How she’s keeping up to data.
By Aiden Jewelle Gonzales
Living in the digital age has become a study in contrasts: on one hand, online privacy has become more important than ever, with many of us clamouring for ways to protect our personal data; while on the other hand, we crave the convenience of targeted suggestions, served to us on the proverbial silver platter.
It didn’t hit home how much this personalisation had become a part of my everyday existence until I had a chance to speak to Sajinee Srichawla Sivasiamphai, the Associate Director, Commercial Lead at Nielsen, recognised as the global leader in audience measurement, data and analytics. “Think about when you watch TV Shows on a streaming platform,” she gives me as an example. “After you’ve finished a show, they’ll suggest content that you may like. How did they get that information? That’s all metadata that data companies like us at Nielsen have been involved in collecting. That data empowers audiences to get content that relates to them or resonates with them.”
And indeed, whether it’s the suggested music playlists in the morning that will transform me into a functional human being, the news alerts from publications I trust, or even the ads I receive for suggested long-weekend destinations, I realised that our lives are shaped around the content suggested to us, and Sajinee agrees.
“At the end of the day, audience is everything,” she tells me. “At Nielsen, we uncover what audiences want so that we can help businesses make media that counts. As a consumer myself, I think it’s really important to have content and advertising that resonates and relates to me.”
I learn that part of what excites Sajinee about being on both sides of the consumer equation is that she knows what is unique about the Thai and Thai-Indian audience, having been born and brought up here, and comparing that to her experiences abroad.
“I went to school at NIST International School, after which I did my undergraduate degree at the University of Southern California in LA, where I studied economics and marketing as well as political science,” she explains. “Afterwards, I did an MBA at St. Mary’s University, after which I briefly worked at a law firm in London before I quickly decided it was not the space I wanted to be at. What these experiences working across regions and industries has done has helped me relate to all the different people I work with; clients across industries, all of whom need data to drive their marketing decisions. What’s great about Nielsen is that we are at the centre of a lot of businesses – we provide data, analytics, and insights to over 700 brands, 1200 agencies, and 1500 media sellers across the globe. And that to me is very exciting.”
She speaks to Masala further about the importance of data in this increasingly digital landscape, how society has evolved in recent years, and the exciting opportunities in front of her in the tech space.
What led you to joining the tech space and Nielsen in particular, and what excites you the most about it?
When I moved back home from London in 2010, there were so many things that I was used to doing in my life digitally that they didn’t have here in Thailand. For example, I could shop online and it would be delivered to my doorstop; all my banking was done digitally. I remember I’d lost my bank book when I arrived so I needed to go to the police station to file a report to get a new one, and there were so many hoops to jump through. That’s when I noticed that the digital space was still untapped here, and that really excited me. I saw that, for example, social media platforms were growing exponentially, and I decided that was the space that I wanted to be in.
With my background in economics and marketing, I found myself in an analytics position for a digital agency for around 5-6 years before moving to Nielsen. What drew me to the company was that we are constantly developing our products to best serve the market needs, and I’m passionate about helping businesses use data to connect to audiences, and as a result, consumers getting tailored messaging and journeys in their path to purchasing.
What I enjoy most about the tech space is how fast-paced everything is, and how much it keeps everyone on their toes. During the pandemic, many businesses realised how much they could do digitally from home, be it work, studying, shopping, or banking. Technology helps us progress faster as a society, and it provides a platform for us to build connections very easily – we can stay in touch with people in different countries who are from different walks of life.
As one of the global leaders in its field, can you tell us more about what Nielsen does, and your role within the company?
We measure what people are seeing, where they’re seeing it, and how they’re seeing it, and our clients can use this data to make informed decisions about their marketing strategies. Our data underpins essential transactions that propel the buying, selling and creation of media, and through our understanding of people and their behaviours across all channels and platforms, we empower our clients. Around USD 780 billion of advertising and USD 220 billion of content decisions are traded based on our data globally. Knowing how what we do every day is helping consumers and businesses keeps me motivated and excited about my job.
As for what I do, I’m involved in business development for our products and connecting our teams to our clients, driving change with insights and measurable global impact – so making sure that we are providing insights, and being a trusted partner to our clients. That also involves keeping our clients are happy, and expanding our client base.
Over the last few years, the pandemic has brought about or exacerbated a lot of lifestyle changes in consumers. What have your experiences been in terms of these changing trends in Thailand, and were any of them surprising?
I wouldn’t say I was surprised by most of these trends, as there were indicators we were moving that way anyway, for example, the introduction of more social media platforms, grocery shopping apps, e-commerce platforms and so on. What did amaze me was how fast we as a community adapted and grew. For example, a lot of businesses that required face-to-face meetings were able to move online such as wedding planning, events/webinars, fitness classes, and not to mention a lot of family gatherings were done across Zoom, to keep everyone’s health and safety of the utmost importance.
With the pandemic, we have seen online shopping booms here in Thailand. 1 in 3 Thai people now use online shopping across all categories, with a 190 percent increase in online shopping from 2019-2021 across all categories. More money is being spent online, with cash on delivery, mobile banking, and digital wallet payments increasing significantly. Unsurprisingly, food and delivery apps and health products also boomed during the pandemic, but what was interesting was that even though most of us were home, there was a 206 percent growth from 2019 in fashion products, like shoes and accessories; followed by groceries; cosmetics; and electrical appliances.
Social commerce is also a lot more readily available, such as shopping on social media platforms’ marketplaces and shops. Digital consumers are more willing to buy a product after seeing an ad online and the trust in these platforms has grown significantly.
Why do you think this trust in online shopping and advertising has grown so much?
As social media platforms grew, especially during the pandemic, influencers grew as well. Now almost anybody can be an influencer – which we define as someone who has more than 1,000 followers in a public space on a social platform. Because of the rise in online shopping, influencer marketing has also grown, and we found that 75 percent of Thai consumers trust advertising opinions and product placements from influencers. Interestingly, in a survey we conducted, we found that Millennials and Gen X, especially, value celebrity and athlete endorsements. In another study that we conducted in trust in advertising, we found that 17 percent bought products after they saw an influencer post about it.
How do you and your team stay on top of all the changes in this ever-evolving space? For example, how do you address all the data privacy concerns that have arisen and will continue to rise in the future?
How do we stay on top of these changes? We live and breathe it every day. We are consumers as well as employees of Nielsen, so we’re always aware. We read a lot, Nielsen is at the forefront of measurement and media, and our headquarters in the US keeps us up to date as well.
I think that moving forward, platforms, websites, and other online applications have to be more concerned with digital rules. There are new regulations in place now to protect your consumers – for example, whenever you enter a website it always asks you now whether you’ll allow your cookies to be tracked. With this erosion of cookies, businesses will have to find other ways to deliver more tailored experience for ads and content. And out of that, people will get a more personal experience about things that they care about.
What are the challenges and opportunities working for a globally renowned company such as Nielsen, and are there any unique opportunities to be found in this space in Thailand?
Some of the great opportunities that I’ve found working for a global leader like Nielsen, is that we are a part of people’s everyday lives. Nielsen is doing really interesting stuff: we offer total media measurement solutions from audience measurement, knowing everything about your audiences across platforms and their shifting habits; to media planning, helping business understand how they can maximise their ROI (return on investments) by understanding how their marketing and advertising reaches and impacts audiences throughout the customer journey; to content metadata to help businesses discover what audiences want and connect them to more of the media, music, sports, and video content they love. We’re constantly innovating our business to follow market trends and to be on top of the curve.
I’m very blessed to be working in the corporate and tech space here in Thailand, because in my experience, Thailand is one of the few countries where women have always had top positions in the corporate world, even before the global push towards women’s empowerment and breaking the glass ceiling, Thailand was already a unique market in that respect.
What or who have been your biggest inspirations?
Growing up, both my parents worked, and I always saw my mum working a corporate job, helping my dad with his business, running our house and taking care of us, always with so much love and a smile on her face. She made, and still makes, the balancing of work, life and responsibilities seem effortless. Till today, she still does it all, but now also helps out with the grandkids, and that makes her one of my biggest inspirations. Because I saw this happen every day of my life, I never questioned that there was any other way, I saw and understood that women can go to work and have a home life; they can have it all. With that being said, my in-laws have also been a great support to me in encouraging me to maintain my career, and raise my children (with their help, love and support) so that I am able to enjoy the balance of work and life. And I am very thankful for that.
My dad is another one of my inspirations, for the way he supported my mum through all of it, as well as my husband and children. My husband is like my dad in that he encourages my career aspirations and as an added bonus, has started to pay special attention to the media world because that’s what my business is in. As for my children, when they saw me working from home during the pandemic, their role play evolved to now include going into Zoom meetings [Laughs]. And I’m so proud of that – they see that their mum works, and they want to work too, and that’s just the way life is.
Any advice for others looking to join the corporate space?
I’m still learning every day, but I would say, if you are looking to join the corporate space, make sure you find an industry you are passionate about. You have to love what you do, because you spend a lot of your time at work. Also, remember to be respectful in your career because the people you work with, compared to family or your own businesses, may come from different walks of life and you can gain a lot from their experiences. Don’t forget to be yourself, so that you are able to show people your strengths, and you need to learn to take constructive criticism. Lastly, work smart – be efficient.