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EP #51: Martech adoption insights from Middle East’s top martech media company, MarTech Vibe

About this Podcast

2020 has been a watershed year for digital transformation. The prevailing conditions have compelled numerous B2C and D2C brands across industries to prioritize the use of marketing and technology together to engage with their customers.

With a sea change being observed in the marketing space as brands go digital, it’s also important for brands and marketers to keep up with the latest trends. To learn about the biggest and latest martech trends in the emerging markets of the Middle East and Africa, we caught up with Sanjay Swamy, Co-Founder and Director of Partnerships at MarTech Vibe. 

MarTech Vibe is the Middle East’s only multi-channel media platform focused on marketing technology. As the pioneer and the most trusted brand in the region, they connect technology brands with the region’s most dynamic marketing leaders.

Sanjay highlights the following during our discussion:

  • Changes in consumer behavior that have been influenced by COVID-19
  • Digital transformation and martech adoption trends shaping up in 2020 and beyond
  • The evolution of marketing budgets in terms of spends on martech
  • Key challenges faced by brands in adopting marketing technologies
  • The need for brands to leverage technologies like AI, ML and Predictive Analysis to scale in a post COVID-19 world

Tune in to gain insights on the digital transformation and martech trends that will continue to take industries across regions by storm beyond 2020!

Episode Transcripts

Pradyut (Host): Hi guys, welcome to yet another awesome episode of the Martechno beat, a specially curated podcast series powered by Netcore Solutions. Here’s where you gain cutting-edge insights from leading marketers, product Champions, market influencers, and Industry leaders and you do this with all things use of growth, user engagement, retention, and personalization. I’m your host Pradyut Hande and today we are going to switch it up a little. I’m joined by a good friend and a top industry expert on all things marketing technology focused on the Emerging Markets of the Middle East and Africa. Mr. Sanjay Swamy. Welcome, Sanjay delighted to have you with us today.

Sanjay (Guest): Pleasure to be on the show Pradyut. Thank you for inviting me.

Pradyut: For the uninitiated, Sanjay heads the Region’s only multi-platform Martech media brand, which is Martech Vibe. He is a strong advocate of companies redefining their marketing processes using technology and in our conversation today We will see Sanjay share a lot of laser-focused timely and relevant insights on the biggest and latest Martech trends sweeping across the Middle East and Africa and how Brands across Industries are viewing the adoption of marketing technology, especially in the aftermath of the global covid pandemic. So Sanjay for starters could you outline your journey in the build-up to becoming a pivot player and thought leader in the Martech space predominantly in the region that you operate in through Martech today.

Sanjay: First of all, thank you. Thank you for inviting me to this show and for the kind introduction. Well, I wouldn’t say I’m a thought leader. But what we do with Martech Vibe is we try and focus on the marketing technology developments that are happening across the Middle East and Africa, right? I think this journey started for me in Any 18 I come from a marketing background. I used to work as a marketing manager for a leading publishing newspaper and during my time, I realize that there was you know so much happening for a lot of other for a lot of people from the industry but they weren’t enough Initiative for marketers. And I think that’s where I started reading up on how technology is impacting marketing. So I said, okay, Let’s take the leap of faith. I quit my job and I started Martech Vibe, which is an online Martech publication that focuses on everything Martech taking CX for the Middle East and Africa, and we also do the vibe Martech west, which completed two successful editions. The third one is in March 2021, and I think over the last two years what we’ve done is we’ve built a credible, we would say We are a go-to resource for marketers in this region for people who want to read up more about how technology is shaping or impacting marketing.

Pradyut: That makes a lot of sense and I Was Myself privileged to be a part of your edition last year and you know, we had a couple of great conversations in Dubai and just the response to the event was symbolic of how brands are also looking at the adoption of marketing technology. So there was a definite positive signal. My next question to you is you know, obviously the world’s been turned upside down over the last seven or eight months and I’m sure you’ve been keeping a close pulse on you know, how the industry is evolving. How demand for Martech across Industries continues to get reshape. So what would be some of the major changes in consumer behavior that you’ve witnessed in this region over the last six to seven months particularly in Key Industries relevant to that region such as retail e-commerce in banking?

Sanjay: Well it so obviously, you know, a lot has changed during the pandemic the way you know consumers interact with Brands the way we interact with Brands, which is obviously put the onus on digital transformation. I think Innovations in companies have fast-tracked digital transformation when we talk about how it has impacted retail e.com banking and so on so forth. When you look at this The world rate or I’m talking from a retail perspective friend has focused a lot on ensuring experiences and that’s primarily what UI know you is all about it’s about Glam and Glitz. It’s truly great, you know in-store experiences wouldn’t be fair to say that they didn’t focus on digital. The focus on digital was always there but what has happened is it has just fast-tracked in this whole process. So now you see as a lot of customers, a lot of retail turning e-comm players overnight, on the e-comm front there are a lot of new digital-first businesses that are starting up which has a new for this part of the world, which was you know you when you look at digital growth and you see digital-first businesses, you wouldn’t see a lot of digital-first businesses over here as compared to India or say Europe or the US. Right now that is changing like for example, if you take shop the shop was just picked up by delivery hero during the pandemic for 360 million dollars and that’s a company that’s about 4 years old there is massive growth happening in the e-commerce space and this owner is happening due to the way customers are now adapting to The New Normal per se. Like for a banking perspective, I can tell you that you know now banks are experiencing a lot more people coming onto their apps, which we did have introduced. You still have your traditional Bankers who would go to the branches which are close by and all of there but now that has changed it has put the onus on the customer and now what customers are demanding is seamless interaction or seamless experience online. So from a consumer point of view, it’s similar to every other Market where everyone wants.

Pradyut: The demand is basically migrated pretty much in line and across digital platforms.

Sanjay: From the industry point of view like for banking obviously banking’s been the Forefront of Technology at least in this part of the world. So they had already they had the infrastructure they were ready for it, but for retail and e-commerce, you would see some very exciting key studies, you know of companies pivoting, launching new e-commerce websites in like about two months. Basins.com is one similar example that just fast-track the launched by about three to four months and are doing really well right now. So there’s this is that’s what’s happening around, you know, the changing Trends where people now want digital, they want it now and they want it quick.

Pradyut: That makes a lot of sense and to a large extent It’s almost like These brands have been forced into a corner where they had no choice but to embrace the power of digital transformation. 

Sanjay: Of course, you know, I think I think digital transformation as a mostly discusses discussed for like the last 10 years and you know, when we hear these conferences we say we ask the delicate is what are the most, you know overhype terms and they would say data is the new oil and digital transformation but this particular incident or what has happened with the world in the last six-seven months actually bought the focus on digital transformation and Business Leaders like you rightly said I’ve realized how important it is for their Organization for the survival Like you said, you have no other option.

Pradyut: I guess necessity is the mother of all invention and adaptation to a large extent. Now in this backdrop, you know, we touched upon digital transformation adoption being expedited. What would be some of the key Martech adoption trends that you have witnessed in the region?

Sanjay: So I’ll give you some insight from a report that we are working on right now. We call it a state of Martech report and We’ve already interviewed about 60 or CMOS from the region and the inside has been got from the Repose as we compare it to last year is significant. Is this a significant change? So obviously with whatever is going on right now, the major Focus for CMOS or major Focus for Marketers Now, the major challenges for them is obviously, you know, I can customer Journeys and customer retention because marketing budgets are cut by it. So you don’t have huge budgets to acquire new customers and with reading so many you digital businesses in digital funds of how do you still retain your customers is something that you know marketers are really worried about. When you look at this part of the world where even moving towards a more, you know, we’re considering a g GDPA, are CCPA equivalent over here for data privacy. So emerging trends that I have seen over the last six months for me or what our team of what we can you know see from the report is there’s a huge demand for social listening and Reporting, there is a huge demand for CDP is a technology, there is a huge demand for personalization tools during these are like the top three Martech adoption trends that we are seeing witnessing right now in this part of the world.

Pradyut: Very interesting and I guess the challenge for most brands is to see how they can reconcile all of this, you know while they have access to data but data probably sits in a lot of silos which is why you need a customer data platform to solve that challenge for you. You need social media listening, social listening tools to sort of better keep a handle on what your target audience is saying about you and you know, use those data points to further improve customer experiences, and of course Personalisation has definitely emerged as a game-changer for brands across industries and across regions and not just related to you know, addressing your customers by their first name or telling them exactly what they should buy based on their relevance and needs. So yeah, I see that there is a commonality in terms of the emerging trends. At least. I wanted you as an industry expert from that region to shed more light on that and I think you’ve done a great job at that and one point that You mentioned there in your previous response was how marketing budgets have reduced or have evolved now. I wanted to get your thoughts on you to know, how do you see marketing budgets evolved in terms of spends on Martech and who would be some of these key decision-makers influencing purchase at the business end. 

Sanjay: I think this is a very interesting question for the Youth. And again, I’m going to give you insights from the report that we showed. Last year when we interviewed 60-70 CMOs, At least 60 to 80 percent say the budgets were around 12% for Martech. Okay, this year we’ve seen at least until other reporters we’re still working on the report. We want to get we want to reach the hundred mark, but what we see right now, more than 45% of same Associated their marketing budgets pens are now between 21 to 31 percent. So that definitely is an eye-opener for Martech solution providers who for long not you know neglected the Middle East but what and then when you look at the key decision-makers, definitely it for the way we see it CMOS are the influences are the decision-makers but it’s a collaborative decision when it comes from Mar Tech is something that we see in this part of the world. At least it is you know, you have multiple stakeholders as you said, you know because you have data in the mold you have ever seen involved, you have your data resting in silos, it is the combined organization dishes decision, but I would say it is spearheaded by the CMO.

Pradyut: Okay fair enough, but the Persona is in positions of the chief product officer, chief technology officer.

Sanjay:  The CPOs definitely would be a part of the entire process.

Pradyut:  If you tell me what would be some of these key challenges that businesses are facing in their quest to adopt marketing technology because there is time a dozen vendors in the market the options are aplenty. There’s no dearth of information either folk like Martech Viber trying to bridge that gap quite efficiently and effectively. So what would be those challenges that you have, you know sort of.

Sanjay: I think I didn’t from our conversations with CMOS I think whatever you mentioned is Yes, these are challenges but I think the biggest challenge, the biggest challenge in the slow adoption of MarTech all say the challenges that Martech is adopting, modern technology is convincing the leadership. Traditionally marketing, We are seen as a cost center, now they’ve been charged with Revenue generation or even out but you know, they’re responsible for the overall ROI. So a lot of the biggest Is the problem that I see with marketers is and we can we get this a lot we’ve seen this a lot in our report is the biggest challenge for them is to convince, they have executive leadership that they need to invest in marketing Technologies. They need to invest in third-party services that they cannot build internally that IT teams cannot build an effective CDP, cannot build an effective DMV cannot build an effective email marketing tool, we need to invest in tools that can be that can reach out to a mass audience. So that definitely is the biggest challenge over here apart from that, you know, obviously, the talent pool is another example or another challenge that CMOS is facing and like you rightly said there is then you have more than 8,000 Solutions last chart when you look at Scott brings us to. These are typically the challenges that the market is facing away. And but that’s how we’re trying to mitigate that by you know by putting out content over there that the executive leadership. They need to understand we need to understand that, you know, marketing technology is an integral part of your overall growth strategy, especially if you’re thinking digital and you’re going digital, you cannot grow unless and until you know who your customers are what they want when they want it, are you able to give it to them before kept of your competitors? So I think it starts with educating the leadership. There are some brands that are doing an amazing job been adopted Martech even way before people in this region could hear of my type but well, I would say the majority were still in that process of you know, convincing leadership that you know, this is what we need and you know, this is how we go ahead.

Pradyut: It’s a basic case of the CXOs understanding that you not doing this just for our company alone, but this is exactly what we need to do to serve our customers better. So I think if that Gap incomprehension is fixed, think adoption will only continue to increase And this does not, you know sort of getting limited to the Middle East and Africa region alone. I think this holds true for other geographies as well in more mature markets group. All right, so we spoke about Emerging Market Tech Trends, We spoke about adoption, We spoke about evolving marketing budgets, We spoke about educating the sea extra sweet about the advantages of going down Martech Route. I just wanted your thoughts on you know, a Little bit of put on your futuristic Gap if you will and your thoughts on basically the increasing adoption and application of app analytics, the use of artificial intelligence and machine learning, the entire aspect of Predictive Analytics and marketing.

Sanjay: So what again Pradyut, this is something that we’ve already noticed in any report by driving is when you’re looking At driving digital-first businesses around you looking to go digital automatically these technologies that you’re talking about becoming an integral part of your strategy, of your monitor teaching about you need up analytics to understand where users are coming from, you need a churn rate. You need that, you need AI  LM to drive recommendation engines. So my thoughts for this Market on the future at open adoption of these technologies, I would say that it is huge because now in the last six months in the last five months, CMOs come and talk first about these applications, we have seen was coming and registering to webinars on these applications. These are some I would say this this this is the future of Martech in this region.

Pradyut: Anything once most brands are able to iron out their basic problems of data integration, unification. I think the sky is the limit because adding these layers to your entire Martech stag is what will eventually unlock True Value so I think You’ve explained that quite well and that actually brings me to the end of this particular episode. I’m sure that our audience across the Middle East and Africa will benefit greatly from all that you shared with us today Sanjay and I am sure a lot of what you shared with us can actually be extrapolated to other geographies as well because Martech adoption for industry-specific use cases continues to rise and that’s something that we’ve noticed in a lot of our conversations with other brands as well. 2020 definitely being a watershed year for digital transformation. It’s, you know compelled a lot of b2c Brands across Industries to prioritize the use of marketing and Technology together to serve their customers better, and I think you did a fabulous job capturing some of those key insights and Trends from your region.

Sanjay: Thank you. Thank you so much for inviting me to the show.

Pradyut: Thanks so much for joining us. Thank you so much for the time and a big thank you to all our listeners as well for tuning in.

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