Social must be incorporated into the very core of the marketer's digital strategy and not just as a plug-in in order to create a unique experience, remarked Satyan Gajwani, director, new media, BCCL. Gajwani was making the keynote presentation on the final day of ad:tech New Delhi 2012/02. He spoke on the evolution of content, commerce and entertainment in the digital world, with reference to the Times Group.
Gajwani suggested that brands need to embrace HTML 5 while thinking of cross-platform strategy.
"Uniformity is going to be crucial," he said.
Moving towards the steps taken by the Times Group to engage better with consumers and provide cutting-edge content, Gajwani presented the case of Indiatimes' digital music streaming service, Gaana.com, the social strategy built around it and the successful ad strategy devised to monetise the same.
"We are now moving to the mobile platform. Our orientation is to make a music experience that cuts across devices," said Gajwani.
Commenting on the huge popularity of online videos, he noted that Indians love watching videos online. Gajwani observed that despite the hurdle of low internet speeds, online videos continue to be embraced by users and with better speeds, the scale is just poised to rise further.
He spoke of how the Indian Premier League has been one of the biggest products for the Times Group when it comes to online video, calling movies and sports super premium content after user-generated content, made-for-web content and music videos, television and movie clips. Gajwani promised that this year's edition of IPL will provide even better experience, with new features such as 'Video Scorecard' for continuous updates on the screen, 'IPL Battleground' where fans can root for their favourite teams and video-on-demand.
"IPL is great because of the potential of engagement," he said.
Gajwani revealed how the group has worked with the English Premier League, NBA and the Commonwealth Games, putting them in the super premium content bracket as well.
He announced the launch of the Times Group's new initiative, Box TV, which will provide video content from movies online.
Talking about e-commerce, Gajwani said that while 2011 was the buzziest year with the amount of funding that e-commerce sites received, the ongoing year, he said, will be one of consolidation and the players will operate in a perform-or-die market. The supply chain, he said, will be a crucial part of the system.
He said that while horizontal is big, more niche areas will come up in e-commerce and in an interesting trend, offline brands will decide to go online.
"Offline brands are going to need help coming online. That will be a big part of our strategy," Gajwani said as he spoke about Indiatimes Shopping, its success in the previous year and the road ahead.
He opined that content is a lot about news and news consumption habits of people have changed over time as they continue to consume news across media, including newspapers, mobile devices, laptops and television.
The Times Group is focused on being fast and comprehensive when it comes to disseminating news across platforms, he said.
To enhance engagement, Gajwani said that the group is particular about being smarter, more organised, being brand-centric and caring about the community across its services. Data to the group is important, he said as he spoke about iBeat - a real-time metric of what is happening across the group's websites. The data, Gajwani said, is used to design pages better.
According to him, organisation is also significant and geography must be paid particular attention because users from different locations have different needs.
"Geography is important. People outside India have different needs when it comes to content compared to the locals. And, all of them are right. They should get what they want," said Gajwani.
Showcasing Times' concern for interaction and engagement, he cited the example of the Speaking Tree newspaper that is published weekly and has created a community around spirituality, instigating meaningful discussions on the subject.
He spoke about Times Internet's recent initiative, Tweek, which is India's first tablet magazine featuring stories from around the world on varied subjects and can be accessed through the iPad, and stressed on the need for cross-platform strategies.
Towards the end of his discourse, he mentioned that the simple reason for brands to engage in better provision of content and optimum service is the need to know the customer better.
"Why should a company do all this? The real answer is to know your customer. We are trying to build an experience to better understand the customers so that we can make a more intelligent system for them," Gajwani said.