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.

Yadvinder Singh Guleria
SVP – Sales & Marketing
Honda Motorcycle & Scooter India

How do you use analytics in your marketing decisions?

Customer analytics has always been an integral part of Honda operations whether it is product development or marketing communication. Globally that’s where we start at the beginning of any product. You have to be in the market and since we have a large customer base, being the number one two wheeler maker in the world. So that gives us a lot of data availability which continue at the back end, we analysing and see what is the kind of user profile of our existing users. At the same time, what are the inherent needs or desires or aspirations these customers are having. Simultaneously, there is a team. We always have eyes and ears closer to the market. And there is a basic objective of all the people who are there in the market as a representative of Honda whether they are our state holders like Dealers or our own sales representatives. They need to capture the purse of the market and continue to drive some standard formats back to the company, where back end we’re working on all this data to work out on what is going to the future trends and based on that how we must evolve our products. At the same time, the marketing communication because the trend in terms of perception of communication also keeps on changing and it is changing at a very fast pace. So that’s why, having eyes and ears close to the market, analysing the data at a faster speed, capturing it at a faster speed and using intelligence to really find out what has to be trashed and what has to be kept to make it more actionable.

“The biggest challenge we see for marketers of today is the pace at which not only technology is changing, but also the trends are changing in the market.”

In automobiles business, how can you use data in giving better customer experience?

First of all, we capture each and every user profile- those who buy our product and those who are actually using the products. And the workshop is one interaction area where we have our online system. Whenever there is a purchase being made, so the data on real time basis are available with us. So we have both the demographic profiling, as well as once we meet them in person, maybe during the workshops, there is a little bit of psychographics profiling which is possible for us to do at our end. So this, you know, feedback that we get from the existing users is captured, analysed and then we have to work first on the product quality, in case there are some improvements to be captured. Though, there is a lot of quality checks and tests which Honda does before the product, itself is launched. So there is stringent tests and a lot of kilometres the vehicle is actually running on the road before we start selling it to the customer. But at the same time, once it goes into the actual mass production and we start selling. So, we have a particular frequency which is fixed by which we call internally as a market survey wherein an interaction with the actual user. This is so, as sometimes the buyer can be different from the actual user. So, it is very important to capture the direct feedback from this user. Again, it is captured at a centralised database. Not only the customer service people who are there as a part of this market quality survey but also the people from quality side, the people who are actually manufacturing the product are a part of this survey. So that they can have the direct customer voice because sometimes there are emotions, rather than the rational aspect. So how do we balance out this rational-emotion aspect and balance it out to really derive on which points we really need to work on. It also gives an opportunity to the manufacturing people who are normally behind the scenes to come out in the market and meet the real user. And sometimes it gives them a lot of delight because the customer voice is so very positive that they actually get the joy of manufacturing. At times there are improvement points which makes them go back to their drawing boards and work as a team to give 100% defect free products in the market.

Biggest challenge with respect to Marketing Data and Analytics

First of all, I think there are a lot of service providers which are there in the market. Everybody comes and claims that they are going to provide you with an end to end solution. This is where there is a possibility of falling into a trap because sometimes too much of data also leads to, what we call, the analysis-paralysis. So how intelligently, you dissect data and more data at times also may give you many multiple solutions or multiple options. Multiple options also sometimes makes the decision maker confused. So what we say is that there has to be a perfect balance between the data. And there’s a lot of intelligence and smartness in analysing this data that needs to go in. Common sense is very much required. At the end of the day, we should not move away from our gut feeling. So there’s a mix of data, analysis, the tools that we use, your gut feeling, while keeping in mind to not discount your risk taking capabilities. Thus, there’s a fair mix of all of is, is what may give you the right kind of result and edge in the market.

How do you listen and manage customer feedback on social channels

Typically in the automobile industry, a couple of years back, the relationship had always maybe a one way side. You were capturing the customer data but you were not engaged into a conversation with your customer on real time basis. What technology provides you a platform today is there is a two way communication which is possible. There are a lot of tools available like you have Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and your own real time base data which is available. And also the new thing which is terms of apps. So when we came up with our youth oriental product like the CB Homet 160R and then we have tried to create a new market with the launch of Navi. Both these products, we brought in the technology also. One, the target was very clear that they are going to be the urban youth and urban youth are already on a 24/7 online. So we came up with an App based application where the customer can download it. Even the booking of Homet or Navi was possible online. So all this data was integrated at the back end. And what it provided us, before the product itself was launched was what kind of demographic profiling of the customers and their preferences in terms of variant of colours before the product itself is launched. This is where technology plays a big role and it gives vital clues in advance to the decision makers. And whence you talk about the loyalty, yes, for example, I have the case of Navi in front of you. When Navi was launched, we had five colour options. Traditionally whether it is automobile or two wheelers, the colour which is most opted by the customer is white or black. But when we launched Navi, which was targeted primarily at the youth between the ages of 18 and 24 only; with a unisex appeal. What had been a trend, i.e, white or black, was no more the first choice. It was orange, green and red. That gave us an insight about the youth. They want to stand out, be different and unique. This way technology plays a big role and we were able to prepare these colours in advance, so that the customers need not have to wait longer. Image the risk technology platform wasn’t available and you launched a product with a traditional kind of database which was available; the trend of 10 or 5 years. And then you launch a product, primarily you have already prepared with your paint maker and you arrange more of the black and white colours. There is sufficient number of colours already produced and dispatched to the market. Then your dealer says that the customer doesn’t want it. Here we have already got the insight and in time we could prepare for a fair mix of colour which could meet the demand of the targeted customer.

How has the role of marketer changed with focus on tech and automation in your category?

The biggest challenge we see for marketers of today is the pace at which not only technology is changing, but also the trends are changing in the market. It has been well said that the change will never be this slow again. The moment I’m talking to you, the change is going to be much faster. Even tomorrow or even within the next hour from when we’re having this conversation. This is the biggest challenge for the marketer. They have to adapt themselves and their ways of doing business. Even their thinking about their actions should be at a pace which is as fast as the market. Or in fact, I would say that they have to outpace this speed of change which is happening in the market. But again, as I have shared with you earlier, please do not discount your risk taking capabilities. And your plus alpha factor or gut feeling which makes you want to do something. Otherwise we will not have seen so many disruptions that are happening in the market because you have to think about what the others aren’t thinking and do what the others aren’t at the same time. At times we do also know that certain things which are instant, aren’t all that tasty. Imagine a coffee which is instant in comparison to someone who’s preparing it at home. There is a big difference in the taste.

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