#476: ExxonMobil Egypt Drives Loyalty Market in Downstream Business

Today’s episode features an interview with a global brand for the first time ever based in Egypt.

ExxonMobil⁠ Egypt is a well-known company in both consumer & industrial supply of finished lubes in markets around the world, and we are delighted to be joined today by their loyalty program manager in Egypt, ⁠Sherif Fahmy⁠.

As you will hear Sherif explain, ExxonMobil Egypt was the first ever loyalty program launched by a downstream company in Egypt, so as you can imagine, we were excited to hear how they approached this project, and what proposition they chose to launch to take full advantage of this market opportunity.

Sherif shares some of their challenges and achievements in their journey so far, so I hope you enjoy this conversation with Sherif Fahmy, from ExxonMobil in Egypt.

Sherif shares some of their challenges and achievements in their journey so far, so I hope you enjoy this conversation with Sherif Fahmy, from ExxonMobil in Egypt.

Show Notes:

1)  ExxonMobil⁠

2) Sherif Fahmy


Audio Transcript

Paula: 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.

Hello and welcome to today’s episode of Let’s Talk Loyalty with an interview featuring a leading global brand for the first time ever based in Egypt. ExxonMobil is a well known leader in both industrial and consumer supply of petroleum products in markets around the world. And we’re delighted to be joined today by their Loyalty Program Manager in Egypt, Sherif Fahmy.

As you’ll hear Sherif explain, ExxonMobil was the first ever loyalty program launched by a fuel retailer in Egypt. So as you can imagine, we were super excited to hear how they’ve approached this project and what proposition they chose to launch to take full advantage of this market leading opportunity. Sherif shares some of their challenges and achievements in their journey so far. So I hope you enjoy this conversation with Sherif Fahmy from ExxonMobil in Egypt.

So, Sherif Fahmy, welcome to Let’s Talk Loyalty. Thank you, Paula. You’re joining us today from sunny Egypt. Where exactly are you based?

Sherif: I’m based in Cairo and the weather yeah, the weather is is good today.

Paula: Wonderful. Well, I love Africa, North Africa, South Africa, everywhere. So it’s a wonderful continent and yes, we’re increasingly excited to hear about what’s happening in the loyalty market there.So delighted to have you here to share the ExxonMobil story.

So before we get into all of what you’re doing and your incredible loyalty program, as you know, Sherif, we always do start this conversation trying to get a sense from our loyalty professionals about what is it that they personally enjoy using in the loyalty world.

So tell us, Sherif , what is your favorite loyalty program?

Sherif: Okay. So, basically after our program mobile Vodafone Egypt has one of the best loyalty programs I’m dealing with. They have a very user friendly application with a wide variety of merchants and options for redemptions, so it’s a very nice program for myself.

Paula: Okay. So you’re using it, you find your behaviors changing. So sounds like it’s having an effect for you.

Sherif: Yes. Every day or in every two or three days I check the app. I see what offers they have. I check my balance, things like that.

Paula: Wow. Oh my goodness. Yeah. I think it’s every brand’s dream, Sherif , to hear, you know, somebody saying they check my app every few days because sometimes, like with my mobile phone, actually, I don’t think I check it very often at all. Maybe when the bill comes. So that’s great that they’ve got something that’s super compelling for you.

So Sherif, you’re working for a world famous brand. But of course in a market that I think a lot of our audience might be less familiar with. So to start off thinking about loyalty in ExxonMobil, would you mind just telling us a bit about the business in Egypt and how you guys are positioned relative to your competitors?

Sherif: Okay. So, mobile brand exists in Egypt since more than 120 years. Yeah.

Paula: It’s amazing. Yeah.

Sherif: It’s a famous brand in the downstream business. And ExxonMobil Egypt is a leading provider of of high quality lubricants and fuels with a wide variety of with a wide network of convenience retail shops, more than 240 service stations and more than 100 lube service centers under the flag of mobile one center and mobile auto care as well.

Paula: Okay.

Sherif: In addition, we have more than 40 convenience retail shops under the name of On the Run and the way to go with the newly introduced brand in Egypt.

Paula: Wonderful, yeah.

Sherif: Of course, we are really heavily present in the industrial sector with a comprehensive and diversified range of products and lubricant solutions supported by two state of the art lubricant blended plants. And worth to mention also that in Europe, Africa, Middle East, we are, present directly and indirectly in more than 40 countries in Africa, Middle East, and Europe, America, and the Far East as well.

Paula: Oh my goodness. Wow. Very comprehensive, Sherif. Thank you for that. I do recognize certainly the On the Run brand because I’ve seen that in my home country of Ireland. So really wonderful to know that same convenience store brand is present in Egypt as well. And I guess there’s a lot of simplicity and I guess benefits for global businesses, like you guys to take those, you know, successful formats and formula and transport them, of course, as much as possible around the world to get the maximum impact. And at the same time, I know that you have developed a very unique loyalty strategy for the Egypt market, rather than necessarily taking something from another country.

So would you talk to us about loyalty then Sherif?  You know, what exactly, like, where did you start? I think this is the very first time that you guys have actually developed a structured loyalty program. And I know there’s actually two programs that we’re going to talk about today. So tell us, you know, take us right back to the very beginning. Where did you start thinking, maybe we need a loyalty program and tell us about the journey that you’ve been on.

Sherif: Okay. So it’s it has been an exciting, intense and very rewarding journey for me five years ago the the company decided to build that, that program. And I have built it with a strong experience and managed to contribute to a key digital transformation project for the product category. And I’m really proud that I was part of this program since inception. Mobilawy is the first fuels and loops program in Egypt and the downstream business. We launched the program in 2020. And the Mobilawy is offering a lucrative pointing system with a competitive value proposition to the B2B and the B2C sectors.

Paula: Okay.

Sherif: I will. I will start with the journey of the B2B. Our lube oil shops and any traders who are selling mobile lubricants to the end consumers can have a wallet using the mobile number as the unique identifier. And they are enrolled to the program are after a certain verification steps.

Paula: Okay.

Sherif: Then through a brilliant pack based solution the trader can start accumulating points by sending a numerical code on the back of the side label applied on the loop’s back to start the journey of accumulation. Then the setup of the program, we have a a certain tiers when the lube oil shop or the trader hits this tier, he gets an automated voucher where he can redeem it from a wide variety of merchants in different sectors like F&B, electronics, fashion, et cetera.

Paula: Wonderful.

Sherif: Definitely this was supported by our vendor the Dsquares who are managing the loyalty program for us.

Paula: Wonderful. Well done, Dsquares, and for the introduction. So, certainly exciting, of course, to hear about the people who are guiding the development, because particularly when you’re starting with the, you know, I suppose, a blank sheet of paper, Sherif, I don’t know about you, but I always found it a little bit daunting, in fact, almost terrifying to have so much responsibility, because at the end of the day, there are so super high expectations, of course, particularly for a, you know, an ambitious new loyalty program. And I know in your sector, I suppose the margins are also very challenging and razor thin, so you don’t always have a lot to work with.

So let me go back to a couple of things, Sherif, just to make sure that I understand them correctly. First of all, I’ve worked a fair bit in fuel and convenience, retail loyalty just with a different technology company a number of years ago. So I might be a little more familiar with that with some of the words, but when you say downstream, am I right in understanding that’s purely essentially the consumer facing business? Is that the correct understanding of downstream?

Sherif: Yes, exactly. We do have the upstream part, the chemicals part and the downstream part. The downstream is all the serving part of the oil and the exploration part delivers the product to the downstream, which.

Paula: Retail? Yeah.

Sherif: We are adding our, yeah, we are adding our additives to it and then it’s being sold to the end consumers.

Paula: Amazing. Thank you. I’ve always wanted to ask that question. I never got to, so thank you for that.

And then the name of the program Sherif as well. You mentioned to it last time we met that Mobilawy, and I hope I’ve pronounced it correctly. Will you explain exactly what that means? Cause it was very, very lovely.

Sherif: Okay. So, the name, the in Egypt when as you know, the football is very known all over the world. So, when we say a fan of a certain club we say the name of the club name followed by Awy. So, that’s why we have chosen to the Mobil brand to add Awy to it. And it’s Mobilawy. So this means a fan of Mobil brand.

Paula: Beautiful. Yeah. I love the simplicity and the fact that you’re tapping into popular culture. And certainly from the little bit I know about Egypt and about football, I think it’s actually a national obsession. Would that be, that’d be fair to say?

Sherif: Yeah.

Paula: Everybody loves football in Egypt. Absolutely brilliant. Okay. So we’ve got the program name and I think that the key thing is that distinction you made first of all, I suppose for the traders. And again, I know the last time we met what impressed me really was first of all, that you’re thinking so, so deeply about their needs and I think from an economic perspective, what I’ve seen is that, you know, Egypt has been struggling quite a lot in terms of, you know, the currency perhaps being devalued.

And what it seems is coming through is that your loyalty program is becoming a really essential part of the lifestyle of those traders that they’re really starting to, I suppose, advocate your brand and become even more engaged just because you’re providing something that’s so valuable for them.

Sherif: Exactly. Yes. Because we have, when we set up the program at the beginning, we have set a very lucrative value proposition in the pointing system that the traders or the new boys shops are benefiting from the program. So that’s why it’s very important for them and for us as well for all the sales channel to use the program and to benefit from all the offers that the program is providing to the market.

Paula: Incredible. Okay. So, and they get a QR code and you said there’s a clever technical solution. Then I think it’s inside the pack after they use it to provide the oil for the customer, is that right? Then they open the pack and inside is the code?

Sherif: No, it’s on the, on a side label applied on the loops back.

Paula: Okay. Got it. Okay. Perfect. Okay. Sounds a bit less messy than I was imagining. Very good. Very good. Okay. So that’s your B2B side. And then tell us about the consumer program.

Sherif: Okay. So yeah, on the B2C side, it’s almost the same journey where the end consumer peels off the front label, not the side label on the loops pack and yeah, on the front label of the pack. And he peels off the, this label sends the code or scanning the QR code and automatically a wallet, it’s created holding the points balance assigned to this product.

Paula: Perfect.

Sherif: After that, the redemption is so easy. Simply the consumer provides the, his mobile number, his or her mobile number to any of the selected merchants, receives an OTP for security reasons. Then the points balance is affected with the value of the item redeemed.

The edge of the program we have is that if the consumer fueling his the car with the highest octane of petrol in Egypt, the Mobil 1, the Mobil Super Plus 95, they can accumulate points as well on the same wallet and combine from both fuels and loops transactions.

Paula: Okay, that was exactly my next question because when you refer to a pack, of course, then it’s not the petrol for the car. It’s purely the oil for the engine.

Sherif: Exactly.

Paula: And then you said the same program, the same consumer program is laser focused. It sounds like on the top product from the pump so that they also earn the points, but only from that product. Is that right?

Sherif: Yes, it’s only one product, the Mobil Super Plus 95, where the the consumer can get points from this after fueling with this product.

Paula: Okay. And what about the convenience store? Because globally, I will say, certainly from my own observations, the the loyalty typically starts, of course, with the fuel that drives the footfall, drives people in with their frequent behavior, of course, but then there is, you know, a whole other retail business that that’s existing. So it sounds like that’s not currently in place. Is that something you’re thinking about?

Sherif: Yes, we are thinking, but it’s still under the study.

Paula: Okay. Okay. Okay. Phase one phase at a time, huh? Yeah.

Sherif: Exactly.

Paula: So tell us then, what is it that’s resonating then with your members on the consumer side, Sherif? You mentioned there’s merchants and actually, I should also clarify, it sounds like they do the redemption in a store rather than, for example, on a website. Is that fair to say that they’re burning their points in a physical retailer?

Sherif: Yes, they should go physically to, the merchants assigned to the program and the membership here indeed is a key driver. To tell you the story about about this, on the trader side, we have managed to cover a thousand of traders and lube oil shops in the market and enroll them to Mobilawy. On the end consumer side, do we have a great milestone that has been achieved and we have succeeded to cross the 1,000,000 user for Mobilawy.

Paula: Wow. Oh, yeah.

Sherif: It’s a very exciting and promising accomplishment and Egyptian fuels and loop sector thatmakes us all proud.

Paula: Oh, congratulations, Sherif. I can hear the pride coming through. That’s an amazing milestone!

Sherif: Yeah. Yeah, exactly. We are very proud of this one.

Paula: Oh, for sure. Absolutely. Yeah. I think psychologically, once you start to see big numbers, you know, seven digits, the leadership team, of course, then feel more comfortable and that they really appreciate that your members are obviously joining and certainly engaging, of course, is the equally important priority. So I know we’re going to talk about kind of KPIs and stuff as well.

But just to finish on the redemption side, Sherif what kind of redemptions, what kind of merchants, what is proving popular with your consumers in terms of what are they spending their points on?

Sherif: Okay. So we have studied the market a lot before going live with the program and we studying the targeted personas and their needs. We managed to get a variety of merchants in different sectors, like in the grocery sector, we have Metro, Kheir Zaman, Oscar brands in Egypt in our program. In the electronics field, for example, we have B.TECH and Union Stores. In the fashion, we have Town Team, New Balance, very famous brands that we are trying to add them to the program to offer, to have a better offer for our consumers.

Paula: Okay. And where does the consumer find out? Do you have a catalog, either a printed one or a digital one? So how do I know if I’ve got lots of points where I can go and redeem them?

Sherif: Okay, so the consumer, once he accumulate his points, he receives an SMS with a link to a portal where he can navigate through all the program options, merchants, terms and conditions, the products included, and all this part. And we, after we have established a Mobilawy foundation, it was decided to take it to the next level through enhancing the consumer experience of points accumulation using a mobile application. This this was a step change and we have successfully launched mobile applications in 2023 for both traders and consumers.

Paula: Oh, another exciting milestone for you, huh? Wow.

Sherif: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Leveraging a very successful ATL campaign. We have successfully managed to create high stream of traction that resulted in thousands of new downloads and registrations across both fuels and loops wallets. And of course, during the launch, a tailored promotional and bonus campaign supported the high penetration rate of the campaign.

Paula: Amazing. So it was exciting when you get the advertising budget to support your below the line activity, because, you know, at the end of the day, it’s only so much you can do when somebody’s already come into the store. But of course, what you want is everybody in Cairo, everybody in Egypt to be aware of the program, obviously, to come into your stations and into your stores. So really pleased to hear that your leadership team are supporting you so well.

And tell us what would be their hopes, their dreams, their goals for the program Sherif? Like, you know, you said it’s been like a five year journey and there’s lots of different reasons to invest in loyalty. Again, everybody around the world listening to this has different reasons for doing it from their side. What would you say was your top priority? What was the vision for building and launching your loyalty program?

Sherif: Okay, so we have a digital road map for our loyalty journeys full of exciting activities, tactics and promotions in the next couple of years to increase the user engagement and meet the customer needs. Simply Mobilawy, is our vehicle of all the short and long term activities of ExxonMobil Egypt and is the core digital platform in the Egyptian market. Using the huge amount of transactional data to build a large database is our main focus to generate insights and continue to improve our tactics as we grow with Mobilawy.

Paula: Yeah, amazing. Yeah. I mean, honestly, again, as a global brand, I’m sure you have expertise around the world, but as you said, you have to study the local market. You have to be very clear on why you’re doing it. And am I right in saying that you were the first, did you say you’re the first loyalty program in this category in Egypt? So your first?

Sherif: Yes. For the end consumer, we are the first loyalty program in the fuels and lubes downstream business in Egypt.

Paula: Wow. I have to say congratulations again. That’s very exciting.

Sherif: Thank you. Thank you.

Paula: Yeah. Yeah. Again, what I love about this podcast is the fact that we do get those kind of insights, you know, people listening to this in the US or UK, Australia.

I mean, we take it for granted. That our local fuel station can absolutely give us our points and have a catalog and give us those reasons to be loyal but creating it and being the first in a particular country is a very special experience. So I know, for example, you’ve been in ExxonMobil for, what did we say, 18 years already for your career?

Sherif: Yes. Next, next Jan, I will be 18 years in ExxonMobil Egypt.

Paula: Oh my goodness. Super exciting. So what would you say the biggest challenges were? You know, is it the fact that it was, you know, the first in the market? Or what did, what would you say was the biggest difficulty in getting to, I suppose, a compelling proposition?

Sherif: Okay. So we’re the first challenge is that we have launched the program in 2020, at the beginning of 2020.

Paula: Oops.

Sherif: Yeah. It’s it’s the Covid 19 period. So, and the whole world suffered a lot during this tough time. However, we were able to overcome it here after year and achieve this great results.

The another one is to create the awareness on traction across the commercial vehicles users and continue to educate them on the new loyalty journey. The concept of that the consumer should peel off the label, scan the code, and then he gets his points and we have succeeded to overcome this hurdle through a series of awareness campaigns, hammering on the loyalty benefits and create the right brand association.

Paula: Okay. And then what kind of KPIs are you measuring? So you’ve mentioned the big milestone, so clearly member acquisition was one, and of course has to be the first starting point, but what else do you evaluate on a, whether it’s weekly or monthly or annual basis, you know, what is your leadership team looking for in terms of performance from this program?

Sherif: Okay. So we are monitoring the numbers monthly and instrumental for the way we do our business is to continue to measure our performance on the trader side. Our main KPI is the penetration rate where it tells on the correlation between the sales in and the sales out of our lubricants. And we are exceeding our targets year over year in this part.

On the end consumer side, it’s much more difficult and complicated. The number of app downloads, registrations is on the top of our KPIs, followed by the number of active customers. And the mix between fuels and lubes or the mixed wallets is also on the top of our priorities in, in, in measuring the performance of the group.

Paula: Okay. Okay. Wonderful. So, remind me just then you mentioned you started the decision to launch about 5 years ago. How many years or when did you? Oh, you did say you went live. Pardon me. It’s in 2020. So we’re coming up now to maybe nearly 4 years old.

Sherif: Yes, exactly. We have started the development in 2019 and we launched the program in 2020 and we are almost four years now with the, with this exciting program.

Paula: Amazing. It’s actually like us. We just turned four years old as well as Let’s Talk Loyalty. So, yeah. So we’re growing up fast. So tell me then what does the future hold, Sherif, for your Mobilawy?

Sherif: Okay. So, for the, in the coming period, as I was just saying, following our digital roadmap is extremely important for us and for the consumers as well. Because the the loyalty program is the digital platform where we can leverage all our short term and long term tactics, activities and promotions. So, Mobilawy is the, is is the future of of ExxonMobil Egypt and simply.

Paula: Okay, my goodness, no pressure, huh? Brilliant. Brilliant. So, Sherif, it’s been wonderful to hear about your journey, about the innovation that you have launched in the Egyptian market. As I said, it’s not many people can claim to be the first in an industry in a country. And again, that means that you are coming with no loyalty background. So having to work with your partners, as you’ve talked about in terms of, you know, learning and developing something that’s going to resonate with your customers and to achieve the magnificent milestones that you’ve done so far.

So that’s all of the questions I have from my side. Before we wrap up, is there any other final points, anything else that you think our audience would like to hear about from your side?

Sherif: Just one final point that follow Mobilawy, and you can you can see what exciting activities that we are going and we are planning to do in the next in the next year. We have a lot of exciting activities in the coming period. So, so, that’s it from my side.

Paula: Wonderful. We’ll definitely watch this space and we’ll make sure to link to your website, of course, in the show notes for this episode.

So with that said, Sherif Fahmy, Loyalty Program Manager for ExxonMobil Egypt. Thank you so much from Let’s Talk Loyalty.

Sherif: Thank you very much. It’s my pleasure.

Paula: This show is sponsored by The Loyalty People, a global strategic consultancy with a laser focus on loyalty, CRM and customer engagement. The Loyalty People work with clients in lots of different ways, whether it’s the strategic design of your loyalty program or a full service, including loyalty, project execution. And they can also advise you on choosing the right technology and service partners. On their website, The Loyalty People also runs a free global community for loyalty practitioners, and they also publish their own loyalty expert insights.

So for more information and to subscribe, check out theloyaltypeople.global.

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