“A brand should speak to the customer at an emotional level”, says Abhipraya Kaviratna, AVP Marketing, MakeMyHome.com

In Conversation with Abhipraya Kaviratna, AVP Marketing, MakeMyHome.com

Abhipraya Kaviratna picPlease tell us a little about your professional & academic background.Can you also brief us about your role in your current organization?

I started my professional journey straight after my graduation with Vodafone (then Orange) and was associated with them in Customer Service for 2.5 years between 2014-06. The desire to do my MBA made me quit this job and managed to do a full time course from Welingkar Institute of Management, Matunga. Post which, I joined Thomas Cook (India) Ltd from campus as part of the program called TCMLP (Thomas Cook Middle Leadership Program). A 6 year stint in Thomas Cook gave me hands on experience in core marketing including social media. I am currently working as AVP – Marketing with Makemyhome.com, an ecommerce venture by Ram Ratna Group. Overall, I have 9 + years of work experience with an exposure in 3 different sectors – Telecom, Travel & Tourism and Ecommerce.

As a marketing head, my main role is to take the brand to the next level with focus on creating awareness, getting traffic and eventually conversions. This involves handling 360 degree marketing activities such as Digital marketing, Social media, managing relationship with digital agency, SPOC for all media requirements, Competition tracking and innovation by launching new categories and products.

I am also entrusted with the responsibility to drive the Franchisee program, along with designing and implementation of Customer loyalty programs and CRM to track the customer lifecycle and behavior patterns.

What would you say is the most important factor of running an eCommerce website in today’s highly competitive world?

Though there are many factors involved in running an eCommerce website successfully, technology plays a key role. If you do not use the right platform, it leads to a huge drain of financial and human resources as there is a lot of time & effort wastage in running a project using the wrong technology.

I have coined a term “CLICK” which I feel is an important factor that will be considered by many e commerce firms. It stands for the following:

C – Customer Service. This is an integral part of service industry which needs to be addressed at any cost to grow and run your venture successfully. It is one of the key differentiators in this domain and cannot be taken lightly as the focus now is on H2H i.e. Human- to- Human service. As rightly mentioned by Steve Jobs, “Customers don’t measure you on how hard you tried, they measure you on what you deliver.”

L – Logistics. Without an effective and efficient logistic team in place, e commerce industry cannot flourish. It is the last mile in an e commerce transaction and thus forms the backbone for success of an e commerce website. A quick emergence of e commerce has ensured that even logistics service providers stay innovative and provide exceptional services. A recent example of India Post comes to mind which has taken cognizance of being part of this growing industry and is going all out in offering its services to various e-comm firms.

I – Innovation. Innovation is the key to success in this industry. You need to be innovative in not just displaying your offerings but also in your communication. Even the end consumer gets hooked on to a website that keeps on innovating with its offerings and communication. It is one of the key differentiators amongst many players operating in this industry as everyone is busy outperforming another.

C- Competition. No company can afford to take its competitor lightly. It is imperative to keep a track of your competitor’s activities to ensure you stay ahead of them by not just getting consumers to your website but also by ensuring conversions. Immense competition in this industry has led players to stay abreast of all recent happenings on both the fronts – consumers and vendors. This has benefited consumers largely.

K – Know your customer. It’s very important to know who your consumer is so that your brand speaks to the customers at an emotional level. When someone feels a strong positive emotional connect with a brand it creates loyalty, and this inspires repeat purchase. Gone are the days when you would focus on B2B and B2C, focus now should be on H2H (Human 2 Human).  It is important to ensure repeat purchase from your existing customers as COA (cost of acquiring) a new customer is many times more; hence, many players have initiated focused campaigns to retain their existing base of customers.

know your customer

 What according to you makes a good marketer?

  • Vision: It is important for a marketer to have a vision and plan with built-in flexibility to make necessary course corrections along the way. You need to be demanding but not autocratic.
  • Clarity of thought: It is important to be a good listener, accept feedback/ suggestions and have acumen to understand the real problem areas to take corrective steps.
  • Interpersonal skills: A good marketer should also have strong inter-personal skills that are required to be able to work with inter-departmental teams like the product managers, operations team, and management to help improve/develop the marketing plans accordingly.
  • Humility: A good marketer is humble and takes success and failure in its stride and moves ahead.
  • Consumer focus: Consumer has to be at the center stage of all the marketing actions. A good marketer knows who his consumers are, steps into their shoes very often and thinks from a customer mindset to develop an effective plan.
  • Market intelligence: A good marketer always keeps a tab on the surrounding to stay ahead of competition. Innovation and handling team effectively would add feathers to the cap.
  • Innovation: A good marketer constantly innovates to add value to the brand as per the consumers demand. All efforts and activations undertaken should be measurable and thus ROI driven.

Name a well marketed product in any industry that caught your attention and why?

I find Fevicol advertising very exciting, uplifting because of the brand’s trademark humor. The ‘Assembly elections’ ad conveyed a message of hope, optimism with the brand position subtly promoted ‘strong bonding.

The reason why I liked this Fevicol Crazy Chairs ad was because of the timing of this ad.  While the entire nation was gripped by the election fervor, as 2014 assembly elections were made larger than life by innovative marketing campaigns and channels used to reach public by the political parties. The mood was upbeat and people were all geared up for it. No better time to hit the nail. It borrows the excitement and interest of a common man thereby creates sync with the audience. As a result the brand recall was exceptional.

What ways do you use omni-channeling within your strategy to attract a customer to buy from makemyhome?

  • Word of mouth: When we started, we had limited money so we knew that in order to grow we needed our customers to become our champions and word of mouth advertising was going to be our asset. Our internal customers became our brand ambassadors and we used very basic tools to generate awareness in the external market. For example: An html banner was created to promote the website, thus putting an end to customer anxiety with regards to our website.
  • Alliances with corporate: We looked at alliances with corporate by leveraging the contacts of our parent company to create awareness about our portal thus getting us traffic. So, we got our alliance network to grow and reach users. This is a very effective method as the results are measurable and corrective steps can be taken from time to time. It does wonders for a pure B2C website like ours to understand the efficacy of deals and offers offered to the end customer.
  • Device2Web: Here the customer can reach us through various internet connected touch points like laptop, desktop, mobile, kiosk, tablet, etc. This is imperative as we are an ecommerce player and accessibility on all platforms is a must.
  • Affiliate marketing: Affiliate marketing works wonders for a new portal like us. The access to the user base of these affiliates shows a real picture and lends credibility to the offers and deals displayed on the website.

What do you feel the strongest digital platform used at makemyhome is? And why?

The focus is on the following digital platforms: SEO, Display, EDMs – Electronic data mailers, Social media, Affiliates & Corporates. The prime focus is on Search Engine Optimization (SEO) to ensure the brand features amongst the top while being searched across leading search engines. Though this would require an effective on-page and off-page optimization but would surely lead to growth in the long run. It is very necessary to grow organically to ensure the growth momentum is sustained and is for longer periods of time. An effective SEO would help getting serious customers to transact and retain them for long.

We also ensure that the brand awareness and traffic generation is done by effective display and placement across network that caters to our TG. Remarketing helps us to keep in constant touch with the end user who was trying to do business with us and thus aid in brand recall.

Due to limited marketing budgets, we are focusing on EDMs (electronic data mailers) to get an insight into acceptance of deals and offers from our own set of consumers. These mailers are designed basis the buying pattern shown by the consumers. We intend to do geo-tagging by understanding the buying behavior of consumers spread across the geography.

An emphasis is on social media to create awareness and build traffic on the website. Social media optimization would help in effective engagement and interaction with the consumer. Running contests on Facebook and Twitter would enhance traffic and lead to a spurt in registered users.

We are focusing on presence across affiliate network and corporate with special offers designed for them across categories on the website. This is purely ROI driven with performance metrics clearly defined and monitored on timely basis. These offers are crafted after understanding the audience profile of the corporate / affiliate network to ensure we hit the nail at first go itself and this is the reason why corporate are coming back to us again and again.

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