GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare is laying a strong foundation for its digital future.
With the help of a major research study, GSK is striving to understand the changing landscape of social media, digital and mobile marketing to develop relevant content that drives category and growth while engaging consumers.
“By 2015 we want to have an always-on, always-relevant, and always-engaging digital presence,” said Cristina Marinucci, shopper insights manager for the company whose brand portfolio includes Aquafresh and Sensodyne toothpaste, and other products for oral health, skin health and nutrition.
Marinucci and Lindsey Boyle, senior vice president, The Sound Research, outlined GSK’s plans recently at the 14th Annual Shopper Insights in Action Conference in Chicago. They stressed that the need for digital transformation is readily apparent.
“The availability of information at our fingertips, and the ability to search for and use coupons on your mobile phones at any moment in time has forever changed the more linear and traditional purchase journey,” Marinucci said.
GSK has seen a shift from the first moment of truth — the first interaction between a shopper and a brand at the store shelf — to the zero moment of truth; that is, “the rise of full Internet adoption and the increased use of search engines resulting in our shoppers having many interactions with the brand even before they set foot into a brick-and-mortar retail space, and never mind standing in front of the shelf. We knew that if we continued to focus just on that first moment of truth that we would be losing an opportunity to influence that purchase decision,” she explained.
To get there, the company needed digital insights.
“We wanted to develop the most relevant digital content that we could use across digital assets to make sure that we were delivering category growth, and continuing to engage the consumers on their terms, not ours. We needed the research to get us there. We needed foundational learnings to help guide our thinking and help us get there. Since the study, we have reviewed our digital strategies and looked for ways to improve both in the short-term and in the long-term,” Marinucci noted.
In the short-term, GSK is focused on making smaller, more incremental tweaks to its digital strategy. These include changing the way the company captures personal information about consumers, and making it less difficult for consumers to engage with the company.
“We all know as marketers that we want every piece of information imaginable about our consumers, but most of them, due to privacy issues or trust issues, aren’t willing to share that with us. So what is the bare minimum we need to engage with them?
“We are also doing a lot with our coupons, promotions and content in general to make it accessible across all devices. And then there is search engine optimization. We learned from the study that search is — and will continue to be — a major influencer in our categories,” Marinucci said.
The longer term requires more of a shift in the mindset around digital investment strategies.
“Typically as marketers, we spend a lot of money investing in the beautification of our own brand websites, and tend to forget about our retail partners,” she said. “What we learned from the study was that the retailer sites are frequented more than our brand sites, and the consumers are going to the retailer sites because they trust them more and find them more credible than a brand site. But we weren’t offering that content to our retail partners. So we are looking at moving some monies from the beautification or our sites to the beautification of our retailers’ virtual shelves,” she reported.
“This takes time, good effort and good partnerships. It’s not something that is going to happen overnight. We look at this transformation as an evolution, not a revolution. It’s a marathon and not a sprint. It’s about delivering the right content at the right time in the right place. We are very focused on getting this right for 2015 and beyond, and we have already made some small steps toward that,” she said.
The study that GSK relied on focused on the emotions underlying product categories, which will stay constant while technology changes, explained Boyle, whose company did the research. It also asked about digital behavior, and not just what consumers were doing now, but what they were open to in the future, “so we can speculate on where things are actually moving,” she said.
The goal of the study at first was to focus on GSK’s digital path to purchase, but it expanded in scope as the understanding grew that not everything was tied to purchase. “What this is really all about is a digital path to engagement and trust, and that is what the study became.”
Trust – or more precisely the lack of trust – was one of the universal emotions identified by the study. People feel overwhelmed and bombarded when they are connected, and that makes them feel mistrustful of digital marketing, Boyle explained. For example, they might sign up for a mailing list from a store and get three or four emails from them a week, or they might do a search and then see targeted ads. This mistrust also extends to the tone of digital communications when they are too “sales-y” or gimmicky. Finally there is the practicality of time issues, “busy people can’t deal with the volume” of digital communications.
“The only exception to this sense of mistrust that we heard was when there was a deal being offered,” she said because consumers are willing to put their mistrust aside when they are offered a good deal.
Marinucci added: “As marketers, we are often tempted to react to the behaviors that are visible to us. But this study showed us the importance of taking a step back from that, and thinking of it more as an iceberg. So the digital behavior we were seeing was only the tip of the iceberg. What we needed to understand were those underlying emotions deep below the surface that were driving the behavior that we saw.”
Once marketers understand that behavior and the emotions that drive it, they get to that sweet spot: the mindsets that drive the behavior. “By doing that you can target them, take advantage of that behavior and learn where it makes the most sense to invest digitally,” she said.
She said GSK is optimizing its coupons, promotions and content in general to be accessible on any device at any time. “We are also rethinking our coupon strategies internally and looking at how to offer coupons through search, and not diminish our brand equity, or subsidize the purchase,” Marinucci said.