#354: Epsilon's Loyalty Index - Consumer Insights for the UAE

Today’s episode focuses on some exciting new loyalty insights relevant for marketers in the UAE.

As part of their global expansion, Epsilon has been hard at work researching UAE consumer loyalty preferences, and is now sharing these retail benchmarking insights.

Ganga Ganapathi, Epsilon’s Vice President of International Marketing, shares the strategic thinking that led to Epsilon’s decision to invest in this industry index, and some of the surprising findings that emerged in the UAE.

In such an ambitious country, loyalty marketers are increasingly keen to truly understand how their brands compare to competitors in their industry in terms of earning their customer’s loyalty, as well as how they compare to other industries.

Listen to enjoy my conversation with Ganga Ganapathi from Epsilon.

Hosted by Paula Thomas.

Show Notes:

1) Ganga Ganapathi

2) Epsilon

3) Epsilon Loyalty Index

Audio Transcript

Welcome to Let’s Talk Loyalty, an Industry podcast for loyalty marketing professionals. I’m your host, Paula Thomas, and if you work in loyalty marketing, join me every week to learn the latest ideas from loyalty specialists around the world.

This episode is sponsored by Epsilon. Today, I’m delighted to anounce a unique opportunity for one lucky listener of Let’s Talk Loyalty. To enjoy a complimentary workshop with the loyalty experts at Epsilon. One brand every month will have the chance for a unique, independent loyalty lab, a review of your loyalty program, where Epsilon will share their expert ideas, how to drive your program’s performance to a whole new level.

This workshop is a powerful way for you to measure and then increase the return on your investment in your loyalty program. So to apply, head over to letstalkloyalty.com/epsilon and enter your details.

Hello and welcome to this episode of Let’s Talk Loyalty, focusing on some exciting new loyalty insights, relevant for marketers here in the UAE. As part of their global expansion, our friends in Epsilon have been hard at work here researching consumers loyalty preferences.

In such an incredibly ambitious country, loyalty marketers in the UAE are increasingly keen to understand how their brands compare to competitors in their industry in terms of earning their customer loyalty. As well as understanding how do they compare to other industries. Today led by Ganga Ganapathi, Epsilon’s, vice President of International Marketing, Epsilon is launching exactly that. Their retail category, benchmarking insights for the uae, known as the Epsilon Loyalty Index.

Ganga joins me to explain the strategic thinking that led to the decision to invest in this effort to build an industry index, and some of the surprising findings that emerged. Then I was also thrilled to find out just today that Epsilon’s Loyalty Index has been announced by the International Loyalty Awards as one of their 2023 finalists for the best use of communications.

So I’m super pleased for everyone at Epsilon that this work is being recognized on the global stage. I hope you enjoy listening to my conversation with Ganga Ganapathi from Epsilon.

Paula: So Ganga, welcome to Let’s Talk Loyalty.

Ganga: Paula, Thank you so much for having me on. Uh, your show. Your podcast is fabulous. I love how you champion the great strides that the world of business is making with loyalty marketing, and it’s great to share a table with you.

Paula: Amazing. And you’re coming through loud and clear, Ganga.

I know Zoom isn’t always your friend, but it’s working beautifully. So thank you for persevering with me and you have certainly been a champion of mind. Ganga now for many. Actually, many people will know that Epsilon was the first sponsor of our show. So I’m very, very grateful to all of the work you do for us.

So let’s get straight into it. Ganga, as you know, there’s a huge amount that we’re gonna talk through today and super interested to hear your perspective in terms of how, I suppose, particularly Epsilon enters new markets. Um, particularly the one that I’m resident in. Super exciting to see. Uh, but before we do that, as you know, I always love to get a sense of what is my guest’s favorite loyalty program, so I know what inspires you.

So Ganga, please tell me what is your favorite loyalty program? Well, for today

Ganga: I’ve picked one that I haven’t personally experienced, uh, because it’s not from the part of the world that I live in, but I uncovered Discovery Bank as part of my research. And I was blown by everything that they’re doing in terms of, uh, innovation, building the future of banking, calling themselves the behavioral bank that is the heart of any successful marketing, right?

And, uh, the Fortune magazine recognizes them on their change the world list. And that’s something to be said. Uh, for a bank. I know their loyalty program, vitality active. Is at the heart of how they drive customer engagement. Uh, and I thought, uh, they’re doing all the right things in terms of staying authentic, connecting, you know, beautifully with younger generations.

Um, and I was really, really impressed with what they do.

Paula: amazing. And I dunno if you know Ganga, but when I’m asked this question, because so many people of course love to ask me back, what is my favorite loyalty program? It’s the exact same one that I talk about . Isn’t

Ganga: that amazing?

Paula: Wow. It truly is. And I’ve often said, Ganga, you know, South Africa is a loyalty market that that feels like it doesn’t get the global recognition that it.

Um, and we’re certainly doing a lot on this show of course, to address that. But I think the single most important thing for the audience listening to this is you and I both know loyalty extremely well, thankfully. Um, but vitality has just got that, I suppose, total extraordinary, I suppose, business perspective and integrity, that so many loyalty professionals, I really think we aspire to.

And I guess some of the things that that really inspire me about discovery particularly is first of all, that company was set up back in 1992, so I don’t know when Vitality was launched, but my sense is it was about like literally within the first couple of years, and the most gorgeous thing actually, I thought is they decided that instead of paying for sickness in terms of health insurance, which is where they started, they wanted to pay for.

So they have this gorgeous program, as you said, it incentivizes, you know, consumer behavior, which both dries their cost base down and Dr drives their business up. So it’s just incredible. So I’m super impressed you found it.

Ganga: I’m so glad and I, uh, yeah. I’m so happy to hear that someone like you sees what they do and appreciate it.

When I was reading through the case study, for me it was seeing this beautiful sense of harmony that they’re able to create for people who are truly in touch with their inner selves. Right? It’s almost like being twice blessed or twice rewarded. Totally. First you do. Thing because it’s something you believe in.

So you go to the gym, you eat the right kind of food, and then you get validated for having done that with a reward from your bank. Yeah,

Paula: absolutely. And what I do know as well, uh, first of all, by the way, vitality is coming on too, let’s. Talk loyalty. Finally, we’ve been hoping for a long time, so April 12th.

Anyone listening who’s interested in hearing directly from discovery, uh, will be able to hear that direct story. So I’m sure Ganga, you’ll be listening with open ears to that one. But the other point that I do know is that they don’t like to call themselves a loyalty program. They actually just see it as a way of being good business people and just being good to people, like a force for social good.

It’s quite

Ganga: incredible, really. I love that. I love it that you can draw labels and connect with people as people, right? That’s what the world needs more of.

Paula: Totally ganga. Listen, we’re totally aligned and off to an amazing start. So let’s look back at your career. Um, what I really love is the breadth of experience.

You have ganga across agencies, both on the, I suppose, marketing agency side. And then moving into it and technology, but always doing things at incredible scale, which really amazes me because I’ve often worked for, you know, the s m E sector, but you’ve done things in an incredible way. So talk us a bit about your, your own career background.

Ganga: Thank you. Uh, I think I’m an advertising person at heart. Uh, it started with my education. Mm-hmm. , uh, I’ve spent 20 of my 25 years in ad agencies or related spaces, including Epsilon. Mm-hmm. . I love the industry for being. Customer focused and for the sure innovation and creativity that the industry is able to unleash.

Uh, I also serve on the governing council of my alma mater. It’s called mica. It’s a top ranked communication school. Uh, I see myself as a diversity and an inclusion champion as well. Uh, I’m always cognizant of what a privileged woman I am. My parents rooted for my education and career. My husband is a one person army who ensures I never feel the pressure.

Having to do everything. Wow. A son who’s grown up seeing me always in the move. And now I work in an organization that is ultra respectful of associates lives within and outside of work. Um, everyone is not that lucky. Right. And I always try and look for ways to give back. Uh, at work today, I find myself at the intersection of creative thinking and cutting edge technology.

Innovation, exactly like you said. Mm-hmm. . Tech that truly delivers. Right. So Epsilon is a beautiful sum total of all my career experiences and expectations so far. Almost, uh, set a pieces, but yeah, here I

Paula: am. Wow. I was going to ask you actually what attracted you to Epsilon Ganga, but it sounds like, as you said, it was like the perfect alignment of everything you believe in.

Ganga: Totally. My first meeting with, uh, my manager then, who’s my manager even now. And I absolutely knew that I needed to be here. . I’m so glad I made that decision. . Wow.

Paula: Wow. And tell us where you’re based to Air Ganga, because I know India is a big country. So where exactly are you located?

Ganga: So I live in Bangalore, Paula.

It is, uh, I’ve been here now for about 20 years. I spent my childhood, uh, traveling all over in India, uh, all over India, thanks to my, uh, dad who was in the Army. Yes. But I live in Bangalore now and it is like an epicenter of business in the region. Yes. Uh, and while we are based here, I work with a team that’s spread.

Across the region, right. So I collaborate very closely with our teams in Australia, in Singapore, in Dubai, as you know, in, uh, Paris, uh, London, Dublin. So it’s, uh, it’s a world without boundaries and where you live doesn’t really matter that much anymore. For sure,

Paula: for sure. And you have a huge scope of responsibility as well, Ganga and, and I guess many of them would be fairly new territories for Epsilon.

So maybe tell us a bit about how Epsilon has grown up, maybe in terms of its origins, you know, just in other markets and, and where you’re currently focusing.

Ganga: Sure. So, uh, Epsilon has existed in the US uh, for over 50 years now, and we’ve been leaders in, uh, outcome driven marketing, right? So our, uh, platforms, uh, the data that we work with, the trust that we’ve built with, uh, with our, uh, clients and customers there.

All make for the perfect combination of ensuring that data and technology is infused into the creative that marketing so strongly needs. Um, and I feel really lucky to be experiencing our entry into new and emerging markets now. Uh, there’s leadership thinking at play here by supporting and developing new markets with a focus on education.

Pointing to the needs of brands in the context of their customers, evolving expectations. Um, since we are on Let’s Talk Loyalty, let me explain this in the context of our, uh, loyalty, uh, offering. Yes. Really, though, I must say, and you and I have discussed this many times, uh, Paula, that building loyalty doesn’t necessarily have to be only on a loyalty platform.

Right. That’s, uh, traditional thinking. Totally. Yeah. Right. As long as you’re able to. You know, leverage the consent and the respect that customers, uh, repo in a brand. As long as you’re able to use the data well, uh, you should be able to, you know, uh, create loyalty with every touchpoint and every interaction that you have with a customer.

Mm-hmm. And, uh, successful loyalty marketing, of course, relies on the trust between brands and customer. It’s a precious space. It’s where one, where customers share their data, give brands consent, and are open about their own expectations and how they’d like to engage. Uh, and that’s one space that, uh, I’ve seen Epsilon, uh, you know, really be able to engage well with brands and help brands engage with their customers to drive, uh, the whole interaction to.

Paula: Amazing. Amazing. And you’ve said before, of course, it’s only when actually customers are, are really, you know, loving their interaction with brands that actually, that that brand can be successful. And I guess that’s when Epsilon sees itself as being successes successful as well. So I love that. I suppose holistic thinking in terms of starting at the ultimate expectation and delivering that.

Surprise and delight, um, at every opportunity. So, so tell us about this, uh, this move into new markets,

Ganga: Ganga. So, uh, as we enter emerging, uh, markets, Paula, um, and again, I’ll talk about, uh, uh, loyalty a little more than the other platforms. Uh, the philosophy that we are taking with us is one that we call value led loyalty, right?

With value led loyalty. We believe that when you set up brands as well as their customers for mutual success, you can do this by com by focusing on a compelling value exchange. Uh, Epsilon ensures that the word loyalty is never treated lightly because we know that one-sided loyalty programs are doomed to fail.

Mm-hmm. , both the brand and the consumers need to really experience a program that delivers the value that they seek and perhaps, Exceeded, right? Mm-hmm. . So this value exchange is the critical component needed for, uh, any loyalty, uh, marketing program to succeed really. Mm-hmm. . Um, as we went into new markets, we could have easily gone in with a high decibel PR plates riding on the success of our.

You know, thriving business in the US as well as industry recognition that, you know, you know, uh, yes. That we constantly win and are recognized for. Yeah. But I think that would’ve suited neither our brand personality nor the goals of the marketers that we seek to partner with. Right? You can never get somebody to, uh, work with you because of who you are.

People choose to work with you when they see that again, there is mutual benefit and there is something that, uh, you know, uh, they would gain from you. Uh, and therefore, uh, you know, with an understanding that especially in, uh, the Middle East, the UA in particular mm-hmm. Loyalty marketers have. Big ambition.

We see how aware they are, how informed and how much they want to do. Uh, but sometimes there is a gap between that intelligence and the knowledge of what is possible versus what can actually get executed. And this is perhaps due to limitations of legacy, loyalty, technology or c r CRM platforms that have been invested in Yeah.

Uh, loyalty ends up becoming somewhat transactional, right? It gets reduced to an earn and burn of, uh, Points. Um, our customers, on the other hand, we know have long exited the world of vanilla transactions. Their world is filled with speed and color and glitz. And as they immerse themselves in new tech experiences, we should not be taking them away from that, only because marketing has its own limitations.

Mm. So how do we sort of, you know, immerse ourselves in that world? I, I don’t want to talk about the Epsilon, uh, people cloud loyalty platform. Mm-hmm. Because, you know, and I know that, you know, execute anything that a client needs in terms terms of customer data integration. Yeah. And that’s where Paula, our loyalty marketing team, needs to be really in tuned with their brand’s customers to deliver a program that resonates.

Mm. Right. And this thinking brought us. Conceiving and executing on the Epsilon Loyalty Index. Uh, so this index has been conceptualized and customized to gather information, provide direction to 40 brands, the top 40 brands in the uae. Mm-hmm. that see high frequency of customer engagement. And we believe that this will help CMOs and CTOs appreciate the customer’s perspective mm-hmm.

and allow them to deliver this value exchange that we so strongly believe.

Paula: Amazing, amazing stuff. Ganga, you’re absolutely right. First and foremost, um, I, I think everybody agrees that u a e is probably the most ambitious country in the world. Like I would genuinely say, it’s one of the reasons I live here.

you know, I come from Ireland, and in Ireland there’s often a, a mentality that I think, you know, that it’s hard to do things and it’s hard to be the best. But here in UAE, honestly, we want the best, uh, and we believe we can have it. So I, I love this idea that, uh, that you’re focusing your marketing efforts, I suppose, not just on the, the value exchange, as you said, between brands and their consumers.

But I guess also between like what value can you bring to the market? Because I think ultimately what you and I both know and probably learned over many years in our own careers, it takes time to build trust, particularly with something as, um, as big a decision, I guess as a loyalty marketing platform.

So, What it feels like to me is that you’re taking the right approach, like providing value upfront with this consumer research that I know for a fact if I was leading a program and wanted to know what my customers wanted, especially compared to my competitors and in my sector, like honestly that type of research is absolutely invaluable.

So you must be super proud it’s finally coming out.

Ganga: Thrilled with it, Paula, because uh, you know, and you know, something like this is not easy to execute, right? Your, uh, day to day business always takes precedence and thought leadership is something that everyone who wants to do, but it’s really hard to find the resources and the time to, uh, pull it together.

Yeah. But this is one thing I’m so glad that, uh, all of us believe in and have persevered on because, like you said, this is our way of. Uh, you know, the brands that we want to work with, that this is our investment in our relationship. It’s a gift of knowledge. Mm-hmm. . And we hope that, uh, you know, people are able to leverage this.

And honestly, to access the report as it stands, um, we, we are just here to share it. Right? There is, uh, no complicated process you need to go through. There’s no cost involved. Yeah. There’s information that has been gathered. It’s going to further the maturity of the market. Yeah. Um, and yeah, uh, we are here to share it.

So I’m happy to spend a few minutes. That with you.

Paula: Amazing. And just so everyone knows, you did go to the absolute extent of capturing that consumer feedback, both in English and Arabic Ganga. How was that?

Ganga: Paula having come from the world of advertising, and of course Epsilon is a part of the Publicis, uh, group, right?

Yeah. Uh, there is no way you can not be empathetic to the market and the consumers that you’re working with. Yeah. Uh, so we needed to hit scale and we also needed to make sure we were really authentic. Yeah. So we decided to study four retail categories. There’s grocery. QT fashion and banking. Okay. Um, the UAE, as we know, is unique in its demographics.

It attracts people from all over the world. Yeah. So our sample of over 2000 respondents mm-hmm. reflects the demographic composition of the UAE in terms of the gender split as well as the nationalities represented. And by giving respondents a choice to respond in either English or Arabic, we believe that has returned information that is authentic and truly represents their region’s perception, um, towards the brands that they feel, uh, loyal to.


Paula: Incredible. And just so people do know, you’ve also done this research just once before, cuz it’s still fairly new, but you’ve done it in Australia as well, Ganga. So maybe just give us a bit of the backstory. I’m sure it’s gone down extremely well for Australian loyalty marketers.

Ganga: It has Paula. So we released our Australia study in August of 2022, and we are ready to, uh, share the UAE study now, uh, in March.

And, uh, the very fact that we’ve gone to a new region and are able to, you know, uh, Producer study at the same scale, uh, should be an indicator of how marketers are appreciating the information and the insight that they get. Um, like I said, it’s uh, you know, uh, somewhat, uh, formulaic when you think of program isn’t doing well, you’ll either look at the outcomes and say, okay, what can I get people to do more of?

Which is, how do I get them to buy more? Visit me. Things like that. Mm-hmm. , or you may go back to the factors that you used to design your program, right? Mm-hmm. and say, okay, what kind of an offer, should I do a two x program? Should I bundle some cross-sell opportunities? Um, what we need to remember is that the human mind and heart processes information in very unique ways, and each human’s response to an offer is different.

Right? What the loyalty index has. In both of these, uh, studies now is to try and make life a little easier for marketers by unraveling these mysteries. Mm-hmm. . So imagine knowing what kind of loyalty drivers touch a consumer emotionally, or touch a consumer rationally mm-hmm. and whether that impact is even important to a category.

Mm-hmm. . Right? So the way we sort of, uh, use the different factors that influence, power loyalty program is designed mm-hmm. , uh, you can now make your decision based on how you. That is going to impact your audience and there is, uh, data and statistics to prove the validity of any decision.

Paula: Absolutely. And drivers is a key that I know is fundamental ganga to how this, uh, loyalty index is structured.

Will you talk a bit about those drivers and, and where you’ve, you’ve, I suppose, learned about these four different verticals? Because I think there’s so many different ways sometimes. I think we may be oversimplify by just saying, you know, there’s emotional loyalty and there’s transactional loyalty, but there’s a lot more depth to it than that.

So will you talk to us a bit about the drivers themselves?

Ganga: Uh, sure. Paula, I can do that. So, uh, when we, uh, look at the drivers. Of, um, loyalty. Right. We broke it down into two buckets. There is the loyalty fundamentals. Mm-hmm. of which include your product price, where you buy from, the promotion you’re running, or the service that you offer.

Mm-hmm. , we know that these are the building blocks of any business, but we also know there are. Other things that make a customer or a person decide whether they want to engage with a brand or not. Mm-hmm. And we’ve, uh, you know, included 10 of those in our study. We call that the loyalty accelerators. So this could be things like, uh, do you feel like a brand is adding value to your life?

Uh, do you feel like a brand is encouraging you to. Participate in something that the brand is doing or with a community that might be important to you. Mm-hmm. . Uh, does a brand recognize you, make you feel seen, make you feel special? Uh, you know, that sort of thing? Uh, a lot of times we find that, uh, consumers aren’t using their.

Points because they’re not even aware of how to do it. That becomes a very important, uh, you know, factor in the way, uh, you experience a loyalty program. Yeah. So if you handhold a customer and say, Hey, you’ve got all these points, and before the lapse, this is the way you would, you know, you could probably use it.

Every little interaction makes a difference in the way, uh, You know, customers would relate to a brand. Yeah,

Paula: I think that’s a universal problem as well. Ganga, and I dunno if it’s something you’ve seen with them, even in the US market, for example, like I genuinely think it’s every single loyalty program.

There always seems to be this issue about ongoing awareness, education, and I suppose inspiration as well. So, so what I’m liking, what I’m hearing from you is really understanding. Drivers in detail, so then you can focus that kind of handholding piece in terms of where those members actually need to experience

Ganga: it.

Absolutely, Paula, because, uh, you know, when you look at the drivers, and that’s the most visible and obvious thing to a marketeer, right? Mm-hmm. What we figured is that it’s not enough just to. Play around with the drivers as levers without knowing the impact that they can have. Yeah. Uh, for me, the human brain is like a super processor, right?

You’re in a split second. People are making decisions on what they’re going to do and how they’re going to react. Mm-hmm. . Now imagine as a marketer being able to read. With some degree of certainty, whether, uh, say a person feels that buying from a brand is an enjoyable experience, do they feel like a brand reflects their personal values?

These are the scores that’ll tell you whether you are winning over a person’s sh heart, right? And that’s where your share of heart as a. As a driver of attitudes becomes important. Similarly, when a person believes that they feel rewarded, whether they, you know, are getting value for money or whether they’re willing to pay a premium for a brand, when you understand that, it tells you whether a brand is gaining on what we call share of value, and again, if share of value is even important for that category.

And lastly, how. This brand perceived relative to competition. Will the person buy from you again the next time? Do you risk losing them to competition? Uh, do you think they will advocate for you? All of that comes into what we call the share of mind. So share of heart, share of value, share of mind are the attitudinal.

Factors that we’ve derived based on how people respond to the loyalty drivers. Yeah. Which are the ones that you see most obviously, right? Yeah. And that’s where the loyalty index becomes a statistically significant model to help a marketer understand which are the lever that I can make, say, small changes in to achieve, uh, larger than proportionate.

Paula: Amazing. Yeah. And I’m thinking back to my own, uh, career as well, Ganga in terms of, you know, we always had our own, I suppose, internal customer research of course, because, you know, there is that, I suppose awareness and understanding as marketers that we always have to be listening. Um, and it’s relatively easy, I won’t say totally easy, but it’s relatively easy to listen to our own customer.

But then I supposed to go out and get that competitive perspective directly from, you know, that independent source, um, so that they can actually, consumers can say honestly what they feel without feeling okay. I just have to respond back to this particular survey. You know, I just had a wonderful experience, for example, with ikea and they sent me a, a follow up survey and I know they’ll use that and they’ll listen because they’re that kind of brand, but, As a loyalty marketer, what I’m guessing is that you are hoping that in the UAE loyalty marketers can get a sense of how they’re perceived versus their competitors.

Uh, but I know you also don’t name the, the individual brands because of your code of conduct. Am I right in terms of how the report is actually published?

Ganga: totally, Paula, because while this is an independent study and we’ve gone and talked to consumers and gotten data, uh, you know, uh, based on their experiences, uh, given that we are part of the whole marketing ecosystem, we know how important it is that, uh, brands data is protected.

And therefore, uh, while this. This data doesn’t belong to any brand per se. We would still not share competitive information. Yeah. Uh, because, you know, uh, that’s the whole point in a way, uh, Epsilon’s philosophy has always been rooted in respect, respect for, uh, privacy, the way we manage our consumers, uh, data.

Yeah. And that comes, comes together even in the way we are going about sharing this report, uh, with marketers in the industry. Thank you. Thank you for bringing that. Yeah,

Paula: no, I think it’s important because at the end of the day, you do have that insight on, you know, which retailers or, or grocery, for example, have you said are being perceived well.

So there’s, there’s absolutely nothing to be gained by embarrassing anybody. So we’re all very clear on that. But we’re here to learn, so, so why not understand where we are versus our competitors, but only privately. So I think that’s super, super, absolutely important. Wonderful. Yeah.

Ganga: Yeah, because from the study, uh, you know, uh, what we are also seeing is say every category, you’ve studied 10 brands, right?

And you may see that two or three are really up there and they’re really close together. So there is insight for each brand on what. Little tweak, they may need to make two edge ahead and gain the space that is, uh, still left, that is unclaimed by any other brand. Yeah. On the other hand, uh, if a brand is a laggard, instead of struggling with say, 15 attributes that need to change, which is impossible, as we know for anyone to do, you may recognize there are just.

Two that allow you to occupy white space in the category and push you from being number 10 to say number five, and taking the others by surprise, right? That’s the magic lens that I believe the Exilon Loyalty Index really offers.

Paula: You know, I, I’m feeling quite competitive when I’m listening to you guys

I’m like, I can totally imagine the impact now when this starts to land. So, what did I suppose either surprise or delight you? Um, I know it’s hot off the presses. Here we are, the middle March and literally launching the UAE Epsilon. No. Now, literally this week. So, so what do you think surprised you? Or for the marketeers who are going to be downloading it, what do you think they’ll find

Ganga: surprising?

So each category has behaved differently, right? We’ve looked at, uh, fashion, grocery, beauty, and uh, banking. And it’s so delightful for me as a marketer to see that it’s the same consumer who has responded on all four categories, and in each of them their responses are different. So in a way, even for a banker to look at how their consumer feels, not just about banking, but also about grocery and beauty, retail could be such an eye-opener because you’re getting to underst.

This person in their totality, right? And not just as a customer of a bank or of a beauty brand. Uh, so for me, that was one thing that I’m, you know, really waiting to start telling, uh, stories about. Mm-hmm. Um, but individually on each of these categories, maybe I could share one or two things that, uh, you know, uh, we sort of found.

Yeah. Uh, so I’ll start with fashion. Um, there’s. Big trend towards casualization with the focus on comfort. Yeah. The sustainability. That’s important. Almost a quarter of consumers in the UAE buy from purpose driven brands and the omnichannel approach, of course, with the phone becoming a big driver of commerce.

Mm-hmm. , uh, what we found as the biggest determinance of loyalty, uh, in the fashion, uh, category, is the store experience and the. That you get mm-hmm. , right? Fashion is also a really tough category because of how demanding people can be. And you and I know how we are when we are shoppers. We look for a combination of emotional value and rational drivers.

Mm-hmm. , uh, before we gift our loyalty to our brand and we are ready to make a switch at the slightest provocation. The advantage here is that as long as a brand is nimble and can lockstep with each consumer in their unique world, it is possible to win. Right? Uh, I’ll name a few brands, I won’t talk of scores.

Know, like we discussed, but some of the brands said it really well. Uh, for example, uh, Zara, Eli elicits really strong loyalty. Mm. But Mango, which is also an equally strong brand, seems to have an advantage of converting consumers to loyalists quicker than anybody else. Wow. Uh, h and m may rank just a little lower, but there are unique drivers that they can pick up and we know they can quickly.

you know, advantage if they worked with that. Yeah, and the best news for fashion is it’s an intensely competitive, uh, category. All 10 brands are rather close, but overall, the category clocked in at just 76 points, which means with an index of hundred, the field is wide open for any brand that chooses to make a leap and cover that gap of 24 points.

That still exists in the.

Paula: Wow, my goodness. Yes. Super exciting. And again, I shopped certainly with Zara. Love h and m, and I must go back into Mango. , .

Ganga: Dave might grab you. Yes.

Paula: Amazing. Okay, so, so give us the next sector.

Ganga: Okay. So when it comes to beauty, there is a conscious beauty movement that’s taken hold.

Okay. We know that social commerce is here to stay, and you’ll find that the category is extremely rational. Uh, there are unique trends like seeking. Mass products, but with prestige positioning. Right? These are the little ways I think that the beauty market, uh, is changing. Mm-hmm. , uh, beauty is also becoming so much about access, right?

You’ve got to keep it real. Your values have to resonate, and you’ve got to become this. Cloak of protection that users seek. So here we found that brands like, uh, Sephora, Athen, Bodyworks Booths, Caro leading the pack, but there’s a treasure trove of insights which can be, uh, used for all the 10 brands that we’ve studied.

Paula: So tell us then about your insights and what can surprise the loyalty marketers in terms of grocery.

Ganga: Okay. So grocery is a big consolidation at play amongst businesses. Uh, and from a consumer perspective, there’s a big overlap between the physical and the digital worlds. Consumer expectations also seem to be driving a lot of innovation, uh, in this category.

Uh, for me, my personal surprise was I expected grocery retail to be functional. Uh, but I’m sure leading grocery brands know this well. That share of heart seems to have taken the. To have become the biggest attitudinal driver here, people are looking for enjoyable experiences. They’re looking for a brand that will win their trust for a brand that resonates with their personal values.

Uh, and I’m sure that’s so crucial for decision makers who put food on their family table, right? Uh, community building is coming out to be a big opportunity in this category. Um, and the top brand, I won’t reveal who that was, has a larger than proportional lead on the index compared to the rest of the

Paula: category.

Amazing, amazing. So the final sector then is banking, which is always one that I think brings out a lot of, uh, debate, dare I say, in terms of how loyalty professionals think about banking particularly. So tell us exactly what did you find here in the uae?

Ganga: So consumer banking was a delightful category to study.

Um, the relentless search to find and deliver experiential banking is very, very visible when you study the market. Mm-hmm. and the FinTech boom is driving everyone to the edge of digitization. Sure. Uh, I love finding that share of heart. Leads this category. And that’s testimony, I think to the huge effort that brands have made to connect with their consumers.

Uh, the top six brands here are very close on the index, and that means that one or two of them can make a small push and perhaps gain a solid lead over the rest. And, uh, with the top score of 78 out of hundred, there’s still 22 points available, uh, for the reckoning that brands want to, you know, throw their hats into the

Paula: ring four.

I think it brings us back to that point. Ganga, I’m feeling competitive. Um, , this is a country, uh, of absolutely ambitious loyalty marketers who are absolutely gonna love accessing this research, being able to digest it and I guess going through it with Epsilon, um, as and when, and if appropriate, if they want to get more details.

So, Just in terms of, um, where it’s being available and where it’s being promoted. Ganga, is it? The Epsilon Loyalty index.com website, I guess is the best place, place for us to direct people to.

Ganga: Absolutely Paula, that is the place to go to. Uh, and like you said, uh, right. Uh, when people get their hands on the report, uh, I think they’ll find that the changes required are not hard to implement, implement at all.

Yeah. Uh, for example, uh, recommendation to open a new outlet in a high street location is not something that can be achieved overnight. Yeah, but look at drivers like, encourage people to participate in community efforts. Recognize a person and make them feel exclusive. Build entertainment into the customer journey.

Personalize every interaction. Educate people on how to leverage points. These are such. Easy to deploy drivers, right? And our models show how they can really accelerate the whole, uh, loyalty, uh, perception of a brand. And it’s really a no-brainer when you use this index as a guide to decision making. So thank you so much for pointing, uh, people to where they can access this

Paula: report.

No problem. And the other thing I think is super important as well to mention is I know you’re planning to conduct this research on a, I’m guessing it’s an annual basis, ganga.

Ganga: We, yes, we expect to do an annual

Paula: refresh. Okay, so, so it’s something that can be monitored over time. Look at your performance and I guess really see the progress as in well, because it’s, it’s something that literally, you know, as you said, if there are levers available that you can actually start to use.

And I think what this research does is it allows the loyalty marketers to take it internally, if needed, of course, to get extra support, extra investment, to justify the decisions that they’re making in terms of increasing that customer loyalty. And then, as you said, over time, please, God, in 12 months, again, there’ll be the uh, 20 23, 20 24 Epson loyalty index for each of the markets that you’re focusing on so we can start to see progress over.


Ganga: Paula. And the true value of an effort like this is when you are able to see the changes over time, right? And hopefully as a brand also compare yourself to the category and your competition to see what kind of results your effort, uh, is yielding. Amazing. So definitely there will be a refresher every year.

Paula: Amazing. So listen, um, what I’m hearing coming through Ganga is a huge amount of pride. Um, probably a lot of relief as well, , . But, uh, this is coming to market at such an important time for, for Epsilon, um, in this region. So just as, as my final question, I guess, how do you feel about the Epson loyalty index as you’re launching?

Ganga: Thank you for asking me that. Paula , I think as a marketer, I love that Epsilon empowers us to design and create campaigns like this that not just inform, but also inspire the audience. Right. Uh, we know we have a powerful proposition with the Epsilon platform and everything we do, but the challenge is to cut through the clutter of B2B campaigns that all marketers are, uh, bombarded with.

Totally. Um, the first strategic decision was to stay focused and target a really. Of, uh, loyalty marketers and CMOs. Uh, you and I know how hard it is to get through, uh, with emails or, you know, depending on conventional forms of marketing. Yeah. Um, but when you are able to create an asset that the industry can use, um, you know, when it gets noticed and when a small set of believers are vocal together, I think that really makes a difference for me.

You are one of those believers, Paula, so I’m really glad that you are part of, you know, uh, how we tell our.

Paula: Absolutely. I’m very, very proud to do so Gangas. So, um, huge congratulations. I know this, uh, work is a labor of love for you and, um, yeah, it’s absolutely extraordinary how much commitment you’re showing, uh, both to, you know, the Australian market as you’ve already proven.

Now the uae and I’m sure there’s plenty more in the pipeline, which I’m sure we can’t give away just yet. But listen, uh, that’s all of the questions I have for you today. Then Ganga, is there anything else that you wanted to mention before

Ganga: we wrap up? I’m afraid I’ve already talked so too much. Paula .

Paula: We love it.

We love it. Yes. I think the most important thing Ganga is I’m, I’m guessing that you’re going to be provoking a lot of thinking for the people listening to this show, and not necessarily just in the uae, but is it okay, like where can people maybe reach out to, to connect with you if they have follow up questions?

Ganga: I’d love to connect on, uh, LinkedIn, Paula Ka. That’s my, uh, handle on LinkedIn. Uh, I’m quite responsive and I would love to engage with a broader community. It’s when we all learn together that we will all grow together and build a happier world with happier customers.

Paula: Totally happiness all around Ganga.

Actually, that’s exactly what the UAE believes in. So you’ve already got the lingo. That’s absolutely incredible. So with that said, we’ll of course make sure to link to your profile as well. So anyone who is listening and wants to speak with Ganga, just check the show notes and you’ll be able to connect directly.

So, Ganga Ganapathi. Vice President of Marketing for Asia Pacific, Middle East, Africa, and EU for Epsilon. Thank you so much from Let’s Talk Loyalty.

Ganga: Thank you, Paula. It’s been a wonderful conversation.

This show is sponsored by The Wise Marketer, the world’s most popular source of loyalty marketing, news, insights, and research.

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