Earlier, brands focused on customer acquisition to drive growth but the pandemic disrupted this chain. Today, a customer dallies with several brands in their lifetime and are spoiled for choice. Hence, their consideration is driven by brands that offer them unforgettable experiences. This has led brands to go back to the drawing board and ask themselves, how well they know their customers and how to retain them to increase their lifetime value.
ETBrandEquity, in association with Salesforce India, explored the topic of ‘Growth through Customer Retention’ by inviting brand leaders to share their perspectives on acquiring, engaging, and retaining customers in today’s competitive environment in a closed-door roundtable discussion.
The discussion was joined by industry leaders including Deepanshu Manchanda, Founder & CEO, ZappFresh; Priyang Agarwal, Director Marketing & Growth, Tata 1mg; Rahul Tandon, Chief Customer & Service Officer, Ecom Express; Samriddh Dasgupta, CMO, Heads Up for Tails; Chella Pandyan, Chief Operating Officer, Healthkart; Saurabh Agrawal, SVP – Analytics & CRM, Lenskart; Niranjan Kumar, Business Head – D2C, Bombay Shaving Company; Snehil Gautam, CMO, Housing; Ankur Tandon (2), Head of Digital Experience, Hero MotoCorp; Anurag Murali, Senior VP, Head of D2C & Ecommerce, Faballey; Meenakshi Dawar, Head of Experience, Spinny; Vijay Nair, VP & Marketing Head, Shine.com; Tushar Kumar (2), Managing Director & CEO, Silver Arrows; Vibhor Jain, Head of Ecommerce, boAt; Vikram Singh, Head of CX, PVR; Nishant Kalra, RVP & Business Head, Digital Experience, Salesforce India, Ritesh Chauhan, Director, Solution Engineering, Salesforce India and Anshuman Prakesh, VP & Head of Growth, DMI. The session was moderated by Satrajit Sen, Head – Product & Community, ETBrandEquity.
Present through a variety of mediums, Agarwal shared that Lenskart saw business coming from both its stores and e-commerce platform. However, the biggest challenge is identifying who is the customer versus who is just a consumer. “The consumer is just consuming the product but the customer is the one providing me with data,” shared Agrawal. He added that this data helps them personalise the shopping experience and segment their target audience based on purchasing power and style demands.
Echoing similar sentiments, Tandon shared that in the e-commerce space, the top eight to ten shippers contribute to 95% of the business. The challenge for Ecom Express is to retain the small shippers who are trying to make it big. The cost of the delivery and returns are borne by the seller and the moment returns inch upwards most of the smaller sellers drop out as they cannot bear the cost. That required the brand to understand the needs of both sides (sellers and shippers) using data and match those expectations. “If a seller wants delivery in two days then I don’t want to ask shippers to deliver in one day, right? So, how do I manage differential speeds and match the requirements of the seller to the right shipper,” explained Tandon.
Nair shared that during the pandemic, job portal Shine saw a massive influx in registrations from people searching for employment. However, the challenge was how to retain these candidates over a long period of time as the typical job hunter does not change jobs every six months. “We looked at the candidate’s data such as their specialisations, their career journey, and their field. Then we showed them job listings based on their experience and salary bracket,” mentioned Nair.
Faballey noticed that their customers who buy in-store were much more conservative regarding their fashion choices as compared to those who bought online. These limitations made it important to create the right exposure to prospective customers within the product mix itself. “If customers don’t get the right quality, fit, or fabric, they won’t come back to us. This becomes a very important area for us to solve,” explained Murali.
Nutraceuticals retailer Healthkart which sells products such as sports supplements found a direct correlation between the quality of customer experience and retention. Its trade stores saw a 50% increase in repeat customers after delivering a superior customer experience. “The product, shipment, quality of service, and how you make the customer feel right from introducing the product until customer support, all come together to drive retention,” opined Pandyan.
For medicine delivery brand Tata 1mg, a great customer experience is a key differentiator as the business can always churn customers to a rival brand that offers better prices/discounts. “Our key promise to customers is availability which means the product should be available when and where the customers need it. To ensure that the product, journey, and experience remain uniform, we need to have a single view of the customer,” said Agarwal.
Used car platform Spinny was able to unlock growth using retention by turning customers into its brand advocates. Since the platform sold high ticket value items (used cars), it did not face a major challenge in terms of retaining its direct customers. However, by focusing on customer experience during purchase and after sales service, it earned brand recognition and built customer loyalty. “We invest in the existing customer to win more customers over. Then they go and recommend their friends who want to buy or sell a car to go with Spinny,” stated Dawar.
Post-Covid, the housing industry saw a new segment of buyers coming mostly from Tier II cities who were looking to purchase a home. Housing.com wanted to tap into this existing demand but first needed to understand how to speak to this set of consumers in their own language. Gautam observed that Tier II buyers are very different, as they trust websites in their regional languages and prefer to communicate via WhatsApp. “These consumers prefer video communication as compared to email marketing or SMS. By personalising our strategy and our communication, we were able to see significant growth in Tier II cities,” added Gautam.
The automobile industry faces many challenges when it comes to mapping the consumer journey and customer retention. Tandon (2) shared that data continuity, and data scarcity are industry-wide challenges. “Due to the lack of the initial data, even if we know that the customer has the intent to buy, we don’t know which stage of the customer journey he is in. This creates a mismatch for us,” said Tandon(2). He also added that as an offline brand Hero Motocorp’s data was siloed so it needed to leverage customer-centric data to cater to different segments of customers.
DMI Finance primarily offers loans for the purchase of big ticket consumer products. Since its loan products were offered via FinTech partners, it had to look at retention from the point of view of how relevant the product is to the consumer. Prakesh shared that by adding the customer’s name to their product communication, the CTR increases by 1.5x and the disbursal rate by 1.4x. “To create value, an NBFC like ours must look at the financial needs of the customer or understand the customer lifecycle and build a contextual product,” remarked Prakesh.
Zappfresh has to adhere to the strictest product experience standards in order to retain its customers. Meat is a perishable product and is often a planned purchase by the consumer. Manchanda said that the brand takes availability very seriously and enjoys healthy fill rates and order frequency. “If we do not deliver what is promised or if the product is not reliable in terms of quality then we will lose the customer,” emphasised Manchanda.
Sharing his perspective on the pet care industry, Dasgupta shared that the challenge for them is the problem of dirty data. He stated that consumers (the pet) and customers (owner) are two different sets of audiences for them. He shared that it is difficult to personalise communications as the person who brings the pet to their stores could be the owner, the driver or the household help. “This problem of dirty data keeps getting compounded with every store we open, or every time someone comes on the website to buy,” said Dasgupta.
Sharing his insights on the cinema exhibition business, Singh recalled that post-lockdown, PVR changed its processes and became more data-integrated. Earlier, the brand only collected customer data via its digital platforms, however, post lockdown it began looking at generating data from its physical touchpoints. “Now, with data, we can create relevant customer segments on the fly which has helped us in getting the footfall back. We have reached almost 95% footfalls compared to pre-Covid,” mentioned Singh.
boAt found that their customers were interacting with the brand across multiple touchpoints such as WhatsApp, LinkedIn, or by calling the help centre. It decided to unify its customer service across all channels so that the customer queries were fed into one system. This helped it refine its customer experience. “When a customer service executive is calling the consumer, he or she will come to know that the customer has reached us across multiple platforms. This means that there will not be any repeat consumer calls,” explained Jain.
Kumar shared that while most of Bombay Shaving Company’s customers enjoyed using its core product – shaving cream – the brand wanted customers to try its other products such as post shave balm and razors. The challenge the brand faced was not in terms of data collection but being unable to stitch data across SMS, WhatsApp, email marketing and push notifications. “It is very important to monitor customer interactions post-purchase as we’ve spent a lot on acquiring these customers. If you’re not able to monitor then there’s no gain in terms of reducing CAC (customer acquisition costs) or creating repeat buyers,” mentioned Kumar.
Luxury car retailer Silvery Keys looked at retention from the point of view of after-sales service. The challenge emerged post-sale when multiple customer journeys pertaining to insurance, service, or promotion were getting triggered simultaneously. This meant that the customer was getting spammed by five different calls from the Mercedes dealership. “We wanted to better understand the retention cycle and that’s where AI and data played a big role. Today, by leveraging Salesforce India’s solution, from a security guard or MD, everyone has a single view of the customer,” stated Kumar (2).
Marketers are trying to figure out how to innovate in terms of customer experience. Chauhan shared that personalisation, acquisition, and retention strategies have their genesis in the data. He further added that with customer data platforms, marketers will be able to take control and gain a single view of the customer. “We believe that personalisation at scale is a critical component in the strategy to bring back customers. Brands must be able to deliver a seamless experience from acquisition, purchase and fulfilment across multiple channels,” said Chauhan.
Post pandemic, where customers are traversing both offline and online worlds to discover brands, Kalra shared that a customer data platform is essential for providing a holistic view of the customer journey. “At the core of Salesforce India, we aim to help brands to connect to their customers, decode their buying behaviours and stitch the story together,” said Kalra. He added that once brands are able to capture a single view of the customer across multiple channels, the next element they can look at is personalisation.
In conclusion, marketers were of the view that retention strategies must look at consumer behaviour across purchase and service support, stitch everything together to create a meaningful journey. Adding data to the equation was another big theme that was explored which helped optimise retention strategy.
Brand Connect Initiative
GIPHY App Key not set. Please check settings