The Nation


smart devices

Phone apps, customer monitoring key to sales

Expert advice as sector continues uptrend

Because of the growing use of smart devices as wireless broadband service expands nationwide, brand builders and marketers should focus more on mobile-phone-based application services while monitoring social media, experts suggest.

Siwat Chawareewong, president of the Digital Advertising Association (Thailand), said smartphones and tablets would play an increasingly important role this year. Last year there were more than 90 million mobile subscribers in the Kingdom, a penetration rate of about 120 per cent. But importantly, more than 27 million Thais were connected to the Internet via smartphones and other smart devices, or about 36 per cent.

Siwat, who is also chief executive officer of digital media agency mInteraction, said this rising trend would continue this year. To reach out to new potential customers, marketers and brand builders must develop and design websites compatible with mobile interfaces, so-called mobile-phone-based application services.

"The design for a personal computer is totally different from that for a mobile platform because of the different screen sizes and the way users interact with the device," he said.

Meanwhile, creating a useful mobile application related to a particular brand or service would help the firm get closer to its customers once they have downloaded and installed the app on their smart devices.

This will be a powerful new communication channel between businesses and their customers.

Not only does the advancement of hardware and networks in the telecommunication sector help support data consumption, but consumers also become more active in generating their own content.

River of data

However, while this river of data via social media can deliver valuable customer insights, it can also bring disaster.

Brian West, senior vice president and senior partner for Asia-Pacific reputation management and global crisis management at FleishmanHillard, described the latter phenomenon as a "perfect tsunami", because it can occur quickly and unpredictably and damage brands.

To prepare for this, West suggested that companies should invest in a newsroom to detect, monitor and listen to conversations among customers on the social-media networks 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Monitoring offline conversations in English and other languages is also needed, he said. Businesses should also utilise "big data" to enable them to respond to a crisis as quickly as possible, and to minimise damage to the brand and the company.

Meanwhile, brands can utilise big data for research and to develop their products and services. Many leading media and marketing-research firms are focusing more on social and mobile research to get a better understanding of customers' behaviour.

Kanita Tungworapojwitan, corporate planning director at Intage (Thailand), said her company would introduce mobile research for its clients this year on top of traditional research methods. This would allow the company to understand what customers need.

To detect customers' purchase journeys and make sure that their brands and new products hit the right targets, Ralph Wirth, associate director of global innovation and digital consumer experience at Germany-based GFK SE, GFK Marketwise's parent company, has said that his company has introduced an array of online data-collection services to the Thai market. These included qualitative research, social-media analysis and social-media intelligence.

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