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Lazada Philippines’ Neil Trinidad on embracing the tide of Filipino e-commerce and building brand trust

MANILA, PHILIPPINES — The COVID-19 pandemic ushered disruption within the industry—yet the most remarkable marketers are the ones leading their brands with resilience and courage, as they rise above the times and usher innovation and creativity in their strategies and decision-making.

adobo Magazine presents Meet the Remarkable Marketers: A CMO Series 2021, where we feature some of the most fearless, agile, and exemplary brand leaders as they provide inspiration, insights, and key learnings that have shaped their business —from surpassing industry benchmarks and launching creatively effective campaigns, to initiating best practices as they navigated through uncertain times.

At a time of immense digital disruption, Lazada rose to the fore as it anticipated the current and emerging needs of a hyper-engaged, always-online consumer who turned to the internet in the midst of prolonged stay-home orders. This was especially evident in the Philippines, where e-commerce significantly ramped up in the country.

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Leading this charge is Neil Trinidad, Chief Marketing Officer of Lazada Philippines who has clocked in over 16 years of experience in marketing and sales across FMCG and tech — from growing his career in Unilever across local, regional and global roles, and a stint with Google as an Industry Manager, Neil brings his experience and entrepreneurial insight as he embraces the tide of Filipino e-commerce, building brand trust and loyalty even post-pandemic.

Through Neil’s leadership, Lazada Philippines launched the award-winning “Nasa Lazada Yan” campaign, helping grow awareness of our wide assortment of over 90 million products, brands, and services.

Aside from Neil’s prolific marketing career, he is also an entrepreneur, co-founding The Feel Good Food Group, an e-commerce health food delivery business with three brands – Ketos of Manila, Eat’s Life Manila, and The Sugar-Free Bakery. Neil talks to adobo Magazine on how Lazada has embraced Filipinos’ new love of shopping amidst COVID-19, and how he stays grounded in the middle of an ever-busy lifestyle.

What has been the most disruptive part of the pandemic cycle in your role as a marketer and what did you have to immediately address to fortify your brand’s foothold in the market?

The pandemic has disrupted industries and businesses far and wide, and forced many of us to adapt quickly and move with greater agility. For us at Lazada, we saw eCommerce adoption accelerate like never before with over 2x growth in daily sales. With more new eCommerce shoppers buying online, and existing shoppers buying more frequently, we needed to quickly adapt and adjust our marketing plans.

We have focused aggressively on Market Development. Using our internal data, combined with extensive market research, we uncovered the key triggers and barriers that would help convert new eCommerce shoppers. These include offering the right assortment, building trust, and providing great value.

In January 2021, we launched the Nasa Lazada Yan campaign to help build awareness of our vast assortment of categories and brands. The creatives and jingle were designed for inception. It was our hope that whenever consumers would think of something that they needed to buy, they would remember “Nasa Lazada Yan!” and visit the app.

In July, we launched the Sure Ka Sa Lazada campaign, which aimed to educate consumers on the trust-related features of our app, like 100% Legit or get 2x your money back for all Lazmall purchases, easy refunds, 24/7 seller chat, secure payments, and more. In addition to our efforts to educate consumers, on the back-end we are also constantly finding ways to prevent fraud on the platform.

Since May 2020, we have had a Double Digit Sale every month. We know that there are more constrained shoppers today who are looking for greater value for money, but also want to shop safely from home. Our monthly sales help shoppers gain access to great deals and discounts, and avail of free shipping vouchers, and cashback. As a result, our monthly sales are shaping new buyer behavior, with more shoppers buying online more frequently.

In terms of marketing budgets and brand investments, what were the shifts you made in terms of marketing efforts and media channels to reach your digitally-connected, at-home customers?

As a leading platform, growing the eCommerce industry is our top priority. That’s why we’ve doubled down on our marketing investment to grow our reach, drive traffic to the app, and increase revisits and conversions.

We have scaled up our investments across digital media channels, specifically on YouTube, Facebook, and TikTok. For example, on YouTube, we launched Director Mix for Nasa Lazada Yan, which generated custom creatives that matched the right category or product, with the right target audience at the right moment, delivering much higher ad recall and click-through rates versus benchmarks.

Another area we continue to pioneer in is Shoppertainment.

For our mega sales, we produce Lazada Super Shows that are co-developed by GMA7, and simulcast on livestream channels such as LazLive, Facebook Live, Twitter Live, and TikTok Live. During our 9th Birthday Sale, we celebrated together with Katy Perry and K-Pop boyband NCT Dream. In the recent, 9.9 LazMall Super Show, we had a record high 5.7 million views.

While we do work to produce high-quality shows that our consumers enjoy, these shows also aim to drive traffic and get more users engaged on our app. We are able to gather important performance metrics, such as how many people downloaded the app, how many daily active users visited the app, how many viewed our livestream, the total vouchers collected, and even how many people added stuff to cart and checked them out after watching the show.

These shows aren’t just great entertainment, but are proven to drive offline-to-online traffic to our platform.

We also continue to drive user growth through mechanisms like free shipping vouchers, 10% cashback, and Lazada Bonus, where shoppers can get P50 off for every P500 spend, and stack this with other vouchers to get the biggest discounts.

To realize your need to manage this cataclysmic shift, what do you expect from your partner advertising, media, PR agencies, and how does this differ from the pre-pandemic period? How are you structuring for the uncertainties ahead?

We are proud of the work that we’ve done together with our agency partners. In fact, I attribute much of our marketing success to their commitment, passion for excellence, and speed. We work with Publicis JimenezBasic, for our communications strategy and campaign creatives; UM, for media strategy and buying; Fuse-Omnicomm, for public relations and crafting media messages; and SparkIt and InCircle, for celebrity and influencer network management.

Working with an eCommerce brand can be challenging because it is a demanding and incredibly fast-paced industry. What I value the most from our agency partners is agility – in learning and execution. There’s no guidebook on how to grow eCommerce in the Philippines, we are creating it as we go. That’s why learning agility is crucial. We have a very collaborative relationship with all of our agency partners, always operating in unison to deliver successful results. Our agency partners join us for research debriefs and strategy meetings. When we learn at the same speed, we are able to think on our toes, sharpen each other’s thinking, apply learnings and execute quickly, and replicate success with each succeeding campaign.

Intelligence, insights, and real-time data gathering are essential to your marketing decisions, more so than any other time. What are you on the lookout for?

As an eCommerce company, we have access to a wide array of first-party data that allow us to better understand and segment our customers and drive and optimize our performance. We are constantly in testing mode. This allows us to test different user growth products, user interface designs, voucher mechanics, optimize performance marketing, and more.

We also supplement our first-party data with external consumer research. In fact, aside from doubling down on marketing investment, we have also greatly increased our market research budget. With the rapidly changing consumer landscape, external research provides the context and insights that validate the patterns that we are seeing in our own data, helping us make better decisions, faster.

Aside from working with different market research agencies, we have also been innovating on ways to get real-time consumer feedback. An example is Lazada Peers, a Facebook community managed by our Customer Care team, where we gain feedback on user experience and customer service from our most loyal advocates.

What are your thoughts on the surge of brand purpose and cause-related advertising to an often skeptical consumer?

I am a big believer of purpose-driven marketing. Consumers today have more choices, are better informed, and are more demanding of brands and businesses. It’s not enough for businesses to do well, they should also aim to do good.

I believe, however, that for purpose-driven marketing to work, it has to be tied to the core of your business. It shouldn’t be a one-off CSR donation, and it can’t be a fringe activity. For Lazada, our purpose is to become a platform for opportunity and a platform for good. Helping MSMEs is at the heart of what we do. We help them open their stores online, and help them grow their business through training, gain access to tools, and participate in sales campaigns. By growing our marketplace, we are helping to provide opportunities for more Filipino sellers.

We also established our digital giving platform LazadaForGood, where we utilized our technology and resources to connect communities, consumers and causes. By making the digital donations experience easier, faster, and more secure, our users have been able to help NGOs like the Philippine Red Cross, Kaya Natin Movement, UNICEF, raise donations for COVID-19 and typhoon relief efforts.

Do share some of the campaigns and case studies to showcase your brand efforts that exemplify creative effectiveness.

This year we launched the “Nasa Lazada Yan” campaign to help grow awareness of our wide assortment of over 90 million products, brands, and services. Our market research uncovered a golden insight: consumers want to shop online, but aren’t fully aware of what’s available on Lazada. By showing them what they are looking for, we can get them to visit the app and buy more frequently.

The next step was for us to merge data and creativity to create a campaign that would penetrate pop culture. Together with Publicis JimenezBasic, we created the Nasa Lazada Yan campaign, which featured the first data-written jingle. We mined our internal data to gather the most searched items, the most purchased products, and trending items across different categories and different consumer segments. Next, we created our melody and identified our performers. Together with our celebrity endorser, Mimiyuuuh, social media listening pointed us to SB19, a breakout P-Pop boyband, who were making waves online.

With Mimiyuuuh and SB19, we created the Nasa Lazada Yan music video, which generated over 72 million views, drove traffic to the app, trended on Twitter, was parodied on YouTube, and made “Nasa Lazada Yan” a local slang staple. We’ve also amplified this on social media to highlight our unique and trending items. The campaign has since grown to become an always-on brand campaign that reminds Filipinos that whatever you’re looking for, Nasa Lazada Yan! This campaign was recently awarded in the IMMAP Boomerang Awards for Campaign Effectiveness and Tech Innovation.

What are the greatest work and life lessons you have learned from the past year?

The greatest lesson that I’ve learned is that there is power in kindness and caring for others. We’re all going through difficult times and we’re all trying to do our best just to survive and adapt to the pandemic. I remember that growing up, kindness wasn’t high on the list of traits that would make for successful business leaders. But I always knew that at the end of the day, people just want to feel heard, to be seen, and to be understood.

During this challenging time, leading with empathy has helped me connect with my team on a deeper level, helped individuals prioritize their mental health and well-being, and helped build a culture where people look out for each other and help each other. The pandemic is a daily reminder that we can all be a little bit kinder to each other, and to ourselves.

How do you foresee 2022 and what do you anticipate will be the emerging trends? Do you feel ready to take it on?

I think 2022 will be similar to 2021 in many ways. We’re already seeing an acceleration in digital payments, eCommerce, and livestreaming. I believe that this will only continue to grow.

For eCommerce, we’re seeing buyer behavior continue to evolve with more online shoppers buying more often, with bigger basket sizes, and buying different categories. We see that essential goods will continue to do well, as will electronics, and home and living with people continuing to invest in agile working and home improvement. We also predict that online bills payment will grow even further.

From a user experience perspective, there’s a lot of exciting things to look forward to in deeper personalization, more diverse gamification, and more entertaining experiences.

On wellness, how do you take care of yourself and find that white space in this all-consuming, digitally-connected new world? Give us a few tips.

Since the start of the pandemic, I have put greater importance on my health and well-being. With gyms closed during certain periods of the lockdown, my partner James and I decided to build our own home gym. I work out at 7 am with my trainer, 5 days a week. I have also been watching what I eat by doing cyclical Keto, where I’m on a low carb diet for a few weeks at a time.

We have also been busy with home improvement. We moved out of BGC a few months ago into a new home. Our weekends have been busy furnishing our house, doing home improvement projects, buying plants and paintings. We also set up a creativity room, where we can go during quiet moments to sketch or paint.

By keeping fit, eating healthy, and exploring creative projects, it has helped my overall mental health and well-being, and it gives me more energy to power through very busy days working from home.


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Manulife Philippines CMO Melissa Henson on brand relevance and timely content

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