CMO COUNCIL: Tell us a little about your background and how you got to where you are now.
MALHOTRA: I was lucky enough to grow up in the UK just as the age of information technology had dawned, presenting great opportunities for the curious or ambitious. After attaining degrees in psychology, computer science and English literature — and completing short stints in the National Health Service — I worked as a product manager for a LISP programming language and Prolog interpreter in a small Cambridge tech company. Those terms may not mean much to a modern audience, but this was my first step into the early development of artificial intelligence. I then expanded into marketing for these products, before our company took on an Apple Mac dealership for the first generation of Macs — one of the first dealers in the UK.
In 1988 I met Ray Anderson, who had built a graphical user interface for a much more powerful UNIX computer. Ray’s ambition was to market the GUI software standalone, to create an open user interface (UI) standard that could compete with Mac, and then Windows.
Ray and I worked together for five years, reaching the point where 70% of all UNIX-based computers across the world shipped with a copy of our UI, creating the first de-facto standard for computer workstations. Our company was acquired by one of our biggest US customers, and I ran marketing for one of its global product divisions.
Eventually, I missed the chaos and intensity of the start-up world and jumped back in, teaming up with an old friend to help grow his UK-based games development business. We published one of the world’s first ‘Artificial Life’ games (‘Creatures’) to widespread acclaim, including from luminaries such as Douglas Adams and Richard Dawkins.
A few years later, the first digital mobile phones arrived on the market. In a visit to Japan in 1998, I saw i-mode phones with web browsers built in. Ray and I realised this could be the start of something big, as they say, leading to the foundation of Bango in 1999.
CMO COUNCIL: Where do you focus most of your time, attention and brainpower on a day-to-day basis?
MALHOTRA: Much of my time is spent trying to anticipate what will happen next in the market — and whether these developing trends are significant. Next, how will this impact our customers, partners and investors? Then, how do we stay at the leading edge of these market trends and get our messages across to our customers? These are my fundamental concerns.
CMO COUNCIL: What are some of the secrets to better collaboration with peers in the C-suite and lines of business?
MALHOTRA: C-suite peers — especially those at CEO and board level — are frequently unconvinced about the effectiveness of marketing, and the value of the businesses investment into marketing budgets. A Bango survey we ran found that 66% of CEOs think marketers focus too much on tactical analytics and not enough on business results, while 55% of CEOs consider digital marketing metrics that aren’t associated with sales to be meaningless.
In order to better collaborate with their peers in the wider business, marketers need to avoid the perception that they are merely playing in their own worlds, using their own terms of reference, separate from the rest of the business.
Don’t rely too heavily on the subjectivity of consumer engagement, brand loyalty and customer sentiment — rather than the mainstream measurements all businesses really care about. Resist the drift towards engagement metrics that don’t reflect sales, revenue or growth. Instead focus only on metrics that reflect buying intent. Conversion is king, everything else is usually a distraction.
CMO COUNCIL: Which digital marketing innovations are most enabling your go-to-market process, customer value creation and campaign effectiveness?
MALHOTRA: Among the greatest recent innovations in digital marketing is the shift from flawed modes of consumer targeting, towards more robust targeting methods such as purchase behavior targeting (PBT).
PBT significantly improves the most important digital marketing results by allowing marketers to target their advertising directly at those who are most likely to purchase their product — based on what they’ve previously bought.
Instead of relying on misleading, disparate data extracted from other online activity such as search or browse history, businesses can achieve real insight into buying behavior with the use of payments data and see a boost in their paying customers as a result.
As a payments company, Bango is uniquely placed to focus on PBT for the benefit of our customers, maximizing the value they generate from their marketing investments.
CMO COUNCIL: What marketing skills will be needed in the future and why?
MALHOTRA: All marketing skills depend on the ability to communicate simply and effectively.
There must be a compelling story, and that story must be told well. It’s important to keep up with how the latest technology impacts communications, but without the skills to craft and convey a good story, slick marketing tools and technical know-how ultimately counts for nothing.
CMO COUNCIL: What market shifts and trends are impacting customer and competitive dynamics in the payments industry?
MALHOTRA: In the short term, alternative payment methods such as digital wallets and charging to a phone bill are displacing cash and rapidly expanding financial inclusion to the benefit of all.
In the mid-term, we expect there will be a huge drop-off in credit card use. First, because contactless payments are a much simpler alternative for cashless transactions. Secondly, because BNPL (buy now, pay later) services like Klarna are more convenient for purchases that require credit terms. A clear signal of the market moving in this direction is the recent announcement that Apple is building a BNPL service into Apple Pay and Apple Wallet. This way the future lies.
In the long term, despite how you may feel about the hype, digital currencies will supersede cash almost entirely for B2B and a large portion of B2C transactions. It is only a matter of time.
At Bango, the philosophy is about choice. We don’t prefer one payment method over another — it’s the customer’s choice. We have some cool technology that figures out how customers prefer to pay, and present payment methods accordingly.
CMO COUNCIL: How is your organization leveraging data to improve customer experience? How are you bracing for a “cookie-less” world?
MALHOTRA: For our customers, Bango applies data in two ways. First, we triangulate data sources to determine and present the best way for a customer to pay for each transaction they commit to. Secondly, we analyse payments data to align marketing with the customers most interested in paying for products and services. This is the crux of PBT and it’s how we’re helping our customers to brace for a “cookie-less” world — or as we like to call it: the App-ocalypse.
PBT grants our customers access to rich payments data, delivered to them as custom advertising audiences allowing them to target the consumers most likely to buy, based on what they’ve previously purchased. Running their ads this way means our customers have nothing to fear from the “cookie-less” world, or the App-ocalypse it heralds.