Cross-vertical insights on customer behaviour

The outbreak of the pandemic has compelled brands to go above and beyond in accelerating digital adoption. Customer experiences have undergone rapid changes as well. Today, when customers interact with brands, they expect the interaction to be relevant, timely, and personal across all channels and devices.

Representatives from M1, a Singaporean digital network operator; The 1, a Thailand-based loyalty program in the retail space; and Standard Chartered Bank shared their insights on digitisation at three separate fireside chats during the recent Adobe Summit 2021.

While all three are from different industries, their objective was the same: to provide customers a seamless experience, especially amid the pandemic.

Banking on digital transformation 

Nathan Bell, Chief Digital Officer at M1 Limited said that their digitisation, which started around 18 months back, has been about establishing a transformation in the cloud. “We went with a request for proposal to over 50 software companies and a number of system integrators. In two and a half months, we were able to land all the contracts and start doing the bills. In less than a year, we were able to build an end-to-end post-paid digital solution where our customers first experience us on the web, all the way through activating their services, and then billing.”

He emphasised that M1 has always strived to become a digital business and therefore paced towards holistically digitising their business model. That means that anything that might have been paper-based, would be available online readily. Bell felt that going forward digitally would give them a sustainable advantage — one where they can keep evolving.

Ton Chirathivat, President of The 1, shared that they were trying to transform their business from offline to omnichannel in recent years. “We innovated many of our physical properties to be beyond just the shop-and-merchandise experience. So we integrated different projects that focused on customer experience, leading customers to be able to spend more time with us. From working on spaces to digitising shops, we made sure that our customer experience is great whether they come to visit us in our malls or on our site.”

Pedro Sousa Cardoso, Senior MD, Global Head Digital Commerce, Standard Chartered Bank observed that customer behaviour has been changing rapidly over the last couple of years. “Last year we saw a dramatic increase in mobile adoption, with the growth that was expected to happen in 2-3 years happening in just 12 months. We saw a huge shift from non-digital to digital here in Southeast Asia. So there was a significant wave of customers adopting digital technologies here, with one-third of customers now using digital technologies.”

“When you think of financial services, there is the corresponding adoption of digital platforms such as mobile apps and online banking platforms. Even our relationship managers had to adapt to these new remote ways of working. There we saw a significant uptake of remote advisory and new ways of working.

“At the same time, physical channels like branches have dramatically reduced, which does not come as a surprise. But what is important is that now we have many more customers online willing to do business and are more comfortable with digital technologies.”

To maximise this opportunity, Cardoso said: “We have put together a framework and set a few goals to address these emerging opportunities. One of the enablers that we wanted to use was to move away from products and channels to experiences.”

Challenges in integrating siloed data

Bell thinks it’s critical to address siloed data, but the process is clearly complex. M1 has over 20 software systems that have been integrated on an end-to-end basis with which they’ve now established a single data model.

Bell said, “One of the big drivers for that is this concept of hyper-personalisation. There are more than 6 million unique combinations of services that a customer can take, whether it’s in terms of the traditional mobile plan of voice, data and SMS.”

Chirathivat noted that integrated data is a challenge as well. He believes that no matter how many partners an organisation has, if the data is scattered in different places, it’s obvious that people would see different things. This makes it difficult to keep track of customer behaviour, as they go around transacting with different touchpoints in the ecosystem.

Cardoso shared that while one may have a wealth of data, how they are using the data is what matters, and how they can transform it into actionable insights is pivotal.

“We have been working together on enabling data, and developing new analytics capabilities over the last few years. Now, having the data is not enough — we want to deliver delightful experiences for our customers,” he said.

Some use-cases

Chirathivat shared that The 1 created a rewards program called the “Exclusive” where customers needed to spend a certain amount to join.

“We could detect more high-potential customers through this program. It was implemented last year and we saw a good uplift in the spending for members of over 14% over the control group, as well as 32% of members who were interested in the program.”

The 1 also leveraged customer acculturation. “If a customer buys a brand they haven’t bought before, we automatically send a welcome message to customers with a recommended next purchase order based on their preference,” said Chirathivat.

Cartoso shared that they had adopted some solutions to improve customer experience. “We have worked really hard with our countries to understand the specifics of every single country, their requirements, their legal framework, compliance and so on,” he said. 

They went about building a common backbone or tech stack that Standard Chartered was using across the globe. “We built that once and now we are enabling it for 30 of our markets essentially. We are not replicating the work that we have done — we have built a global architecture and we are scaling up this architecture across our footprint,” he added.

Cartoso feels that culture and change management has an important role to play. Standard Chartered has had more than 100 workshops on this in the last few years.

Lessons from the pandemic

Bell was averse to the idea of digitising during a pandemic. “The first learning I’d share is don’t transform during a pandemic. When the circuit breaker here in Singapore hit, we had to start working from home full time, which was a massive shock,” he said. 

“The other aspect is to make sure that you learn new things. We’ve really strived to make sure we keep our software partners regularly engaged. The third thing that I would share is to expect to fail. If there is a perception of perfection, that everything’s going to work, we also have to create that expectation that there will be failures, so it’s important that you have a framework and just how you respond to that failure,” shared Bell.

Chirathivat feels that human logic has become important when we try to understand each customer. To get the best customer experience, and be able to optimise, we need to be obsessed with measuring performance.

“I always tell my team that if you cannot satisfy a single customer, then forget about 18 million. It’s about optimisation before you can scale. Again, I can’t emphasise enough about the operating model. In the team structure, we need to be agile. You really need to organise yourself in a way that focuses on particular customer experience or particular customer segments,” said Chirathivat.

Cartoso held the view that an organisation needs to be clear of their goals and adapt to the various tactics of different markets, under different circumstances and with different products. “You cannot be rigid with your approach. You need to have a modular architecture and a modular way of using these different capabilities so you can adapt to different circumstances without losing your edge,” he concluded.