Harsh Pamnani is a storyteller by passion and a brand expert by profession. He helps business leaders communicate inspiring stories that highlight brand strengths, improve employee commitment and customer engagement, and drive business growth. He has authored several best-selling books on brand building, including Booming Brands and Booming Digital Stars. He earned his MBA from XLRI and has worked with think tanks like the World Bank, corporates like Deloitte, and unicorn start-ups like FirstCry and Icertis. He has spoken at fora such as TEDx, Josh Talks, Google Business Group, IITs, and IIMs.
Napoleon Bonaparte is regarded as one of the finest commanders in history. His knowledge about the landscape, the enemy, available technology, past battles, etc. helped him understand and respond quickly to ever-changing circumstances in battlefields. However, the Battle of Waterloo ended the rule of Napoleon as the emperor of France. First, heavy rain had turned much of the battlefield muddy, and significantly slowed Napoleon’s army. Second, the superior horses of the British gave them a substantial advantage on the battlefield. There were a few other factors, but, in short, Napoleon's army couldn’t respond to dramatic environmental shifts.
Business is like a war in which entrepreneurs compete to win mind share and market share. In any battle, when winners deal with significant changes in their environment, they, at times, fail. Marketing expert Philip Kotler once said, “The major cause of company failure is company success.” One of the major reasons behind this failure is inertia. Eventually, all winning strategies become obsolete. If winners are unable to upgrade themselves with new strategies, technologies or offerings, then their market share, revenue and profits could erode.
The battlefield has moved from a physical environment to a digital environment. To stay relevant, a company must adopt new strategies. Digital technologies can help businesses in multiple ways:
Change perception Digital technologies can change a customer's experience with a brand leading to a change in perception. For example, Maruti Suzuki was struggling with the image of a small car maker. To attract customers for its premium cars, in 2015, Maruti Suzuki launched NEXA, a new dealership format for its premium cars. To offer a differentiated experience to its customers, NEXA has adopted digital technology. Here, customers can explore car models through interactive tablets, view personalisation options through touchscreens, experience a car through a VR (Virtual Reality) simulator, and so on.
Connect where customers are With the increasing adoption of smartphones, the consumption of online videos is rising, leading to the popularity of web series. To encash on the growing popularity of web series among millennials, Unacademy partnered with TVF for a web series – Kota Factory. Kota Factory helped Unacademy to promote its brand story and connect with its target audience. The story demonstrated how Unacademy played a pivotal role in the life of Vaibhav (an IIT aspirant). His faith in Unacademy as a support system to learn became a vital part of episodes. Through the episodes, Unacademy demonstrated the product flow and included some of its IIT-JEE educators in the series.
Turn around business Earlier, restaurant brands with the best-situated locations held an advantage. However, with the rapid rise of food delivery services like Zomato and Swiggy, location is no longer a competitive advantage. Faasos, a few years ago, was a known wraps and meals quick service restaurant (QSR) brand. The moment of truth for the brand came when the team found out that the online and phone delivery business was growing independently of the stores. Interestingly, the majority of customers ordering on the web and phone had never visited a Faasos outlet. The team decided to transition from a QSR model to a cloud-kitchen model (kitchen with online delivery). Unlike the restaurants that bear high real-estate costs, the cloud-kitchens run operations from inexpensive locations and provide a far better margin as compared to physical restaurants. Over time, Rebel Foods became the parent brand for many online restaurant brands like Faasos, Oven Story, Firangi Bake, Mandarin Oak, Behrouz Biryani, etc. Inspiringly, Rebel Foods has emerged as one of the largest and fastest-growing internet restaurants in the world.
Improve convenience Digital technologies have increased the quantity and quality of available data, expanded computers' capabilities to analyse this data, and created new channels for engaging consumers. Analysed data can help brands understand what motivates consumers and how to manage purchase journeys. As customers shop from BigBasket to save time, the company created a goal to get regular customers to check out in 2-3 minutes. To create the fastest possible shopping experience, the company has built a tool called Smart Basket. It helps populate a customer's basket based on their most recent and frequent purchases, alerts them if they have not added something they usually buy and informs them if an item they typically buy is about to run out.
Improve operational efficiency Improved operational efficiency can take the customer experience to the next level. Daily, PolicyBazaar advisors receive over 50,000 questions. To help out its advisors, the company introduced India's first artificial intelligence-powered chatbot PBee. PBee is designed to provide standardised and optimised customer support for general queries. After analysing customer requirements in detail, PBee can also provide insurance quotes. PBee has dramatically reduced advisors’ response time, resulting in high customer satisfaction ratings. With better customer service, the brand image and position of the company has also gone up significantly. Furthermore, to shift from predefined responses to personalised responses, the company adopted Amazon Polly, a text-to-speech solution. By integrating Amazon Polly with PBee, the company has been able to increase workforce productivity, decrease customer handling time and improve customer engagement.
Kotler also said, “Companies pay too much attention to the cost of doing something. They should worry more about the cost of not doing it.” Digital technologies are touching almost all industries and reshaping how brands engage with their customers. In this changing environment, choosing not to participate digitally is not a viable option for brands. Digital is not only a differentiator now. It's a requirement for survival.
The writer is author of the book 'Booming Brands'.
(Views expressed are personal and don't necessarily represent any company's opinions)
The thoughts and opinions shared here are of the author.
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