by MarkLives (@marklives) What are the expectations for the marketing and advertising industry in 2018? We emailed a panel of key industry executives for their take on the macro environment, budgets, changes in messaging, movement in the industry and any consumer and communication trends they’ll be looking out for. Next up is Nimay Parekh of King James Digital.

Nimay Parekh

Nimay ParekhNimay Parekh (@NimayParekh) is the chief executive officer and partner at King James Digital, the future-facing division of the King James Group. A software engineer graduate from the Rochester Institute of Technology in the US, Nimay began his career in New York City, spending more than decade in the tech, start up and advertising industries. Since moving back to South Africa, he has continued to push the boundaries of what’s possible and has remained at the leading edge of the digital age.

“Alexa, I want a new phone. Which one should I get?” Customers are seeking personalised value-adding brand interactions that save money and time. Amazon’s sophisticated voice-operated Alexa is the virtual assistant everyone wishes they had; she knows what you want because she knows you. This is the perfect example of the level of interaction customers have come to expect — and it’s up to brands to leverage new technologies and platforms in order to deliver a direct digital end-to-end experience.

With a slowing economy and rising costs due to a potentially imminent downgrade and further devaluation of the rand, now more than ever customers are looking for value. People are working more hours for less pay, and, with free-time a scarcity, individuals are more cautious with what they spend time and money on.

In 2018, successful brands will need to agilely adopt tech that catalyses greater convenience and transparency for the customer. A new level of customer requires a new level of brand and, for agencies, this means greater emphasis on the role of direct digital communication as opposed to traditional digital marketing. The focus for the year ahead needs to be an end-to-end digital experience for clients that includes data, communications, product, platform and media. The tech is already there; brands just need to know how to use it.

Speak to me like you know me

Direct digital communication will be achieved though hyper-personalisation. This speaks to the idea of engaging with the more-personalised and -individualistic “me”, as opposed to the broad target audience/market approach of “us.”

Speak to me like you know me. Prove to me that your product is superior. Tell me what I want before I want it. Upsell to me at the right time and make the onboarding or purchase process seamless and easy.

Where is this going to take place? On messaging platforms such as Facebook Messenger, iMessage, WeChat and WhatsApp.

If we look at the WeChat model and apply it locally to WhatsApp (South Africa’s most-downloaded app), and consider the imminent arrival of WhatsApp Business, we see that the global tech giants are already providing us with direct engagement opportunities.

Understanding the customer: partnerships and psychographic profiles

Big brands need their own IT infrastructure, brand and product teams to come together and partner with agencies that offer strong customer-facing platform development capabilities, backed by strategists, data and behavioural scientists.

Global brands will require a system that presents a single view of their customer to achieve this — a digital profile that is the sum of all their available data points, taken from direct communication, interactions with previous digital campaigns and customer history. This means that upselling will occur when it’s of greatest use to the customer, which makes it more likely to be effective. This will happen through natural conversations over messenger apps.

To do this at scale, we will have to use intelligent APIs that pull data from every level of a company’s interaction with its customers — be it payment, customer care, logistics and even inventory management. Agencies’ roles will be to ensure that the service is easy to use, adds value to the customer and delivers a great experience every single time. By applying this approach to every customer touchpoint, brands will gain a deeper understanding of their clients.

Alexa is an example of this. Using artificial intelligence (AI), ‘she’ cuts out the middleman and disrupts the brick-and-mortar requirement of most retailers by presenting personalised options based on psychographic behavioural data. This generates huge cost-savings that are often passed directly on to the customer. Once a customer picks a product, Amazon can ship it on the same day — it’s an easier, cheaper, faster experience.

It’s a smart new world

This is not sci-fi, future, oh-it’ll-happen-here-in-like-10-years’-time technology. It exists. It is available for any brand in South Africa to adopt right now. The brands that miss this disruptive opportunity will find that their savvy customers will be gone first, and they’ll influence the less-savvy ones to follow suit. The brands that are quickest to implement this will have the benefit of a deeper understanding of their customers and be able to create smoother interactions at every touchpoint. They will save their customers time and money, and provide them with unparalleled convenience. In return, their satisfied customers will give them the one thing every business is after: more profit.

It’s a brave new world. However, brands don’t need to be brave to reap the rewards. They just have to be smart.

#BigQ2018 series


MarkLives logoLaunched in 2016, “The Big Q” is a regular column on MarkLives in which we ask key advertising and marketing industry execs for their thoughts on relevant issues facing the industry. If you’d like to be part of our pool of panellists, please contact editor Herman Manson via email (2mark at marklives dot com) or Twitter (@marklives). Suggestions for questions are also welcomed.

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