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Lau Dorcas - VP, DM and eCommerce, Unilever North Asia

Building strategic partnerships with influential digital and technology partners is key to my role as Unilever North Asia’s VP for Digital Marketing and eCommerce.

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There is nothing more exciting than being part of a game-changing opportunity to expand our presence in one of Unilever’s top priority markets, China. When I accepted the role four years ago I relished the challenge of leading an entirely new venture to scale up our business and support the company’s sustainable ambition in North Asia.

Right from the beginning, I recognised that we needed to concentrate on building and leveraging our connections with key players in the marketplace.

It is only by partnering with other key players that we can give ourselves the best possible platform for reaching out to and engaging with our consumers.

In 2009, Unilever launched its first branded flagship store on Chinese eCommerce giant Alibaba’s B2C platform Tmall. By July 2015, we’d secured a new strategic partnership agreement that further enhanced our collaborative marketing – we’re now reaching more online and offline consumers.

Having Alibaba as a strategic partner means we have access to an entire digital ecosystem that is benefiting our business in numerous ways; expanding distribution channels and improving both our payment platforms and online advertising strategy:

  • Tmall is Alibaba’s business-to-consumer marketplace. This platform gives us the opportunity to do some fantastic brand-building work, encouraging consumers to interact and engage with our brand so that they ultimately buy more of our products, whether online or in a store.
  • Alipay, the leading third-party online payment solution, is another part of the Alibaba ecosystem that we’re able to leverage. This year, for example, we’ve put a unique QR code on each of our Cornetto products, enabling consumers to access special offers associated with the brand.
  • In partnership with the Shanghai Technology Entrepreneurship Foundation for Graduates, the Unilever China Foundry will provide a platform for startups and Unilever brands to innovate and connect with the real needs of consumers.

Strengthening connections inside the workplace

The principle of partnership-building is likely to lead to greater success. This is true for both external and internal partnerships. It’s certainly an approach I have tried to adopt in regards to my own team.

When I assumed the role of Vice President, I had the opportunity to build the business area from the ground up and recruit the best candidates into my team. Four years later, we now have more than 100 people dedicated to digital and eCommerce.

While our business grows, our philosophy remains the same: to continue to experiment and explore. I strongly believe in giving team members a free hand and encourage them to pilot ideas that are innovative and new.

We all work together in close collaboration, updating each other on how projects are progressing, while continuously adjusting, fine-tuning and optimising our work. The team operates like a series of successful partnerships, with autonomous members working in collaboration to achieve mutually beneficial results.

Strategic alliances, whether external or internal, offer a win-win situation for both parties. The collaborative approach is certainly proving its merit as part of our digital marketing strategy here at Unilever – and, if appropriately applied, can successfully work for your business too.

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