Acquiring new customers has been at the top of the agenda for companies from time immemorial. It wasn’t until new value propositions of entrants and competitors emerged that such companies realised that customer retention, too, merits attention.

The widespread digitalization in recent years has only reinforced the need to focus on retaining customers, with empirical evidence suggesting that acquisition costs way more than retention. Companies focusing on customer retention have also enhanced their profits. Those developments have given rise to a new wave of retention-first thinkers, some of whom are expected to soon congregate at EngageMint Dubai, Asia’s biggest customer engagement and retention conference, hosted by WebEngage.

“EngageMint Dubai comes on the heels of the Riyadh edition, where CXOs, marketers, and executives of leading organizations were in attendance to dissect customer retention using local case studies. The attendees were from sectors as diverse as retail, F&B, travel, consumer electronics, automotive, and public. The diverse group of participants indicated the relevance of retention across sectors, including conservative ones like family offices and governing bodies,” revealed Hetarth Patel, VP - MEA and Managing Director - UAE, WebEngage, a marketing technology company specializing in retention. Hetarth believes the positive response to EngageMint, a retention-focused conference, indicates a structural trend in the region.

The need to retain customers stems from the attention economy

The exemplary digitalization in the UAE, supported by one of the highest internet penetration rates in the world, has levelled the playing field for brands. Most importantly, it has given rise to an “attention economy” where, due to smartphones, social media, and high velocity of information, customers’ attention is divided in different directions. It is increasingly difficult for brands to engage and retain such customers. Outdated, cookie-cutter marketing strategies will only lead to further disengagement and churn. There is a broad consensus among leading companies that discerning customers will only respond to communications tailored to their interests and expectations, that personalization is key to retention.

Re-envisioning CX in the context of retention

Customer experiences (CX) are shaped by journeys. Every customer approaches a brand with a specific intent on a particular channel — physical store, ecommerce, etc. — exhibits certain shopping behaviour, and makes a purchase. Several such journeys enable brands to build a repository of data. Using AI analytics, that “Big Data” can be turned into insights that can help marketing teams to effectively segment the audience and personalize the messaging based on individual preferences and behavioural triggers. With sophisticated marketing automation tools and journey designers, insights-led customer engagement can be orchestrated at a machine scale, according to Hetarth.

“The attention economy isn’t a human-scale problem; it is a machine-scale problem. And as such, brands should approach it by leveraging AI and automation, increasing marketing efficiency and augmenting human capabilities. The idea is to build future-proof marketing models that can, with the continued proliferation of data, course-correct and help brands stay agile and competitive,” explained Hetarth Patel, drawing upon personal experiences with WebEngage. The SaaS company provides AI analytics, automation, journey designers, and campaign orchestration, among other tools, in a full-stack Retention Operating System, offering businesses a cost-effective, one-stop-shop solution. Hetarth said the uptake of retention technologies by family offices and entities in the public sector is a welcome development.

The dawn of retention-led growth in Dubai

In 2018, Smart Dubai, a government-helmed initiative, launched AI-led smart city advisor ‘Rashid’ to process customers’ queries about various public services, associated documentation, etc. Rashid exemplifies increasing service efficiency through AI and enhancing customer experience. Moreover, it is equipped to handle a multitude of queries simultaneously, leading to quick resolutions for each customer — an outcome aligned with the expectations of the attention economy. Such opportunities are open to family offices, too, which deal with similar volume and operational scale. Taking into account that family offices constitute about 90% of all enterprises in the region, with their growth tied to GDP, their increasing propensity toward retention technologies is indeed of great consequence.

“The linkages between attention economy, customer retention, and marketing technologies will invite dialogue at the upcoming EngageMint Dubai, with leaders from across sectors sharing insights and best practices. With the conference, our mission is to create an accessible platform for effective knowledge flows and technological diffusion. Such platforms will play an indispensable role in advancing the UAE’s transition to an efficiency-driven, knowledge-based, digital economy,” Patel said.

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