The Ramadan Rush!

Ramadan Kareem

Ramadan has been labeled as a season of increased consumption and shopping. Marketers need to understand how to successfully engage with their customer during this season, take advantage of the prospects and avoid marketing mistakes that could be disastrous.

That is why marketers call it the “Ramadan Rush”!

If you’re marketing in Muslim countries such as the GCC, you will be aware that:

  • Ramadan involves fasting throughout the hours of daylight
  • Working hours are reduced
  • People socialize more after sunset
  • Buying habits change drastically

Many research and surveys show that consumers increase their spending during the Holy month across various activities including food & beverages across the whole month, travel, gifting and personal shopping more towards the last part of the month.

Ooops, we are already in the middle of the month! Here are couple of  Customer Engagement tips:

  1. If you are late on your plan, don’t panic!

Better late than never applies in this case! People don’t stop buying all through the month of Ramadan, with a tendency to buy more towards the end. So don’t worry, you still have time.

The month of Ramadan has a large impact on the behavior of shoppers across the GCC. The combination of shorter working hours and the overall celebratory feeling during the holy month helps to put consumers across the middle east in shopping mindset and increased time for shopping. Unsurprisingly, these two factors combined together provide a concrete lift to shopping in the region. Continue to engage your customers with special offers, customized content, and gift ideas throughout the month. By maintaining personalized connections, you’ll stay top-of-mind when people are ready to buy something special for their loved ones.


      2. Reach People at the right time using the right channel

Since fasting customers don’t take their usual lunch break during Ramadan, you’ll need to think more carefully about when to send offers.

  • For F&B, research has shown that you could send promotional content two hours before they break their fast to attract more customers. Then wait until they break their fast before sending your next food-related reminder.
  • As for non-F&B you have to complete with all the other brands those “the mobile is my best friend” kind of hours of the day. Those would be the few hours before iftar and another window opens up around two hours after iftar.

Specific images are associated with Ramadan, such as tea pots, crescents, dates and lanterns. You’ll find the major brands using these images as a way of associating with the brand. For instance, take a look at how Pepsi took on the crescent during their Ramadan campaigns.


Many brands are taking the advantage – the key is to honor the culture and make a connection – Brands that connect, win!

About the Author:

Heba Anwar is currently the Marketing Manager in UrbanBuz, where part of her job is focusing on communication and content writing.

She is a book worm, animal lover, makeup guru and a meditation enthusiast.



4 Simple Steps to a Complete Customer Experience Makeover

Almost every savvy business executive recognizes that in order to set their business apart from their competitors, they need to provide an exceptional customer experience. It is understood that it is no longer enough to compete on products and services; how a business delivers to its customers is as, if not more, important than what is delivered.

The best customer-experience efforts begin with a customer’s perspective which is driven by the customer’s wants, not a business’s traditional organizational structure.


1. Recognize the Customer Across all Channels
Every channel (i.e. in-store, website, social media etc.) the customer interacts with should recognize the customer immediately, so that the customer doesn’t have to provide their information to the business more than once. A CRM application can help with this.

2- Deliver a Personalized Experience to the Customer
It is essential that businesses distance themselves from dated marketing tactics that encourage mass communication. In order to intrigue and retain a customer, marketers must communicate in a relevant, compelling and personalized manner by moving towards the relationship era of marketing. Marketing automation tools (personalized microsites and automated personalized communication) can help with this.

3- Capture Customer Feedback and Take Action
Everyone knows the importance of customer feedback but not all businesses know how and when to collect it efficiently and most importantly, to make real-time changes and take instant action where necessary. An Intelligent feedback application can help with this.

4- Train Customer-Facing Employees
Customer-facing employees can be the best medium in a business to deliver exceptional customer experience if given proper training. Businesses should spend sufficient time to train their employees with:
• The principles of customer experience.
• The concept of delivering memories not only transactions.
• The basics of customer recognition and segmentation.

Research indicates that 80 percent of customers who have stopped doing business with a company say that it is due to a bad customer experience. Whereas, companies that are consistent in providing positive customer experience across all channels are able to build stronger customer-relationships, maintain customer loyalty, benefit financially and receive customer-referrals. So what are you waiting for? These simple steps can take you from likeable to loved! For more information on the topic contact us at



The Business Generation Gap

A few months ago the EMAAR Group announced the launch of their loyalty program in the UAE, UByEmaar. That by itself is good news because it shows the growing adoption of customer loyalty programs by businesses including giant groups like EMAAR.

Considering that EMAAR is one of the top groups in the UAE that is known for its quality and its mega-ambitious projects (the likes of Burj Khalifa the tallest tower in the world), one would expect nothing but new and exciting ideas when they launched their loyalty program, UByEmaar.

However, the excitement about what new things we are going to see and experience with the UByEmaar program was very short-lived the minute one tries to actually register for the program. It was a disappointing experience, which led me to think about at why big brands, like EMAAR, would still lag behind when it comes to catching up with customer engagement trends and technologies right when they should be the ones leading.

Some programs are still stuck on the very old model of accumulate points and wait, where a customer has to spend a lot of money, accumulate a lot of points over a long period of time to be given the chance to get something. This might still apply to some industries but even then customers expect some immediate recognition or at least a certain level of personalization. Consumers are no longer interested in waiting to get something, they want to engage in real time, which means they want to be recognized the minute they engage with the brand.

All this leads to programs that are still too confusing for consumers to understand. A lot of times, simply “personalizing” the relationship with your customers would take your a long way towards loyalty without even the points and rewards.

So many times, I have seen brands start working on a customer loyalty solution only to see it drag for years and by the time it is launched it is already far behind the new trends and customer expectations. This is why a lot of newly launched programs still look and feel like they were launched years ago because the chances are that’s when the work started on those programs. Not to mention the cost attached to those years. I have talked to a few brand managers who confessed that the solution they ended up with is really not what they wanted but because of all the cost and time involved they did not dare suggest an overhaul.

This is what I would call the “business generation gap”. One of the main and biggest challenges about businesses today is their inability to move at the speed of the market in terms of trends whether in technology or consumer behavior. Historically, established businesses are slow to change and catch-up with the trends of the time and considering the fast evolution in technology from social media to mobile and data collection and analytics to consumer behavior and expectation, the cost of falling behind is becoming extremely high.

Unfortunately, we still see many businesses tackling customer engagement and loyalty systems in a very traditional way and working with “legacy” companies that failed to adapt to the new changes. This means that a lot of businesses are still spending years and a lot of money on customer loyalty systems that by the time they are done they are already years behind.

I am not going to discuss here the tidal wave that cloud computing, agile companies, and mobile technologies that is creating havoc across the globe (in a good way) enabling businesses not only to quickly have systems in place to engage and learn about their customers but also to adapt and adjust on a ongoing basis at a fraction of the cost that they used to spend on similar initiatives. A lot of great articles have been published around this topic and many companies are being created globally to tackle exactly that.

However, as a business, the minute you start thinking about customer engagement you need to make sure that whatever solution you put in place needs to have the following basic aspects:

  1. Quick to Setup: I am not talking about a full solution here but a starting point that enables the business to start engaging and learning about customers today and not next year. Customer Loyalty is an on-going process so you need a system that allows you to start quickly so you can start learning about your customers and evolve.
  1. Simple: Again a lot of businesses are still giving the helm to technology teams to build those systems while it should be the Marketing and Customer Engagement teams who should be driving this with the support of the technology team. It is the marketing team that should decide how the system will be used, if it is not easy for them to use then it is of no use to them.
  1. Flexible: Long gone are the days where you spend years building an infrastructure along with a suite of features. Today’s technology and tools enable businesses to have something in place quickly and that they can easily adjust and configure based on feedback from customers and changes in the market.
  1. Open: which means it is easy to integrate with other systems (gone are the days of installing everything on your servers in a locked room). The whole world is becoming more and more connected so your customer loyalty solution needs to also connect to the world.

So if you are launching a program in the 21st century, make sure it doesn’t look and behave as if it is still in the 90s. “Understand” your customers first, then “evolve” your solution to make it “relevant” to them so you can start building “personal” relationships for the long run.



“Find one customer that believes in your brand and you’ll not only find other customers but also discover opportunities to continue scaling and growing your business.” 

One of the most important outcomes of this digital transformation is the rise of a new and very powerful customer-the Advocate.

Brand Advocates are those highly satisfied customers who go out of their way to actively promote the products they love and care about. They write about your brand and share it with personal, social and business networks. The brands obviously need them on their side, because they have a disproportionate impact on persuading others to engage with and believe in the brand.

Some examples of brand advocates:

  • Kinokuniya Bookstore, Dubai’s- “mommy bloggers”
  • Porsche’s Customer Advocates
  • Community support systems: Dell, BestBuy, Fiskars’ crafting site Fiskateer

According to the 2015 Loyalty Report 360,– 16% to 20% of the total customer base of an organisation ,those are the brand believers and supporters, and in that role, they influence the remaining 80 to 84% of the other customers.

With a globe gone digital and the power of social media, they have a platform to make their point of view known to everyone. Advocates have become incredibly valuable assets.

Marketing power of Evangelists of Brands

Brand Evangelists are those who spread their beliefs about a brand due to a previous positive experience with the brand. Having customers becoming cheerleaders for the brand is the very essence of marketing the brand. The customers not only sell for the company, but they communicate in a way far more powerful than any content the brand has created.

Average Net Promoter Score

Average Net Promoter Score (NPS) is an alternative measure of customer satisfaction and loyalty, and is used to determine how likely your customers are to recommend and promote your company.

The average NPS score is computed by taking the average percentage of people who give a score of 9 or 10 out of 10 (the promoters) and subtracting the percentage of people who gives a score of 6 or below (the detractors). Crucially, those giving a score of 7 or 8 are ignored (the passives).

  • A high NPS correlates strongly with future growth.
  • Tracking the NPS is important to determine trends in loyalty (a high NPS is an indicator of loyalty).


Getting the word out through customer endorsements is a prerequisite for brand success today.

Chris Maloney, Marketing Strategist, from his theory innovation diffusion, he states that “once you reach 16% adoption rate for any innovation”. It’s time to change the messaging strategy companies focussing needs to shift from the one -scarcity needs to the one based on social proof . In this scenario, Advocates play a critical role in moving brands into new customer territories.

Increasingly a brand’s values and vision plays an integral part in creating a relationship. Customer Advocacy is a function that focuses on the customer, not an individual department, organization or division of a company. Many companies are recognizing the importance of “customer centricity” and the implied customer focus and are thus choosing to implement a Customer Advocacy role. In this customer centric context, it reminds me of how throwing a stone into a pond creates ripples that move outward in increasing circles from the centre to the pond’s edge. Exchanging the stone for a brand Advocate’s positive post or recommendation, we will get an idea of how digital word of mouth works in today’s connected world and how advocates messaging accelerates the brand across the chasm.

Because today’s customers behave quite differently from those in the past, winning them and persuading them to become Advocates can be more challenging. Customers have changed from being passive to being active and engaged. Advocates exist on a level above that. It takes time and disciplined series of interactions to build the right conditions for customer engagement.

How to enable Advocacy & Evangelism by brands?

  1. Awareness: The starting point is always awareness. What do customers know about the brand and what the brand stands for? What are they saying to each other? Do they visit your website? How many page views? What is the visit duration? What do customer interest levels suggest?
  1. Engagement: Beyond awareness, are customers interacting with your brand, signing up for experiential events, registering with contact information, following social media feeds, and so on?


  1. Attachment:Have customers strengthened their relationship and interacted with the brand by posting, blogging, and commenting/responding about the brand?
  1. Advocate/Evangelist:The last stage is when they become Brand Advocates and turn to evangelists where they are actively recommending brand to the friends, sending links, posting on social media, or participating in the brand user community.

Taking the case of GoPro, it sells video cameras that can be mounted to capture most activities (think a camera on a helmet when you are skydiving.)It provides a place for customers to share their most enthralling moments, but it’s a great way for potential users to see the products in action. Brands now more than ever need to listen, moderate and engage with their community in order to reach the ultimate goal – turning customers into brand advocates. An online community is ideal for a brand advocacy platform because of the ability to engage customers at every level of their journey. This helps brands to identify and promote their most loyal customers, and then turn them into brand advocates and evangelists. Hence brands should build a strong Brand community through online platform that they can control and manage.

Creating superior brand experiences is about helping your customer’s feel something they can’t touch. It’s emotion. It’s intellect. It’s heart and its mind. It’s art and it’s science. It’s more about a commitment to prioritizing and architecting the best brand experience you possibly can all based on what the customer needs. The tracking & personalizing advocacy efforts (giving customers easy access to profiles and providing notification of opportunities fitting their interests), will encourage them in participating with feedback.

As a brand you need to find, track and reward the most passionate and vocal customers and ultimately transform them into brand evangelists. This encourages participation at every level, streamlining engagement and feedback and tracking those essential activities using the right system.


The Case Against Coalition Loyalty Program

Coalition loyalty program is a reward system that offers attractive benefits to customers of two or more businesses in return allowing those businesses to share their customer information and data. These systems create unique currency in the form of points or credits that are earned and could be redeemed across a network of different brands.

The biggest and only Coalition Loyalty player in the MENA region is AirMiles that claim to have around 1 million members with 52 participating businesses in the UAE, 44 in Qatar, and 14 in Bahrain. So with a such a members base and number of businesses, it is understandable that a business in the UAE, and the region in general, would find it appealing to be part of that network and think of AirMiles (or any similar programs) the solution for their Customer Loyalty program.

Here are a few points for business managers and owners to consider:

Your Brand

UntitledLoyalty programs are about differentiating your “brand” in the mind of the customers through different processes and tools. This relationship, if built on the right foundation, will eventually provide sustainable growth for the business. So as a customer, it is “your brand” that I have a relationship with and that I am interested in maintaining.

In the case of the coalition program, your brand is overshadowed by the brand of the coalition brand itself. So as a customer, I am really not building a relationship with your business, I might not even remember your brand at all, because my relationship is with the coalition program. In other words, I am loyal to the program and not to your brand, which is in this case owned by someone else.

So if we take AirMiles for example, as an AirMiles member, my relationship is with them, I have “their” card, I go to “their” web site, and every business I interact with I ask if they take “AirMiles” card, which means that it is AirMiles that is on my mind and not your brand.

If we take Spinneys for example, a supermarket chain in the UAE, shoppers there can gain AirMiles points but is that going to strengthen the Spinneys brand with their customers? It will actually benefit AirMiles more because to the customer it is AirMiles who is doing them a big favor by giving them points for shopping at Spinneys.

Your Customers

Here’s the deal when it comes to consumers, the question on their minds is no longer focused around if the loyalty program is going to help them save money but whether it is going to help them have a better experience with the business. So in the “new” world, a “loyalty program” that is focusing only on points and rewards is already obsolete.

As a business that is part of a coalition network, you have no way to provide your customers with the personalized experience that they now expect and demand. What happens if your top-spending customer is not a member of AirMiles? Would you even be able to tell how many of your customers are part of the Coalition Program?

The biggest drawback of the coalition programs when it comes to customers is that it treats everyone the same. It doUntitled2esn’t matter if I have been your faithful customer for years, I would get the same acknowledgment from your business as someone who just walked in and happened to be a member of the coalition program. So if I have been shopping at Sharaf DG for years and never received anything but then a tourist walks in with an AirMiles card and I see her is getting points then I will be enticed to become a customer of AirMiles. So Sharaf DG actually gave AirMiles a customer.

But let’s look at it the other way, what if that customer came to Sharaf DG because he had an AirMiles card and he wanted the points, doesn’t that mean that Sharaf DG gained a customer becaue of AirMiles? Not really, what Sharaf DG would gain from that is a transaction because the customer profile and preferences is still with AirMiles, they still “own” the customer relationship.

Your Program

Untitled3Another drawback of coalition loyalty programs is that they offer all businesses the same solution (when customers buy, they get points), which does not make sense because there is no one solution that fits all. A restaurant would have a different relationship with customers than a SPA and a different one than a supermarket would have with their customers.

This means that your customers and the customers of all of the other businesses that are part of Untitled5the coalition program are offered the same rewards and guess what? You have no control over what those rewards are. It is the Coalition Program operator that decides because it is their program and not yours.

On top of all that, your customers are not being offered a special experience, only rewards that they might or might not be interested in.

If you are still not convinced and are lured by the number of members that a coalition network has, think about those questions:

  1. How many “Active” members does the network have?
  2. How many of those “Active” members are “Relevant” to your business? (meaning how many of them are potential customers, if you are a women SPA then all male members are out of the picture, if you are a traditional family restaurant then all the young and single members are not interested)
  3. How many of those “Active” and “Relevant” members are within the same geographical area of your business? (unless you really think all members would drive for an hour to be your customer)
  4. Then the real tricky question is, how many of those “Active”, “Relevant”, and “Proximity” members are already your customers?

So “Active”, “Relevant”, and “Proximity” would give you a fairly good idea or at least a target of how many customers you might be set to gain but even then you would still need to have a system in place to help you build relationships with them to “retain” them.



Who is in Charge?

The CEO wanted to have a loyalty program so I got assigned the task of starting one. I went ahead and ordered 200,000 cards that we can give out to our customers as loyalty cards when they register to our loyalty program.

That story was told to me by the operation manager of a big brand that was going through global expansion. He was asked to setup a loyalty program globally and the first thing he knew about the subject is that he needed loyalty cards. You don’t need a crystal ball to predict how this program will do.

Unfortunately I have heard different versions of the same story from different business managers. One marketing executive told me that they had all the plans ready for a customer loyalty program and about to start executing only to be stopped by the head of IT who assured everyone that his team can setup a loyalty program by simply installing the loyalty module that comes with their Point of Sale system. One year later and there was still no loyalty program.

In general, loyalty programs are often developed with good intentions; however, businesses struggle to understand where to start and who should be driving the customer loyalty journey. The challenge is raised by the fact that customer loyalty dynamics have changed dramatically through the years and so when some businesses try to implement a program they tend to do it based on knowledge that is outdated and with an unprepared team, which results in the over-simplification of the customer loyalty initiative by looking at customer loyalty simply as points/rewards and loyalty cards and eventually causes their whole initiative to fail before it even launches.

Rewards have evolved in the marketplace from being a nice little extra for one’s loyalty to being perceived as an entitlement. Also one of the major shifts in customer loyalty is that consumers have moved away, to a certain level, from a desire for possessions to a desire for experiences. In other words, consumers are looking for a meaningful relationship with the business, which includes value and relevance.

As a result of this shift in consumer attitude, retailers recognized that without a proper “customer identification tool,” they were unable to recognize individual customers and reward them for desired behavior. They realized that to the most part what they had is “sales” data while what they needed now is “customer” data and so the traditional model of loyalty that is based solely on points and rewards is no longer sufficient.

The rising tide of expectations necessitates that loyalty marketers develop truly innovative loyalty programs, utilizing loyalty marketing best practices. So businesses need to keep in mind the question of how the program can tap into not only changing lifestyles, but also changing attitudes. The answer is not just in the rewards catalog, but in understanding the fundamentals of loyalty marketing as many confuse “loyalty” with “rewards.” This is a fundamental mistake of many businesses and marketers today.

Too many businesses take shortcuts and jump to platform selection or program execution without any “internal” preparation first. Compare the two stories I mentioned at the beginning to a meeting I had with the managing director of a well-established brand and her team. The managing director had requested her accountant along with her operation managers to give her a detailed report about their customers, their average spending, their average visits, etc. So when we got to the meeting she had a clear idea about what they had, the challenges, and where they need to be.

She hired a marketing manager responsible for working with UrbanBuz on “designing” and managing the customer loyalty program and at the same time brought in her operations managers to make sure they fully understand the program and provide feedback as they were responsible for “executing” the loyalty program with their staff on the ground. The IT team was not even in the room.

So before you even start thinking about how and what you need to do to setup a loyalty program, you, as a business executive, need to first figure out who will be driving the program. Most important of all, is top management (starting with the CEO), need to have full commitment to the initiative otherwise the rest of the teams will struggle to make this a success.

Customer loyalty is not a task and certainly not an IT project; it is a business strategy that should be at the core of your marketing team’s strategy. Having said that, the marketing or customer loyalty team is only in charge of designing and managing the program to maintain the analytics to understand what customers are thinking and analyze the information. They also have to deliver the understanding, and help, and coach the rest of the organization.

When it comes to executing the program, it falls on the shoulders of the operations team. Those are the ones dealing with the customers day after day on the ground so it is up to them to really drive the strategy designed by the customer loyalty team and make it a reality.


The Rise and Demise of the Facebook Business Page

I remember four years ago that during my conversations with different businesses about customer loyalty and their efforts to build relationships with their customers, one topic almost always seemed to come up, and that is how many people can we get to like their Facebook page or even some of them went as far to claim that they have thousands of fans on Facebook so they saw no need for a customer loyalty program.

It is interesting how in the past 4 years things have evolved for businesses from something touching on hysteria about how many “fans” can a business get on Facebook (to the extent that companies were born to simply sell or generate Facebook fans for businesses) to almost no mention of Facebook at all nowadays when we talk to those businesses about their customers.

So what changed? Facebook did not go the path of MySpace (if you even remember MySpace), on the contrary it is still growing and still the juggernaut of social media with a billion people using it. So why are businesses, especially local ones, moving away from Facebook and why did the business Facebook page devolved from being “The” business online presence to just another online page?

The promise that Facebook sold to businesses was that if they win fans then they will be able to reach out to those fans through their Facebook business page. That looked very attractive to a business where they could have a cheap and easy way to have a customer base that they could then reach out to. It was natural for businesses then to go over and beyond to acquire “fans” whether organically or through paying for other companies to generate that fan base for them.  However, that promise was quickly lost as Facebook changed the rules on who can see what to the extent that in 2012 if a business posted something on their Facebook page, that post reached a meek 16% of their fan base. So if a business paid money to get 5,000 (and this was considered very low in 2012 standards) fans then Facebook was allowing them to only reach 800 fans, which meant that businesses have paid to get 4,200 fans that they cannot reach.

That was in 2012! Jump to 2014 and things get worse where a Forester research study showed that top brands on Facebook were reaching only 2% of their fans and only 0.07% of their followers actually interacted with each post. You find this hard to believe? Just visit Coca-Cola Facebook page, which claims more than 96 Million fans and look at the engagement numbers to their posts.

To seal the deal, Facebook announced in 2015 that brands that post promotional content “will see a significant decrease in distribution.”

One might quickly think that they would simply pay to boost their posts to reach out to their fan base. Then the question that businesses need to ask themselves is, if I am going to pay anyway to reach out and build a relationship with customers, wouldn’t I rather own and dictate the terms of that relationship and not Facebook?

Think about it that way, if your emails to your customers get delivered 90% of the time while your posts would be delivered 2% of the time (that was in 2014), even with the meager low open rate of 20% it would still be a much higher rate than the 2% of Facebook, then which one should you be focusing more on? And guess what, with emails of SMS there is no one telling you what you can write and what you cannot say, you are in control.

So there is a shift that we are seeing now where businesses are going back to their own web sites and communication channels to connect “directly” with their customers. What I believe will happen as a next step in this shift is for businesses to start creating their own social “microsites”.

Another Forrester survey shows that US online adults who want to stay in touch with your brand are almost three times as likely to visit your site as to engage with you on Facebook so it makes sense for businesses to start focusing on engaging their customers through their own channels and offering a rich experience there.

The good news is that we have started to see that here in the MENA region where a lot of businesses that we work with are now revamping their web sites to offer a way for their customers to start the engagement, which is the right first step in the right direction of putting customer loyalty at the center of their customer facing channels. This ties directly to a customer engagement system that enables them to communicate directly to those customers in a personal and efficient manner.

Companies like Starbucks and Panera Bread in the US were able to build customer databases of millions of customers using their rewards program. Those are just two great examples that businesses can build their own customer database through an attractive rewards program, so they can keep engaging their customers after they leave the store and then reach them with channels like personalized notifications, email, and SMS at the right time with the right message. This will produce the type of engagement that any business crave and haven’t been able to get with social media, and will result in more return visits and more profits for businesses everywhere.