Outlook 2022: “Companies Will Need to Adopt a Tech-Enabled Culture”

Aswin Ravi, the Director at WebEngage MEA, says 2021 was a year of business adjustments

How was 2021 for the industry and your company?
2021 was a year of business adjustments for all companies across sectors after the heavy impact of the pandemic. The B2C economy started witnessing a rapid surge through digital channels and therefore this called for realignment in digital strategies which were mostly ‘good to haves’ but had to recourse as a very vital significant component of a company’s marketing strategy.

At WebEngage, we achieved unprecedented growth in 2021 in MEA alone, at around 60% over 2020. Sectors such as retail and travel started booming once again and have witnessed a strong comeback, especially in the last 6-9months.

E-commerce is inevitable for most B2C brands as consumers have got habituated and accustomed to the ease of online purchases. Brands that were predominantly offline such as Ajmal Perfumes, eXtra stores, and B.TECH have realized its value too and have adopted the model as it has proven definitive growth in 2020 and 2021.

This combination of online as well offline presence is vital for retail brands by engaging customers via multiple platforms such as emails, SMS, Business for WhatsApp in a single dashboard from WebEngage that facilitated a combined overview of online + offline customer patterns and behaviours.

Did you face any challenges in 2021?
Every business is faced with a series of great opportunities brilliantly disguised as impossible situations or challenges. Success lies beyond these challenges. Some of these in 2021 are:

  1. Frequent Regulatory changes: The online space is constantly evolving and therefore, it is imperative for data policies and regulations to evolve from time to time. Regulatory bodies are prompt and have introduced newer and updated data policies guidelines and regulations to protect consumers as well as enterprises. This has been especially witnessed in the banking, financial, and fintech sectors. To stay ahead of time and on par with most updated security measures, WebEngage has secured an ISO 27001 certification that affirms the company’s security standards that customers can trust.
  2. Data Storage: dominates the choice of tech partners. Google and Amazon are setting up their Data Centres in the region now. Global technology providers who are committed to the market will have to make sure they’re ready with their local instances.
  3. Remote working: While travel seemed a challenge in 2020 and 2021 that made face-to-face interaction with employees and customers difficult, in fact, it was the contrary – the world of business learned and adapted to the fact that virtual meetings and communication are as effective – especially when your offering is robust and technologically sound. And WebEngage lived up to this commitment to its customers.

What were your key achievements in 2021?
Making a significant contribution to our customers’ bottom lines has been our biggest success at WebEngage. This assured success for our partners has facilitated 20% new logo acquisitions in the last year alone.
Furthermore, we have ventured into new markets such as Ghana and Kenya in 2021. As for new projects, WebEngage has bagged many new projects from the public sector – mainly government departments in Kuwait and Oman to enhance their customer experiences.

To summarize, 2021 has been a year of rapid growth, profitability, and green-field entries for WebEngage.

What promises does 2022 bring along?
WebEngage’s forecast for business opportunities in marketing automation for 2022:

  1. Livestream commerce and video commerce to become mainstream and AI-based personalization of videos will move beyond early adopters.
  2. An increased number of companies will recognize the need to adopt a Tech-enabled culture rather than just being Tech supported. This isn’t as much about new technology but the disruptive effect of globally available technology that the region is witnessing.
  3. WhatsApp’s opening up of the promotional channel will be an exciting opportunity for marketers to engage deeply with their customers. Having said that, this must be utilized with caution and discretion in order for it to stay relevant.

Do you see opportunities in the regional markets with new markets opening up?
While the pandemic continues to scare the world, the outlook and sentiments for 2022 are positive given the fact that the UAE has contained the situation despite a huge influx of travelers for EXPO2020 as well as tourists from all over the world. This is true for most of the Middle East too.

WebEngage has witnessed big and traditional investors investing heavily in Egypt and KSA in addition to UAE – mainly in Fintech and E-commerce and hyperlocal deliveries that have raised amazing series A and Series B funding. Hiring is on the rise for talent with knowledge of mobile and app-based engagements in current and new markets including northern Africa, KSA, and Egypt. These markets are going to be key for WebEngage too.

According to you, which technologies will be in demand in 2022?
Technologies that will center around insight-led customer engagement and experience enhancements will continue to dominate the market leveraged by a chat and messaging-led ecosystem utilizing Machine Learning, AI chatbots, and more. Seamless single stack retention operating system that enables marketers to store user data, provide real-time and instantly actionable insights, orchestrate omnichannel campaigns that provide hyper-personalized user experiences, targeted messaging and product recommendations will help improve a customer’s experience with brands. A 360-degree customer view and integration of the stack is what will lead and drive customer engagement automation trends in 2022.

What will be your key focus areas for 2022?
To continue empowering CXO’s and CMO’s to focus on core business strategies rather than customer engagement tools through technological adoptions for personalized, engaging, and relevant communications that include insight-driven engagement strategies. This is expected to accelerate significantly in 2022 with brands investing in actionable insights with contextual, relevant, and engaging customer communication.

‘Innovation’ will continue to be the focus to upscale customer journey engagement strategies and robust executions that drive growth for WebEngage. In addition to UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt, we managed to penetrate deeper into the African markets of Ghana and Kenya to name a few. The increasing consistency of our execution, combined with a strong pipeline firming up ahead of us in verticals of government, e-commerce, fintech, banking and finance, and online retail industries across the Middle East & Africa underpins our confidence for the coming years.

What milestones have you set for 2022?
The Middle East market is a front runner in the adoption of digital content. The global marketing automation market size is expected to reach 25.1 billion by the end of 2023 and marketing automation has become the go-to solution for most businesses today. At WebEngage, we will continue scaling hyper-personalization strategies through real-time interactions between brands and customers – where data is strategically leveraged to send personalized content across all stages of the funnel.

The public sector which interacts with millions of people each day and provides vital services to enhance user experiences, service deliveries through sharp personalization to respond to citizen needs and deliver consistent citizen happiness will continue to be a major focus for us in 2022.

Banking & finance with its digital banking services has grown since the start of the pandemic with significant increases being for mobile banking apps and remains our focus too. Retail and travel will continue to be at the heart of customer engagement as businesses look to boost customer engagement post the pandemic.

Finally, acquiring new customers is always important but retaining ones that already remain an equal focus for us in the current climate.

What would you like to do differently in 2022, when compared with 2021?
Increased hyper-personalization responds to changing customer perceptions and market conditions to increase customer experiences and brand loyalty, failure to which will make consumers switch brands.

CMO’s and CXO’s are under immense pressure to constantly innovate and create more authentic customer interactions with competition getting smarter and fiercer in industries, data getting exhaustive, new channels becoming popular and consumer expectations rising and becoming more complex. At WebEngage, we aim to provide a single dashboard to brands to enable them to make agile decisions amid rapid change. Moreover, our solutions will continue to harness the power of data to create hyper-personalized marketing strategies for brands.

In-person industry events and WebEngage led forums are on our calendars for 2022 as we strongly believe that the need for face-to-face encounters with the ecosystem is vital. We are eagerly looking forward.

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Chris Fernando

Chris N. Fernando is an experienced media professional with over two decades of journalistic experience. He is the Editor of Arabian Reseller magazine, the authoritative guide to the regional IT industry. Follow him on Twitter (@chris508) and Instagram (@chris2508).

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