Ehtesham Mohammed, Senior Vice President, EMEA, Manthan has an illustrious career spanning over 19 years in the IT industry. He has worked with large financial institutions and retailers across the Americas, Europe, India and Middle East.
In his role at Manthan, he heads the business for the Europe, Middle East and Africa markets, where his consumer industry expertise (Retail, CPG, telecom Hospitality) comes in handy, and so does his knowledge of Big Data, BI and Advanced Analytics solutions.
He strongly believes that business relationships built on trust last longer and are more effective for a win-win situation for everyone involved.
In his brief exclusive chat with MarTech Vibe, he shares his thoughts on the challenges marketers face in the Middle East, the role of CDP in retail marketing, and how AI can further the marketing efforts of businesses in the region. Excerpts:
What are the top challenges that marketers face today?
Marketers are under pressure from executives, their competitors, and demanding customers. The field is continuously evolving, and a crowded technology landscape could be overwhelming. It’s challenging to pull together all the moving pieces to create a cohesive view. A pressing problem is producing customer insights due to limited resources and analytical tools. I’ve also found that despite all the data available, it’s not easy to measure the impact of marketing on business growth. Businesses are taking steps to solve these problems – and the key is not to get caught up with tactical work such as data aggregation, or manually creating reports.
How will predictive analytics help solve some of these challenges?
It’s all about surfacing insights about customers at a granular level and deploy the right marketing tactics to further their journey. With predictive analytics, marketers can create segments based on customer lifetime value and identify potential upsell and cross-sell opportunities. Other applications include assessing the propensity of an individual to respond to a certain promotion, or establish an affinity between different products to get the next recommendation right, or even predict if a customer is likely to churn.
What role does a CDP play in this?
As businesses become multi-channel, managing a single view of customers across their channels will be critical. Most companies here carry multiple brands and formats, and this complicates data management. A Customer Data Platform handles this through identity resolution techniques that create an omnichannel golden customer record across brands. Predictive analytics and personalisation strategies are founded on your knowledge of the customer, and hence the quality of data is key.
What according to you should retailers know about CDP before investing in the solution?
Several vendors are offering CDP today. Retailers need to assess their problems, gaps in their technology, and use cases they want to enable before investing in a CDP, or any other technology. I think of CDP as ‘a means to an end’, and not an end.
We have seen retailers who have spent considerable time and money in data warehousing projects, only to recognise later that the database is unusable for their purposes. Retailers should be wary of pure technology solutions and look for CDPs that are designed to address industry-specific business challenges and marketing needs.
What are the key factors that lead to successful retail marketing?
First, know every customer’s preference, and connect with them as individuals. Second, act on customer micro-moments to elevate their experience when they’re engaged. Mass marketing and billboards continue to have their place – this era requires a co-existence of traditional and modern techniques.
What do the retail outlets in the Middle East get wrong about their marketing strategy? What can they do better?
As a consumer, I have been a victim of irrelevant advertisements and offers bombarding my mailbox and screen. I end up tuning off and unsubscribing from these annoying brands. Personalisation is deeper than just changing the customer’s name, or creating demographics-based segments. When I speak to retailers, I see that very few have been able to make use of customer data in the right manner. Whoever gets this right will create a significant strategic advantage for their business.
The adoption of AI in the Middle East has been steadily increasing in the past couple of years. How can brands incorporate AI into their marketing and sales strategies?
AI is disrupting the way both businesses and consumers think, and work across the globe. In the Middle East, AI is a hot topic, thanks to the excellent support from local governments. For instance, recently, the Govt of UAE launched “UAE Strategy for Artificial Intelligence” to boost the government’s functioning at all levels. In consumer businesses, marketing is seeing the highest investments in AI, since it is the highest value-adding area. With the growth of e-commerce, the applicability of AI is growing, and brands are deploying it across the customer journey – to enhance the experience, grow sales, personalise content and retain high-value customers.
What is the core marketing technology capability of your product that you bring to a client? How are you different from other MarTech providers?
Manthan’s value proposition is in bringing together all the first-party customer data to create unified profiles for marketing (and potentially other groups). This can also be enriched with third-party data, across buckets such as transaction, past purchases, digital behaviour, propensity, intent signals, products of interest and so on. We pride ourselves on our data expertise and rapid time to value. Our clients appreciate the out of the box analytics – so that business users can immediately access churn models, calculate customer lifetime value and create behavioural segments. We also enable personalised campaign orchestration, journey marketing and closed-loop marketing through performance measurement and not to get.
What do you think will be trending in the MarTech space in the Middle East in the coming year?
Hyper personalisation will be the norm very soon. With the growth of digital, and penetration of smart TVs, digital screens, IoT, and smartphones, marketers can truly understand every consumer in ways that were not possible earlier, and, in turn, personalise every interaction.