You must go out and talk to actual consumers: Ritu Mittal

The head of Marketing & Digital at Bayer's Consumer Health Division thinks that meeting consumers in person is the best way to learn about them

Consumer experience has evolved significantly in recent years. Today, it’s all about making every step of the consumer journey easy and as seamless and frictionless as possible. Most businesses are now leveraging digital technology to advance their consumer experience solutions.

However, investing in new technologies, regardless of how useful they may appear, may not be sufficient to change a company into a consumer-centric enterprise.

Ritu Mittal, Head of Marketing & Digital at Bayer’s Consumer Health Division, reckons that the human factor is the cornerstone of a good consumer experience. Companies that contact consumers on the ground, listen to their needs and concerns first, and then provide solutions to their pain points emerge as consumer experience leaders. Excerpts from the interview with ET Edge Insights

How do you believe one can win over consumers in a world where privacy comes first when discussing a consumer-centric strategy?
I believe privacy and consumer centricity do not necessarily contradict each other. It is only consumer centricity that has ever won consumers’ hearts and minds. It is the one thing that is fundamental to marketing, and I cannot imagine marketing without being consumer centric, it is not a choice. With trust and transparency in place, it is possible to be consumer-centric, and I believe we can be consumer centric without invading anyone’s privacy.

You are in the digital space, and every industry is embracing digital transformation to innovate. So, if I had to ask you what technologies you want to integrate or incorporate in the coming years, what would they be?
Digital is a broad field encompassing a variety of elements from content marketing, search, social media, programmatic, to commerce. In the area of consumer health, digital can play a very crucial role by making self-care simpler, more relevant, and most importantly, more accessible. Recently, we launched a mobile-based digital programme where we are targeting underserved consumers in Tier 2/3 towns and providing them with an AI-driven voice-enabled solution for relieving stress and headaches at the ease of a call from their mobile phone. They can simply call this number and get educated about what to do when they have a headache.

Besides, it also provides “solutions beyond the pill,” suggestions for minor financial difficulties, relationship troubles, or simply a joke if you need some light stress-relieving content. This platform is already seeing high engagement because it truly tells them about simple relatable solutions for everyday headaches—with pills and beyond pills. We are looking at making this platform more accessible to more consumers and getting them to use it for stress relief as well as enabling them to choose effective solutions like Saridon when they have a headache. We will continue to work towards expanding this platform and creating more technology led solutions to make self-care more accessible in India.

Are there any missed opportunities from 2022 that you’d like to discuss as we start a new year? If so, what can you learn from it, and how do you intend to move forward and improve this year?
Yes, I believe marketing, or any domain for that matter, is a never-ending learning experience. I think meeting more consumers face-to-face is one of the areas in which I would like to accomplish more in 2023. With the pandemic situation, one of the missed opportunities over the past few years has been that we have not been able to personally meet as many consumers by travelling to their homes to engage with them.

Meeting consumers in person is the most effective way of gaining insights. When you observe how they live, spend their time and their everyday routines, and sit face-to-face with them, you will gain a deeper understanding of them. I believe this connection with our consumers is what leads to some of the most meaningful insights that can help brands grow and make a positive impact on their consumers’ lives. So, that’s the one thing I wish I had done more of in 2022, and hence meeting more consumers in person would be one of my goals for 2023 .

When developing a marketing strategy, what warning signs or tactics do you employ to avoid pitfalls?
Data analytics, consumer research are all tools to understand the category, market, consumer, garner insights, and validate them before you start spending precious marketing monies to reach consumers. For our ‘Sardard Chupao Nahi Mitao’ campaign on Saridon, we went to 10000+ consumers in India to understand their pain journey and validate the fact that the resilient Indians were hiding their headache behind a smile.

With the launch of the Supradyn Nutrition Survey, we reached out to 220 doctors and nutritionists and asked them what they thought of the daily nutrition intake from an average Indian diet. 85% confirmed to us that daily diet gives only 70% key nutrients. As we spoke to our consumers, we tried to understand the signs they felt throughout their day and if they connected it to a lack of nutrition, like: if you feel exhausted after climbing stairs, it indicates that your body needs more/better nutrition. It was thought-provoking to hear back that they didn’t connect these signs to a lack of nutrition and that they didn’t like to be reminded of their weaknesses. We quickly adapted our concepts to focus on the need for complete nutrition to get to 100% of oneself.

So, there’s a good amount of research involved, you must repeatedly test and validate with consumers, receive their feedback, and make amends to arrive at a campaign idea that connects with them and makes an impact. It is essential for you to be on the ground, meet and talk to actual consumers, customers, and doctors, to gain an accurate feel of the market and to avoid pitfalls.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ET Edge Insights, its management, or its members

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