Bebuzzd co-founder and CEO Abdul Nazeer was searching for a business card in his wallet when he noticed a stack of forgotten or expired loyalty cards. Having realising the impracticality of carrying them in his wallet, he, alongside co-founder and CTO Shan Abdul Salam, decided to come up with a solution to keep the programmes attractive. A few years later, Bebuzzd was born. The mobile loyalty programme lets customers earn and redeem points from their favourite outlets, and is based on three business models: subscription, sales commission and, soon, mobile payment.
Nazeer tells Arabian Business why loyalty programmes are very much alive and reveals what is next for the Dubai-based start-up.
Some experts argue that loyalty programmes are outdated. What are your thoughts on that?
Around 64 percent of brands saw an increase in loyalty programme memberships in the last year, according to a recent study by 3Cinteractive. Part of the reason is that they are becoming more sophisticated and moving beyond the traditional spend-and-get model to multichannel programmes that recognise customers for every interaction they make with a brand. Smart marketers are capturing and leveraging loyalty data to understand their customers better and market effectively to them. Brands are now investing more in loyalty programmes to retain customers. This concept has been picking up speed and is very important for businesses in 2018.
What were some of the challenges you faced when setting up Bebuzzd? And what are some of the challenges right now?
Finding the right talent, raising funds and evolving the product to meet market demands in a timely manner are definitely some of our biggest challenges.
What was the costliest part of the business?
Marketing to create merchant awareness in the SME sector on the importance and value of customer retention over attracting new customers is the most challenging and costliest part of the business.
Where did the name come from? What does it mean?
We figured that the concept could create a major buzz for all kinds of business when done right. So “bebuzzd” came to life.
What are your expansion plans going forward?
We are launching a payment platform through our app. Consumers can use the app to get deals from outlets we have tie-ups with and also sign up for loyalty programmes with our partners. In addition, users will be able to avail of recharge services such as Salik, mobile top-ups and their subscriptions to multiple services and so on. The testing of the new service is complete, and we are looking to do a soft launch in the next three months.
How long did it take you to launch Bebuzzd, and were you ever afraid to start?
It took around six months for us to research the product feasibility in the market and then a couple more years to have the first version of Bebuzzd. But I was never afraid to start this business. It was always my dream to have a perfect mix of my IT skills and business experience.
What keeps you motivated?
Overcoming a problem by finding a relevant solution is what keeps me going. There are ample issues I come across, but the best way to deal with them is to think of a creative solution. Something else that motivates me is the challenge of building and providing services to customers and merchants.
What is the strongest aspect of the business?
Customer focus is one of the strongest aspects of our business. We believe in having a narrow focus. For example, brands are currently under pressure to meet customer expectations with exceptional experiences, and are investing in trends such as personalisation. If they want to stay ahead of their competition, their loyalty programmes, their strategy and their technology must continually evolve to keep customers loyal.
What is the best piece of advice you ever received?
My mentor once told me that starting a brand is as difficult as walking into a dark room and bumping into things while trying to navigate your way around. Launching a start-up is exactly the same. You are not aware of what might come up next; all you can do is be ready to face the obstacles.
What in your view makes a successful entrepreneur?
Having the right attitude and willpower to succeed, and never losing sight of why they start their business in the first place.
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