DBS eyes social media win-win

Singapore bank's ongoing Facebook campaign rewarding participants each time they check in at designated merchants, an attempt to use new media to add value to both customers and retail partners, says exec.

DBS Bank's ongoing social media pilot initiative involves birds and fun, but a game of Angry Birds it is not, and the Singapore-based bank is serious about pleasing both customers and merchants at the same time.

Run in Singapore, Hong Kong, Jakarta, Mumbai and Taipei, the month-long DBS Places campaign ending Sep. 5 awards points to participants when they "check in" with their mobile devices via Facebook Places or recommend their friends to DBS's partner merchants in the five Asian cities. The person who accumulates the most number of points in each city will be entitled to a three-day-two-night vacation of their choice to Singapore, Hong Kong, China, India, Indonesia or Taiwan.

Christopher Ng, DBS Bank's vice president of group strategic marketing and communications, told ZDNet Asia in an interview that while the bank had created a regional corporate Facebook page last year "to generate brand awareness online", it has all along been open to new media and technology to engage customers.

"We are always looking to leverage different forms of social media to improve experiences for our customers," he said.

Wading deeper into social
When Places, Facebook's new functionality which allows users to check in at places, was introduced in Asia, DBS decided to combine this feature with the concept of online coupons and deals as part of a regional campaign, said Ng.

The bank is confident the check-in and deals strategy would be a success, he noted, as more consumers today access Facebook on their smartphones. Halfway into the pilot, comments on DBS' Facebook page have been positive, he said, adding that over time, more and more people will "definitely" be exposed to the campaign.

According to Ng, DBS Places changes the way the bank interacts with customers and partner merchants and focuses on providing value add to both groups of stakeholders--akin to "killing two birds with one stone".

"As people make comments and reviews after checking into our partner merchants, they generate word-of-mouth [publicity] for them, which is what potential customers trust more than advertisements," he explained. "Our customers also experience the immediate gratification of checking in and earning points."

Douglas Singh, restaurant manager of El Toro, one of 16 participating merchant-venues in Singapore, felt the campaign is "unique" as it is the first of its kind in Asia. "The use of social media is necessary for promotion in a competitive landscape these days," he pointed out.

Business at the restaurant, which recently re-opened after undergoing a facelift, has improved slightly compared to its pre-renovation days, said Singh, who was present at the same interview.

Campaign planning stretched over a quarter
Elaborating on the planning, Ng shared that DBS and Facebook took three months to develop the campaign. The bank worked with the social network to "establish a timeline" and also had to scout for merchants and retail malls to be part of the campaign, he said.

Challenges faced during implementation included the "usual marketing issues", which included ensuring proper planning, timing and figuring out whether the campaign would work, he noted. Facebook had been a great help and partner in those areas, Ng added.

Following the development phase, DBS spent one to two days testing and making last minute additions before officially kickstarting the campaign, he said. After DBS Places was launched, the bank had to monitor and manage the participation in the different cities.

According to Ng, the number of "check-ins" varied across the region. Singapore has a higher participation due to higher smartphone penetration and social media uptake, while India and Indonesia had a lower adoption rate despite the Indonesian market accounting for the most number of DBS Facebook fans in the Asia-Pacific region.

To generate more awareness of its campaign, DBS had advertised on Facebook, said Ng. The staff at El Toro would also actively inform visiting customers of the check-in campaign and available promotions, Singh added.

Student Ian Lee told ZDNet Asia in a phone interview that the check-in element added "excitement" whenever he frequented DBS' merchant vendors with his friends. "I find myself choosing the merchant vendors over other restaurants more so I can get more points," he said.