Ravi Desai Curated
Director, Brand Marketing - Amazon
CURATED BY :
Which content initiatives have helped fetch sales leads for Amazon?
Tell us about some of the private labels on Amazon and how they are helping Amazon the brand.
We have more than 100 million products across hundreds of categories. We have identified certain gaps where there was a need for products. We are offering personalization at a mass scale, along with competitive pricing, for these labels. We are looking at ways to fill the need gaps. All our private labels work under one umbrella; the idea is to provide quality products at a good price point. Certain product categories require us to fill the gaps now, and for some, the need will arise when we expand our offerings in the future.
How is Amazon so perfect with execution? Everything is done perfectly to the last mile.
It goes back to the customer obsession we talked about earlier. We have mechanisms in place that ensure that before execution starts, a fair amount of homework is done based on what a customer might want from a particular offering. Cross-functional teams work for months to craft the right proposition to be executed at the pilot stage. Once the lessons are learned at the pilot stage, we then take it into the market. That is the way the company has come to operate over many years, rooted in its customer obsession. We first perfect it on paper. Only once it is perfected on paper do we start the pilot, and after that, we scale up the project. We also monitor feedback that’s coming in, both overtly and indirectly. The journey of constant improvement is always on. We are constantly looking for signals from the customer and trying to improve on a day-to-day basis.
Perfect execution is what differentiates Amazon in the e-commerce space, or is there something else as well?
Our customer obsession is what differentiates us. One of the ways this obsession reflects in the market is execution. Customer obsession is what ties it all together.
What were some of the challenges you faced when you joined Amazon?
I would like to talk about the overall challenge in this space. The challenge from an e-commerce perspective is to understand the way in which the Indian market is going to behave and pick up signals from customers as they make this transition from an offline-only buying-and-selling paradigm to going online. There have been multiple factors of interest that came up that we least expected. I have realized there is always an Indian take to everything. This market never ceases to surprise you. There is always a surprise waiting for you. We have begun to expect the unexpected. One is surprised when one is not surprised by the Indian market.
Marketing Has Evolved From Changing Perception To Changing Behavior, What are your views on the same?
If the brand is customer-obsessed it stays with the pulse of the customer and it is a great chessboard that we take inspiration from. The single most important thing is to remain customer-obsessed. Earlier the points of influence used to be customer touchpoints; today you cannot do without integrating your interaction in the product itself. Gone are the days of customer touchpoints, today your product needs to live the thought that you want to create with it.
What has been and continues to be Amazon's primary goal?
What is your view of ROIs in case of content marketing being a concern in India?
How is the campaign for the sale festival different from last year?
We believe it’s much better than what we had last year. A 6,000-km journey has been planned to reach out to multiple cities. The pricing, offers and affordability options that we are giving customers this season is different. We are not comparing with last year but feel good about the way we are prepared this time for Diwali. Last year, we had three and half lakh sellers and today it has crossed 5 lakh. Our prime member base has doubled in the last one year. We are very well prepared for this year, considering the economic slowdown. This is a crucial time of the year when consumers spend is much higher.
How does the marketing budget play a role to reach more consumers?
For example, in a country like India, say from 500 million people only 150 million people shop from e-commerce websites. Then it becomes important to go deeper to reach another 150 million people, which has to happen from your marketing mediums and therefore the marketing budget plays a key role. The Great Indian Festival is important for us to bring the next 100 million customers online, many of them from tier 3 or even tier 4 towns.
Which of the mediums among TV, OOH and Digital yield better results for such campaigns?
It depends on which target segment you’re catering to. If it is a prime customer then the touch points that have worked for us could be TV, OOH, Print, activations at malls or digital media. On the other hand of the spectrum, if you’re a customer that has never been on e-commerce or an Amazon customer, then the kind of touch points that work are different from the first one. TV in a certain kind will work better with DD channels or Free to Air channels. Advertising on transit mediums like railway stations or metro stations will also be more beneficial. It is a coming together of many different segments, with different business objectives and each of these requires a slightly different approach to communicate. We will run multiple TVCs which will be run on the theme campaign to share the right message with the consumers.
Besides digital how are other mediums picking up in the content play?
Do you make changes in the marketing strategy once the sale kicks off?
In the digital world, we have access to real-time data. Thus, once the sale actually kicks off, we're able to do things literally by the hour and by the day and performance trends are clearly visible. We can make a lot of changes, whether to the message or the media deployment in certain mediums on a real-time basis.
How do you organize work during the sale time?
We organise ourselves so that we can first read the data we are picking up real-time, and keep some contingency plans ready. Say, if something is doing really well in a certain part of the country we just message that more and we probably have picked up on a trend that might be coming alive. We'd probably need some creatives to change at that time, or if you need deeper reach in certain parts of the country you activate a certain media deployment for the next day so that we can reach out to more customers.
where do agency partners fit in, in the 'war room’?
In case of a creative agency, a lot of the work has already been done and that work cannot be re-done real-time. In case of a media agency, we may at times have folks from the agency sitting in the Amazon offices working with us hand in hand so that there is no lapse of time or there is no loss in transmission situation. In such cases, you need to make decisions by the hour. We are very finicky about the measurement, which is a large part of what we do. We would like to measure everything that is happening in real-time so that we are able to pick up the right trends and accordingly deploy inputs.
Almost all the e-commerce platforms would be announcing some sale or the other around the same time. Would many sales at the same time be as good as no sale?
We don't keep our rivals in mind at all. We want to be customer backwards. Over the course of seven Diwalis, we have seen that the purchase cycle of Diwali starts literally a month in advance and hence we use that as a signal and time our sale so that we are able to tap into our customers' demand when they are looking for products.
How do you build the campaign by tracking the purchase cycle from a customer lifecycle standpoint?
If you look at high ASP (average selling price) items like televisions, the customer might have decided to buy it months in advance. As they get nearer to Diwali, the relevant people in the home will start researching on what TV they should buy. They are picking up messages from other family members about their experiences. Someone might have had a good experience and you want that to come through. This is the phase right now. A month or so before the actual sale starts is when the country is literally making up its mind on what products to buy and from which retail outlet or online platform.
Is the new feature of "instant installation" beneficial?
The installation part matters. You don't want a box lying around instead of setting it up and enjoying the TV. That was a large delighter for us.
How does the campaign delivery change across geography and consumer pockets?
We are choosing the media mix based on the target audience as well as the messages. A metro customer will probably see us across the following touch points –- digital, TV, print on the day of the sale, a few articles coming out before the sale through print tie ups, that would talk about some of the new features, OOH and radio. When it goes to tier 2/3 India, we are looking at relevant media such as TV, radio, free-to-air Doordarshan, vernacular print in a much bigger role, whereas, digital would play a sightly different role.
In the space of regular discounting and multiple simultaneous sales, isn't it another regular day at Amazon?
We don't think of it just as discounting. A lot of times, new customers sample the marketplace. And it is the new customers that help us grow stronger when we move into the next year. It's not just about selling products to existing customers but also about inviting and getting to the next 100 million customers who will try Amazon for the first time.
What are the key expectations from agency partners?
Thinking customer-first and taking one idea and seeing how it can travel across media so that it doesn't just remain in an independent TV spot, and digital ad has nothing to do with the TV spot, and the print ad is like some other person's art coming alive. The idea needs to be large, thought through and backed with customer insights. It should be able to give space to all the business objectives and ideally travel across media such that, at the relevant time and the relevant touch point the customer gets to interact with it.
You spent well over a decade of marketing fast-moving consumer goods for ITC before joining Amazon in 2016. How is marketing chips different from the e-commerce jungle? What has been the biggest change?
First, let me talk about what hasn't changed - the fundamentals of marketing; they did not change. If you work hard to get customer insights, figure out a way in which you have a product or a service that can help unlock customers' needs, and then craft a campaign or an intervention that in some sense helps the customer understand how your brand, service or product is able to cater to her needs, then that's really what marketing is all about - those fundamentals haven't changed.
What is your moment of truth?
After months of planning when it actually comes alive and we see customers coming to the site as we open the doors, that would be my biggest anxiety moment.
How data is important in today's world?
There is a ton of data that is available. At times, that data can be simplifying, at times it can be complicating, as far as making decisions are concerned,
How role of marketing has changed over time?
There was a point when perception drove usage. Today, because the barrier to adoption are so negligible, it has almost become the other way around, where usage is driving perception
How perception of a product help to create new business opportunity?
We often have a lot of people who download the Amazon app, use it in the sense of not transacting, but using the app to browse, to check things out and to understand the ways in which the entire application works before making the first purchase. And for them, they have already become an Amazon customer in some sense because they have started to understand the way this particular site operates.
What is the concept of target audience?
There was a point where brand teams used to build pen-portrait of a cluster of consumers. We did that very recently, and then realised, through one of the case studies of building our brands, that today, the target audience is actually a very specific person, identifiable by a very specific marker
What about the media and what remains important to target the consumers?
What used to matter was core-prime time, non-core prime time. That still remains important. But in today’s DNA, what really matters is the moment where the customer is receptive to the message that you have for them.
How to measure consumer behavior?
In today’s DNA what you have to really worry is about measuring demonstrated behaviour. Unfortunately, the measurement system in India is pretty fragmented. Television GRPs don’t speak to digital impressions or to print reach or OOH impressions. This is a space where the industry needs to come together and find a single wholesome view of what both media as well as messages are doing in terms of influencing people
Right, and how has the marketing paradigm changed over the last three years - the time you've spent at Amazon?
So, we have all talked about the four Ps of marketing. Today, the 'place' is no longer just a physical outlet or a store; it is, instead, literally, anything on the internet. Therefore, the concept of distribution today is very different from what it used to be in the past. Products don't compete with products anymore. Now, services compete with services and solutions compete with solutions. For example, the kids of today have an option to watch (a web series like) The Grand Tour on Prime Video, or as an alternative, they can choose to go play (an online video game-like) Fortnite or PubG. So it's online gaming versus streaming video content versus actually playing soccer downstairs - all of these are competing for an hour in the evening.
Talking about change, how has Amazon India's target group and user profile changed over the last 12-36 months? And where is the growth coming from?
What we have been observing for the last few quarters is that over 85 percent of the new customers we see on Amazon.in are coming from outside tier I cities in India. Today, we have customer orders coming from more than 200 cities across the country. Almost 99.5 percent of the serviceable pin codes in the country placed at least one order with Amazon during the last Great Indian Sale, which was held during Diwali.
It's the era of multiple brand custodians. What's your take on the growing pool of specialized agencies? Do you miss the full-service advertising partner?
Well, I would say it's a classic situation of verticalisation versus horizontalization. It's not something peculiar to agencies or brands or clients or anything like that. I think it's just physics being applied to the agency ecosystem: the more horizontal you go the less specialized you can be, but you cover more surface area. The more vertical you go the more super-specialized you can be, but you cover less surface area. You now have a bunch of good vertical specialists who work on a very narrow solution but do it well. Then there's a whole host of horizontal agencies that don't go too deeply into anything but can actually give you an end to end picture of what will work for the customer in a certain situation. It's horses for courses; I don't see one type of agency as better than the other.
You are at the threshold of the next phase of e-commerce in India. How has Amazon prepared for this?
We crafted an Indian implementation of the global strategy for Amazon. We have three key pillars as far as Amazon’s retail business is concerned: selection–whatever you can think of should be offered on our platform; pricing–we offer our customers the best possible value; and fast, reliable delivery, including the convenience of ordering from one’s mobile. These are the pillars of our customer experience and, as you know, we are a customer-obsessed company worldwide. We are ideally on our way to building India’s most customer-obsessed organization. The ecosystem we cater to includes our customers and, most importantly, the entrepreneurs, like brand owners and shopkeepers, who are selling on our website. We have a large number of people engaged in the entire operation of Amazon in India. It is all a unique Indian implementation of the global plan, but, essentially, the plan itself remains the same.
What is the Amazon proposition in India, and how has it been crafted?
We have done our homework to tease out the deep cultural insights India has to offer. India has a rich culture, and our customer base is significant. We try to connect the cultural insights we gain to the three pillars–and that’s when the magic happens. It’s always better to connect the offerings and products to the everyday reality of an Indian’s life, which always has a better impact. Indians want a plethora of choices and want to see the options available to them before they make a choice. The “Aur dikhao” [“Show me more”] campaign was based on this insight. We have 10 core products on our platform, and that’s growing every single day. There is no better platform for an Indian to see the current choices before they make up their minds. An insight we have built upon is the essential need of Indians to trust their own Kirana [neighbourhood grocery store], and that’s what we have tried to deliver on Amazon to build the trust factor. This has been beautifully captured in the “Apni dukaan” [“My own store”] campaign. This campaign is very rooted in India. Digital has really facilitated a lot of the work we are doing. One can now customize offerings for every individual. The segment size has shrunk to the needs of an individual. Digital makes it possible to leverage what individual needs are and craft a storefront according to different tastes. So what you will see when you start the app will be unique to your preferences.