Sweta Duseja (Moderator): The first question I want to ask you is “Why are we talking about the 360° view of the customer?” Why is it so important and what benefits do you think it drives? So we’ll start with Aoun.
Aoun Raza: Sure, thank you so much Sweta. It’s a pleasure being here. Thank you to everyone who’s listening. I think that the 360° single customer view is a topic in most organizations that have multiple brands under their wings. Today, it’s mostly what you need to learn about the customer. Just to drill it down – the focus should be on the customer, when he does it, and where he does it when it comes to transacting with your brand.
It has been a marketer’s dream to learn more and more about the patterns of customers. When the customer is transacting between different average order values, different times, and different journeys with your brand, you need to attack the customer at the right time. I think that’s the main goal and you need to be well-versed with that information about the customer so that you can relate through personalization and different models that the brands are running.
So I think that the main goal is as always to increase conversion rates. That’s mainly where we are and I think that the focus needs to be on the customer first. The customer is centric and the organization basically needs to be decked up toward that objective.
Moderator: What about from your point of view, Aaryan?
Aaryan Kapur: Sure, thank you Sweta, first of all, for having me here. Good afternoon everybody. So I wouldn’t want to answer this question directly. In fact, I have a question in mind. Why a 360° view, you ask me? I ask you, can you think of driving a car with one eye closed unless you want to follow the law and return back home alive? So, it’s the same thing. Until and unless you’re putting a blind eye to what your customers or users are doing, there’s very little you can do to add value.
Another perspective could be taking a healthcare example. Imagine if someone is suffering from a heart condition then you wouldn’t want to send them a message about a medication related to diabetes. That would spoil the customer experience. Hence, it is of utmost importance to have a 360° view of the customer; to realize what they want and what they are looking for. Imagine they are looking for a solution and you are selling them a product. So you must focus on bridging this gap because it is very essential.
Moderator: We’d love your perspective as well Ahmad.
Ahmad Shahroor: Well, first of all, good afternoon everyone! Sweta, thank you for having us all here today. So, my answer is more of the same actually. I will touch upon some similar examples.
You can’t advertise sugar with desserts to a person with diabetes. That’s not what you essentially want to do. As marketers, the main goal is to serve the right products and services to the right customers for evidently and ultimately increasing conversions. But then again, there is a massive difference when it comes to 360° customer profiles and customer personas. It’s very very different. One of them is that you’re actually looking at integral data. You’re making educated guesses based on data and what the next move of customers is going to be.
We’ll speak later about what success looks like in that regard but ultimately what you want to do in that regard is to make sure that you have sufficient data about your customers, what is it that your customers are interested in, where they are headed, and what products do you want to advertise.
Moderator: Aoun, here is a question for you. The task of bringing together online and offline data is a big one. You’ve got to go through lots of people and processes. I wanted to ask you, what has been your experience in doing this because this isn’t the first time you are looking at this opportunity ahead of you? Is there a framework or are there benchmarks? Any tell-tale signs that people can look for? Where do you start?
Aoun Raza: Just for the audience, I was earlier working for E-Mart and I am with Landmark now. I have been focused on a single customer view for many organizations with a lot of large data. There’s basically a very simple and specific framework. First and foremost is that the company needs to transform. You have top-level people who are driving objectives, you have mid-tier people who are trying to achieve certain goals and then you have people who are the forefront people. They’re the ones connecting with the customers.
The main thing is that we need every single person on board with this objective in mind that we need to collect as much information as possible about the customer so that it can be repurposed. I think the framework consists of four main pillars. You have company transformation, then you have to make sure that all that data is properly collected, make a unique identifier so that you can reach out to whatever segment of that data we are working on and make the data accessible. I think those are the main pillars. It doesn’t matter what sort of data you have but you have to make sure that you attend to these four pillars from where you can then start translating them into better ROI, better customer experience, higher-end services, etc.
I mean earlier on, one of my experiences with The Dubai Mall was overwhelming. I mean Big Query is an understatement because the number of data sources that are being collected is huge. Now at Landmark, you have multiple brands, multiple territories, and different organizations touching the customer at hundreds of points. Collecting the data is the easy part but translating that data into useful information is what we want to look at. Eventually, you need to find a single source of proof which will define your success metric which in my case has mostly been loyalty to drive all objectives. I think those are the frameworks/pillars that I work on and have seen success through.
Moderator: Ahmad, here’s a question for you. You know from your experience, what have been the biggest challenges of working in an environment where the businesses are so diverse, in terms of different stages of digitization or a different set of mindsets altogether, regardless of whether their start was digital or brick-and-mortar?
Ahmad Shahroor: Data points or collection of data points at various touchpoints with the customer is massively challenging. What was very difficult to entail and then come out with data-driven insights was that the majority of business was happening in brick-and-mortar stores. What we decided to do was make contact with customers and stores to unify the data segmentation. You need to be able to tell that customer A, B, and C is the same customer that browsed online and then went into the store and made the transaction.
You need to focus on multi-channel cookies. You need to focus on finding a way to speak and collect data from your customers which, by the way, they realize how important it is now.
So can’t be getting data from your customers for free anymore. This is something of the past and everybody is aware of what is going on. They’ll give it to you but they want something in return. So your communication needs to be effective. The customers need to find something measurable and pleasurable about them giving data to this company and this data needs to be utilized properly.
In conclusion, I would say that while it is very very difficult to infuse both the digital realms and what happens in your stores, there’s always a way focused on multi-channel. Chances are that many of the customers that are transacting online are the same customers going to your stores, buying your items, and making use of your services. eally the most important thing is the accuracy of the data and to portray it directly in those customers’ profiles.
Moderator: I would request if anyone has a penchant for looking offline into online in the most non-traditional way, do have a chat with Ahmad. He has a very very amazing story about how it suddenly changed 180o during the first week of COVID lockdown. It is a fun story that allowed them to accelerate the process of bringing offline data online through their employees.
Moderator: Aaryan, do talk to us about how Aster’s journey has been because we are looking at hospitals, clinics, pharmacies, telemedicine and the whole new online availability of self-serve. How does that serve you? What’s been the journey for Aster?
Aaryan Kapur: This is a question that we’ve been trying to answer within Aster for quite a while now. Aster, with its sheer scale and size, spread across pharmacies, clinics, and hospitals are massive. Healthcare is one such niche that is most data-rich when it comes to customer profiling. For healthcare, they are not even customers but patients. We need to be very cognizant of the data that we are collecting, how we are collecting that data, and how we are using it.
For us, the journey has been and is still going on to capture that data across all our offline channels through various mediums. One of which is, of course, POS – the most relevant one when it comes to gathering offline data. Getting that into one specific source requires, as Aoun mentioned, a common identifier. So allocating that common identifier and getting all of that data across different properties into one single format and then making sure it comes into a single dump. You need to also identify where you are putting that data because, considering the criticality and regulations around healthcare, it becomes of utmost importance that the data is stored in the most secure way. So that is something that we are looking to address in the journey that we’re on currently.
Merging this with the online bit is what we are doing as the next step. We are now working on this app called One Aster app which is basically catering to the concept of telemedicine, teleconsultation, and online pharmacy. Here, another set of e-commerce is going there into the mix and then another set of data being generated. Now the task is how do you club that data because eventually, people are the same who are consuming your services offline and online. It comes to making sure that whoever we may be working to collect this online data is closely synced with frameworks and common identifiers we have set on the offline front. Making sure that the common dump that we have identified to get that in is also cohesive with both the partners and eventually is driving from there. So that is something that we are working on right now.
Moderator: Aoun, I have a two-part question for you. One is that you brought loyalty as a centrepiece of that identifier to drive so much else. The 360° view is all about data but do you think that all data is equal? How do you go about identifying what is and what isn’t? Where do you even start?
Aoun Raza: True. Why did I mention loyalty? I’d like to answer that part first. Learnings I have seen in the industry are that when you start up, you have technology that can drive your business to a certain level of revenue. Then you have digital marketing because you start flowing in money, building that traffic, etc. Each one of these steps plateau.
So technology can only take you to a certain level. Digital marketing can only take you to a certain level. After that, the CPCs and CPOs become so high that you cannot manage it anymore or you cannot go any higher. What happens after that is the big talk about retention and there’s where you hit loyalty. Without loyalty that growth sphere is unachievable. You won’t be able to reduce your cost, you won’t be able to make sense out of your ROIs. So looking at that aspect, I mean if you look at your loyal database then there is always this discussion in every single high-level meeting where the 80-20 model is discussed. I think that’s a discussion of the past now. Now, it’s the 95-5 model. Most of your revenue is driven by the 5% of the massive chunk that’s coming to your side.
At Landmark, we’re servicing multiple industries. You’re talking about furniture, street fashion, hospitality, fitness, groceries, etc. So, it’s like a wide scope. Your average order goes from like 5 to 11, 000 Dirhams on average removing the outliers. These are different types of datasets you need to look at, but you need to make sure that every single one of these items is operationally available to all of us. You have these shops and malls, you have these shops online, you have these shops on all e-commerce platforms, etc. How do you make sure that you translate these users from one segment to the other but make revenue for the group?
I think that answer is coming from loyalty. So looking at industry-specific data then we are way above the industry threshold from a Shukran point of view but still, retention of those users is minute. If you look at the total number of people who are making revenue then you are only talking about a few here and there. The whole industry is gunning for that small database or that small segment. I think to reach to them, the answer is loyalty.
Answering your second question about whether all data is relevant then 95% is not. You have to make sure that 5% is tagged in your systems which I shouldn’t take any credit for because it’s all product and how they have built a fantastic environment at Landmark for getting that data in one place and making reasonable sense out of it. When you look at the real number of customers who are transacting all across your brands then that’s your goldmine and it’s a very tiny source. So I think 95% of data is what you need to filter and that’s where you need tools to help you as a marketer.
Moderator: Ahmad, I have a question here in terms of where you go, to which teams within the organization? If you could answer that for us at the macro level? I’m building the 360° view because I want a deeper look into who my customer is. Who do you go to? Who do you involve in that journey with you as a digital marketer and an e-commerce leader for example?
Ahmad Shahroor: The first point is that the majority of the data that you are going to get is going to be very hard to find in your transactional data. That’s talking about the history and the transactions that are going to happen today and tomorrow. Evidently, right now especially with E-Commerce, the customers are giving you a lot more data than you actually need to market to them efficiently. The challenge presents itself more when you speak about the omnichannel journey because you can literally walk into a store, make a transaction, and walk out with a completely anonymous identity. So this goes back to the first question that I answered in terms of being able to speak to your customers at all touch points and all touch points are absolutely equal. This is just the choice of the customer where they want to transact.
If they want to transact through WhatsApp then you must let them transact through WhatsApp. If they want to walk into a store, they are more than welcome to. If they want to do it online, it is completely up to the customer. We are moving into a world right now where choices are everything and you need to be available at each and every single segment or each and every single pathway where the customer is there at the end. /They get to choose where they want to transact. So back to the question, which teams do we involve when we ask for that data? So first and foremost, you’ve got and we have a full data science team that takes care of data collection points and analytics for the entire group.
When we started the single customer view, we didn’t only look at our retail businesses. We looked at our automotive, FMCG, and engineering businesses because ultimately there is one market and all of these customers reside in this market. So whether they transact with you in your retail channel or whether they’re an engineering customer or whether they’re a home furniture customer, ultimately this will give you more information to make your predictions more accurate.
That’s one measure of success when you are talking about collecting the data. Another thing would be the operational sales team. You need to make sure that they continuously engage with customers and that they are collecting those data points that you need to be able to market effectively. Then, of course, you have your core marketing team and digital marketing team. I think these four teams are a recipe for success.
Moderator: Aaryan, is there an allowance or a centrepoint to define a 360° view versus coming up to allow just the hospitals to have their golden customer record? How does that play? Who’s looking at what? Can we go into that a little bit? Alghanim is different but there will be a small overlap. How do we bridge that? Who’s looking at it? How much is too much?
Aaryan Kapur: No, that’s a very valid question. In fact, in my previous stint at Alshaya, this was still something that we were figuring out because obviously, there are multiple brands. Medcare is also a part of the Aster Group. That is also something which caters to a different set of people altogether compared to Aster Clinics or Pharmacies and Hospitals. It is very important to have a central team in place at least, to look at all of the customers combined and then understand what are the insights that we can take out from there. It could be as simple as some demographics, it could be region-specific, or it could be some patterns that you identify of people moving from a clinic, a pharmacy, and then moving to a hospital. This could be one pattern.
So in order to do that there should be a central team of data gathering, people who are taking in data from all of these touch points. And then there need to be different BUs (Business Units) that are also gathering their own respective data, taking insights, and taking actions based on that. There needs to be a governing mechanism for that. There has to be a conversation within the organization to have a win-win situation for both the business units as well as the central marketing team just so that you’re not spamming that user. Users are looking for solutions and not spamming. That is where the governance piece lies. If these three aspects are taken into consideration together and amalgamated then it will be the best user journey for any consumer walking into your store.
Moderator: Anything to add Ahmad?
Aaryan Kapur: Yeah ultimately, what it comes down to is business goals. So you can collect how much ever data you want because data is infinite. What happens is that as a business leader and a business head, you need to define the goals and improvements that you want to work upon and then you need to collate data to be able to tackle those points.
You build the goals, you define the strategy you need to achieve success. You define within the team or within the business, what does it mean to be successful when it comes to those particular goals. Data will help you achieve those goals and on that journey. Ultimately and effectively what happens is that you are collecting data points to ensure that pre-identified problems and improvements are getting collected to be able to build pre-identified goals. That’s the best we’re looking at.
I agree with Aaryan, there should be a team that focuses on a central repository of data. As Business Heads, you go ahead and tell them, I want to take a look at leads, my best customers, my active customers, and by that, you will be able to pull these different segments of data to turn into something measurable and actionable.
Moderator: Aoun, go ahead, please.
Aoun Raza: I think just to add on, both Aaryan and Ahmad hit the nail on the head. Just something to add-on here is that I have seen that whenever you have a talk with the territory head or any of the business heads, everyone wants to talk about revenues. There needs to be a central team that is holding the data in place but that team’s DNA should circulate around the customer. It shouldn’t be around the business, it shouldn’t be around the ROIs that are being driven or the revenues that need to be generated or targets. It needs to be around the customers.
Today we’re in a situation where iOS has taken back information from the marketers. We keep coming to these things like Facebook is struggling because of these insights, etc. We came to this situation because the data was abused by the marketers. You need to build a brand, a name that a customer wants to give information to.
If you want to buy a property, you are going to place your information on the market in order to bid for the best Villa in that community. If there’s a child being born in a customer’s family then you need to respect the journey of that child being delivered, or the process of buying gifts for that child, buying essentials, and building a room for that child while they are growing up.
So you need to make sure that the team that hosts this data centre is focused on the customer’s mind and not purely on business and revenue because if that’s not the case then you start losing there. You start losing on earnstalls, you start unsubscribing, and especially you are back to square one where you are paying more people to subscribe and install your apps. Across the board, seven different apps, and eight different brands may be hosting your data and feeding your funnel. That funnel governance, as Aaryan mentioned, should lie with somebody who has a focus on the customer.
Moderator: You said Aoun and please embellish as I have said this. In our prep session, we were very passionate about the whole idea of keeping the customer at the centre. I will let him expound on this and we will take a detour into why that becomes so seminal because the next big thing that’s facing all of us is “Hello, Cookieless!” So we will take a little diversion before we come back to a couple of more questions here. Can you speak to the audience about how important it is to change the mindset around our data as opposed to let’s start with the customer?
Aoun Raza: Definitely! I think most businesses and especially the brick-and-mortar businesses have reached a mindset of monthly growth and yearly KPIs. If you look at the whole chart then from the top line to the bottom, you will be talking about revenue, costs, overheads, etc., and then there will be one small line item which will be called the NPS. Is our business really focusing on NPS today or is it just that you have to post your financial numbers at the end of the year in a publicly listed company?
I think, today as marketers, we’re at a pace where we need to make a decision. We have that choice and we need to give the customer that choice. We need to make sure that we are responsible for that journey. The customer has a journey that he walks into your store or comes to your online e-commerce platform or downloads your app and moves in with your business. You need to pull their hands to a certain point and then let them be free. Your product needs to make sure that it brings them back.
I mean the likes of marketplaces today, the likes of Amazon and the rest of them in the world like Netflix – Idon’t mind giving my information to them because I want to know what they want to recommend to me. I want them to know where I live. I want them to know how much I spend on certain products, and which categories I want to look at. Building that within the organization is the key part. If somebody walks up to a home-centric cashier then does the cashier just ask them to just sign up to Shukran or scan their code and actually believe in letting the customer know what they’re looking at and how they can drive their next purchases through this loyalty program? I think that’s whom I want to circulate this conversation with. Is the customer the centre?
If we just go back and look through our data then how many times are we listening to that customer and how many times are we bringing that information back to people who are making decisions for them because their journey is the most important part? Average order values have helped in the past to define different customer segments, and different customer approaches but today the data that we look at, somebody who is spending 100 Dirhams with your organization can or has the capability to spend a thousand or a ten thousand. If you look at it from that aspect then you don’t just bombard them with messages with the same category value. The discussions that we have been having with MoEngage about user identification and user targeting instead of category listings or if there is more around the lines of user listing.
How do you bring that information back and start touching them at the right time, then that’s a cultural change. It needs to come to the whole organization. It’s not one team. It’s not a product or the data labs. It’s the whole organization. All the way to the front and the guy who is suggesting a product in the store. They need to believe that the customer is the centre and that cultural change needs to be at the front of their discussion. I am collecting information because we are building a 360° view of that person who just walked in and asked “How long is the store open for?” Once we touch that cycle from a company perspective is when we start achieving goals and the goals need to be verified across teams.
Moderator: I’d like to open the question around living in a Cookieless world and how much that switches the importance of having a 360° of current database. We won’t even say customer, we’ll say prospect. What are the ramifications that we are going to feel? Apple has done away with them. Safari has done away with them. We have a big proliferation of iOS in general in our region so could buy that as well. Now it’s Chrome’s turn. Now it’s Google’s turn and they pushed back the deadline but it’s coming in 2023. How important does that make data collection and orderly data collection on these opportunities for Aster and Alghanim?
Aaryan Kapur: We knew this was coming for quite some time and I think that is the reason that advertisers may have started prioritizing first-party data five years ago. It’s not like they don’t want to give you your data. They will give you the data provided what they’re getting in return. The idea of getting the data in the first place is that you retarget those users and also identify their actions and what they’re doing internally in a platform. That I think is a two-step approach.
Now I think in a cookieless world, we can break down this approach. If we’re looking to retarget a certain user, it need not be based on PIA information or a specific identifier. What Google is doing now moving forward is that it is clubbing people into different targets, different topics, and different segments through which you can target those users based on contextual targeting. So I think it totally makes sense because why not, you know? For example, if someone is interested in finance-related content then they will see those kind of people targeting them and it will not always be a mess like it is currently because of the data being abused.
Coming to the second part of using that identifier and tracking their activity internally. For that, you don’t need this kind of information anymore. For that, partners like MoEngage already have this functionality built in that they provide an identifier already to a certain user. That identifier can be used to drill down to understand consumer usage inside your platform. It could be merged with other aspects like time of doing something and there are multiple things to go about and adjust that data in today’s time. I always see the glass half-full and I think that is a perfect time for us to go cookieless as opposed to five years ago. I don’t see it as a challenge. I see it as an opportunity for the internet to go to the next step.
Moderator: And what about from a point of view in terms of budgets and attracting new customers? Alghanim requires acquisition proactively. How does that get affected? Without an identifier out there, who is it in the same person? What step do they take in their decision-making? Have they already heard from us? Have they already bought it and I just don’t know that? How does that affect the balance between known and unknown?
Ahmad Shahroor: First of all, let me start by saying that had you asked me that question last year, I would have been very scared to answer. This is an open question for everybody in the room. Take a look at the number of transactions right before when the change happens. Then what happened afterwards? You would have suffered two or three weeks because you would have reinvested your budgets elsewhere and you would get those transactions from somewhere else and that’s exactly going to happen in a cookieless world.
You have a set of specific budgets, you have specific channels, you look at the ROIs based on those channels, and tomorrow, as Aaryan said, there are going to be so many new opportunities that we probably still don’t even know about today. You will find a way to invest to acquire new customers and the moment that those customers are on your side, you want to make sure that sign up very, very quickly because then you can start tracking them everywhere. So the cookieless world doesn’t scare me so much. Not at this stage. One year ago definitely everybody in this room would have been thinking the same thing but we live and learn. We have had this experience.
Moderator: It’s a good practice for what’s to come
Ahmad Shahroor: 100%. Especially with iOS in this region. We are ready for it. Bring it on!
Moderator: One last question for all of you in turn is to define what achieving that 360° view is going to look like. Just a couple of success metrics that you are looking for, that you would like to share with the audience.
Ahmad Shahroor: Success is how you define it really because, as a head of business and as a marketer, what you look at again are the goals that you define. So data is there to help you achieve those goals. So for example, if I set one of my goals for the year that I take a look at the churn and decrease my churn percentage or I want to decrease the number of inactive users or I want to increase the number of top-line spenders. These are all different goals that you can use to utilize data to measure success but data on its own, you can never measure success with. It’s insights that are very, very important and data will help you drive those insights.
So ultimately what it comes down to is what are your business goals, and your customer goals, and you need to make sure that you are aware of the changes that are coming ahead. The way that you collect data today isn’t going to be the same way that you collect the data tomorrow. What you’re going to be doing with that data today depends on what your goals are for the business and how exactly you want to grow it. Once you have more customers taking part in the happy journey versus less customers taking part in the sad journey or the unhappy journey, then you know that whatever you are doing is working but only for a specific time because our world is ever-changing.
Aaryan Kapur: To add on to what Ahmad said, I think definitely we need to merge those two goals – the organizational goals with customer goals and I also think that some of the success metrics that I personally think should come in the future and will do considering the experience is pivotal right now. Before it was only customer lifetime value. I think it will now move to customer relationship value. How much do you value that relationship? It’s not what the customer is bringing in but how much as a business are we valuing that relationship? The difference between those two numbers would give out a new number that you will be willing to spend on acquiring and retaining the customer. That’s where the power of the experience will come in. So I think in a 360° view, who will benefit overall is definitely the customer first and eventually the business.
Aoun Raza: Yeah, I think Ahmad and Aaryan covered most of the points but yeah, just something to add on is a follow-up on the relationship part. What does the customer think about your brand? I think that’s your final conclusion and added to those metrics you would be looking at an advanced version of time on-site or CLV where revenue discussion will forever go on. In any business but specifically under marketing I think, we have seen it over the last decade. I think platforms became lazy.
For a choice of better words when we got the email information of customers and when we got to retarget customers just by their email addresses and telephone numbers, but I think once we set up different lines of communication then eventually it becomes about what the customer thinks about your brand and how likely he/she will transact with your brand. That would translate into what’s that brand identity? How deep is that into the life of the customer eventually we will obviously be calculating revenue on top of that?
Moderator: I really urge everybody to make the acquaintance of Aoun, Aaryan, and Ahmad. I think combined they have got 15-20 years of experience under their belt. So if you do get a chance, definitely go say Hi and ask them about that.
Thank you very much for your time today. Thank you for spending the day with us. Thank you!