This article first appeared on The Drum
E-commerce is expected to remain the largest growth driver of the internet economy in Southeast Asia in the coming years. In a recent finding, the Philippines was ranked as one of the highest internet users in all of Asia Pacific, and the average Filipino internet user spends 9h 45m per day online, far surpassing its Southeast Asian counterparts.
InMobi’s Nitin Navaratna (head of strategic partnerships in Southeast Asia) spoke with Unilever’s Wence Wenceslao (digital hub lead in the Philippines) to discuss the shifting demands and behaviors of digital Filipinos, what it means for consumer brands, and how Unilever navigated the digital transformation for its brands.
Watch the full conversation now. You can find an excerpt of the conversation below.
I have always worked in digital and have been doing this for over 14 years. Working for digital agencies, then moving to brands in different industries - from QSR to telco to conglomerates, building marketing campaigns to digitally inclined innovation that focuses on data and experience. It has been an interesting journey. Unilever’s digital hub is about bringing everything together. Connecting all the brands to really capture data-driven marketing the right way: from creating demand to converting demand to engaging consumers continuously - and that's what we do. It's what we do as a team. Experts in media, data, IT, etc. - we're all working with brands to really drive that data-driven marketing.
Consumers lead the way, of course. Customers are always at the center of what we do. The numbers don't lie: e-commerce and digital media are growing exponentially, which makes sense because that's where people consume content. It's not just because of e-commerce, but also because of the shutdown of the largest network in the Philippines, so people are really tuned in to digital. Because everything is shoppable, it continuously supports the growth of e-commerce.
Unilever, for me, feels like it is day one every day - we learn new things and new ways to do e-commerce and data-driven marketing better because everything is evolving at an incredibly fast pace. We can target people with more advanced methods, serve them with more interactive ads, and measure our results better. There are a lot of capabilities that can be unlocked. We have been putting a lot of thought into so many technologies that we need - whatever is relevant for consumers, whatever will drive growth, that's where we will put our heads. We believe it is critical to sustaining e-commerce growth, especially at a time like this when it is growing exponentially.
More and more brands are also recognizing the importance of data, especially Unilever. By growing our own data, we're preparing ourselves for the cookie-less future. Not just any data, but actionable data - data that will allow us to target across all walled gardens. Besides that, we are working with InMobi on a number of projects to grow our first-party database. We're also adopting a test-and-learn approach in order for us to leverage that data and see how best we can use it to drive business results.
The Philippines consumer is likely to seek out better digital experiences in the future. E-commerce growth will continue to grow at a fast and sustained rate. As more Filipinos are now much more adept at shopping online, they will seek more ways to improve their shopping experience. And not just in the store but in the journey going to that store - offline and online. They'll seek better ways to have a more convenient and relevant shopping experience. Because data is a key component of that, brands will also have a greater responsibility to deliver unmissable experiences that meet the passions of their audiences, because it's all about relevancy. We're not just here to sell shampoo, but we're here to sell our consumers an experience. I see that in four to five years, there will be more virtual interaction between brands and consumers. And you know, I hate to use the buzzword – Metaverse – but a lot of tech companies are already investing in it. Metaverse adds a whole new dimension to users' digital experiences. One of our goals is to create meaningful interactions with billions of users and do it better than anyone else, which is quite a challenge. And how do you do that? You need to know them better.
Data and ad tech go hand-in-hand in all of this. It unlocks and creates more effective ways for us to communicate with our consumers through data-driven marketing. Gone are the days where we do the spray and pray approach where we just target everyone and then hope that somebody will buy from us. Now, campaigns and communications are tailored to our target audiences. With ad tech, we're able to dynamically re-target based on the right moment, the right consumers, the right message - it amplifies our conversion rates better. Lastly, and often overlooked, is measurement. In the past, we measured only based on reach, clicks, etc. We have moved on from that, although that is still part of hygiene. Our focus is on business outcomes. Ad tech's tracking technologies and much more, allow us to really track the effectiveness of a campaign based on the business outcomes. When we are able to compare our ad spend with our business outcomes, we are able to make better budgeting decisions and plan better as well.
Learning to unlearn is number one. Since digital is always evolving, we need to be open to changes, learn to pivot to basically be ready to throw our misconceptions out of the window. The next few months or years may bring changes - what you believe now may no longer be true, or the limitations you see now may not necessarily be the same limitations in the future. We need to adapt to the speed of digital evolution. Second, learn to experiment and fail fast. One of the reasons why we are very quick in terms of what we launch in capabilities and partnerships is because to us, there's no such thing as a perfect launch. We're bold enough to try out new things, launch and tweak those along the way based on what we learn, what we test, what the consumers are telling us. This is very important especially in e-commerce because agility is more important than perfection.
Finally – because Unilever has always been consumer-centric – learn from your customers. Getting insights on the ground and learning it first-hand from consumers is key for you to deliver highly relevant campaigns and well-tuned solutions. At the end of the day, we're doing this for consumers so it’s important to be customer-centric and to look after what's best for them.
Even now, we know that cookie-less is happening, so we created a rewards program called U-COIN, which rewards consumers for sharing their data with us, and then they can exchange those points for the things they love. In just one year, we've reached 800,000 subscribers. There is a connection with ad tech here since InMobi is also helping us to capture this data. So, it's all connected.
To learn more about advertising with InMobi, visit inmobi.com
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