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Whether it’s Sunday morning brunch with friends, a coffee date with a new acquaintance, or a dinner with your team, dining out is an essential part of how we spend our leisure time and connect with friends and community.

But with the COVID-19 pandemic, restaurants, eateries, and cafes have had to remain shut. And so, we reluctantly bade farewell to the triad of sumptuous food, hospitality, and free-flowing conversation, with restaurant take-out acting as a substitute until in-person dining could resume.

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While the restrictions imposed because of the pandemic have been tough on everyone, the food and beverage industry took an especially big hit. For a time, nearly all restaurants had to remain closed or modify their operations to serve customers solely through drive-thrus and take-out. Brew pubs and distilleries began using their equipment to produce hand sanitizer. As our lives changed, foot traffic declined by 75-90% across various parts of the globe.*

Southeast Asia was the first region to witness the catastrophic impact of the pandemic. For restaurant reservation apps, this was a critical moment. Surviving the pandemic meant expanding their portfolio to types of products or services that are less affected, and also addressing the changing needs of merchants and consumers.

Restaurant reservation platform Eatigo began seeing a downturn in their business early on. Headquartered in Bangkok, their vast markets include Singapore, Malaysia, the Philippines, Hong Kong, South Korea, Indonesia, and India. Across these regions, out-of-home food and beverage consumption was on a downturn while at-home consumption saw a spike.

How did Eatigo pivot their business? How did they optimize their marketing efforts to face the pandemic? Brimming with questions, we approached Mahima Rajangam Natarajan who heads customer engagement and retention at Eatigo.

Natarajan joined Eatigo in 2018 and started her stint by heading CRM and retention. Additionally, she now manages their regional marketing efforts in regions like Singapore and Hong Kong, overseeing all facets of marketing including partnerships and social media.

According to Natarajan, COVID-19 brought a “revelation about the inevitable nature of change.” She notes that “it became necessary to have more than one core product. So, we introduced a take-away option in mid 2020 while strategizing our entry into the food delivery business.”

Currently, they are partnering with delivery platforms Grab and Lalamove in their respective markets.

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Prioritizing User Retention Over Acquisition

The changes they introduced impacted different areas of their business. They found that they had to reallocate available resources to ensure maximum efficiency. Their marketing budgets were cut, which meant that they had to choose which to prioritize — user acquisition or retention.

“With strict marketing budgets, we faced the challenge of acquiring new users across geographies. At the same time, retaining existing users and reducing churn became even more important,” notes Natarajan.

It was at this critical juncture that they realized they needed to focus more on understanding user behavior. But, the mobile marketing partner they were using could not provide real-time analytics. Without an ability to truly understand what drives their users at any time, how could the team successfully engage those users? They needed a holistic platform with robust analytics that would improve user retention, which led them to choose CleverTap.

And it was this ability to leverage data-driven engagement that helped the company remain relevant to users even at a time when restaurant dining was out of the question.

Building Successful Relationships With Omnichannel Engagement

Successful retention begins with successful user onboarding.

“We’ve meticulously crafted an onboarding journey on CleverTap where we avoid overwhelming new users with too many promotions, but rather focus on educating them about the different services and benefits provided by Eatigo,” Natarajan explains.

The onboarding journey runs over 15 days, with educational push notifications sent to users every two days. The series of messages focus on informing users about different services provided, interesting features on the app to easily identify nearby restaurants for dine-in and take-out options. At the end of 15 days, these new customers are added to the regular segment of users and they start receiving promotional messages.

Mahima’s team executes three types of omnichannel campaigns: promotional/seasonal, transactional, and loyalty-based.

Promotional campaigns provide compelling offers to users during special occasions across geographies, be it Hari Raya in Singapore or Idul Fitri in Indonesia. “For women’s day, we partnered with merchants to offer an all-day 50% discount to users. Similarly, for Ramadan in Malaysia and Indonesia, we teamed up with merchants in those regions to create festive mechanics to drive engagement,” Natarajan adds.

Eatigo creates loyalty campaigns based on the stage users are in the customer lifecycle. For example, long-term users receive higher incentives in comparison to new users. Currently, her team is working on creating a journey that will proactively reduce churn.

“Previously, our attempts at managing churn were quite reactive,” says Natarajan. “When a user churned, we attempted to reactivate them by offering a cash voucher. We weren’t very successful in getting the user back, and we ended up spending more money to acquire these users again. Needless to say, this wasn’t a profitable strategy.”

The marketing team also utilizes campaigns to cross-sell their take-out business to their users.

CleverTap’s omnichannel campaigns have boosted Eatigo’s retention and sticky quotient by 5.49% and 4.58% respectively.

Perfect Targeting With Automated Segmentation and User Analytics

A combination of filters, event properties, and custom user properties form the basis of Eatigo’s segmentation model. The first level of segmentation is geographical: users are segregated based on the country and city in which they reside.

The next level is based on user engagement. “We look at users who’ve opened the app within the last 7 days or 30 days or have made a reservation in a specific period,” Natarajan says.

Finally, users are segmented based on their last-noted location. This is very helpful when they run location-based merchant campaigns.

A combination of past behavior, live segmentation and predictive intent-based segmentation helps them target the customer with relevant campaigns that boost retention and customer lifetime value (CLTV).

Messaging frequency is driven by usage data. If a user frequently opens the app or taps on push notifications, then the user receives more notifications.

“We determine the push frequency based on the user’s tolerance,” Natarajan explains. “A loyal user would be receptive to receiving daily deals. While another user might only want to receive two notifications per week. But, if a user isn’t responsive to our messaging at all and hasn’t launched the app in a while, we reduce our messaging to a minimum, respecting the user’s behavior.”

They perform ad-hoc analysis using funnels to understand how a particular market is performing. Funnels help Natarajan to generate quick insights that she can share with the senior management.

Which Will You Choose: Pivot or Perish?

The COVID-19 pandemic is undoubtedly one of the biggest challenges the world has seen in decades. Individuals and organizations worldwide are still reeling from the massive disruptions brought about by the crisis. Eatigo’s story has taught us that even during such disruptive times, organizations that are able to pivot will be better positioned to survive.

Another important area that mobile marketers need to focus on is user retention. User acquisition is important, but without retention, it’s meaningless. Focusing on retention helps them bullet-proof their business. We’re proud to partner with Eatigo and power their efforts to navigate their challenges and retain users.

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