Market Movers Discussion on the Human Marketing Philosophy & Unified Customer Journey

In this episode of Market Movers, Al Lalani, Co-Founder of Annex Cloud speaks with Infobip authority Arun Kumar, Senior Director - Strategic Partnerships & Alliances about some of the more key stats and data points that they saw during the rise of the Covid-19 pandemic and compare it to the changes that occurred during the market crash of 2008. Additionally, they discuss Infobip’s unique Human to Human marketing strategy and how it leads to a unified customer journey.


Al Lalani:

Welcome to another discussion of Annex Cloud Market Movers, where we bring in experts and luminaries to help us with the current times and plan for the future. Today I'm very, very excited to welcome the team from Infobip. Welcome to the discussion Sanja and Arun. I'm very, very glad to have you.

Arun Kumar:

Thank you for inviting us.

Sanja Buterin:

Thank you. Thank you for the invitation. Thank you.

Al Lalani:

Perfect. If we may start off with a quick introduction of Infobip as well as what your roles are at Infobip, maybe Sanja, we started with you and then follow with Arun.

Sanja Buterin:

Thank you. I'm the Global Head of Marketing at Infobip. A little bit more about who we are and what we do. Let's say we are in the business of teaching the customer experiences. Infobip is an omni-channel cloud communications platform that enables businesses and developers to build personalized, connected customer experience across all stages of the customer journey, over the channels that customers prefer. Access to one single interface, our only channel customer engagement and contact center solutions, let's say, enable and help clients and partners overcome the complexity of consumer communications, grow their business, increase customer satisfaction and customer loyalty.

Al Lalani:

Thank you, Sanja.

Arun Kumar:

Great. Well, let me jump in, I'm Arun. Thanks again for having us here Al. I manage the strategic partnerships and alliances for North America, so back to you.

Al Lalani:

Great, wonderful. If we may start with a little bit of a question around what you all saw with your clients, you're sending out a massive amount of communications from your platform. What were some statistics and data that you can share with us that would talk a little bit about what you saw during the COVID times over the last six months?

Sanja Buterin:

In one word, what we have experienced is accelerated digital transformation for almost all industries. From a short standstill in the early stage of the pandemic to an above every volume in only a month or two in the pandemic. Our Infobip data scientists found out that SMS, chat apps messaging, and internet phone calls have soared as businesses look for timely communication methods, for instance, to either confirm pickups, share updated hours of operations. Then also all the healthcare providers across the globe that had to update their public about their views about the pandemic.

Let me talk about stats. What we have seen is the network traffic increased from between 20% to 60%, depending on the channel and global region. The obvious winner is SMS and WhatsApp from chat apps, but we have seen an increase across the whole globe. This started in March and already now for the last six months, we still see an increase in volume.

Communication volumes have also correlated with industry performance around the lockdown and around for pandemic. Healthcare grew 39% in March and an additional 30% in April following with logistic, on demand, retail, banking, financing, and media and entertainment, however, communications, transportation, hospitality, and travel sectors dropped by 50% in April, but just recovering again in June.

Al Lalani:

That's wonderful. What was interesting to me and what you just gave me some numbers on were the massive increase in digital communications, first, initially after the period led by communicating the challenges and how their businesses are adapting, and then as the move towards digital grew, as businesses had to grow more digital, that was leading that communications. But what was also very interesting to me, was that industries that are very highly impacted, whether it's travel or hospitality seemed like they dropped, but now they're catching back up. That's very interesting to know, because what I see in that sense is you are the leading indicator of success. If I can see that from a communication standpoint, those communications are getting back to normal, there is some light at the end of the tunnel, it seems like. That's wonderful to know.

One of the things that we are very excited in working with Infobip about is how we can further retention and loyalty working with the marketing and CX platform at Infobip. I want to talk a little bit about your thoughts on retention and loyalty in general during this post pandemic times; how do you think how important these are to the variety of different industries that you work in and how do you think businesses should think about investing in customer retention over over the next couple of years?

Arun Kumar:

Yeah, let me take a step back, right? As we all know, from a human psychology standpoint, any time let alone post pandemic, any relationship, both parties are hoping to aspire to build a long relationship, right? In other words, loyalty becomes front and center for any engagement, for any business. How do we achieve it? We personally believe at Infobip is having very meaningful and the resonant communications by the brands with the customers and how it has enabled us to seamless interactions across any channel.

Now, going back to the research that Sanja alluded to, we had several key findings. I'm going to probably highlight five of them and then give some substantive data that might be of value for our audience. One we got to know is the key craving coming out of pandemic for customers at large is interaction. It's a no-brainer, right? In a couple of data points, more than half of the people that were polled said that communication has become more important than ever, especially in a brand to customer context. Right?

The second one is more than one third of the people said that they are actually now even more enthusiastic and happy to engage with brands on digital channels post pandemic or starting with the pandemic. Those are two key observations. The second one is, okay, now I've said that, what do we want to communicate with those customers? Finding the right fit is going to be imperative, right?

Again, more than a third of the customers said two things, which is, again, commonsensical, "We want to engage with a brand that really understands who we are and what are our desires for the goods and services that we want to tap into." That's one. Again, about 32% said, "Hey, what are the things in communications that really chime with what our interests and preferences are? Only then we're going to engage."

The third one is now, how are we going to engage? Now that we talked about watching engagement, how are we going to engage? That comes to the preferences on channels and all that. Again, based on the age groups, that is going to be a mix of preference, that's quite obvious, but in general, across the age groups, they are more flexible to changing their behavior during the pandemic and post pandemic, and they're embracing a lot more digital channels. Now, email had a marginal optical over other channels, if you will. But that said, they're saying, "Hey, I'm going to open up. I'm going to adopt SMS." Instant messaging really had an uptick. That's one thing that's going to stay here forever, which also benefited our business, frankly, as Sanja alluded to.

The next aspect is the Gen Z's of the world. They said, "I'm going to adopt more and more text and social media." That was a common trend, an uptick of about 25% to 30% again, which is too significant actually. Certain parts of the world, not so much in North America, but in Europe and other places, there was about 10% increase in WhatsApp based communications. We're hoping that it's probably going to kick over into North America as well, on our shores. That's another one.

Very interesting, even some of the older age groups, they said, "Hey, I'm becoming more comfortable with mobile first communications. I've been used to just emails sitting on a desktop. I'm going to adopt mobile first communications, all channels that hook to the mobile." These are some of the trends that we observed.

Moving onto fourth, I said five trends, right? Just to keep track of myself, the fourth one is omni-channel matters more than ever. Now, that's pleasing news for all of us Al, as you might imagine. Right? One of the key things again, when we asked them, "Hey, what is the right channel to engage with you as a customer?" They said, "Well, it depends." It's going to be everything, as I said, because a lot of this really meant there is more channels already in place. All businesses have to think about every single channel, right. And as I said, email came out a little bit better than other channels, but no clear winner.

Arun Kumar:

More important is more than 50% of the people, I think about 50% said, "I really don't have a clear choice since I've now opened up myself to all the channels, the key thing then becomes, when do you pick ..." and this is the fifth point I want to get to, tuning into the right channel. When do you use what channel when you're engaging with a particular customer? That becomes key. That's why I said, again, and we all know this; central to any relationship is how do we offer a personalized service? Which means based on the context or the need that the customer has, the channel is going to be different.

I want to have just a asynchronous communication. You can ping me whenever, probably an SMS text or even email, right? If it's like too much of a time delay, it's fine with me, that's going to be a channel. If it's going to be two way conversational experience, then you're going to probably resort to WhatsApp and things like that. These are some of the things that we observed. Probably Sanja can add a little more about how loyalty programs that we can shoe in with these observations that we have.

Sanja Buterin:

Yes. Thank you. Speaking about our research that we have conducted, we actually you have a very interesting stat. Positive experience during lockdowns are more likely to influence future purchases and loyalty. We talk about over 50% of respondents claim to purchase more in the future from brands that they have had the positive experience and interaction during lockdown. One in five already switched brands during lockdown because of the quality of the communication they received. If you should sum it up, they really actually go there for the brands that get it right; 30% of all people that we have questioned have become more loyal to at least one new brand during the lockdown, with this rising to 40% among Gen Zs. It's almost a no-brainer.

Al Lalani:

Yeah, no, I think these are very, very good statistics and very interestingly enough, we've captured our very own statistics. I'll go point back to 2008 and what we learned, which is very similar and it's a parallel that we are trying to draw on our side to see what we may see over the next six to 12 months as well. On the statistics side, we have a study that was done by a CML Council and Catalina Marketing in 2008.

It was a massive study of 32 million customers or consumers that was done over 685 brands. These include brands like Coke and Pepsi and Samsung and Apple and many large brands. The idea was that that even the largest of brands saw a defection rate of 52% from 2008 to 2009. The study was done in 2009 for the 2008 recession and 52% defection of brands and of the people that defected, more than half defected to a competitive brand or some other sort of piece. They still bought, but they defected to someone else.

This is the opportunity where brands and businesses have the ability where they can really focus on retention and loyalty. That could be through a unified customer experience that Arun talked about, or it could be essentially the amalgamation of creating a loyalty infrastructure. It could be through a program which is front facing or behind the scenes, but allows the companies, the businesses, to create a framework around the CX that keeps it all together and makes the consumers more loyal. Because if that doesn't happen in the next couple of years, most of these brands will see an impact.

The last thing I will point out on statistics is the brands and businesses that focused on this as a tactic specifically, were in 2008, 20% faster to come out of the recession than other brands. It's an impact that I think we're all thinking about, and we can learn from the times in general. Thank you for sharing these amazing statistics. I think we have a treasure trove of numbers that I think that marketers can look at and gleaned from.

It takes me to my next question in terms of understanding your philosophy and how you drive marketing or drive your product from the marketing perspective. What I was very curious about in how you consider this concept of human to human marketing or people based marketing as you've talked about it. I know you have this part in the platform, which is your people part of the platform, which is essentially first party data or CDP putting the data together. Could you tell us a little bit about this human to human marketing philosophy or people based marketing? How do you then take the data together and make it useful, especially loyalty data, that you can add to your people part of the platform or the other first party data?

Sanja Buterin:

Thank you. With the rise of digital channels and platforms and all the available marketing automation tools, it is more complex, but also most interesting than ever for the marketer to develop ongoing customer relationships. What is important about the intersection within marketing and technology is how it's getting marketers' insights in understanding people's behaviors, people's needs and preferences. Then it enables marketers also to offer customization and personalization at the one-to-one level. It's almost like back in the old school days when you had your local grocery store every morning.

As Arun also said, this is what people are craving, human to human interactions. You need to consider how this technology is going to drive engagement at each stage of your customer journey. In the end, no matter if you are in a B2C or B2B world or marketing, people crave human to human connections.

There are two very important reasons why we believe that the future of marketing is H2H; first is engagement because there is a better way to engage with your customers than the regular phone sale or a content downloads. As you already mentioned, all of our marketers live with our CDPs and CRM. There, we have a wealth of data which can really help us engage in a more quality way and find different touch points then your regular phone sale.

The second is, as Arun already mentioned, is omni-channel marketing. You really now have all the data available to understand what your customers, what people want to hear from you, personalize the message and send it to the right channel at the right time.

Arun Kumar:

Yep. Now, let me add some color. I think the second part of your question, Al, is how can we bring together loyalty in our retention data with our first party CDP notion? Stepping back a little bit, what are loyalty programs for, right? It's a rhetorical question, but let me answer that, which is basically, it's a way to empower brands so that by offering them a way to differentiate themselves without discounting their products or services. Right? That's essentially the reason for loyalty, thereby increasing the repeat purchase and customer lifetime value.

That said, then thinking about loyalty retention data, that's what I want to call out. It's not really a third-party data alone, right? What we are offering in our people module, as you alluded to, is the ability for brands to build a first party CDP.

Now you could bring in any data together so that you can build your own unified profile of a customer. Now that said, now you can also bring in loyalty data, be it first party that you accumulate through your properties, or second and third party data. If I can say it that way, that's one of the key reasons why we have partnered. You're being a loyalty platform provider, you can enable it first or third party, however, you see fit for a brand.

What can we do with it, marrying it with first party data, several things. Let me call out a couple. One is when somebody gets into a loyalty club, they become qualified. Then you can marry the data between first party and loyalty programs to offer a personalized offer. So now you have a better perspective of who they are as a human, going back to human to human, or as a person. Now, you can make those personalized offers when you're welcoming them and expose them to a world of exclusive benefits, if I may use that word, as a loyalty member. That's one thing.

That does it result in? It increases CSAT, more retention, amplifying the retention. The second one is, again, one of the things that all of us would like to know is inquiry about where am I in the loyalty tier and how can I get to the next tier or what are the benefits available, whatever the case might be as a loyalty member. The reminders and status notifications, instead of letting them ping us and be reactive, how about we proactively send auto notifications on whatever related aspects, again, amplifying CSAT and retention rate. That's one. That's the way I look at bringing the data together and adding value.

Finally, I was thinking about this morning, based on personal experience in the past, take the example of a bank. Well, let me call it win-back Mindshare, that kind of campaigns. I've been using credit card heavily before I got married. Right? Let's say, I've been accumulating loyalty points, of late, I'm not doing much. There is a status change, which is in my first party database. Now, the third party loyalty data tells me that there isn't much of movement on the loyalty needle. Then the first party says, "Hey, there is a status change." Now, I've gotten a kid five months into being a dad or whatever. Then I say, "Hey, there is a possibility that my offers are not resonating now." How could I bring this data together and talk about saving for your kid's education, or investment choices or whatever. Now you make the connection proactively. Those are the kinds of things that the sky is the limit, to put it in short, by bringing together these data.

Al Lalani:

So getting this information together is highly important because at the end of the day, you want a unified customer journey. In this unified customer journey, I think leads to my next discussion that I want to get your thoughts on. Within sort of the Infobip platform, you also focus a little bit on communicating that entire journey, right? Once I have that data together, once you have this information and treasure trove of information, first party data, third party data, together into this unified platform or CDP, you're now able to communicate to these customers in a better way to define that customer journey and essentially orchestrate the communications around that. Can you talk a little bit about how you can then use that data within the moments part of your platform.

I also understand that you also have other customer data touchpoints within parts of your platform, whether it's conversations or answers where customer service agents are dealing with customers. Once you have the data together, you're enriching the customer journey either through communicating proactively through moments or reactively where consumers come to you in some capacity, but you're enriching their journey, nonetheless. Can you talk about some examples how you do that?

Arun Kumar:

Sure. Let me start off and then Sanja can add color. Moments, we can address, moments just for the audience is our customer engagement platform, marketing cloud line. We talked about in the last item, we discussed some color as to how to bring to bear the data, right? Let me jump to the conversations, which is more on the customer service support and contact center.

One of the capabilities we have is, as an agent, what I like to see? A real good view of who's the customer that I'm talking with, in a B2C context, as an example. We have something called the notion of customer context card. The brand can decide what kind of data to populate, if you will, in the customer context card so that the agent knows the current state of affairs, if you will, so they can best engage.

Now, there is also another element of sentiment analysis that we offer, which gives you live feedback on, I don't know, based on the conversational engagement, what is the customer feeling? You can find tune your engagement as an agent. Think about now, based on this loyalty data that we have, they are a high premium customer, a highly loyal customer, but right from when they get into the queue, they're automatically routed to a tenured agent or a supervisor, even. Again, a better customer experience because they are a highly loyal customer.

The next thing is, "Oh, you know what? Rather than being reactive," going back to the comment earlier, "How would we proactively leverage the knowledge base so it has the right information to address the query tag?"

The third one is they are a highly loyal customer, even though, let's not talk about only highly loyal customers for anyone as a customer, how can we seamlessly leverage the omni-channel conversation, meaning I want to move from voice to SMS because it makes sense. I am mobile right now as we speak, so I want to change over channels, that provision that we can seamlessly enable.

The most important is that they are a highly customer, how about once I resolve the issue, think about they were so unhappy based on the sentiment analysis or based on that whole engagement that you had, you close the case as an agent, and then say, "I'm going to send a note saying, "Thank you. I'm glad that I was able to help you. Now here is a promotional offer," that really aligns with what are their interests as a loyal member? What do you know about them from their loyalty data. That's a mind-blowing experience. I would love to have such an experience, right? I'm sure any of us. That's one. Now connecting it to another aspect of our portfolio, which is self-service, the answer is chat bot experience. Again, when I come in, how nice would it be to A, give me the ability to self-serve where we're providing the relevant data and options based on my loyalty profile, right? That's one option.

The second is being able to quickly answer some of the questions that resonate based on what are my interests. My loyalty profile and loyalty program is also going to have the preferences and the propensity for certain elements, and how we're infusing that in your self-service. Right?

But the third one is, "Hey, this was a very highly loyal customer for years. Let's not worry about self-service. Seamlessly hand them off to an agent in the conversations module that we talk about, so that there is a high touch, personal touch.

Well, again, there is whole lot of possibilities by bringing together loyalty data with first party data, and then addressing the holistic customer experience now. I would do a disservice if I don't point out how we can bring this to play as partners. Let me touch on that. I'm sure you would like to hear that. The way I think about Annex Cloud is you guys are experiential loyalty, meaning how do I infuse loyalty throughout the customer journey? It's not after the fact you become a customer, then I'm going to worry about conversion. It's infusing it for the journey.

Your loyalty program management squarely aligns with that. Your referral marketing makes a customer loyal, converts them into advocates by referring others. You are a UGC, and it's going to, again, help build loyal customers because they have UGC content generated by somebody else to better appreciate the brand. Secondly, they become advocates by contributing to the UGC for a more front end repository, if you will. It's squarely aligns with this holistic experience that we can bring to bear. So Sanja, I know I talked a lot. I'm going to turn it over to you. Any additional color that you want to offer?

Sanja Buterin:

No, I think you said it all. When we talk about Infobip's moments, our omni-channel customer engagement hub, it is intended for brands who seek better understanding of their customers, reactive behavior and anticipate their needs. This is what ultimately drives long-lasting customer relationships. When you talk about connected customer data, throughout people platform, we can import data from CRM, from all your loyalty programs, booking payment systems, mobile apps, mobile websites, and more.

All of this level of data help us to actually drive this personalization and human to human elements that we are highlighting to manage, really talking to customers on a one-to-one level and understanding and participating in every part of their life cycle, everything that happens, all the important life moments. Based on all this data, we can anticipate that, "Okay, Arun just got married, so he will need something else than he used to use before." This is an ongoing end to end experience fueled by data from our CDP.

Al Lalani:

Perfect. I think this has been an amazing discussion for me, because I'm putting it all together in my mind. We've started off with what we all saw during the COVID environment, how we took those statistics and essentially are putting together the next level of marketing tactics to bring marketers the abilities that they need to have a unified platform from beginning to end, from data to execution, to communication, to rendering the service for those customers, thereby bringing the entire customer experience into one holistic view to drive loyalty and retention.

I really love what we're planning to do together, I'm very, very excited to have both of you with me today to communicate this to our audiences. Thank you again Arun, thank you Sanja, for being here today.

Sanja Buterin:

Thank you.

Al Lalani:

For everyone else, if you want to hear more such videos, go to annexcloud.com/market movers, but that's it for now. Thank you again.

Arun Kumar:

Thank you Al, thanks to you.

Sanja Buterin:

Thank you for having us.

Al Lalani:


Arun Kumar:

Have a good day.

Al Lalani:


Featured Speakers

Al Lalani

Al Lalani

Co-Founder, Annex Cloud


Arun Kumar

Senior Director - Strategic Partnerships & Alliances, Infobip

Annexcloud Logo

For more than 10 years, Annex Cloud has been the worldwide leader in technology and service solutions that transform customer loyalty experiences for organizations, extending valued customer engagements, ultimately making beloved brands. Powered by the modular, comprehensive and scalable Loyalty Experience Platform™ solution suite, Annex Cloud customers capture and use zero- and first-party data to seamlessly deliver value-based individualized experiences across the entire customer journey—from awareness to purchase to retention, loyalty, and advocacy. This one-to-one engagement helps enterprises accelerate growth by increasing average order value, repeat purchase frequency, and customer lifetime value. Annex Cloud is recognized by respected industry analysts and integrates with more than 100 market-leading technologies to seamlessly integrate loyalty across the tech stack.

infobip logo

Infobip is a global cloud communications platform that enables businesses to build connected customer experiences across all stages of the customer journey at scale, with easy and contextualized interactions over customers’ preferred channels.

Accessed through a single platform, Infobip’s omnichannel engagement, identity, user authentication, security, and contact center solutions help clients and partners overcome the complexity of consumer communications, grow their business, and increase loyalty– all in a fast, secure and reliable way.

To learn more about Infobip , visit https://www.infobip.com/

©2021 All Rights Reserved. AnnexCloud