First batch of SMEs graduate from Google’s digital marketing course – here’s what one participant learned

Rain Khoo, general manager of e-commerce at Mothercare Singapore.

Depending how you look at it, the digital landscape can either be a maze or the road to success for small and medium enterprises (SMEs).

While some traditional businesses have managed to win the game with successful e-commerce strategies, many have also found themselves lost in the game.

Mothercare Singapore, operated by Kim Hin International, has been in business for the past 30 years, and found itself having to explore the world of e-commerce around three years ago.

General manager for e-commerce at Mothercare in Singapore, Rain Khoo, is well aware that there is a need to constantly upgrade one’s game in the world of digital marketing and e-commerce.

Because of this, digital marketing training is a form of marketing R&D, he told Business Insider in an interview.

Mr Khoo, who on Wednesday (Mar 14) graduated from Google’s Squared Online for SMEs programme, was part of the programme’s first graduating cohort comprising 100 representatives from 79 local companies.

The programme is a digital marketing leadership programme run by Google and training provider Avado, together with the TechSkills Accelerator initiative by the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA).

“While we have great brand equity with our consumers in Singapore, we can never be complacent,” Mr Khoo said.

And although Mothercare’s physical stores are still going strong, Mr Khoo says that he saw a need to “ensure that our marketing strategy works with the many digital touchpoints our consumers interact with”.

At the graduation ceremony today, Mr Khoo was named a recipient of both the Square of Distinction and the Inspirational Squares awards.

Squares of Distinction recognises the top 10 per cent participants of the cohort, while Inspirational Squares is given to inspirational participants nominated by their peers.

Mr Khoo, whose course fees were sponsored by his employer, had joined the programme because he wanted to further Mothercare’s digital marketing capabilities.

The programme is run online after work hours for 24 weeks, with each session ranging from 60 minutes to 75 minutes at a time.

Participants are required to sign in to the virtual classes online, where they can ask and answer questions via a chat window and live polls.

Mr Khoo told Business Insider that the course equipped him with the knowledge and resources required to make Mothercare’s offline stores work with its online channels in a more seamless way.

Among other things, he walked away with additional knowledge of online resources and digital tools to help him delve deeper into customer insights and implement agile processes at work.

As a result of the course, Mothercare was able to experiment with video content without having a “million-dollar budget” large firms have.

Although initially unsure how an SME could pull it off, Mr Khoo’s experimentation proved effective.

A video on baby strollers that the company subsequently produced for the Mothercare Babyfair in January ended up getting more than 322,000 organic views.

“Through this campaign, we’ve realised the benefit of using videos to showcase the key features of our products and tell our brand story. It is no longer sufficient to rely on a single format or marketing channel to reach your audience,” Mr Khoo said.

Mr Khoo is now using the materials from the programme to train senior management and other staff in the company’s marketing and e-commerce operations teams.

“We no longer think or manage our marketing team as digital and non-digital marketing teams, every single marketer is expected to understand, have skill sets, and deliver on both on- and offline marketing,” he said.

Dr Yaacob Ibrahim, Singapore’s Minister for Communications and Information, said at Google’s Singapore office at Pasir Panjang Road that the programme was a good fit with part “A” of the Ministry of Communications and Information’s (MCI) newly-introduced “ABC” formula.

Minister for Communication and Information Yaacob Ibrahim taking a selfie with the graduating batch of participants from the Squared Online for SME programme.

At the Committee of Supply Debates, MCI had introduced the concept to help Singapore’s workforce and businesses prepare for the digital economy.

Part “A” of the formula calls for the acceleration of digitalisation for existing sectors, while “B” and “C” refer to building up Singapore’s infocomm media companies, and creating Singapore’s future technology sectors.

“In the digital economy, organisations from all sectors will need to be agile and harness infocomm technologies to boost their capabilities and to stay competitive,” Dr Yaacob said.

According to Google, Singapore’s first batch of participants performed better than their global counterparts, with a pass rate of 85 per cent compared to the global average of 82 per cent.

Launched in 2017, the programme’s organisers aim to strengthen Singapore’s talent pool of ICT professionals by training 1,000 digital leaders across various industries in Singapore by 2019.

Google also runs the Start on Android programme to help start-ups develop apps, as well as the Go Global programme which offers data, insights and digital classes to SMEs looking to get online for the first time.

Registration for the next Squared Online for SMEs programme intake closes on Apr 2. Eligible Singaporeans and permanent residents can apply to receive funding support for the course fees.