Insights-led Engagement is the modern marketer’s way of delivering better customer engagement by using data, says Saurabh Madan, General Manager of SEA and ANZ, MoEngage.

Tell us about the major findings of the MoEngage and InMobi study. What do these key findings from the MoEngage report mean for businesses in the SEA region, and how important is the customer experience today?

In the 2021 Festive Season Report, we partnered with InMobi to better analyse the shopping behaviours of consumers in Southeast Asia. The scale of diversity within the region was reflected in the differences within each market.

Consumers were willing to spend more than they did in 2020. ​​Across Southeast Asia, online shopping budgets increased by 24% while offline budgets were expected to decrease by 47%. 1 in 2 Indonesian consumers were expected to spend more than IDR 500,000 – a massive growth in Festive Season budgets.

Saurabh Madan, General Manager, SEA and ANZ, MoEngage

While over in the Philippines, mothers donned the role of primary influencers and were actively looking to make smarter purchasing decisions. The average consumer in Singapore was expected to spend SGD336, with 1 in 2 consumers willing to spend more than SGD1000 during the Festive Season last year.

In line with these trends, it is key that brands must invest in technology that provides customer insights, i.e. preferences, choices, interests, and affinity. These insights can be used to send offers and discounts on products customers are more likely to purchase in ‘one session’. This not only improves the customer experience but also reduces drop-offs.

56% of consumers intended to shop online with only 7% planning to shop offline. Furthermore, 70% of consumers wanted to use their smartphones to shop during the festive season. Thus, investing in in-app campaigns and creating personalized micro-moments on apps is definitely critical  for businesses in Southeast Asia.

Optimizing the mobile experience should be another key focus area. While it is imperative to understand customer behavior, businesses should be transparent in communicating about data usage to their customers.

Leveraging these insights for informative decision-making when building customer engagement strategies can go a long way in helping a brand stay ahead of their competitors.

How have consumer retail trends evolved since COVID and what more do businesses have to do to keep pace?

The pandemic has led to an accelerated and sustained shift in consumer behavior. Southeast Asia is one of the leading regions for smartphone users, with consumers making a majority of their shopping decisions right from the planning stage on their first screen: The Mobile.

According to Google’s e-Conomy SEA report in 2021, 60 million new digital consumers in Southeast Asia joined the internet economy since the pandemic started, with 20 million joining in the first half of 2021 alone. And this trend is here to stay – 9 out of 10 new users in 2020 continue to use digital services in 2021.

To reach and engage consumers effectively, it is imperative for brands to not only understand their consumers but also get the right in-app strategy in place to build real connections with consumers during the moments of truth. Leveraging these insights for informative decision-making when building customer engagement strategies can go a long way in helping a brand stand ahead of their competitors.

How are border openings and evolving social distancing measures impacting consumer behaviour trends in Southeast Asia?

With the pandemic wrecking the 2020 festive season, consumers didn’t mind spending big during the 2021 festive period. In 2021, we saw the entrance of millions of new digital consumers. The number of new customers was expected to go beyond 20 million during the festive season, growing by 21.24%, according to our research. The number of daily active users (DAU) was predicted to increase by 24.31% while the number of monthly active users (MAU) was expected to reach 35 million for shopping apps during this festive season.

Consumers had big budgets but at the same time were hunting for the best deals available. Brands that invested in promoting sales offers and discounts via multiple digital channels were the big winners for the past festive season.

With clothing and accessories, groceries, gadgets, home appliances, Indonesians were expected to spend more than IDR 500,000 highlighting a massive growth in budgets while 1 in 2 consumers in Singapore was expected to spend more than SGD 1000.

Additionally, the channels in which shopping was executed also changed. According to our report, there’s been an increase in budgets for online shopping of about 24% and a 47% decrease in offline budgets. This can be attributed to the increase in the number of shoppers (39%) who are purchasing online for the first time. 56% of consumers also showed strong interest in shopping online with only 7% planning to shop offline. This paradigm shift in purchase behavior and channel preference illuminates a trend that retail brands need to adapt to change in consumer behavior – which is the increase in purchase decisions and information gathering on smartphones before transacting offline or online. The newer normal may not be choosing between online and offline retail, but an integration of both channels.

There will be consumers who would prefer trying products out before making their purchase decisions and in some cases, consumers may see a product online or during a livestream session that they wish to purchase, but prior to making the decision, choose to come down to the offline retail store to try the product before making the purchase online once they find it suitable for them.

What is insights-led engagement and what impact does it have on various communications methods such as in-app comms?

In a nutshell, Insights-led Engagement is the modern marketer’s way of delivering better customer engagement by using data. Marketers need to evolve from a campaign-centric approach to a customer-centric approach to engagement, which means reducing reliance on hunches and gut feelings and using real-time data and insights to answer questions such as ‘at which point in my customer’s journey do they drop-off the most’ or ‘which customer cohort prefers receiving communication on in-app messages more than emails’ or even ‘which customer cohort is more likely to purchase through the app’.

The insights-led approach to customer engagement has three major actions that contribute to its momentum. Firstly, analyze customer behavior and identify the right customers to engage, what type of campaigns to run, and what enhancements can be made in the product to improve customer experience. Secondly, create personalized customer experiences and orchestrate customer journeys across the various digital touchpoints. Finally, leverage machine learning to identify the best time to send communication, the right communication messages, and the most optimum customer journey.

The biggest impact Insights-led Engagement has on businesses is that brand communication naturally becomes more personalized and 1:1 instead of broadcasts. Brands can also become more proactive in their communication rather than waiting for the customer to perform a certain action and then react to it. Lastly, marketers also get to measure the long-term impact of campaigns on business metrics like Lifetime Value or Daily Active Users to Monthly Active Users ratio (product stickiness).

How can consumer brands in SEA engage and retain this surge of shoppers even after the festive season?

Data suggests the trend of digital adoption will continue beyond the shopping season into 2022, meaning brands have to up their engagement game if they wish to maintain a high Monthly Active Users (MAU) count and maximize Lifetime Value (LTV).

The best way to achieve this is by gathering different insights about customers and their journey and creating relevant micro-moments based on these insights.

As borders open up and the pandemic recedes, there will be an increase in BOPIS (Buy Online Pick up in Store), although foot traffic on stores will increase, shoppers will browse products and gather information online before making a purchase.

This means brands have to develop the ability to combine their store data with app data and increase in-app purchases. One way to do this is by introducing gamification on mobile apps and giving personalized offers and discount coupons as incentives and rewards.

Businesses should be mindful of understanding and identifying consumers and reaching them effectively. In the process, brands should also engage them with immersive experiences to break through the clutter of ads and close the deal in the critical moments of truth.