Aishwarya Ramesh
Marketing

Navigating the challenges of creating brand influence before the purchase decision

How can brands slant a user’s preference when the shopping happens on multi-brand e-commerce sites?

Before buying an expensive gadget, most users tend to research about it online before taking the plunge. On Day 2 of the third edition of afaqs!’ CMO Week, a panel discussed the online shopping experience in an ‘Amazon and Flipkart’ era.

The session’s topic was ‘Acing the online shopping research experience in this era’. Most consumer electronic brands do rely on Amazon and Flipkart to push their sales, but e-commerce sites are multi-brand destinations – they can’t favour one brand over the other. So, how can the brands influence the buying decisions of the gadget buyers before they go to the e-commerce sites?

The panel included Anuj Sidharth, deputy director of marketing (and corporate communications) at MediaTek; Deba Ghosal, VP and head of marketing at Voltas; Justin Zhong Qi, head of marketing at TCL India; Kumar Gaurav Singh, VP – marketing, Whirlpool India; Madhur Chaturvedi, director and head – tablet and laptop business, Samsung; Nitin Mathur, co-founder of 91Mobiles; and Shirish Agarwal, head of marketing communication and brand at Panasonic.

Navigating the challenges of creating brand influence before the purchase decision

The session’s moderator Ershad Kaleebullah, editor-in-chief, MySmartPrice.com, began with a statistic. Nearly 68 per cent of buyers research the product before buying it, and 40 per cent take more than two weeks to decide on which phone to buy. The first topic discussed was how the marketing heads of companies influence the purchase decisions of consumers on a digital platform.

Whirlpool’s Singh began the conversation by stating that defining the buyer was one of the trickiest parts of the transaction. He went on to say that there are tools to help define the cohort that your customer belongs to and this information has to meet the brand’s customer acquisition strategy.

“The biggest challenge is to get the customer acquisition strategy to meet the brand strategy.” He said that sites, like Facebook, define the customers based on the interest groups they’re a part of (such as parenting, home décor enthusiasts, etc).

Voltas’ Ghosal said that e-commerce has been around in India for many years, but recently, there’s a surge in the usage of the platforms (presumably due to COVID-induced lockdowns).

“Twenty per cent of people are buying durables online these days, and this is a big-ticket platform for sales. The industry size is roughly Rs 3.36 lakh crore and of this number, Rs 86,000 crore worth of sales happen. That’s a big number. You also have consumer durables in IT – 78 per cent of all units are sold online.”

“We have to invest at least one-third of our digital monies on search, one-third on e-commerce platforms, and the rest can go towards OTT platforms, display ads and so on. The shift is towards performance marketing and tracking the consumer, and who he is. That’s where the returns are.”

Panasonic’s Agarwal disagreed about e-commerce platforms playing a role only during the purchase stage, and said that they play an important role throughout the consumer decision journey.

“Fifty per cent of product-related research happens on Amazon, and 49 per cent happens on Flipkart, according to a 2020 Kantar report. The reason the platforms themselves have gained popularity, as a research destination, is because people can validate their decisions there by reading reviews, photos, etc., all of which help one make an informed decision.”

He added that Panasonic endeavours to create content across all consumer touch points so as to help the consumers make an informed purchase decision.

With the increasing prevalence of digital, as a medium, the marketers have the power to target and go after key audience segments. How does a marketer define and segment the audience for his/her brand?

91Mobiles’ Mathur said that his company works with many electronic brands. For a marketer, it’s always good to have an idea of what your customer looks like and design marketing messages for them, but digital can help one be more detailed about the customer profile.

“The TG of a product could be in crores (say, a man buying a smartphone), but the people who actually buy the products – that number is in lakhs. It makes sense for a marketer to focus on that in-market audience, who are looking to make a purchase at any given point in time.”

He added that the audience may be there on the site for weeks before they make the purchase. A person could also be a brand neutral buyer, who is looking for a certain feature for his phone. The other type of consumer is one who already has a brand in mind when it comes to making purchases. He said that a comparison-based site, like his, contains as much mined data as a platform like Amazon or Flipkart.

Mathur also said that this data can be used to figure out where a customer is in his buying journey. This can help personalise communication accordingly.

MediaTek’s Sidharth said that in a pre-COVID world, the consumers would alternate between the offline and online world when it came to making gadget purchases. They may research about the product online and then buy it offline.

As more people make these transactions online, the real challenge for the brands is to create brand loyalty, using digital marketing and audience segmentation.

When the moderator asked Samsung’s Chaturvedi to elaborate on the role of digital marketing, he replied that it plays an important role in talking to people who may be the brand’s consumers. Chaturvedi added that the consumers right now are getting bombarded with content – both by brands and non-brand accounts, and that cutting through this clutter can be challenging for the brands.

“The communication has to go beyond just the word of a brand ambassador, or influencer, and it has to be eye-catching enough to grab the consumers’ attention.”

TCL’s Qi also agreed that content is king and said that the company has expanded its content marketing strategy beyond assigning it to a third-party agency. The company spends more time on its content strategy now. This includes collaborating with tech bloggers and influencers to create product-centric content.

91Mobiles’ Mathur said that these days, when it comes to ads, audiences view personalised targeted ads, while consuming content. “When ads can be personalised, why can’t content be personalised too? If your audience cohort is clearly defined, it’s possible to create a content strategy based on that.”

You can watch the full discussion here:

This panel discussion was part of the 3rd edition of CMO Week (June 7-11, 2021), a conference organised by afaqs!. Session sponsor - MySmartPrice.