The Perx of Digital Customer Engagement
What are some of your favourite brands and how do they communicate with you? Gone are the days of brochure mailers and physical loyalty cards as customer engagement goes digital. The rise of disruptive technologies has changed the game and opened new doors to capturing the hearts of customers in the digital age.
To further explore the changing customer engagement digital landscape, we caught up with Anna Gong, CEO of Perx Technologies, who has been working with the DBS Consumer Banking and Startup Xchange team in Hong Kong to drive deeper connections with DBS consumers. She shares insights into how new technologies and mobile-first solutions are redefining customer loyalty for brands.
To start off, can you tell us more about the project you worked on with DBS Consumer Banking and Startup Xchange?
DBS’ Deposits team was looking for an effective way to improve engagement with their customers, and we saw an opportunity to do so via a rewards and loyalty solution. Each time customers make various transactions on their deposit accounts, we would reward them in real time via eStamps that are available on both Apple Wallet and Google Wallet. Through such real time rewards and engagement, we would be able to keep DBS top-of-mind and drive greater adoption of the various digital services that the bank has to offer.
That sounds great! And what makes Perx different from other customer engagement and loyalty platforms out there?
As a leading SaaS company based in Singapore, Perx has redefined loyalty by integrating loyalty with campaigns, rewards, merchant, and gamification elements. We enable organisations of all sizes to monetise customer engagements by creating personalised, interactive revenue-generating digital experiences for millions of end-consumers. Enterprises can engage over 50 million end-consumers daily on the Perx Platform, which in turn enables them to drive last-mile customer engagements by up to 12 times and, most importantly, measure real-time campaign return on investments (ROIs).
The Perx Platform is specifically tailored towards a mobile-first, data-driven and interactive experiences to help organisations drive top-line revenue. By focusing on meeting the high demands of the digital and mobile-first economy, we have helped traditional enterprises transform their revenue models into lifestyle marketplaces focused on interactive engagement.
So how has technology changed the way we engage with customers?
Today, we’re seeing customers demanding more — they want services to be faster, cheaper, and more convenient. Increasingly, it is about mobile-first and user-friendly solutions.
For many traditional enterprises, they struggle to keep up with the pace of change. Most are unequipped to respond swiftly and flexibly due to legacy investments, heavy technical debt and processes. For example, they are bogged down by archaic IT investments which they have been using for many generations and continue to use until today. The challenge they face is in future proofing their businesses as the upfront technology costs, efforts and cultural shifts in welcoming technology and new ways of doing seem daunting.
On the other hand, mobile native tech companies are quick to respond to the rapidly changing digital ecosystem. Their ability to respond is further accelerated by their cloud native architectures. New entrants such as SuperApps, and other fintech start-ups are swooping into the market while the companies that don’t transform fast enough grapple with the changes taking place. In addition, across industries we are seeing new entrants from non-financial and non-banking entities offering “banking” and “payment” services. It’s no longer a competition between two banks or two telcos. It now looks more like traditional enterprises against fintechs. And even among fintechs, the competition is between the SuperApps and the rest of the fintechs in the market.
Can you share some key trends when it comes to customer engagement and loyalty programmes?
Firstly, I think that traditional loyalty is dead. However, it may still be relevant for services that have high customer stickiness such as banking, insurance, telco, utilities, aviation, hospitality and certain retail sectors like supermarkets.
Traditional loyalty programs tended to focus on the “WHAT” which includes a step-by-step way of categorising rewards and points instead of on the “WHO” or “WHY”. Focusing on the “WHAT” was straightforward and mechanical as it looked at earning and burning or expiring of points. It punishes the customers as opposed to offering a rewarding customer experience.
Instead, the focus has to shift to “WHO” and “WHY”. I wouldn’t say this is a trend but rather an evolution that we are observing. Customers today want dynamic and real-time rewarding services. And they want it quick and fuss-free. Furthermore, digital natives have no patience to accumulate points over months only to realise they don’t have enough to burn those points for much of anything. Thus, it’s all about instant gratification and rewarding experiences which occur more frequently and within a shorter time frame.
Secondly, having a loyalty and rewards “programme” won’t move the needle for organisations anymore. Rewards are just commodities. “HOW”, “WHY”, and “WHEN” those rewards are offered to customers are what new technologies are trying to solve for digital native customers. The key advantage of technology is in allowing us to better understand the user from a perspective of “WHO” they are — in terms of their profile and background, “WHAT” are their preferences, buying behaviour and habits, and “WHERE” they are in real time to gauge proximity. These factors are key for the next generation of customer engagement.
Finally, a frictionless customer journey is key to improving engagement. Some examples of features that can help in this process include an automated self-service merchant onboarding, rather than having an expensive outsourced team to help you acquire those merchants. Also, not forgetting an end-to-end rewards management framework which fulfils rewarding experience at the last mile without the hassle of integrating with point of sale (POS) systems. Usually, the case is that merchants and banks are bounded to legacy POS systems that prevent them from executing quickly.
Further to that, gamifying the experience is key to making it socially viral and interactive with your customers’ networks. Integrating loyalty with a lifestyle marketplace is also crucial for many traditional enterprises or static businesses with captive customer base. Using a SaaS platform to execute campaigns with high ROI is also important to note. Engagement has to go beyond vanity metrics such as click-thru rates, impressions, and likes. ROI measurement has to be the focal point of why marketers and head of commercials invest in new customer engagement solutions. Brand building and marketing waste are tearing companies apart.
Now, it’s all about engagement, content and how that is intelligently delivered for a rewarding experience that generates revenue which are measurable in real time. Having all these features working in real time gives users an instantly gratifying, mobile-first, and seamless online to offline (O2O) experience.
Can you tell us about your experience working with DBS through the Startup Xchange programme?
We had a wonderful time working with DBS through Startup Xchange! DBS’ tech team proved to be a great help. They were agile and approached challenges with a strong design thinking mindset, which really aided us in this innovative collaboration. Moreover, we were incredibly heartened to learn that they had strong customer focus throughout the whole innovation process, as this completely matched our core values and culture. They constantly pushed us towards a higher standard of thinking in crafting customer-centric and unique mobile experiences, and we really enjoyed rising to the challenge!
How does Perx constantly innovate to stay ahead of the curve?
As a start-up, it’s in our DNA to always innovate. We’re constantly looking to the market for inspiration. Currently, the mobile-first economy continues to see rapid growth, so there’s an opportunity to providing solutions to meet the changing behaviours and increasing demands of consumers.
All our solutions aim to help enterprises automate processes, so that they can get things done faster and better. Yet our core innovative focus is always about what the end-consumer wants and how we can deliver it. If instant gratification is what consumers want now, what will instant gratification look like in the next 2, 3, or 5 years? How will we experience our brands? Defining these experiences is where emerging technologies like AI, blockchain, VR and AR can play a bigger part, and we hope to contribute to these ground-breaking developments.
You’ve had extensive experience in managing and growing start-ups, even earning the title of ‘Turnaround Girl’. What is your secret winning formula to creating a successful business?
I don’t think there’s a single recipe for success. I’ve always been a risk-taker with a love for taking on challenges. People describe me as the maverick in the room; I’ve thrived in environments where we’re challenging the status quo and building something with purpose and impact for the greater good.
Success doesn’t come easy, and the current economic climate reflects that. The Covid-19 pandemic has stress-tested leaders around the world. It is no doubt a defining experience for all of us. Your playbook is thrown out of the window, your plan is no longer a plan, and past forecasts may no longer apply as volatility and uncertainty in all markets go through the roof. Your “worst case” scenario may not be pessimistic enough, and you might have to rush back to the drawing board. If you don’t have 12 to 24 months of leeway, you might not survive through this.
Yet regardless of which company or industry you’re from, economic challenges are a constant, and markets are always changing. How fast you pivot, re-invent your go-to-market, communicate with your employees and lead with passion, delight and manage your customers, as well as re-evaluate your value proposition will make or break your company. Being able to position your company and employees to continue believing in a higher purpose — such as creating the best possible experience for consumers — is also definitely essential. These are the main ways in which we are surviving and thriving through these uncertain times, and it’s how we’ll continue to chart our path towards success.
Anna Gong is the CEO of Perx Technologies, a leading SaaS company based in Singapore. Through marketing analytics, campaigns, rewards and ecosystem management, as well as gamification technology, Perx helps big brands redefine loyalty and customer engagement. DBS Startup Xchange is a fintech programme run by the DBS Innovation team designed to foster partnerships with fintech start-ups to co-create real solutions and bring emerging technologies to the bank.