How an analogue brand transformed into a digital-first business with cutting-edge B2B data analysis tools
Dubai, 20 November 2017: There are long-time Dubai residents who know the ENTERTAINER solely for its two-for-one offers that allow them to get a discount on their brunch or spa treatment. Most contemporary residents will, by now, know it as an app that still provides the same offers, but with all the add-ons you would expect from an advanced mobile platform in 2017.
What many consumers may not know is how the ENTERTAINER has transformed itself completely in recent years to become an e-business that can help other companies understand and better serve their customers.
Chief Information Officer at the ENTERTAINER, David Ashford, tells Arabian Business how, for the last two years, the Dubai-based firm has been tapping into its rich data reserves to help companies predict customer habits and influence their behaviour. Based out of their Arabesque-domed Arjaan Rotana offices in Dubai Media City, Ashford says their decision to expand from a Business to Customer (B2C) to a Business to Business (B2B) company was a very logical progression.
From analogue to digital
The ENTERTAINER was founded in 2001 by Donna Benton, based on the simple idea of ‘buy one get one free’ offers. Though it was a very successful formula, Benton and her team had bigger ideas about how to take the concept into the digital era.
In 2012, the Abraaj Group acquired a 50 percent stake in the business. This allowed the company to speed up its growth in two key areas — global expansion and the development of its app and digital platform. The plan was to leverage technology to gather data to make smarter decisions, aid the user, and allow the business to scale much more effectively.
“A big problem I’ve seen over and over again is that people are trying to digitise their analogue processes rather than scrap their old approach to start again and take advantage of what the mobile digital era gives us. And it’s not about technology. It’s about changing the way your organisation thinks. It’s about hiring people with different skills sets and learning capabilities. It’s how information tools drive your company.”
To that end, the company established an e-business department, with the remit to spread new ideas to every area of the business. This process meant investing very heavily in building the right platforms to not only transition from a book to an app, but then have the technical platform to allow third parties to take advantage of the opportunities this gave them.
From B2C to B2B
The team’s investment in cutting-edge technical infrastructure allowed them to aggregate and curate huge amounts of data, or Big Data, and translate it into the needs of other businesses. “Many times we have corporate clients who don’t know enough about their customers, and therefore don’t know how to segment them, properly target them or engage with them. We’ve got a really good way of doing that,” says Ashford.
He offers a few examples where they can help businesses to build a profile of their customers. A new hotel opens and the F&B team wants to know what venues will best serve the area. The ENTERTAINER can tell them what sort of cuisine people are searching for in that area, give a profile of a typical customer in that area, as well as where their target market resides and works, and how best to reach it.
Ashford says the services can be leveraged by “...businesses who want to know more about their customers or acquire new customers. Businesses who want to retain their customers and those looking to have competitive advantage in their market.”
‘The ENTERTAINER business’ division also gives companies the option of white-labelling their app, rebranding it as their own product with the ENTERTAINER offers embedded in it, or co-branding in collaboration with them. They can even add additional merchants and offers that the business may already have from other suppliers that are not part of the ENTERTAINER merchant network.
“If you had an app and wanted to offer discounts we can embed our existing offers, including search and discovery, and data capture, into your app,” says Ashford of the potential for app collaboration.
“We can co-brand an app, we can white label the app, or we can create an app just for you. All of these solutions will capture data. You’ll get to know a profile of the customers and the redemptions they have made. And you can then dig in further, to view heat maps and visualisations that show what different people are searching for, plus when and where they do it.”
The ENTERTAINER’s business had been built on loyal customers. Ashford outlines how data mining tactics will never invade their privacy.
“We’re not giving away intrusive data, and our terms are clearly laid out to customers when they sign up. We use UK law for our data policies. We will never disclose the identities of our customers. Any information is aggregated and anonymous.”
The future of data
“We’re constantly extending our systems to harvest the mass data collected using machine learning to achieve artificial intelligence (AI),” Ashford says.
“We’re writing millions of records every week into our data warehouse and we’re developing AI tools that allow us to fulfil our vision of the app getting better and better (through relevance) for our customers the more they use it.”
This puts the ENTERTAINER right at the forefront of a worldwide trend that has seen the explosion of data that is driving all types of sectors currently investing heavily in technology looking to get real-time predictive insights. In the Middle East, the big data, business intelligence and analytics market is expected to jump from $5.09bn in 2015 to $12.38bn by 2020, according to a 2016 report by MicroMarket Monitor.
The Middle East’s burgeoning demand for big data, business intelligence, and analytics is influenced by the rise of Internet of Things and cloud devices, the report said, while a company’s ability to harness consumer insights has become essential for companies to stay competitive, invest in innovation and achieve sustained growth.
The conclusion is that all companies need to be thinking about how to gather and mine data. This is a complex and expensive process that can take years to develop. Which makes the option of using a company that has already honed this process, and can now pass on the benefits of those learnings, a very good option for businesses in the region who want to embrace the future.