New Mena trends and insights signal growing digital maturity

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A view of visitors and exhibitors at the Gitex Technology Week in Dubai.

Inayat-ur-Rahman, Business Editor

The Harvard Business Review once revealed that retaining a customer is anywhere from five to 25 times cheaper than acquiring a new one. Following the pandemic-induced downturn and accompanying cash crunch, brands are now increasingly emphasizing retention-led growth. Concurrently, the digitalization-powered evolution in consumer behaviour has changed the dynamics in channel preferences. For brands vying to retain customers with contextualized and personalized campaigns, data-driven insights are the much-needed prerequisites. It all boils down to engaging the right customers at the right time through the right channel.

 The aforementioned status quo is rather pronounced in the Middle East, where, in a PwC survey(2), 65% of consumers said they are “more digital” than they were six months ago — well above the global average of 53%. Important to note that the survey was conducted in September, last year, after the pandemic-induced sharp swing in digital adoption had abated. So, it is safe to say that digital-first consumerism in the region is underpinned by structural trends, and is therefore here to stay. Consequently, the digital maturity of regional brands has improved considerably. A recently released trends and insights report by a leading SaaS provider attests to this notion.

WebEngage, a full-stack Retention Operating System offering  a robust customer data and analytics platform, a personalization engine, and an omnichannel campaign orchestration system, recently launched the 2022 edition of its reputable Trends & Insights Report. Titled “Cross Channel User Engagement – A Winner’s Playbook”, the in-depth report has shed light on some of the best-kept secrets in contemporary user engagement and customer retention strategies in the MENA region and beyond. WebEngage has also assembled fail-proof marketing strategies being adopted by leading brands and digital marketers. The comprehensive report also touched upon how the omnichannel strategies and each channel have contributed to the bottom lines of digital-first organizations.

“I’d rather call this a cheat sheet than a playbook because, to the right eye, it’s a fail-proof customer retention strategy on a platter. Today’s customers are spoilt for choices, and they expect brands to go above and beyond their normal code of conduct. They expect brands to not just understand their needs but predict their requirements. With thousands of data points a brand tracks per user, it is only fitting for customers to expect a hyper-personalized experience. If there’s anything the last couple of years have taught us, it is that challenges, and opportunities, will keep emerging. Experimenting, adapting, and course-correcting are the only way out,” said Chirag Parmar, Senior Manager, Special Projects, WebEngage.

In line with Parmar’s opinion on hyper-personalization, WebEngage’s report has revealed that dynamic lifecycle campaigns generate 2–7X more click-through and conversion rates than standalone campaigns. This finding posits that, while MENA consumers have gotten “more digital”, they continue to — if not in equal measure — transact in traditional, offline commerce or brick-and-mortar retail. As a result, brands that are orchestrating dynamic campaigns are generating substantially more click-throughs.

WebEngage’s report, which is based on an analysis of 400+ billion messages and 835+ billion user events across 10 industries, has gone a step further, giving location-specific details on user engagement and conversion. As far as user engagement patterns in the MENA region are concerned, the best time to send emails is between 4–8 PM, with 24% of conversions happening during this time. In addition, the best time to send WhatsApp messages is between 12–4 PM, with 33% of all conversions happening during this time. Overall, the highest conversion rates are achieved between 12–10 PM in the MENA region, the leading SaaS company has revealed.

In addition, the report also delved deeper into channel bifurcation strategies across industries as diverse as B2B, BFSI, Fin-Tech, eCommerce, Ed-Tech, Gaming, Healthcare, Media & Entertainment, and Travel & Hospitality. The availability of such comprehensive yet nuanced insights heralds sophistication in contemporary business practices in the region. In fact, WebEngage’s findings are rooted in the success of its popular Retention Operating System, using which eXtra — Saudi Arabia’s fastest-growing retail brand — orchestrated localized user engagement campaigns and recorded a 33% increase in purchases, and Gourmet — a leading retailer in Egypt — increased customer retention by 20%.

“We’ve experienced 3–4 years of growth in just 3–4 quarters for our customers. They’ve been resilient, innovative, and heavily invested in focusing on a single north-star metric: Customer Retention. Customer retention has been, and continues to be, the differentiating strategy of sustainable, high-growth businesses and unicorn bubbles. The marketing landscape has dramatically changed.”

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