E-commerce: The Great Mall of China?

There’s nothing like starting a new year with a fresh perspective. For me, this came in the form of a trip to China over the holidays. While I fell in love with the sights, people and culture, one image from this experience lingers as the most impactful:

Those are e-commerce packages waiting to be delivered. If this was one random storefront, what would it look like if we scaled this by thousands? Is this pace indicative of the nation as a whole? Naturally, I did a little digging on the numbers behind e-commerce in China, and here is what I found.

I don’t think anyone would be surprised that China is an e-commerce titan; however, the degree of the nation’s dominance in this arena is staggering. In 2014, China had already hit US$458 billion, dwarfing the US total of US$297 billion. They've rapidly overtaken the U.S. and other developed nations, becoming the world's largest e-commerce market. Domestically, e-commerce is becoming a shaping force of China's economy, contributing 19.4% of China's GDP growth and 33.5% of China's retail growth (per Kantar Retail 7.28.15).
What’s driving this growth? One likely factor may be Chinese consumers’ devotion to mobile, and more recently, their increasing interest in mobile shopping. Alibaba reported that in Q1 of 2015, 83% of all active buyers were mobile buyers, ultimately contributing 51% of Alibaba's total GMV (per Kantar Retail 7.28.15).

And this is just the beginning. As companies are able to expand their distribution to rural areas, they will surely unlock a new level of growth. Companies like Taobao.com are already taking steps to set up rural service centers to handle orders and fulfillment.

Finally, as you know from everything I share on this blog, you never want to leave the human element out of the equation. Beyond the widespread adoption of mobile web browsing, it’s important to consider that e-commerce has been so widely embraced because it is also a natural fit for a savvy consumer base of natural bargain hunters who equally value pre-purchase research done online with in-store experiences.

When we step back and look at the Chinese e-commerce phenomenon as a whole, I am optimistic. Not only because this represents potential and opportunity on this side of the globe, but also because it exemplifies the perfect manifestation of technology enhancing, not replacing, real human dynamics. This is what being a marketing technologist is all about. 

Want better engagement? Take a chance

As a brand, if you truly want to connect with your fans, sometimes it helps to break the bonds of ‘traditional’ in advertising to truly reach them. Take our Doritos fans, for instance. Our core audience plays on the bleeding edge of mobile technology, and to get in front of them, we need to meet them on their level instead of expecting them to come to ours. 

Driving engagement for Doritos Roulette presented us with an interesting challenge. This represented one of the most unique product experiences ever: in each handful of nacho cheese chips, one was extremely spicy, despite looking identical to all others. 

The product was one-of-a-kind and too novel to promote via the usual means. It didn’t even feature any promotional messaging. The standard framework just wouldn’t work this time. We decided that Twitter was the only appropriate path for this launch scenario.

With that in mind, we created #DoritosRoulette, an online game which seamlessly addressed four objectives central to this product:

1) Authenticity: You take a chance every time you grab a Roulette chip; that same product experience had to come across in the program. Similarly, with #DoritosRoulette you could win or get burned with every turn.

2) Engagement: We created an interface where fans could choose their own prizes and tag their friends—the burn prize remained a secret until the tweet was sent. Here are some of the user interface designs, in case you missed it:

3) Awareness: Word of mouth is always your best friend. For Roulette, we leveraged this by letting players tag three friends, who could in turn tag three more and increase their chances. Pay it forward with boldness, fans pay it back with attention. 

4) Digital-Only: Daily drawings on Twitter engaged thousands of consumers and generated millions of impressions. One day, we brought live action to #DoritosRouletteLive with Periscope, giving fans the chance to ‘win or get burned’ by the roulette wheel in real time. 

#DoritosRoulette was the single most successful limited-time-only promotion Doritos has ever done. The graphic along the side provides a snapshot of the program and really illustrates how adapting to your consumer can instantaneously transform the face of a product. 

Re-Thinking Audience Targeting

We all know that serving up content to the right audience results in better engagement. Marketers have been doing this since the early days of Google and banner networks. And as social platforms get better at inferring our interests and matching them up with brand content, the consumer experience has the potential to become a lot more relevant -- a win-win for both sides of the marketing equation. After all, relevance means attention means action. 

While this represents a huge leap from simple demographic targeting that has been the staple of marketers since the first magazine rolled off the printing press, I think it’s time we also evolve our perspective to look beyond the audience and see this as an opportunity to target the actual content being served.

This is the insight we tapped into when we came up with an idea for Doritos that leveraged interests to not only reach the right audiences, but serve them the most compelling content. 

We know that emojis have quickly become an everyday part of the internet vernacular. So we got creative by combining emojis in the caption line of Facebook posts with autoplay videos under them. What did we get? Emoji heads with different animated bold bodies. Voila!….the BOLD emoji was born.  

I’m a huge fan of hacking, and I believe that a simple change in perspective can often lead to the best hacks. This example of using the same features and functions available to all brands, but doing so in a novel way is something that I think Facebook would agree is a great example of a creative “hack” of their existing platform. We created three of these to start and will serve them up to surfers, drummers, and shark enthusiasts. Check them out below. You can see how the possibilities are endless. Micro audience targeting? No, micro content targeting, my friends. 

Given that football season is around the corner and everyone knows – well, Facebook knows – I’m a Michigan fan, I’m hoping for a Wolverine emoji showing up in my feed soon.

Bringing Art & Science to #SB49

“Active” Art
To generate awareness and excitement for Tostitos Party BLVD across the Phoenix metro area, and get people talking about the biggest party in America, we unveiled larger-than-life Tostitos art installations in two of the most highly trafficked malls in the area. The installations drive engagement by inviting the consumer to ‘complete’ the art. To promote sharing and conversation across social media channels, consumers are also encouraged to take pictures and share their “masterpieces” with the #PartyBLVD hashtag for a chance to win a year’s supply of chips and dip.

iBeacon location sensor

iBeacon location sensor

Mobile FTW!
Tostitos is also one of the first brands to incorporate seamless mobile engagement through the use of iBeacons. Through iBeacons placed at the art installations, the ASU campus, light rail locations, sports bars and other high traffic areas, we are pushing coupons and promotions triggered by users’ locations to drive awareness of PartyBLVD. 

Kudos to my team members Ashwin, Liza & Dana, a.k.a. the Frito-Lay “bold” marketers, for pushing the 10 in “70-20-10” (70% tried & tested, 20% validated new, 10% inventing-the-future “new”)