Picture: ISTOCK
Picture: ISTOCK

Consumers are living in a state of increased connectedness, with their digital selves functioning parallel to their physical selves. This has changed their expectations for a seamless experience with brands at every touchpoint. It creates a fragmented, cross-device product experience for consumers, which makes it challenging to deliver the right value proposition at the right time and on the right platform, as well as difficult to measure its success.

This increased connectedness poses a significant challenge to marketers, says Simone Frost, group digital marketing and innovations manager at Telesure, as it requires staying ahead of the curve while technologies rapidly evolve. To ensure that clients are being provided with solutions that are relevant to their lives and that brands are differentiated, product offerings need to be evaluated on a regular basis.

Telesure has adopted a mobile-first approach that encompasses all marketing activity, from creative execution for online adverts to the functioning of a website. Frost is of the opinion that data should be at the centre of a business – a mammoth yet crucial undertaking and one that helps address the current problem of disconnected customer experiences. In this respect social media has performed well for the Telesure brand. “We achieved some record-breaking social media results this year after integrating and converting offline data using Popimedia,” says Frost.

Telesure’s marketing strategy aims to achieve a deeper understanding of human behaviour, and new product developments have had a noticeable impact on loyalty and engagement. As an example, car insurance customers bypass the hassle of getting their vehicles to inspection centres in the event of a scrape or accident. “We’re embracing contact with connected individuals by offering self-inspections via their mobile phones, a process which takes less than 15 minutes. This is an added convenience for customers as it means they no longer have to bring their cars in physically to inspection centres,” Frost says, adding that Telesure will soon be launching its own bot.

Equally important, she says, is knowledge sharing. Collaboration throughout the organisation allows for more effective sharing of client feedback and insights such as pain points and operational issues that need to be resolved.  At the same time, collaboration with external parties that share a similar mindset provides organisations with novel approaches to solving business problems.

A digital marketer at heart, Frost concedes that the debate between traditional and digital marketing methods will always be a heated one. Yet South Africans spend significantly more time on their digital devices than they do watching TV each day: 14 hours on digital devices compared with a mere two hours watching TV.

The big take out

Telesure’s Simone Frost believes technology and digital marketing are the keys to seamless customer experiences.

For the first time, Facebook is offering the same type of reach as TV (albeit for different LSMs). Digital marketing channels, Frost argues, allow for exact targeting and tracking, and generally a more measurable return on investment – crucial in the current climate. So there is more pressure on traditional platforms to reposition themselves in this landscape.

That’s not to say that traditional marketing mediums don’t have their place, or that they don’t have any impact on digital. “During TV or radio campaigns we have seen a corresponding uptick on digital platforms,” Frost says, adding that cross-channel attribution is a reality.

Personalised e-mail marketing, she says, continues to be undervalued. As an avid online shopper, she ruefully admits that she stops everything she’s doing to “buy those shoes the minute a mail comes through telling me an offer is expiring”.

The financial services sector is likely to continue to lead innovation in the area of customer experience, she predicts, while at the same time driving the emergence of exciting new models in the existing insurance market.

When it comes to marketing in the financial service sector, Frost says the messaging movement is growing. “Chatbots have been popping up everywhere as a result on Facebook and other live chat solutions. And while chatbots are still in their infancy in SA, they’re definitely evolving from simple messaging tools to a robust ecosystem. As chat-based artificial intelligence takes off, chatbots will increasingly gain traction – certainly in the insurance vertical form, for example, to ease the process, answer frequently asked questions and provide a seamless and convenient customer experience.”

A fiercely competitive market, the financial services sector has delivered a number of vital lessons about the way to differentiate brands amid the chaos. “Don’t merely work from a brief – get your hands dirty,” Frost says, adding that marketers need to understand their products inside out, going through actual processes such as making a claim or taking out a policy.

Working with mentors has been invaluable to her career, she says, and has served her well on both a professional and personal basis.

In a dynamic, competitive and target-driven environment, it’s crucial to stay on top of the wave, she advises. “If you fall behind just one step, you’ll be playing catch-up for a long time afterwards.”