The Rise Of The Modern Marketer – Interview with Gaurav Mehta, Chief Marketing Officer, Olx South Asia

Paul Writer launches The Rise Of The Modern Marketer,   
Video interview series of CXO’s highlighting best practices and trends in the use of technology for marketing.

Gaurav Mehta

Chief Marketing Officer

Olx South Asia

Use customer analytics to drive better marketing plan for your organization

We have to understand that Olx is a mass platform. You can use Olx to sell anything from a second hand mobile phone to a second hand house or car. The categories are endless. That’s why our target audience is not static. It’s a platform for everyone, across all regions, all sexes and all regions. This is why it is interesting but also quite challenging because you really don’t know your customer absolutely at all times.

That’s where, I think, analytics helps us immensely because we have some intelligence about how people use us. But to take that behaviour and take it outside where we’ve been mandated to grow this platform and industry. Analytics plays a big part. Some of the times what we do is that we take our own data. Then we take it outside and see where we can find a pretty much similar kind of audience in both an offline and online world. A lot of marketing analytics is deployed to make sure that the media spends. We are a pretty aggressive market on that particular front. How can we make sure that all the money that is deployed is doing what it’s asked to do?

That’s super essential because there are people who have entrusted us, not only with the money but also with the opportunity to actual grow this thing in a very heterogeneous country. That’s when the challenges become manifold. I think what the analytics helps us do is primarily, which is one of the things that I consult my PR team on a daily basis, is my marketing investments where are they going? What are they doing? Where to prune? Where to invest? Going forward, can I actually project basis my learnings. That’s super essential because you would appreciate that digital businesses grow at the rate of mushrooms. What was relevant yesterday, is not going to be relevant tomorrow. So my projections are basis, some tangibility and some confidence on data. This helps me be a little bit sure about an extremely unsure future. Analytics help with that or does that for me.

Role of technology from customer & organization point of view

I think we were one of the first digital businesses to actually invest in making sure that our offerings are spread and available on each and every tech platform that is being used by consumers. We had our mobile apps across all platforms, about 4 years ago when people were still struggling with their mobile sites and so and so forth. I think we invested in technology extremely early. Frankly speaking, the best time to invest is when nobody else is investing. It holds true in the stock market and every other facet of life. It’s true for us also. I think what we did was that we invested in technology to be relevant for our users. This helped us get our learnings at a time when nobody else was competing for that particular space. Thus, the cost of failure and learning was minimal. We knew how to develop our apps, make them shine through for our customers, how they could benefit through our entire Ux. So all those technology investments that we did four years back in our mobile app technologies is paying off for us, even right now. I think these things are interrelated. I can’t really say where the business ends and your customer starts. I think the consumer is business for us? A lot of times we have actually used technology, so that’s why I’m going to mix my answer rather than answer you sequentially. We’re a hyperlocal platform. We win? When people are getting the benefit of our platform in a hyperlocal kind of space. Can I actually sell or buy to anyone within a three kilometre radius? That’s where, again, technology benefits us by triangulations, GPS and all those things. Especially through the mobile medium. It just makes it super easy for our consumers to find relevant buyers and sellers, as the case might be within a very small catchment area. Less effort, less time wasted and super-efficient. Apart from that, there are many ways I think, that we have deployed technology by which buyers and sellers meet in the virtual world with less friction and in the least amount of time possible. I just gave you a couple of examples but I think the first one which is investing in mobile technology four years back has held us in good stead even right now. And that’s a continuous process. I’m just mentioning one example but that’s the endeavour. How do you invest in technologies which are going to be big tomorrow but get your learnings in a time when you can still test rather than when everything is hot?

Incorporate voice of customer into a real-time response

I think the best thing about technology is that it’s available to everyone. So it doesn’t only reside with the very mature industry or a person with deep pockets. I think, technology comes with a cost where it’s easily feasible for the marketing unit also. How we have used technology in marketing is a lot of like digital marketing. We attract over 40 million users on a monthly basis. That’s a fairly big number to look at. How do you store that particular data and make some sense of it? So we use a lot of Data warehousing, DMPs and all that to make sure that we are absolutely on top of understanding on our side what our consumer is doing, what are their behavioural patterns and so and so forth. Use that knowledge to really go out and see if that behaviour can be used to really shape our marketing. Not in a machine gun, kind of a scatter manner but a really precise sniper- rifle kind of a manner. And do it again and again. So I think that’s where we use technology in our marketing systems or marketing ethos; to make sure that we’re a relevant, effective and efficient marketing unit. The same is applied for offline also but more and more digital, absolutely has been a strong technical backbone.

In continuation to the previous question, we have our social media listening stacks. We have a customer support stacks who very proactively talk to our consumers and seek their opinions on different issues. I think a lot of the product changes happen because of that only. If we find that something is coming up again and again from a certain kind of audience about a certain kind of problem, then action is certainly taken. On a marketing front as well that’s one place. To give you an example, one place I go daily without fail is our play store comments. It’s a goldmine of passive information. They are not engaging on a dialogue basis but its information that we use intensively in our marketing communication. For example, people are extremely happy with the speed of response that they get on Olx. And sometimes a lot of new users are saying that they never expected this to be so fast. But that’s the only reason that they’ll be coming back again because it’s super-fast and efficient. That is something that finds its way in our marketing outreach. Similarly, the product Intech organization also uses to make sure that there are no gremlins. For me it’s an extended QA. Over here, there’ll be a small QA division which is testing all possible bugs and fixes. But if they are 40 million users testing you on a monthly basis and giving you feedback. That’s like super important. So that voice of consumer is used extensively in both marketing and product Intech.

Biggest challenge with respect to Marketing Data and Analytics

I spoke about projection being a big part of my decision making and how quickly things change in a digital business. And that’s why sometimes even the best of analysis can be lead us under. Since things just change because of technology, the way consumers are still using your platform and consumer behaviour also changes quite rapidly in a mature industry in like carbonated drinks or cars or something of that sort. So because of that sometimes you have done the best possible analysis, great econometric modelling, the team has run a crazy amount of algorithms in coming up with very good empirical data and analysis. But when we actually put it to test, i.e, out in the market and put money behind it, it sometimes goes for a toss. And that’s why how do you use this on a longer basis? How effective is that analysis on maybe a 6 months to a yearlong basis? That is not the case because like I said, things move too fast. The thing on which you’ve assessed that particular changes also quite rapidly. So that is one of my biggest challenges. How do I use a piece of information and use it for a longer time?

Manage customer feedback on social channels

As I’ve said, we have a social media listening stack. A lot of different software and sweeps which we get from pretty much all our social channels. We have it internally as well as with our PR and social media agency partner. So at any given point of time maybe they’re fore listening outposts which are feeding this information back to us. A lot of this is just about helping the consumer support issues. Let me explain why this is so important for us. All digital businesses are nothing but offline businesses being put online. An OTA is nothing but an offline travel agent selling plane tickets, insurance and e-commerce. For us, the industry didn’t exist. Indians did not sell their used goods to people. At best they were just disposing of their goods to the Kabadiwala. So that’s where we have created this platform/industry. We’ve been at it for almost 4 years actively. We’ve been there for 7 years but 4 years of going to the market from all operations perspective. Still a lot of times people question how to use this platform in a better way. This is why I think social media really contributes to our learning and our help being extended to those consumers. That’s the biggest way we use our social media listening for our business. And obviously, word clouding and what’s trending gets into our digital marketing and radio which is what can be changed much more frequently. Then we try and go to the market with things which are more relevant in that time and space.

 

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