Redefining User Lifecycle Journeys: Keyur Dhami, WebEngage

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Marketing a few decades back was about coming up with that one big idea and then using an advertising campaign to plaster it across different media channels. But that started changing around a decade back. Personalization increasingly became important as brands realized that the one-size-fits-all approach no longer works for marketing. WebEngage was among the first few companies in India that identified this need early on. 

WebEngage today helps brands to craft contextual and personalized campaigns to engage users using different channels. We caught up with Keyur Dhami, Vice President of Customer Success at WebEngage to understand the brands’ journey so far and to gather his perspective on the martech space in India & beyond.

1. How did WebEngage start?

Ankit Utreja (CTO and co-founder) and Avlesh Singh, CEO and Co-founder started out in 2011 and were questioned for not having a Sales leader in the company. But with engineering capabilities, we had one goal: to make marketing more personal and real so that users feel they are interacting with humans. 

Development teams and deployment cycles were always the bottlenecks. This made us think that the problem is huge and there was a solution. We thought it was time someone disrupted the traditional ways of marketing and made user experience count, so we did. – to be rewritten on the lines of the following: “We set out to create a no-code platform that reduces dependency on dev teams by democratizing user engagement on web and mobile”

In 2016, we launched our full-stack marketing automation platform for web and mobile. Today we work with more than 300 clients across verticals such as e-commerce, edtech, gaming, media and entertainment, OTT, food tech, fintech, BFSI, and agritech, among others. Today, WebEngage is a customer data platform and marketing automation suite that makes user engagement and retention simplified and highly effective for consumer businesses. Our journey designer feature enables product and marketing practitioners to design intuitive user lifecycle journeys with data-backed, timely campaigns across multiple channels. 

2. What are some of the challenges you faced as an organization, and how did you overcome them?

One of the key challenges we faced was building a fresh identity when we pivoted from a web engagement platform to a full-stack multi-channel marketing automation stack. There were people internally who had to unlearn, relearn and upskill themselves.

On the customer front, a lot of our existing customers back then were not the decision-makers to adopt the martech stack. We had learning sessions planned across different teams to help them understand the new product and also align them to broader organizational goals. On the customer front, while not making this a forced upgrade to our existing customers we kept them at ease to ensure business continuity. We leveraged our sales champions to introduce us to right decision-makers and try to convert those customers from our old-stack to the new one. Proper planning and razor-sharp execution were needed to get through this phase.

3. Can you tell us a bit more about the recent product update? Was including customer data management capabilities part of the product roadmap?

We recently launched the WebEngage Retention Operating System, a one-stop solution for an organization’s retention needs. This encompasses our earlier omni-channel campaign management solution which is widely used in the industry, a Customer data platform (CDP) combined with powerful analytics and insights engine, and the latest entrant a full-blown web and app personalization stack.

CDP is the backbone of our engagement and personalization platforms. At WebEngage we stress a lot on doing the data integrations right and CDP is an outcome of the hundreds of enterprise-level integrations we have done alongside our customers.

Some of the salient features of our CDP:

  1. Is mobile & anonymous user ready
  2. Provides tools for data governance
  3. Integrates across ALL sources (online+offline)
  4. Creates unified profiles for all users (anon+known)
  5. Provides ways to map & track revenue
  6. Seamlessly integrates with your other tools

4. How do you see the martech space in India evolving? Are the challenges faced by Indian clients unique compared to other markets you serve?

Martech space is evolving very fast. Every market we serve has its own nuances. For instance, consumers in the Middle East are quite responsive to emails as opposed to a very heavy population in India being app-centric which brings push notifications and in-apps into focus. 

Even within India, what would work as a communication strategy for tier-1 cities will not work for semi-urban and rural populations. The cultural and linguistic diversity demands your campaigns to be more personalized to be able to strike the right notes with their recipients.

 The good part is that the martech tools/platforms are evolving fast enough to serve such needs and also becoming smarter by adopting AI/ML technologies to assist marketers. Also, there is good availability of trained CRM practitioners in the ecosystem now compared to a few years ago where India will still nascent in the Customer Retention space.

5. What does WebEngage do to acquire customers? How is your approach/strategy different for enterprise customers vs. mid-market customers?

At WebEngage, we focus a lot on content-led acquisition. We heavily invest in creating top-notch content related to marketing automation and retention which powers our customer acquisition engine. Some of our content like case studies, solution pages, master packs is a testament to some of the deep work being done by our Customer Success teams for our customers. 

Aiding the content-driven marketing is a very powerful outbound engine which targets specific customers and regions. They do reach outs to customers by using the content created to establish WebEngage’s thought leadership. Both these engines power our customer acquisition approach.

Our approach while acquiring any customer is value-based selling. This remains the core proposition for mid-market as well as enterprise customers. There are some nuances we see when we sell to these segments and hence we have formed separate teams to cater to these businesses. Additionally, we have formed certain pods for a few verticals like BFSI. These pods are across front-line teams and they work together towards a common goal. Some of these initiatives have worked wonders for us.

6. With a plethora of martech tools to choose from, how should customers decide which tools they should include in their martech stack?

My advice would be to uncomplicate your martech stack. For businesses who are still early in their digital/martech journey, going with bundled offerings provided by a martech stack will benefit largely in their go-to-market plan. 

While you can always look for specialized tools to build your martech stack, seldom do you see tight integration between the tools. This leads to a significant amount of time being invested behind the integration work for each platform/tool leading to a fragmented view of the customer. The end result is poor customer experience demonstrated by the brand. Hence choosing a bundled martech stack which will provide capabilities to solve 80-90% of your problems and has the flexibility to add depth to your campaigns whenever required will be an ideal fit.

Additionally, apart from investing in the technology stack, ensure relevant upskilling of teams is done to be able to run these platforms. A small investment in professional and consulting services to help mature your team will give you a great RoI on the martech stack.

7. What can we expect from WebEngage in the years to come?

WebEngage has a core mission to enable businesses to create personalized experiences at a massive scale. We continue to build keeping this broader mission in mind. Take for instance our recently launched personalization stack which will break away from a stereotype of providing another A/B testing tool in the name of personalization. We’ll provide 1 to 1 personalization in its truest sense with almost no tech intervention. Each of our product lines namely CDP, Campaign Management, and Personalization will have its own roadmap which will keep adding value to our customers with this underlying common mission to humanize communications. 

8. What qualities do you look for in potential hires, and how should one prepare for a role in marketing technology?

The marketing technology roles are fast evolving and with them, the team structures and the skill set required in an individual have also drastically changed. Earlier the focus was on specific channels of engagement e.g. you’ll create a team for email marketing. Now email is just one channel in your marketing platform. Even teams in design/content now require to expand their knowledge to new age channels like push, in-app and WhatsApp messaging and create messages catering to these audiences. Keeping this in mind, it is important for someone aiming for a role in marketing technology to be abreast of these changing trends. Data has become the largest asset for a marketing technologist and the ability to analyze them is the key to building a good CRM strategy. I’ll evaluate potential hires on the following parameters:

  • KPI/Goal driven individual
  • Ability to analyze data
  • Hands-on exposure to run omni-channel marketing/retention programs

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