive subscriber base accessing both offline and online channels, not only in India, I think across the globe. So, the customer persona would range from a rural man to urban youths to pensioners. How are you ensuring personalization at the scale? What kind of technology usage is going on, what kind of stack you have built up at your end?

Sweta: SBI has an established integrated digital banking platform, YONO, primarily meant for the youth. The platform offers convenience, simplicity, and quick access to a variety of financial and other transactional services. We gain customer insights through our campaigns, customer meets their interactions on the app, at branches, feedback captured at various customer touchpoints and how they transact with the bank, etc. We create omnichannel marketing campaigns substantiated by research-based findings, customer LTVs and behavioral patterns, current market trends, and feedback from business teams.

Netcore: iProspect India has won the digital mandate for SBI recently. In a recent interview with economic times, you had mentioned, “We want to ride the digital wave and delight not just the existing but potential new customers as well. We would like to know how this will change the marketing at SBI?

Sweta: The digitally saturated market place poses a challenge of cutting through the clutter and connecting with the consumers which can be attained only by means of relevance, collaborations, and hyper-targeting. We want to enhance the customer journey whether it’s existing or a potential new customer by providing excellent content and unique visual experience through all channels and mediums where they connect with the brand.  Hence, we believe in offering the right digital experience to the right audience through the right medium with the right tonality to meet our marketing objectives at SBI.

Introspecting the who, what, why, when, and how of marketing to build trust by being more empathetic brand towards the customers is the need of the hour.

Netcore: SBI YONO is one of the most downloaded BFSI apps with 20Mn downloads across Google and Apple stores, how are you leveraging SBI YONO for cross-selling and upselling SBI products?

Sweta: The endeavor of the bank in launching YONO was giving customers a one-stop solution for all their banking and lifestyle needs. More than cross-selling, we wanted to increase engagement with our customers and enhance their banking experience. We have more than 100 partners, which gives our customers a chance to fulfill all their needs in one place with much better offers. Customers can also avail loans, buy other financial services products of our group companies. The app continues to evolve as we are also ensuring that YONO is adopted as a financial planning app more from just being a transactional interface.

Netcore: Banking is one of the essential services during the COVID-19 pandemic, how is SBI, ensuring continued service for its customers and safety for employees?

Sweta: Serving the nation has always been the endeavor of SBI. From the branch and retail banking perspective, SBI has its doorstep services and mobile ATMs that customers can leverage. We are assuring that funds are available to everyone, including the interiors and rural pockets of the country, through our massive network reach. Definitive guidelines with safety measures are rolled out centrally and locally to staff to ensure their safety and as well as of the customers.   

Netcore: Now, as a marketer, what are the trends that you are observing now, not only in SBI but overall how marketers are innovating during this particular situation and what do you foresee, post the pandemic, how things are going to be for marketers? Any thoughts on that?

Sweta:  One thing among marketers is becoming very common is that people are going back to the fundamentals of marketing and are revisiting their drawing boards, which was lost with the advent of automation and digitalization. The who, what, why, when, and how of marketing are being scratched again, and unlike a month back, marketers are inclining more on engagement rather than actual business because now is the time to build brand trust by being more empathetic towards the customers. Thus, while the new normal still unravels itself, it will lead us to the next phase in the evolution of marketing by being agile and through rapid digital transformation.

Netcore: Lastly, since we are conducting a series of interviews with top Marketing Professionals on the topic of AI in Marketing, what are some of the questions that you as an individual would like to see answered?

Sweta: After the pandemic, how are the marketers driving collaborative approach and hyper-connectivity in the new normal?

And the interview ended on this note.

It’s safe to say that Customer Experience and Engagement are the factors driving a brand’s success. Clearly, the right way to do that is by directing every marketing activity at offering hyper-personalized customer experience to meet customer expectations at the right place and at the right time. At a time when we are faced with a crisis, companies are focusing on building their brands by engaging customers in the right way. The only way forward is to keep up with the changing marketing scenario and continuously adapt and innovate irrespective of the Industry you belong to. We hope you find this conversation as insightful and interesting as we did. Listening to the thoughts of someone with as long and varied experience as Sweta is enriching.