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Brand View

Wed 27 Nov 2019 08:00 AM

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Customer experience: Thinking beyond what's next

Customers want that same seamless, intuitive experience whenever and wherever they are online, on mobile or offline

Customer experience: Thinking beyond what's next

Gaurang Shah, Senior Vice President, Product Management, Digital Payments & Labs, Middle East and Africa – Mastercard

Is the customer always right? Trailblazing retailer Harry Gordon Selfridge popularized the saying in the late 19th century, and that is clearly a question for a different era. Here is the question for today: Regardless of where they are on their journey, are customers getting what they want and need right now?

Even what the customer wants is evolving before our eyes. By 2050 the Middle East’s population is expected to reach 3.4 billion, a significant proportion of which will be young, diverse and dynamic digital natives. Mobile penetration is already more than 100 percent in many markets, with 50 percent more mobile accounts than bank accounts today.

E-commerce has long been a cornerstone of the economy in MENA and the UAE is currently its fastest growing e-commerce market. By 2023 e-commerce is set to contribute AED 12 billion to Dubai’s GDP. Noon’s ambitious entry to the market coupled with Amazon’s purchase of Souq.com have created digital giants that are growing a collective appetite for online shopping, making digital payments become the norm, and this will only be accelerated through the rollout of 5G.

It’s critical that we get as close to the customer as possible – be it the company with whom we’re doing business or the consumer who is using our technology – to understand what makes them tick. That’s the only way we’ll be able to anticipate what they want before they even realise it’s a possibility. But customer experience is not just a focus on “what’s next.” And it’s not merely a marketing exercise. It’s about understanding how the customer interacts with others, how they work, how they use their devices – even learning their likes and dislikes and letting that drive our innovation.

For example, in Dubai the success of Cafu was built around the simple insight that people in the UAE spend up to 30 minutes waiting to fuel up their cars at gas stations. Cafu made the processes simpler and easier, with a 24-hour on-demand fuel delivery app allowing customers to seamlessly pay by simply sharing a location pin and number plate.

It’s also about making the most technical and the most corporate elements seem human. It’s about detecting patterns and sensing trends across segments and across business lines. It’s about highlighting value and impact exactly when it’s needed – and if a company is doing its job right, the customer will never even realize it.

Take checkout, for instance. When people shop online, they expect the same convenience and security they experience in-store. That’s why some digital wallets or apps have taken a prominent place in people’s lives. Food delivery app Talabat recently reported 50% year-on-year growth, while ride-hailing giant Careem capitalized on its high engagement rates with its millions of users in 14 countries, to launch its own digital wallet, CareemPay.

Customers want that same seamless, intuitive experience whenever and wherever they are online, on mobile or offline. And that’s why we’re ensuring that all of our products are enabled for a digital-first world. It’s why we’re prioritizing security and privacy. With Expo 2020 less than a year away and as the Official Payment Technology Partner, we’ll be showcasing innovations for people to experience new secure and seamless personalized payment technologies.

Consumers today are faced with several choices when it comes to payments. But when they make the decision about how they’ll shop, we need to be sure that banks and merchants are there ready for them at every step of the journey. And that’s why we need to be there for those banks and merchants as the best partner to meet their payment needs.

When companies focus on reimagining the consumer experience, any investment made will almost certainly pay dividends in a richer experience that will keep the customer coming back. Mr. Selfridge had another saying that remains as true today as it did more than a hundred years ago: “Remember always that the recollection of quality remains long after the price is forgotten.”

Gaurang Shah, Senior Vice President, Product Management, Digital Payments & Labs, Middle East and Africa – Mastercard

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