Pete Stein, the president of Merkle Americas, shared his views on the importance of India as a potential market for the agency from the standpoint of data and technology which are its core capabilities. Dentsu Group-owned Merkle is a leading data-driven customer experience management (CXM) company.
Shirli Zelcer, global head of analytics, Merkle who was also a part of a recent roundtable discussion with Stein, said, “The big trend witnessed in India is that brands are trying to monetise their own data. I think that is becoming a big disruption in the marketplace where brands are figuring out that the data they have is very powerful.”
Stein got into a conversation with Storyboard18, where he touched upon the top digital marketing trends, their plans for onboarding talent this year, the importance of AdTech and MarTech and more.
Post Dentsu's transformational exercise over the past three years, what are Merkle's focus areas, especially in India?
So much of what Merkle does is dependent on amazing talent. Our number one priority in India is making sure that we have got incredible talent here, and that talent can build long term careers and continue to thrive. From the standpoint of data and technology which are our core capabilities, the market in India is rich. I do know that India as a market for clients will continue to be a growing market for Merkle.
Marketers are keeping customer experiences at the core of their strategies. What are the upcoming trends that will help marketers enhance these experiences?
It is true that the pandemic accelerated digital adoption. As consumers are using more and more of digital, they are building higher expectations. We see that, if customers are purchasing something via online or a store, where they can also return it back through these mediums, they expect all of our client systems to be talking to each other. So, investments will go into customer data, technology and have them talk to each other. For us, this would not only help our clients collect customer data in a centralised view, but also have the technology talk to each other.
From a talent perspective, what kind of people is the agency planning to onboard this year?
Within India, we are expecting to go from 6500 people to 8000 people. Merkle's core areas are in data expertise and different technologies across the customer experience. We are looking to grow and build our organisation through a broader variety of skill sets.
What are DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) initiatives that Merkle plans to roll out in India?
When Merkle acquired Ugam, an analytics and technology-services company in 2019, what we loved was there were a lot of women in leadership positions. So, we are starting from a place which is healthy in terms of diversity. But, often what we see in the US is, we have 50 percent of the women at the junior level but at the executive level, we lose a lot of women. So, our focus is to achieve the goal of having 50 percent of the women in leadership positions on a global scale by 2025.
We have mentorship programmes followed by sponsorships to make sure that women are being mentored and have the required guidance to move up to the next level. We are doing training programmes to give them the confidence in order to move up to the next level. Those programmes have been very successful in the US, and we are looking to replicate them globally.
According to you, what are the top digital marketing trends that will transform businesses more than ever before?
I think it again comes down to customer expectations being higher than ever. The things that will really continue to shift them are the connectedness of everything. Television is being connected, appliances are being connected, etc which generate data.
This allows us to understand customers at every data touch point. All that data is giving us is amazing information about that particular person regarding how they use a product, when they use a product, what they like and when they need to order that product.
All of that data feeds the understanding of clients about their customers and helps them build the service the way they want to be serviced. At the core, it is about connectivity and data. But, it is also understanding how to leverage that data. Having the skill sets and the knowledge to be able to make sense of it is a key differentiator.
For Merkle, where does India stand on its growth map?
From a talent perspective, we expect it to move from one-third of our talent to half of our talent to maybe more. From a commercial standpoint, in terms of clients, it is a little bit lower but it is growing.
How important would AdTech and MarTech offerings be for Merkle in the coming years?
AdTech and MarTech will continue to be central to everything Merkle would do. It is what enables the experiences of the connected customers which helps our clients drive towards. If your goal as a business is to build it around the customers and their needs, you cannot achieve that without the right AdTech or MarTech in place.
It is very important to set the vision for the client and what the opportunity is, understand the use cases that you are trying to develop, and what are the ways we are going to drive results for that business to improve their customer experience. We set all of this but what enables this is the AdTech, MarTech and the data.