Redefining Engagement: Solving Customer Retention with Anna Gong
September 21, 2022
Anna is the CEO and Founder of Perx Technologies, a category-creating Lifestyle Marketing SaaS startup based out of Singapore. With over 20 years of global experience in enterprise software, Anna has held senior leadership positions across startups and global companies.

Listed in Singapore Top 100 Women in Tech 2020 and winner of the Singapore Women Entrepreneur Awards 2017, Anna, a TedX speaker, was also featured in the LinkedIn CEO Power Profiles 2017. She is a frequent keynote speaker on leadership, technology, digital transformation and entrepreneurship, for large corporates and global conferences such as C2 Montreal, SaaStock Dublin, InnovFest Unbound, RISE, and European Business Leaders’ Convention. Anna serves as the Chairwoman of SEA Founders Organization, on the Advisory Board of Duke Corporate Education Asia, SE Asia Startup Google Accelerator Program Mentor and is a Board Member at Genius Group. Anna holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).

Anna joined us for a Masterclass on how to solving customer retention challenges in the mobile first economy by redefining engagement. She shared that today's consumers are spoiled for choice and lavished with attention by businesses. But, brands are heading towards unhealthy bottom lines as a result of these cash-fuelled efforts to just retain customers. Read on for more of Anna's advice.

Key Takeaways:
  • Customer retention in the modern, mobile-first economy requires a different engagement strategy, moving away from transient and transactional behaviour.
  • Every touchpoint must build purposeful and meaningful experiences and lasting relationships.

Marketing tactics need to change.

There are over 2 million apps competing for our eyeballs and wallet share. And in each of our mobile phones, we have about 80 apps installed but only nine being used daily.. So marketers and leaders need to ask how do we actually keep top of mind, top of wallet for each of our consumers?

What is happening today is that still most marketers and product owners are only used to sending emails, SMS or different types of social media acquisition campaigns. Unfortunately, 80% of those emails via acquisition campaigns or target campaigns go into spam. And so is it okay for you to continuously spend your marketing dollars on 80% of spam that no customers will actually open frequently or ever open in their spam box? This is one of the conundrums of the market today.

So how do we go beyond that?

That's where you focus on content, business modeling, and a lot more around your technology or products or services. Technology is just the enabler. It's never going to solve your problem. Even if you adopt a CRM, the best CRM is only great because you have a great sales leader or sales team behind it, or a rev ops team that's really managing it with rigor and discipline. So it's not the technology that really makes you whole, it's really the people behind it.

This is where customer experience is the new product.When we look at the dichotomy between traditional loyalty and instant gratification, traditional loyalty is a Ponzi scheme. Why that is the case? Because if you think about any brand that creates a currency of sort, of store value, this is what points are. If you create a store value or currency, and I save and save and save on that store value, and then you expire my currency because I've been dormant, because you have been unable to actually engage me relevantly to redeem my points or to give me an experience to move and feel meaningful to experience those redemption behaviors. So if you think about a bank - if I deposit money into a bank or a savings account, and I've been dormant for two years, do you think a bank would actually expire our savings account? So think about that.

So why would we allow loyalty programs and brands to do that?

Because when they start a loyalty program, it's extremely expensive. It's a huge liability on their books, it's actually a CRM, it's a very expensive ledger. So expensive spreadsheet crunching, earning and burning of points and different types of rewards, arbitrage and expires it so it's very, very undelightful to the customer experience. Think about recently, Uber, right, Uber dominates the whole ride hailing and food delivery segment, and they are now sunsetting their loyalty program, because they can. There's only two large ride-hailing companies in North America. And so they have already informed us that they will sunset this later on this year. And they will now go into the Amazon Prime business model, where I'm going to force you to subscribe to all of these different experiences and privileges. And so you pay $9/month or $10/month to get these types of services. And so that is a very subscription-based profitable business model, because they can. It's become a lifestyle essential of sort for us, because now the brands can, you know, package all sorts of different programs to engage us and make more money. So the rewards management and loyalty has become a huge liability to them, and it's not sustainable, and that's why they're moving away. Revenue per active customer means that you have to engage it and engage your customers relevantly through upsell cross sell methods, and what kind of content experiences that you're driving.

When we look at the history of moving from engagement, and unengaging transient and transactional behavior, brands now create more meaningful relationships. Consumers are driving the corporate strategy. I use this analogy, where the unengaging transient and transactional behavior equates to lazy parents, really, you know, giving so much entitlement to kids, where the easy way out is to give them candy, give them an iPad, or give them some form of a privilege, and that shuts them up. And then they quiet down for a little bit, right? Because you didn't discipline them.

Brands also are doing the same thing by giving these one-off promotions, deep discounts, points, and instantly try to buy their sentiment in that very same space.

And so if you think about how do you move behavior? How do you change a type of behavior away from entitlement?

In Asia and lots of the different emerging markets, corporations are creating all these lifestyle super apps. They are all leaping outside of their core services. Telcos are becoming super apps to lifestyle marketplaces. FinTech players are marrying themselves. One of the telcos in Singapore, the largest telco, is marrying with a ride hailing app like Uber app called Grab, and they are actually building a virtual bank together. You would never see Uber and Verizon, you know, marrying each other. So it's a very different dichotomy in Asia. And we see a lot of retailers and e-commerce really still combating because I think offline is still very hot in Asia, but everyone's trying to vie for that whole wallet share.

But when we look at what constitutes this race to own the ecosystem, you have to have a combination of services. You cannot stay in your core, and many of the services are raised to ask how do I become a lifestyle essential that our consumers and ecosystem cannot live without? Because loyalty or habitual habits is that. You have served my lifestyle essentials, not the luxurious, not the one off, but if I can actually anchor you, just like how Uber has and then they said I'm going to check my rewards and loyalty program because I can now charge you a subscription fee and make more money out of you because I dominate the market.

We see a lot of the Financial Services also leaping into digital banks, having, wallets, and different types of super apps and super ecosystem away from the core banking services. And we're servicing a number of those as well. It's quite interesting because they are starting with customer experience, not a lot of legacy or technical debt like the traditional banks. And same with telcos. One of the telcos that we're working with right now, they want to open up their entire super app ambition to the mass market, and you don't even have to be their telco customer to really consume their marketplace and products and services. So everyone is actually leaving their core. Obviously, they're all competing against these big guys because they have all the data, and this all universal free data that they have actually accumulated over the last few decades. But, you know, these guys are all opt-in. When you opt-in, you also own a lot of your own data and it's rich data, and you can also expand outside.

Here GoTo is an interesting story. It's a ride hailing company, food delivery company, that has married themselves with the likes of Amazon of Indonesia. And this is becoming one of the largest e-commerce marketplaces and ride hailing all in one go. So you can imagine it's like Amazon marrying with Uber. And it's almost an unheard of type of dominance. They've gone public, recently. And so this is why if you have dominated the lifestyle essentials, you can easily expand other services andtap on that. And you can create ad tech revenue, you can create marketplace revenue, you can create so much more revenue, subscription revenue, and this is where they're all going. So what is this case in point where digital transformation for many brands or even digital natives is not just, it does not stop at direct to consumers. That's the lowest hanging fruit. It's the easiest to solve. However, what comes after that is, really, how do you create revenue model innovation? Again, going back to technology is just the enabler.

But if you think about if you have all this type of data, how do you start to expand that and allow your ecosystem to also access your data?

The future also right now is around gamification. Game theory and enticing people and driving meaning around gamification is really really popular for the last few years now, especially coming from other mobile first economies. The difference between gaming, e-sports games marketplace, and game theory, gamification has a very broad category as well. What we focus on is the game theory part and driving user behavior. If you ever use Duolingo it always levels you up and gives you prizes, badges, all sorts of different ways to really influence you. And when we think back when we were kids, we constantly get badges and participation and all of the recognition for doing all sorts of different activities, whether it's academic or extracurricular activities. But once we left school, we no longer get recognized. And when game theory stops, now we're kind of getting very transactional, robotic. We get paid for what we do in the real world. And that's it, right? And then all the corporations are struggling to make sense, how do we do productivity, gain, and so forth? So gamification is extremely popular now, and driving meaning, and challenging that behavior to recognize that you have done something well, whether it was for your own good or not, it depends on different types of campaigns. And so when we look back at, at how do we actually use a lot of this behavioral science and game theory to map that to business objectives? So if any of these brands or verticals that you belong to are digital natives, and b2c brands, it's all about driving certain types of business objectives and KPIs. And then we will help you map out those customer journeys and gamify the entire engagement. You can actually pull and couple multi-action behavior into a singular campaign and track that.



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