Get Smart: Boost Your Online Sales With Data & AI

For any online store owner who’s had to make their first sale on an eCommerce marketplace or keep sales going through the slower months, the struggle is real. Both newbies and seasoned marketers experience pain points when it comes to standing out in the fiercely competitive online shopping environment.

In a bid to drive traffic and conversion, most brands resort to heavy discounting as an easy-out. But using that as the default option – especially without customer insights – comes at a great cost for brands and risks boiling an ocean that’s already bright red.

Marketers recognise that data is a strategic asset which can help them sell more efficiently. Utilising that data to produce actionable insights and personalised solutions, however, remains a challenge. In a 2021 survey by Harvard Business Review of Fortune 1000 companies that invested in data analytics and artificial intelligence (AI), only 29% said they achieved transformational business outcomes. And less than 25% thought their organisation was data-driven.

Enter Smart Targeting

In a nutshell, the insights from customer data can be leveraged on to build highly specific customer segments and to figure out the best way to serve those customers. The more brands understand their customers’ preferences, the more effectively they can address their customers’ needs.

The ADA methodology for data-driven marketing is called Smart Targeting. Building on the classic segmentation, targeting, and positioning model, the Smart Targeting framework aims to crack the three biggest pain points faced by brands: figuring out who should be their target customers, deciding what products to sell to those customers, and learning how to optimise sales by offering the relevant unique selling proposition (USP). Working in tandem, the three steps are meant to help brands increase both return on marketing investment and sales.

While all good marketing campaigns start from customer segmentation, not all customers are the right market for a brand. A market or segment that’s worth targeting has the following six characteristics: it’s big enough to be profitable; it’s growing for the foreseeable future; it’s not too crowded; it doesn’t have too many barriers to entry; a brand has the right-to-play and the right-to-win in it; and it aligns with a brand’s raison d’être.

In modern marketing, some effective segmentation types include:

  • Lookalike audience 
  • Near Me audience 
  • Loyalist community 
  • Interest-based community

When it comes to food & beverage and groceries, a location-based audience is the go-to segment as factors including product freshness and pick-up or delivery convenience are the biggest determinants of sales. For electronic products, online reviews and word-of-mouth recommendations from friends and family tend to be highly predictive of customer purchases alongside in-store interactions. Personal care products, on the other hand, typically fare well with lookalike audiences who exhibit similar behaviours. The use of lookalike audiences has been proven to boost qualified leads and engagement rates while also reducing cost per acquisition by an order of magnitude, as well as increase sales.

Once marketers have a grasp of the Who and the What, they are ready to start optimising the How. Brands often default to discounts because they think pricing is the most important factor for consumers – but that’s not always the case.

In an analysis done by ADA comparing a supermarket, a pharmacy, and a multinational brand that were all selling the same bottle of shampoo via eCommerce, three USPs stood out: free delivery, coupons, and customer ratings. Curiously, the free shipping offer from the supermarket and the brand owner resulted in better sales even though their listing price for the shampoo was significantly higher. Meanwhile, customers resonated the most with the brand owner’s coupon despite the bulk purchase requirement, thanks to the double-digit headline discount. Lastly, quantity matters nearly as much as quality with regards to customer ratings – sales have a strong positive correlation to the volume of ratings.

Smart Strategy, Smart Tools

The Smart Targeting framework is aided by a set of AI-based tools at each step. To find actionable customer segments, marketers can combine research tools such as social listening, location planning, and ADA’s Consumer Insights Explorer (CIE).

CIE holds more than 325 million pre-built audience segments made with data from XACT, ADA’s Data Management Platform. These segments were based on customer demographic profiles, interest, brand affinity, lookalike features, and location. A number of attributes were derived from predictive modelling as well.                                 

To learn what are the right products to sell, marketers can turn to ADA’s Digital Shelf to monitor their top-selling SKUs, categories, and brands; keep an eye on what rivals are doing; and compare sales performance across eCommerce marketplaces. Marketers should also do a deep dive into customer reviews to generate ideas for their brand narrative, as that can often be a valuable source of feedback on the USPs customers really care about.  

By leveraging on Smart Targeting, the Malaysian cashless payments provider Boost recorded 12x growth in new users and 2x increase in weekly transactions. The company identified four key segments  Adaptive Shoppers, Bored Homebody, Health Nut, and WFH Professional  and then deployed personalised campaigns for each one.

The Smart Opportunity

Although the online marketplace continues to fragment, brands have an opportunity to fast-track their sales growth by tapping into their most promising customer segments through the smart use of data and analytics.

Instead of becoming overly reliant on discounts, data-driven marketers have the insights they need to understand why customers love their brand, not to mention the ability to lean into the USPs that drive sales. Data analytics and insight might seem like a tough nut to crack, but it can be a low-hanging fruit for brands that know where and how to look.


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Simon Paterson

Chief of eCommerce Enablement

Simon Paterson

Simon is a visionary and skilled at cultivating leadership.

As the Chief of eCommerce Enablement, Simon’s foray into eCommerce started over a decade ago in SEA. One of his stints include a role as a Senior Vice President and Group Head on On-site Traffic Strategy, along with other C-level positions in Lazada.

Prior to eCommerce, Simon gained more than 10 years of sales and marketing experience in the FMCG industry with Colgate Palmolive and Reckitt Benckiser across Australia, Europe and Southeast Asia. His extensive experience living and working in multiple cities have brought about multiple perspectives and varying ways of thinking.

Before the merger with ADA, Simon was the CEO of Awake Asia and he was able to spearhead the geographical expansion of the company into multiple countries, including Indonesia, Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand. Now with ADA, he is dedicated to bring forth the same energy and commitment to provide brands with data-driven, AI-enabled eCommerce solutions today and into the future.

Over the weekends, Simon can be seen cycling or running around Singapore. His longest ride pre-covid involved a 200km round trip to Malaysia for a Laksa.