Retention Strategies: How to Keep Your Customers Coming Back for More

Customer retention stands at the forefront of every business owner’s mind. And why shouldn’t it? Retaining a customer is good for the top line as it helps lower the cost of acquiring customers. Data suggests that acquiring new customers costs 5x-8x more than keeping existing customers. Moreover, existing customers will likely spend 67% more on average than new customers.

Besides, a returning customer is a sign that you are doing good work of engaging and maintaining your relationship with your customers well.

Importance of Customer Retention

Customer retention rate refers to the rate at which a business’ customers repeatedly buy its products. Depending on the company’s nature, this could be weekly, monthly, or annual, and creates a regular revenue stream. Therefore, it goes without saying then that a higher retention rate is one of the most desirable and pursued goals in business today.

If a customer buys a product or service from a company more than once, they become a repeat customer. For example, if 75% of a music subscription service’s customers renew their subscription every month, the customer retention rate is 75% per month.

Every brand needs to worry about customer retention because, as explained earlier, retaining an existing customer is cheaper than making a new one. A company can gain more value from a single customer who comes repeatedly compared to a customer who buys only once. This is because a returning customer continues buying the same product and could consider upgrading to a new product or purchasing another new product or service from you.

Importance of customer retention

Customer retention makes it easier for a business to grow and expand by saving time and effort to reach new customers.

Understanding Customer Retention and Loyalty

Customer loyalty and retention feed into each other but are different. Customer loyalty refers to customers who have a favorable opinion of your business and are likely to expand their purchases from you, engage with your business, and advocate for it. A retained customer is not necessarily a loyal customer.

Important Customer Retention Metrics

Several metrics can evaluate how good your brand is at retaining customers.

For instance, you can look at the average customer lifetime value (ACLV). This metric measures the money a single customer will spend with your business during their lifetime relationship with you. Other important metrics include customer relationship rate, net promoter score, and customer satisfaction score.

Customer relation rate or CRR: This is a highly desirable metric, and successful businesses aim to attain a CRR of about 80-85%.

Net Promoter Score or NPS: Often, after a shopping experience, you are asked – ‘On a scale of 1 to 10, how likely are you to recommend the service or product to a friend?’. That right there is the Net Promoter Score. This measures the loyalty and enthusiasm of customers. A delighted customer experience would lead to a higher NPS.

Customer Satisfaction Score or CSAT: This relatively straightforward calculation represents a percentage. To calculate this, you must add all positive scores, divide them by the total number of survey participants, and multiply it by 100.

While customer retention can seem like an abstract concept, there are proven and actionable steps companies can take to retain more customers.

42% of customers are willing to pay more when they get a more welcoming customer experience. If your brand delivers a delightful experience to the customer, it is more likely that they will come back for more. That’s why curating your customer experience is worth the effort.

Some ways customer experience can be enhanced are:

  • Having a friendly and honest sales approach
  • A responsive and helpful customer support set-up
  • Creating a frictionless experience for buyers
  • Taking customer feedback seriously and working on it
  • Personalizing customer experience

An increasing number of brands are now focusing on personalizing customer experience. 90% of leading marketers believe that personalization dramatically contributes to business profitability. By offering a tailored way of interacting with customers on various channels, personalization can help deliver unique experiences to users. Brands can now provide personalization at scale using automation tools.

Customer Engagement Platforms and Customer Retention

Customer engagement refers to how customers engage with your brand. Customer engagement happens to be one of the critical drivers of conversion and retention. As more brands work towards engaging better with customers, they use customer data to evaluate and improve engagement. Customer engagement platforms, or CEPs, enable marketers to do just that.

A CEP comprises tools that help analyze customer behavior and interact with them at various touchpoints. Effective CEPs like MoEngage allow brands to track the customer journey and make contextual and personalized offerings. This way, customers are bound to feel valued by the brand. Engagement platforms contribute substantially to retention, be it smooth onboarding or making personalized, timely recommendations.

MoEngage Dashboard

Choosing the right CEP for your business depends on marketing goals, costs, existing team skills, resources, budgets, and data privacy.

Exclusive Experiences: Driving Retention

An exclusive experience means providing something unique to a particular set of your regular repeat customers that is unavailable to others.

When you create an exclusive experience for a customer, you signal to them that you value them and are willing to go the extra mile. Exclusive experiences can significantly help with increasing the customer lifetime value as well as the customer retention rate.
An example of an exclusive experience is your very own Amazon homepage. Have you ever noticed how Amazon’s app homepage recognizes your latest obsessions and recommends what you’re looking for?

Amazon dashboard

Another lesser-known example is that of Tommee Tippee, a manufacturer of baby products. It so happened that an autistic child named Ben would drink only from the Tommee Tippee sippy cup and wanted the replacement of a Tommee Tippee sippy cup that was a limited edition and discontinued. On tweeting this to the company, Tommee Tippee declared a limited run of 500 finished cups, especially for Ben.

Here’s how brands can create exclusive experiences for their customers:

  • Get customer feedback
  • Tap into social listening
  • Leverage AI tools for a razor-sharp customer focus
  • Personalize at scale at various touchpoints
  • Engage in real-time

Rewards: Reinforcing Retention

Another way to cultivate customer retention is through a loyalty program or rewards system. This can incentivize a customer to spend more on your business.

Shopify Retention strategy

An example of a super successful loyalty and rewards program is that of Sephora’s Beauty Insider. The program has over 17 million loyal members, accounting for nearly 80% of Sephora’s annual sales. The unique program allows members to choose how to use their reward points, including limited edition products and in-store beauty tutorials.

Customer Retention and Word-of-Mouth Marketing

Customer retention can kill two birds with one stone. It doesn’t just provide repeat business for your company; it can also lead to word-of-mouth marketing. This means that customer retention can also lead to an increase in your customer base.

Evernote referral program

92% of consumers in a survey believe their friends and family over any kind of advertising. That’s the power of word-of-mouth marketing.
There are some proven ways to generate word-of-mouth marketing through leveraging loyal customers.

How to generate positive word-of-mouth marketing:

  • Asking customers to review your business online
  • Offering a referral program
  • Tapping into influencer marketing
  • Offering free samples or trials

For example, brands like Uber have a brilliant referral program to get new customers and reward existing ones.

Uber referral program

Retention Rates and Lifetime Value

Retention rate is the percentage of customers you retain over a specified period. Customer lifetime value (CLV) is the amount of money that a single customer spends on your business throughout their relationship with your business.

A higher retention rate can lead to higher lifetime value. Here’s how: If a customer remains with your business for an extended period, they will tend to spend more money, which increases their lifetime value.

How to improve retention rates and lifetime value:

  • Offer referral programs
  • Make targeted, personalized campaigns at the right touchpoints
  • Make engaging content
  • Listen to your customers
  • Leverage up-selling and cross-selling strategies

Personalization in Retention Strategies

Marketing with AI-driven personalization

By creating exclusive experiences for your customers, personalization can help with customer retention. Personalization aims not just to make the customer feel valued but also to offer products and services that are best suited to that particular customer at the right time. For instance, a customer may have left a product in their shopping cart because they may not have funds. If you offer them a customized deal, they will likely buy and return, too!

Leveraging customer data plays a critical role here. If you know why your customer is coming back or, instead, why they are not, you can hit just the right spot in customer experience.

There are several tools for personalized retention based on the nature of your business. Some of these are Google Optimize, OptiMonk, Proof, and Segment. With the advent of AI, several of these tools use AI technology to personalize your marketing efforts further.

Spotify again reaches the top here with its “Spotify Wrapped.” The streaming service gives each customer a comprehensive report of what they listened to throughout the year, getting them to hear more and explore more music genres.

Spotify Wrapped: Retention Strategy

Brand Reputation and Customer Retention

Impact of Brand Reputation on Customer Loyalty

How is brand reputation related to customer retention? A better brand reputation makes customers feel they’re getting a good deal when they shop with your brand.

One of the primary hesitations that a customer has when shopping is which brand to trust. A good brand reputation is likely to make the customer trust you more. For example, consumers tend to buy more from brands like Apple because of their reputation for attention to detail.

Here’s how you can improve your brand reputation:

  • Have a consistent online presence
  • Enhance customer service
  • Have robust crisis communication strategies
  • Deliver what you promise
  • Take feedback and reviews seriously

Emerging Trends in Retention Strategies

Emotional loyalty: Individuals with high emotional attachment choose their preferred brand for a specific item 82% of the time. Think of a brand like Barbie or Lego—generations have used them as go-to brands for gifting. More brands focus on creating a solid emotional bond by comprehending customer preferences, behaviors, and pain points.

Gamification: Is retaining customers a challenge? Gamify it! That’s what Nike did with its “Nike Run Club.” The brand makes it competitive and rewarding for customers while engaging with or using their product.

Nike Run Club: Retention Strategy

Self-service Customer Support: In the age of AI and chatbots, customers should be able to get their queries answered immediately. 24/7/365 is the new normal. Nearly 69% of customers try to solve their issues themselves before reaching out for support. Brands are increasingly adding automated permission in the form of bots to retain customers before they look for a solution elsewhere.

Partnership Loyalty: Brands are partnering with other brands to offer more benefits to loyal customers. For instance, a hotel chain can partner with airlines to provide repeat customers with a bundled experience and better deals.

AI and Personalization: The age of hyper-personalization is here. As AI evolves, personalization is only getting more profound with the available data and the means to leverage that data at scale. Automation tools are getting sharper in informing brands what to do and when to retain customers.

TLDR? Here’s a summary of successful retention strategies:

  • Deliver a spellbinding customer experience so the customer returns for more such experiences.
  • Leverage automation tools and engagement platforms for customer retention
  • Offer your customers exclusive experiences so they feel valued
  • Offer rewards to loyal customers as an incentive for repeatedly choosing your brand
  • Aim to increase the lifetime value of the customer
  • Deliver a highly personalized experience to make things extra special for your customer
  • Maintain an excellent brand reputation so the customer is assured they are buying from the right brand
  • Emotional Loyalty, Gamification, AI and Personalization, Self-Service Customer Support, and Partnership Loyalty are some of the emerging trends in retention strategies

Customer retention is one aspect of the many things brands must focus on to drive sales and ROI. What is your brand doing differently to retain customers?

Acquisition vs Retention: Choosing the Right Strategy

Every downturn in the market cycle sees businesses immediately rush towards customer retention and foregoing all efforts towards acquisition. As the cycle turns, customer acquisition come back into focus and retention takes a backseat.

While this may seem like sound business practice, such drastic shifts in focus could do businesses more harm than good. It can never be a choice between the two; but its more about striking the right balance. One goes up, the other comes down but is not reduced to 0. Its about paying optimum attention to each depending on the market cycle, industry, etc.

The Debate Rages On…

The debate around customer acquisition vs. customer retention is often one that brings out interesting perspectives.

Customer acquisition focuses on initiatives to attract new customers. On the other hand, customer retention comprises efforts to retain existing customers so they keep coming back for more.

Customer acquisition mainly relies on reaching out to prospects and warming up cold leads. Retention relies on understanding your current customers’ pain points and enhancing customer experience.

Acquisition vs Retention - What is it?

Given that any business would have limited resources, companies are often required to make the tough call on whether to focus on customer acquisition or retention. hese decisions are based on a variety of factors like type of industry, life cycle, etc.

While both acquisition and retention strive towards increasing revenue, they require different approaches. For example, acquisition may focus on strategies aligned with market development and diversification. In contrast, retention typically works in tandem with improving customer support and increasing customer lifetime value (CLV).

Cost Comparison between Customer Acquisition and Retention

Cost Comparison between Customer Acquisition and Retention

Cost involved is one of the prime factors that any business considers before making a choice between customer acquisition and retention. What a business would have to pay for customer acquisition vs. customer retentioncan vary wildly from business to business and industry to industry,. But hey, we can rely on our good old friend “data” to make better decisions.

Sarvana Kumar, CEO of Kovai.co, says that it can cost between five to seven times more to acquire a new customer than to retain an existing customer, depending on your industry. Further, Shaily Verma, Head of Data at Damac, notes that the probability of selling to a new prospect is 2% to 10%. In contrast, the probability of selling to an existing customer is 60% to 70%!

It’s clear that the cost of acquisition is significantly more than the cost of retention.

There are two main reasons for this.

First, people buy from brands that they trust, and building trust in today’s world is expensive.
Second, marketing channels ideal for customer retention (for example, email marketing) are usually cheaper than marketing channels and activities apt for acquisition (for example, lead generation, paid or targeted ads, etc.).

When deciding how much to spend on acquisition and retention of customers, brands need to consider the CLV (customer lifetime value), that is, how much revenue a customer brings in once they are associated with the brand .
But obviously, cost is not the only decisive factor. And of course, companies would need to acquire customers before they can retain them, right?

Still doesn’t settle the debate? Let’s get to the point.

Acquisition or Retention?

Acquisition or Retention?

Jokes apart, here’s what the experts have to say.

“I think no business should have to decide between retention and acquisition because both of them are important.”, says Ankit Bansal, Head of Digital Marketing Strategy at 6th Street, leading online shopping site in GCC. He adds that it’s not an “or” situation, but an “and” situation. Companies need to focus on both, but the proportion of that focus will vary. In some circumstances, brands may want to focus more on acquisition, while in others, they may want to give retention a bigger push.

When to Focus on Customer Acquisition

Customer acquisition is the primary goal for companies in the growth stage. For a new business, with zero customers and zero brand recognition, all effort must be directed towards getting the brand name out there and acquiring customers.

This will have a direct impact on the revenue for the business. But, before they go about acquiring, brands need to ensure that there is a big enough addressable market, the messaging and brand voice are clear, and that there is proper product-market fit, among other things. “It is essential not to go blind,” says Shaily Verma, Head of Data at Damac, underscoring the importance of research in customer acquisition.

Another situation in which customer acquisition is a necessity is when the company is entering a new market. Say, if your company is well-known in Bengaluru, it does not mean people know you in Mumbai too. This is why customer acquisition needs to have primacy during this stage.

Further, at least some marketing efforts need to go towards customer acquisition no matter how large or established the company is. No brand in the world has 100% name recognition. Even Coca-Cola needs to focus on acquiring new customers.

Here are some top-notch examples of how brands have managed to attract new customers:

Shopify has made a big name for itself in a short span of time. This company is behind the success of numerous e-commerce stores. The company has devised innovative ways of getting noticed. For instance, it uses interactive content such as business name generators and quizzes to attract prospects. This type of content is highly sharable and generates a self-sustaining word-of-mouth loop for the company.

Acquisition vs Retention - Shopify

Another new brand that is making waves is TurboTax. This brand runs ads that promise free tax filing services. The catch is only some customers are eligible for free tax returns on the site. While TurboTax may not make money directly from those people, it will still have the potential to drive revenue from those who click on the ad and then find out the filing isn’t free for them, and will proceed to get the filing done anyway. Meanwhile, there are also upsell opportunities for free customers. Such kind of freemium models are a cool way to give customers a taste of your product.

Acquisition vs Retention - TurboTax

When to Focus on Customer Retention?

According to a study by Bain & Company, an increase in customer retention of 5% could improve profits by 25% to 95%! This just goes to show how much potential for revenue generation customer retention has.

Brands would benefit from engaging in customer retention because it’s much more cost-effective than customer acquisition. A company that has built a sizeable base of customers can magnify its focus on customer retention. Further, it is essential to note that customer retention efforts have acquisition impact as well in the form of referrals from loyal customers.

Let’s take a look at how some established brands are distinguishing themselves by building a loyal following.

Amazon

Customers are only getting more demanding with time as options galore. They expect the same level of service from an online experience as they do from an offline one, and Amazon understands this! The brand stresses on the customer’s journey right from the time a visitor lands on an Amazon page all the way upto checkout. This is by designing a process so seamless that 49% of all Amazon customers give the company the highest marks for excellent service.

Acquisition vs Retention - Amazon

Four Seasons

Another example of stellar customer retention is that of Four Seasons. In business, especially hospitality, it is a non-negotiable to make every customer feel important. The brand has taken proactive steps to cater to every need of their guests by releasing a chat service for guests to get in touch with the staff. The result: their bookings have never been higher.

Acquisition vs Retention - Four Seasons

Now, retention can be tricky in some industries like travel. The travel industry expects customers to be periodic users of their offerings, not too frequent. How does retention work there?

“Although acquisition takes priority in this particular case, retention also plays a big role,” says Namrata Bhatia, Director Marketing at Holiday Factory. “Using data models while humanizing the entire customer experience and also personalizing recommendations can go a long way in creating a base of loyal customers.

In the end, it’s all about finding a way to keep the customer alive in your ecosystem, emails…SMS…whatever it takes! Remember, a loyal customer can become your brand advocate,” she adds. “Ideally,” Shaily says, “your retention should fund your acquisition.”

This is such an eye-opener. Brands need to focus on self-sustaining models to lower burn resulting from acquisition. And who can deny the power of technology in driving optimal marketing efforts!

Considering the staggering amount of data available to marketers, they need to know how to divide the population into clear segments and figure out whom to target, when and how. Leveraging data models can help detect early churn likelihood, and listening to customers can help get to the root cause of customer problems.

Ankit from 6thStreet concludes, “Data drives strategy in both acquisition and retention. While most businesses have access to enough data, what matters is how you use it, else it’s just a wormhole. Is the data actionable in real time? Is it enabling people to make the right decisions? Using automation tools for continuous tracking, testing, and actioning is what brands need to balance their acquisition/retention strategies.”

Consolidating all automation platforms to make sense of the data and building a robust martech stack can make things a lot easier for brands.

Case Study: Uber

When it comes to an interesting mix of acquisition and retention strategies, Uber goes the distance!

A revolutionary idea to ease local transport, Uber came to be in 2011. Since the very start, the company acquired new customers by offering free first rides and massive referral programs. For retention, Uber devised its loyalty program “Uber VIP.”

Most importantly, it leveraged the two-sided review system for both drivers and customers to get feedback and make service improvements. Uber Cash and Reward Program for loyal customers added to customer delight and served as an icing on the cake, or should we say, made the ride sweeter?

The result: Uber’s unprecedented growth, with Uber drivers completing 7.6 billion trips in 2022, a 20.6% increase y-o-y.

Uber is indeed an epitome of how acquisition and retention strategies can be intertwined into a self-sustaining loop.

Acquisition vs Retention - Uber

TLDR? Here’s the long and short of it:

  • Looks like the never-settled debate of customer acquisition vs. retention will alas never be settled.
  • Both acquisition and retention take priority in different cases depending on the industry, brand maturity, customer journey, and so on.
  • While the costs of acquisition are certainly higher than retention, acquisition is an essential step for brands, particularly the new ones or those entering a new market or geography.
  • In the end, it isn’t an “either-or” question, but a balance that combines both in relevant proportions.
  • Consolidating marketing automation tools and making robust use of data can help brands strike the requisite balance between acquisition and retention.

How to Build a Brand and Customer Loyalty [#GROWTH19 Wrap-up]

In today’s hyper-connected age, there is no single way to connect with your customer. Customer journeys have become more complicated than before, and marketers have to constantly find ways to break the clutter and engage with customers through multiple channels such as e-mails, SMSes, apps, websites, offline, etc in order to boost customer loyalty.

Bonus Content

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How to Build a Brand and Customer Loyalty

We invited Mrinal Singhal, AVP Marketing, YatraSharad Harjai, Sr. Director Marketing, Grofers, and Amit Tandon VP Marketing, HealthKart to learn how they have succeeded in building their brand and a robust customer loyalty program across the digital and offline platforms. The panel discussion was moderated by Yashwant Reddy, VP at MoEngage.

We bring you the excerpts from the discussion.

How do you engage customers across different channels such as paid media and social media? How do you decide what kind of message should be used?

Sharad: With so many channels at our disposal, maintaining the consistency in the brand’s language is important. It is important how you position each product. It’s not just the text; even the design should be taken care of. It should give the buyer the confidence to buy from the portal. To maintain consistency, we have built a team architecture that’s less focused on calling people channel owners such as social media head, or a digital marketing head.

Instead, we have divided the entire team into two areas based on metrics – acquisition and retention. So, if a person is driving a campaign based on one metric, then the focus is not on which channel to use to communicate with the customer. The focus is on the larger metric, and that brings consistency in the campaign. If the campaign is to improve downloads and conversions, everyone involved in the campaign has to be a part of the entire process. Everyone works cohesively for the larger benefit of the metrics.

Mrinal: We have multiple touchpoints to explore, so the challenge is to get the consumer’s attention. At Yatra, we follow two metrics to engage with the customers. One, to keep the messaging very simple. We must understand that we are sending a message to the consumers and not marketers. The second thing we stress upon is the user’s journey.

We ensure that the consumer’s journey from communication to the point where they make a booking is seamless and does not have any broken/slow links. So, irrespective of whether the campaign is large or small or covering different touch points, we ensure the basic principles of simple messaging and simple customer journey is followed. In terms of team structure, we do not function in silos. Whenever there is a business challenge to be solved, all the channel experts sit together to decide on the best channel to work upon.

Amit: Engagement is less of a challenge for us as customer loves to engage in health and wellness especially when they want to know more about particular products. In fact, we get a lot of inbound queries. For us, the challenge is maintaining a consistent omnichannel experience, which we are trying to build now. We are trying to integrate our physical footprint with the digital footprint to provide a superlative experience to our customer.

For example, if the customer buys a product online, they should be able to return it at the nearest store, or they can buy a product online if it is not available at a store. In terms of how our team is structured, we have a common centralized marketing team to provide a consistent experience in both digital and offline stores. We also have a centralized training team that trains every storefront executive about the domain and store ethics to ensure that the messaging on digital medium and in-store remains consistent.

The consistent experience has increased the Customer Lifetime Value (LTV). The customers engage more with the portal because of the relationship they have developed with the store.

What metrics do you measure to track the health of growth besides vanity metrics such as installations, downloads, and the number of new users?

Sharad: For us, the Northstar of our metrics is the monthly wallet share the consumer gives to Grofers. A typical family of 2-3 people spends around 7,000 to 8,000 Rs each month on grocery. Global survey says that the maximum share any offline or online platform can have for the minimum amount spent on grocery by a family is around seventy percent. Achieving this kind of share is a challenging task as you cannot lose track of a customer at any moment. You have to be at the top of things. Your engagement channel should be in tune with how your customer buys.

Customer engagement must revolve around how the customer buys every month. For example, customers do monthly top-ups on the day the salary is credited. By the end of every month, we analyze the wallet share we could get from a customer. We also monitor the replenishment cycle when it comes to eatables. One of our best resulting engagement campaigns is where we understand when a customer is going to buy what.

It is easy to find out how does the household look like, how big is it and depending upon when a customer is going to buy a product, we work on the reengagement campaigns. It is one category that has given us great results.

Mrinal: Unlike groceries, travel is not a very frequent use case. An average customer makes two to four bookings in a year and they look for the best deals in the market. Apart from acquiring new customers month on month, the key metrics that we track is the 9O-day repeat trait. We monitor how the lifetime value looks like – is it moving up or down or is it flat? These are the two metrics we measure to determine if we are moving in the right direction.

Amit: We look at two metrics – repeat and new. In our category, we always have new customers. However, repeat metric is equally important for us. Within repeat, we see if we can upgrade the customer’s experience and move them to a more core product. We track repeat records regularly to check out the health of our business and to figure out if there was an event that led to the exit of our loyal customers. Given that the target group is quite finite, Net Promoter Score (NPS) becomes our core metric. We do weekly NPS checks and keep on changing our benchmarks to track the NPS.

Do you want to discuss a specific use case on how loyalty programs can drive repeat business?

Sharad: In 2O17, Grofers moved from a marketplace model which served multiple categories to an inventory-led, grocery-focused e-commerce model. We have become more of an e-tailer than a typical e-commerce company. We have refined our brand positioning with the lowest price guarantee for groceries and optimized the cost of operation as much as we can so those benefits can get passed to the consumer in terms of prices.

Loyalty program was a big step in the same direction. We started a Smart Bachat Club, wherein If you pay a small membership fee each month, you will get access to even lower costs on the products. It strengthens our core proposition of pricing itself. Right now, 66% to 70% of our transactions get done through the members of the Smart Bachat Club. Eventually, we plan to build an online cost structure like DMart who offers products at the lowest price. We aim to strengthen our supply chain, so we can reduce the prices even further.

Mrinal: The category we work in is a commoditized category; so something like loyalty does not work. Customers are out in the market to look for the best possible deal. However, there are a handful of customers who are not deal seekers. They seek convenience and come out of familiarity with the platform. The objective is to drive wallet share from those customers and acquire such customers who make you grow at a profitable rate.

Our call centers offer preferential treatment to high-value customers. These services would include faster turnaround time for complaint resolution, a higher authority granted to customer care agents for making exceptions for these customers in order to reduce the turnaround time and deliver better customer experience. All this has helped us to improve the retention rate of the customers.

Amit: We don’t have a structured omnichannel loyalty program. We are working upon it right now. However, just to give a context; unlike Grofers, our objective is not to offer products at the lowest price. In fact, as compared to Amazon and Flipkart, we sell certain products at a premium, because we are focused on profitability. We are planning to segment our customers based on the frequency of purchase.

So someone who frequently purchases from us will be considered a power user. As their LTV is high, we plan to offer them products at the lowest price. We have a significant one-time user base who come in and flirt with the product and fall out of the funnel. For those guys, the pricing will remain premium. We aim to pass on the benefits from the flirtatious user to the power user to avoid losing them to any other platform.

Somebody has asked this question on Twitter. How do you build a different experience for different customer segments?

Amit: Earlier, our segregation system was more conventional. We used to target the top 10 cities, then the next 25, and finally the rest of India. It was working well in the initial stage. We were dominant in the top 20 or 30 cities, but now the trend is changing. We see a lot of volume from the rest of India. So now we are segmenting the customers purely on the basis of purchase.

We have a power user segment, and then we have a flirtatious user, a deal hunter who looks for best deals on different portals, and a onetime user. So it is like a VIP club (power user) vs. a non-VIP club (rest of users). Our messaging differs according to it.

Mrinal: One segment that we focus on is our high-value customers. The other segment is the SME segment that travels more for business purpose. For the SME segment, we have created a separate platform within our yatra.com ecosystem, wherein customers can avail corporate fares. They also have the flexibility to reschedule their flight tickets at almost no extra cost, get free meals onboard, etc. These are the two different segments that we have identified. The rest of the customer base falls under the regular category, which we try to capture through regular promotional events that we do on our platform.

Sharad: For us, it’s slightly different. We don’t and can’t have different experiences for different customers. We have to maintain consistency for everyone because for every customer the rate at which they get the product matters the most. It is not just one or two products per order. It is a basket of 16 to 18 products per order. So, if we do not maintain consistency for every customer, it will work negatively for us. However, we take a lot of initiatives internally to segment and understand the customer well. We look into different parameters and use algorithms to assign churn scores, conversion scores, etc to drive segmentation. We look at those data and based upon that drive our different initiatives.

Thank You, Sharad, Mrinal, and Amit for sharing your valuable insights with us on how you have built customer engagement for your respective organizations. We have come to understand that measuring the right metrics, building customer loyalty programs, and communicating the right message to the right audience is the key to successful customer engagement.

How Marketing Automation Enhances Customer Experience in BFSI [Marketer Spotlight]

Editor’s note: The trend in 2020 leans toward financial apps that offer great convenience for consumers and business opportunities for the BFSI organizations themselves. A study by Business Insider Intelligence’s Mobile Banking Competitive Edge study suggests that 89 percent of consumers – and a whopping 97 percent of millennials – use mobile banking. The bigger problem, however, is that traditional BFSI companies often lack the technical and pragmatic expertise to engage these “digital-only” and “mobile-only” users. They try to adapt their web and brick-and-mortar customer service best practices for the mobile crowd, only to find that their efforts fall short. Mobile banking can be a particularly vexing environment for financial institutions as they try to acquire, upsell, retain, and engage consumers throughout the entire customer lifecycle. We caught up with Paurush Sonkar, Head Online Sales at Bharti AXA Life Insurance and Founder of BFSI Digital Stallions Forum to understand how technologies such as marketing automation and AI can help the BFSI sector fast-track their digital consumer engagement.

Please share a brief introduction of your background and a few interesting insights from any of the projects you have led.

Paurush: I completed my MBA in the 2002-2004 Batch and started my career with ICICI Lombard General Insurance as a management trainee. I was part of a team called the e-Channel. I started my career on the digital side when digital was all about microsites and e-mailers. As the medium gained prominence, I grew with the medium both from an experience and a knowledge perspective. I have a holistic perspective of digital and financial services, having worked in General Insurance, Life Insurance, Broking, Mutual Funds, NBFC, and more.

The most exciting project that I can recollect was in 2011-2012 at Aditya Birla Capital (Erstwhile Aditya Birla Financial Services Group). I worked alongside the central marketing team to revamp all the digital assets across multiple lines of business, 7 to be precise. The project encompasses website UI / UX, website design, SEO, essential social media presence, content, analytics, and more. It gave me a 360-degree perspective and put me at the helm of the project. I yet remember it was called ‘Project Ultimate.’

Another interesting project was when we launched the online term business and social media at Future Generali Life Insurance. We were a late entrant into social media, so we worked hard to get it right. Within the first year itself, our Twitter campaign won an international award.

We are currently in the midst of a revolution in terms of marketing practices. This is also because consumer behavior has transformed drastically over the last few years. Consumers today are more digitally active. They do not necessarily need a salesperson to lead them to the point of sale, so the role of marketing has shifted from supporting the sales function to engaging with the consumer across the purchase journey.

How have the changing dynamics in the marketing ecosystem impacted the banking and financial services sector?

A lot has changed in the last decade; however, the pace was further accelerated in the recent 4-5 years with internet access nearly free/super affordable. I see a host of things working in tandem to give rise to what we could call the ‘Digital Consumer.’ People began to use wallets to make payments, bill payments moved online, and so did movie tickets and food ordering. If you step back and reflect, all this has not happened overnight, but it has occurred due to sustained efforts by all the stakeholders, and members of the digital ecosystem.

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For the BFSI sector, the birth and rise of the ‘Digital Consumer’ has been a boon and has the following advantages:

  • Cheaper acquisition cost
  • Faster turnaround time
  • Direct control of the customer (no intermediary involved)
  • More comfortable to educate a customer by way of videos and tools
  • Curbing misspelling, which was a rampant practice and seamless servicing options by way of chatbots, social media channels, etc.

The sector has also seen the birth of pure-play online financial players who neither own a brick-mortar branch nor do they sell through any other offline medium. A whole new sector within the banking and financial services called Aggregators/Comparison portals have taken center-stage in this economy which I term as ‘The Economy of Affordable Multiple Choices.’

From your experience, can insurance and financial services rely on an automation tool to connect with their customers? What are some benefits or improvements you’ve seen when these organizations use a marketing automation platform?

Well, my answer is an emphatic YES. Taking it a step ahead, I’ve seen that AI Tools are far superior to even a personal touch interaction between a sales executive and the end customer. BFSI brands are aware that an AI Tool is in a way their 24X7 Branch, their dependable salesman, and the best part is neither does this salesman take a holiday nor does he take tea & smoke breaks, and yes he works over the weekends too.

Let me give you an example of a brand where I headed digital marketing and online sales, and we implemented an AI-based marketing automation tool end-to-end. We saw the following benefits:

  • We engaged users better due to personalized content.
  • We reduced the drop-offs both from site and transaction section – business increased by 35%, conversions via social media enabled campaign was the biggest beneficiary, and the list is long.

In summary, the AI-based Marketing Automation tool paid for itself in a few months and then became a revenue stream in itself.

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At what stage/point in the business does a BFSI company need a marketing automation platform? Are there any ways to evaluate this need for the organization?

I think digital encompasses every touchpoint and process in a business/brand these days. Thus the direct answer is that an AI-based marketing automation tool should have been made ‘yesterday.’ However I am glad to see that most brands are now moving in the right direction, a new age insurance provider signed up for a tool on these lines even before they launched operations, and that is, in my opinion, a bold and the right decision. The company engaged, sold, and serviced their first customers through the tool, and is going strong. The most significant advantage is they are now connected to the customer, and vice-versa like none of their competitors are.

Banking and financial service brands can evaluate the need very quickly by asking themselves the below stated five questions:

  1. Do I want to bring down my acquisition cost?
  2. Do I want to target a customer who is the ideal fit (target audience) for my product or is the audience spread too thin?
  3. Do I want to know each customer individually rather than classify them as 1 of the ten broad profiles that my digital consultant told me about?
  4. Do I want to cross communicate across channels with the same customer?
  5. Is my customer a digital-first customer?

At this stage, I would also like to congratulate MoEngage on their special program to support startups by giving them complimentary access to their tools and marketing credits. It is such initiatives that make up the ecosystem worthy and a constantly evolving space.

Thank you, Paurush, for your kind words about MoEngage.

My next question to you is, how can a BFSI company make that purchase decision? Are there any guiding principles to follow?

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I’ve seen most banks, insurance, and other financial service institutions look to check these 5 boxes while evaluating a marketing automation platform vendor:

  1. A mobile-first approach to the platform.
  2. Extremely easy to implement – Quick and cost-effective.
  3. In house BFSI practice – A special focus across the vendor teams in BFSI use cases and requirements makes them a natural choice.
  4. Advanced features such as geofencing, Push Amplification, and more.
  5. Last but not least, a proactive team and a reasonably priced solution.

I must compliment your team here – the MoEngage platform fits right well on all these points.

In fact, as the founder of BFSI Digital Stallions Forum, where we have 200+ CMO’s and Digital Marketing Heads / Professionals across 105+ BFSI Brands, we do a lot of knowledge sharing and discussions on best practices. I have personally deep-dived and evaluated multiple AI Marketing Automation solutions and can confirm that MoEngage is a natural choice.  In fact, basis the response, we’ve now introduced members of the Digital Stallions Forum – UAE to MoEngage so they too could take their digital marketing to the next level.

Can a BFSI company build its marketing automation platform ground-up? Are there any specific advantages of integrating a ready-to-use platform?

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If any financial services brand plans to build their automation platform, I wish them good luck. A chef should focus on cooking the fish and leave the fishing to the experts for he is trained to use the knife and not the fishing rod.

The benefit of integrating with a ready to use can be best summarized in one line from a Hero Honda campaign that goes way back to the 1980’s – “Fill it, shut it, forget it.”

Sit back and watch while the AI tool takes over and does your work, only efficiently.

In terms of customer engagement and experience, where do you see banking and financial services headed over a decade from now?

I am a firm believer that the BFSI sector is set for exponential growth. As per statistics, India has nearly 190-200 Million people who do not have a bank account leave aside insurance, mutual funds, and other financial products. However, what these users have is a mobile phone and internet connectivity.

Some of the key drivers of growth in today’s world would be; growing smartphone penetration, free/cheap internet, exposure to media platforms which makes a person aspire for more, migration of people to bigger towns and cities, growing disposable income, and more. This for the banking and financial services sector- I can confidently say that we are yet only getting started… The way ahead if tough but full of opportunities.

Thank you, for sharing your advice and insights, Paurush. This is very helpful for marketers who are keen to grow their brand’s mobile share of the business. Readers, for more conversations on marketing automation in BFSI, connect with Paurush Sonkar.