|Issue:||Asia-Pacific II 2013|
|Topic:||The online retail revolution and the growth of mobile|
|Title:||Co-Founder and Director|
Christopher Chong is the co-founder and director of Groupon Singapore; he started Singapore’s first group buying website, Beeconomic, with his brother, Karl; within 6 months Groupon acquired it.
Previously, Mr Chong worked in corporate advisory services for Henry Davis York in Australia. Mr Chong has represented Groupon in such industry events as the Marketing for Youth Conference, Social Media Week, and Retail World Asia. Mr Chong led Groupon to the Top 10 HRM finalist Award for the Best Use of Social Media 2013. Mr Chong has appeared on the Primetime Morning talk show, on The Straits Times front page, Channel News Asia’s Eye on Business, and recently in Cleo Magazine’s Bachelor of the Year and Elle Magazine’s Richest men under 30. Mr Chong is a volunteer mentor and guest lecturer at National University of Singapore and high schools in Australia.
Christopher Chong will be graduating with a double-degree in Media and Law at the University of New South Wales this year.
To connect to the current generation whose shopping habits are quite different from those of the past, companies need to engage them with a digital, preferably mobile, strategy that predicts and forms their shopping habits by responding to their needs in real-time. Traditional businesses need another channel that complements their physical presence to connect this generation to their services and products via emotional appeal. Social media engagement, with full and rapid feedback is one of the best ways to accomplish this.
The world is undergoing a generational shift in its shopping habits; marketing that engaged customers ten or 20 years ago no longer works with the current generation. Thousands of advertising messages bombard customers every day, but some are more effective than others. Even the older generation of consumers are more savvy; my Mum uses Facebook more than I do. Think back to the billboard that you passed by this morning and try to remember what it was about. Savvy consumers need an outlet that engages and responds to them in real-time, that predicts their shopping habits and provides a unique one-stop solution.
The hardest parts for traditional businesses that try to move online are trying to attract emotional spontaneous buys and battling tremendous price competition with thousands of competitors only a click away. You need to develop a unique value proposition, one that will draw users to your product or service instead of the competition. While some argue that many people still enjoy the physical process of shopping, or the tactile satisfaction of trying something on before buying it, the growth of online shopping is something your business can tap into. It can compliment your physical presence by providing your customers another touch point for your product or service.
Consumers of my generation, including me, are lazy shoppers. I want my order tomorrow, not next week. I want you to predict what I’m looking for and provide a set of tools for customizing my own shopping experience. I want your customer service to be responsive and to suggest a solution on the spot. The good news is that there are a great many new brands already out there disrupting industries because, online, they are out-offering and out-servicing their established counterparts. This generation will, inevitably, represent the bulk of consumer power. What draws me to a fantastic customer experience, like Amazon or Zappos, is its ease of use, the short amount of time and energy it requires to complete a purchase, and the reward at the end of a purchase. In Singapore that reward is sometimes just a simple ‘thank you’.
In my job I’m constantly reminded of the importance of a few simple principles; I’ll list some here. To increase customer engagement with your brand, firstly, make your online customer experience personal and customized.
Know your demographics, research their passion points, and share content that relates to them. Personal content makes your base feel connected to the brand. Don’t just stop there: respond. A recent Socialbakers report stated that 95 per cent of brands do not respond to comments made by Facebook users. Encourage and be supportive, it is your job to continue the conversation. Ask them more questions and ask for feedback. Any information that you elicit, even negative feedback, will no doubt find its way online so you might as well address it in the right forum. You can build relationships with your customers through simple and personal conversations, and encourage brand advocacy through the process.
Many companies initially need a social media presence to tackle customer service queries and complaints. Once that is established, they explore the use of Facebook as a tool for social marketing through contests, promoted posts and co-branded campaigns with complementary sites.
Instagram’s success shows people like to take pictures, to remix pictures by applying various filters, and share content with others. We use Instagram to promote our culture and encourage job applicants. It may be hard to define the bottom-line return on this sort of investment, but these efforts help build brand equity and credibility. For example, we recently needed to name our boardrooms so we are reaching out to our Twitter followers for suggestions, in exchange for prizes. Reaching out in this way builds us as an employer of choice for prospective employees. Our social media has been an extremely effective way to integrate the many needs of our organization and circulate them using a variety of channels.
Mobile apps are transforming the way consumers interact with brands. Companies need to realize the great potential of mobile applications, and should adopt a ‘mobile first’ mindset. One good example is the rise of the QR code technology. QR code technology offers the ability to interact with consumers without having a spokesperson; it helps consumers find more information about the brand and the deals they offer without being bombarded by ancillary advertising.
In February last year, Paypal launched a pilot program in Singapore’s train stations so commuters could purchase Valentine’s Day gifts at a discount using QR codes. To purchase a gift, commuters would need to download a QR code reader on their mobile phone and use it to scan the QR code on the poster. This connected them to a webpage where they could purchase the product using PayPal. A pilot program launched in December 2011 allowed Singaporean commuters to purchase groceries by scanning QR codes with their smartphones.
The more a mobile app enhances or streamlines the shopping experiences of customers, the more engagement you can expect. With the right apps, companies can capitalize on new expectations to move consumers from commerce to commitment, from transactions to trust.
The principle consideration in monetizing an app is to do what’s best for your content first and what’s best for monetization second. If your company is not ready to switch to a paid content model, and you think the pickup will be slow, continue to work hard developing your content. There are four primary ways to monetize apps including display advertising, paid apps, in-app purchases and paying clients.
One example of a local mobile app is Singapore’s ShowNearby, a location-based directory app that allows users to locate services in their vicinity. ShowNearby earns by billing clients for prominent placement of their business listings. Another local mobile app, Chalkboard, is a Singapore-based mobile advertising start-up that tells users about the latest offers and promotions at nearby establishments. Chalkboard charges merchants to list their promotions on this app.
Monetization requires a strategy that best suits the needs of your company and app. Brands need to support it with marketing and social efforts to keep consumers engaged after they download the app to their device. There are a few great ideas that companies use to retain fans, like offering fresh, value-added material and use daily reminders.
To sustain the interaction with consumers and maintain digital contact, brands need to integrate useful services into their apps. Singapore Airlines (SIA) adopted a mobile first mindset and created mobile apps for iPhone and Android in 2011. SIA passengers can use their mobile phones to book flights, track status of selected flights and access selected KrisFlyer services using the SIA Mobile app. KrisFlyer services include online statements to check miles earned and redeemed.
Marketers need an everyday relationship with their customer that is strong enough to motivate them to download and actively use their app. Apps that provide real value to the consumer will create the recurring usage patterns brands seek to develop long term ROI for their mobile strategies.
To determine if a mobile website or a mobile app is better suited to your brand, consider the target audiences, your available budget, the user experience, its intended purpose and the required features. Most of all, it is important to understand the demographics of your users and how they use their mobile devices.
Ultimately, the choice between a mobile website or a mobile app will depend upon your brand’s goals, what it wishes to accomplish and your mobile strategy. If your goal is interactive engagement with users, an app would be best, but if your goal is to build your band’s reach, then a mobile website is the way to go, as it will be accessible via any platform or device that can connect to the Internet.
I believe a mobile website is more important when developing a mobile web presence, but an app is more useful for dealing with specific interactive, anywhere/ anytime information needs that a web browser cannot effectively handle. Then too, mobile website development is relatively easier and more cost-effective than the development of a mobile app.