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Brands need to think beyond online advertisements and build a veritable digital marketing platform

Shubhradeep
Guha leads SapientNitro’s business in India and is part of the European and
Asia-Pacific leadership team of the company. As Global Capability Lead and
Country Manager, Shubhradeep is responsible for building capabilities across
the marketing and digital space as well as engaging with key global and Indian
brands to produce work that is both breakthrough and award winning. He was part

Shubhradeep
Guha leads SapientNitro’s business in India and is part of the European and
Asia-Pacific leadership team of the company. As Global Capability Lead and
Country Manager, Shubhradeep is responsible for building capabilities across
the marketing and digital space as well as engaging with key global and Indian
brands to produce work that is both breakthrough and award winning. He was part
of the team that shaped and built SapientNitro’s London studio. In an exclusive
interview with India Digital Review, Guha discusses the digital possibilities
that SapientNitro foresees in India.

You
have been with Sapient since 2000. How have you seen the growth in usage of
digital media by brands?

India reached 100 million Internet users in
15 years. The next 100 million will be online in a far shorter timeframe.

Brands are using technology like never
before in order to provide a high quality and seamless customer engagement and
shopping experience for customers. Smartphones, tablets and kiosks are having
profound impact on how consumers interact with brands. Social shopping, social
networks and user generated content (such as ratings & reviews) are
changing the way consumers buy. Technology is playing the role of both a
disruptor and enabler in this context – enabling the consumers to interact
using multiple channels and devices of their choice and disrupting the way
marketers are marketing, selling and servicing their customers.

What
are your immediate priorities at as the country head of Sapient Nitro now?

We are in the midst of a digital
revolution. There is a massive fundamental shift that is impacting every aspect
of our lives. Everything that can go digital is going digital. And once it is
digital, it is on-demand all the time. 
This is impacting our experience, behaviors and expectations.

The most exciting thing is harnessing
technology to transform industries: retail is a great example. In the next
three years, the number of people transacting online will grow by 250%. And in
the process question a whole bunch of assumptions and currently held beliefs in
that space. And help people across different spheres join dots to build a very
different future.

Sapient
Nitro has been very vocal about the growth of digital commerce in India? What
according to you are the primary factors that will drive this growth?

Three fundamental shifts in the ecosystem:

Gadgets getting cheaper and connectivity
getting faster. By 2015, it is projected that 72% of the online access will
come from mobile broadband.

Movement from shared connections to
personal devices that connect to Internet. E.g. Mobile penetration impact is
that the personal connection is from a personal device such as a mobile phone
or a tablet. Impact is higher consumption, usage of content, and momentum in
online commerce etc. E.g. we saw a growth of 33% in terms of minutes spent
online in July 2012 (48 billion minutes vs. 36 billion minutes)

Digitization of our lives is in progress in
a slow but steady fashion.  E.g. Income
tax, property registration, passport, car registration, train tickets, bus
tickets etc.  Impact is that people are
getting comfortable albeit slowly about being online and transacting online.

How
do you see FMCG companies in India taking the route of digital commerce in
India?

The digital commerce market in India is
smaller than in other markets but it is growing the fastest. While a number of
brands have already established their social presence and are interacting with
their customers, it is imperative that brands put together a clear digital
strategy and a technology roadmap to take advantage of the sizeable opportunity
presented by the online population that is spending more and buying more
frequently online. Digital commerce needs to be a core part of their growth
strategy. And digital commerce is no longer restricted to web but also includes
mobile, tablet, social and in-store experiences.

Speaking
about content, with new engagement forms such as videos and apps coming up on
internet, what are your thoughts on visual brand building exercises on internet
in India?

India has seen tremendous growth in the
consumption of digital media in the past year. According to a report from
ComScore, there has been 54% growth in the news/information consumption across
India, Facebook has registered ~47% growth and online video consumption has
seen a growth of ~37%. 3.4 billion videos were viewed in June 2012 alone.
Brands can longer ignore this medium and have to find ways to engage across
channels whether it is social, mobile, and online or in-store. Customers are
expecting interactions across all these channels and devices to be seamless;
marketers need to be prepared to engage with the customers wherever they are.

Traditional
media like TV, print and radio is never sold on impressions. Why do you think
the same doesn’t happen for online?

TV and radio channels charge top rates for
the best time slots that have most viewers and listeners. So, it is incorrect
to say that these mediums are not sold based on impressions. Marketers have
always looked to understand the impact of their brand interactions on the
consumers irrespective of the medium. Technology has just made it easier to
understand the correlation in the digital world.

Internet
is said to be a measurable medium. What is your take on this? Have we overdone
the measurement quotient and made this medium hard to understand for the brand
marketers?

Performance based analytics that integrates
insights in order to drive current and future business outcomes have been one
of the key differentiators of this medium. This ability to measure the return
on investments has in fact made this medium easy to understand. Brand marketers
can now optimize their campaigns in real time based on the insights generated
from the performance of their current and past campaigns. They can also
optimize marketing mix and optimize media spend across channels.

How
do you see agencies working towards understanding and analysing the data?

There are a lot of conversations around
data, mostly around the volume (‘Big’) and velocity – the rate at which it is
getting bigger. I firmly believe that data is like technology in many ways. It
is not about them but what you do with them. Converting data into doing should
be the main focus and this is not a technology problem. To deliver rich insights,
agencies need to practice Connected Thinking and bring together perspectives of
marketers, experience designers, statisticians and technologists. Otherwise,
they will be data rich and information poor.

Is
there a lack of creative talent in the digital advertising space in India?

Creative disciplines haven’t had as much
limelight as IT when it came to policy-making by the government over the last
few years. Consequently, in terms of numbers India’s education system produces
very few people with skills in creative disciplines. And the culture of
creative excellence and design sensibility is quite inconsistent, so overall it
is far more difficult to find people with the right creative talent.

Social
Media is a phenomenon nowadays. How do you see brands utilising this platform?

Social media growth reaffirms the belief
that the consumer-to-consumer communication triumphs over the brands to
consumer communication. According to a recent study, 84% of the Gen Y (or
Millennial) relies on the opinions of other consumers, not just family and
friends but total strangers. This indicates the need for brands to have or
facilitate authentic conversations with and between consumers.  Brands need to have social components in the
form of ratings, reviews, recommendations etc. to build and harness the power
of communities through technology and social media.

Mobile
is being held as a great medium for brand communication, but still, very less
amount is spent on the particular medium. What is your take on this?

In India, 72% of the total online users are
likely to access Internet through their mobile devices in the next three years.
Tablet sales have doubled in 2012 as compared to 2011. Brands need to
understand that Indian consumers are leapfrogging into the mobile/tablet era
and make mobile/tablet as part of their digital strategy from the start.

How
do you see digital branding spends growing in India in the future?

In India, most of the current digital
marketing spend is focused on display and search advertisements. As more people
get online and spend more time researching and buying, brands need to think
beyond online advertisements and build high quality and seamless brand
engagement across a number of channels including web, mobile, social and
in-store. Marketers need to understand and streamline business processes and
digital capabilities to enable and enhance efficiency across marketing efforts.
Consistency across multi-channel marketing campaigns becomes paramount to
create seamless, integrated relationships with customers. Brands will invest in
building out a platform that facilitates customer engagement in the near future
– a veritable digital marketing platform.

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