Marketing to the “Hybrid” Customer: 4 Things You Need to Know

"In the post-COVID-19 era, what does it mean to be a “Smart Retail” brand? We think a big part of it comes down to how you market to the fast-emerging segment of “hybrid” customers who have undergone massive lifestyle changes during the pandemic", writes Vittorio Furlan, Head of Business Insights, ADA.

The various economic lockdowns and subsequent re-openings have changed consumer behaviour as we know it, leading to a sustained adoption of eCommerce and less unpredictable movement patterns.

But before you adapt your marketing mix, customer journey, and technology stack to take advantage of these new dynamics, here are four things you should keep in mind:

The "hybrid" customer is here to stay

A critical insight we derived from our XACT proprietary Data Management Platform (DMP) is that while eCommerce spending has surged, this has not replaced offline shopping.

Indeed, data from a shopping mall in Kuala Lumpur indicated foot traffic exceeded pre-pandemic levels for a period in August 2020 following months of lockdown.

Yet average time spent in malls has also decreased from 2 hours and 32 minutes, to 1 hour and 50 minutes, according to a July 2020 survey by ADA and Pinnacle.

As consumers spend less time outside their homes due to health concerns, marketers have to work with a smaller window of opportunity. But this is also a chance for brands to think about how to maximise the customer experience and create more meaningful engagements within that smaller window.

In-store behaviour isn’t what it used to be

In line with the spirit of experimentation at ADA, we ran an analysis based on data from XACT on a single store in Kuala Lumpur to see how customer behaviour had changed in-store since the pandemic.

We specifically wanted to find out how people who had an eWallet would pay at the counter, and the results were unexpected: [Figure 1] Only one in five customers with eWallets used it for payment. About two-thirds of the remaining four customers didn’t use their eWallet at all, and one-third used their eWallet at other locations, but not at that store.

a chart of business insights on how consumer Behaviour at a Retail Outlet
Consumer Behaviour at a Retail Outlet

Have a single view of your customer

If your customers moved in sequence through the traditional marketing funnel during the pre-COVID-19 days, then it’s likely their journey today more closely resembles the circular lines in Figure 2.

Because of the increased presence of eCommerce marketplaces and online influencers, it’s no longer unusual for customers to start their journey from the middle of the funnel before going in reverse to the trigger phase or straight on to purchase.

A process of traditional marketing funnel on business insights
Figure 2: Traditional marketing funnel of customers pre-COVID-19 days

It follows then that brands and retailers should maintain an active eCommerce presence as customers gravitate towards buying online. But while some brands may choose to sell primarily on marketplaces due to the easier set-up, they’re missing out on customer visibility.

As an alternative, suppose you invest time and money in building out your own platform. In that case, you can reap the rewards of forging a direct relationship with your customers and gaining trust, which can help you price more accurately and increase basket sizes. In Figure 3, we’ve summarised the factors that should be top of mind when choosing the right distribution mix.

A table of factors distribution mix on business insights
Figure 3: Top of mind factors when choosing the right distribution mix

In the new omnichannel retail environment, marketers need to have a dashboard that provides them with a single source of truth on the customer.

This dashboard [Figure 4] should include information on who your customers are, what they’re buying online as well as offline, their interaction with your digital and offline assets (web, app, and store), and how they respond to various marketing messages.

As customer interactions with your brand become more complex and less predictable, you need to be able to stitch together disparate data points to create a cohesive picture.

But you also need to do it in a respectful way to your customer’s data and comply with privacy regulations.

Our belief at ADA is that once data has been acquired on the customer, we have a responsibility to use it for their benefit and to offer services they need, such as personalised discounts, free services like delivery if they’re worried about COVID-19, or repeat weekly orders via one-click buy for added convenience.

Dashboard of business insights on a single customer view
Figure 4: Dashboard of a single customer view for better interaction and experience

Be prepared for the post-pandemic recovery

As predicted by various industry bodies, the recovery in Southeast Asia’s retail consumption is underway, with vaccines being rolled out and shops allowed to re-open. But the trajectory of this recovery remains far from clear.

Using data from XACT, we tracked customers travelling to a Kuala Lumpur mall during the pre- and post-Movement Control Order (MCO) period to see what patterns emerged.

The results are shown in [Figure 5]. The red boxes indicate customer’s point of origin before heading to the mall. On the left, we can see from the spread that the mall attracted people from far away, with only 25% of visitors coming from the immediate vicinity of around 1km.

In a heatmap of the same mall after the lockdown, we noticed that the spread has narrowed considerably with more than 50% of visitors now coming from the immediate vicinity, likely due to travel restrictions.

A heatmap of business insights on a city mall
Figure 5: Heatmap of a Kuala Lumpur mall showing visitor travel patterns pre- and post-MCO
A heatmap of business insights on how potential customers' density changes according to time
Figure 6: Heatmap from ADA’s Location Planner tool showing how potential customers’ density changes according to time

We also plotted footfall against time of day in  [Figure 6] via our in-house Location Planner tool to indicated how the density of potential customers’ density changes according to time.

This type of insight can help marketers determine the best places to send ground staff, plan events, or pick optimal out-of-home advertising spots.

Up your hybrid marketing game

To summarise, consumer trends will continue evolving after the various lockdown measures ease across Southeast Asia.

While we can’t predict which changes will stick with absolute certainty, and which will be temporary, marketers should continue to remain agile and make sure they have the correct data and analytics tools at their disposal.

What’s for sure is that the new “hybrid” customer is here to stay, and your brand will need to continue evolving alongside them.