Customers do not often open brand emails — here’s how a Saudi retailer changed it


Today, we cannot talk about business competency without mentioning digitalization. In fact, many business leaders — regardless of the industry — will argue that digitalization and competency are two sides of the same coin at this juncture and for the foreseeable future. In inherently digital industries such as ecommerce, this notion is uncontested. Ecommerce, as an industry, is so ahead in the digitalization race that it is increasingly facing new, unique challenges. In the KSA ecommerce industry — which is projected to reach SAR 50 billion by 2025(1) — the challenges are no different but rather pronounced due to growing consumer awareness, brand competition, and high internet penetration. 

The average email open rate hovers between 10–15% in the Kingdom. In other words, retailers are finding it increasingly hard to incentivize customers to open emails and connect with the messaging. As a result, the message seldom serves the intended purpose, leading to an increase in, say, cart abandonment. The disengagement has multiple causal factors, including but not limited to complexities in segmentation and customer-journey mapping, a rise in customer acquisition costs, and a lack of real-time data to personalize communication across touchpoints. So, what are the implications for the industry if a brand increases its average open rate by 30% while reducing its cart abandonment rate by a whopping 68%? It means competitive edge and accompanying success. Most importantly, it has “how” written all over it. 

The HNAK story

A leading ecommerce vertical of the Al Musbah Group with 100+ stores across West Asia and 3,000+ sellers on its platform, HNAK exemplifies retail excellence. However, like its peers, HNAK is no outsider to some of the aforementioned challenges in the industry. The need to optimize its email and push communications for greater impact was not lost on the brand. Its search for a SaaS provider that specializes in customer retention and engagement led to WebEngage.

“WebEngage has been quite instrumental in boosting our growth metrics. Within six months of using WebEngage, we have witnessed a good jump in our email open rates. The email templates on the WebEngage dashboard also helped us reduce the number of human hours in designing the emails, enabling us to enhance our efficiency,” said Qutaibah Alsharif, Chief Executive Officer of HNAK, summarizing the objectives and how they were accomplished. 

As Qutaibah rightly notes, HNAK’s average open rates for newsletters rose to 27% — one of the highest numbers in the KSA ecommerce industry. The top-tier score also saw HNAK’s domain reputation through SES increase significantly. “With WebEngage, email campaign management became easy. This easy-to-use platform allowed us to efficiently manage email campaigns and cut down on manual efforts that usually go into personalization. We can now send hyper-personalized emails with the help of real-time user and behavioural data that can be accessed on WebEngage’s dashboard,” explained Arun Chinega, Head of Digital, HNAK.

Orchestrating effective email campaigns

The email campaign was predicated on a simple rationale: The individualism of humans, with each having distinctive preferences. So, based on the insight derived from interactions on the website and the app, shoppers were well segmented. Tailored emails with appropriate subject lines were sent to each audience segment, ensuring that they do not end up in spam folders. A drag-and-drop builder was used to create aesthetically pleasing, mobile-optimized emails — which helped increase click rates by over 40% compared to the simple HTML templates used earlier. There was little-to-no human intervention from either the design or tech team in developing aesthetic email templates. 

Insight-led customer journey design

No two customer journeys with a brand are similar. So, when designing customer journeys, a designer must factor in all possibilities and provision for each outcome. WebEngage’s designer used a mix of on-site notifications, push notifications and web push to engage customers at every turn while ensuring that the attempt to communicate does not result in disengagement. To that end, insights pertaining to appropriate waiting times for individual segments and certain stages were used in designing. Through their preferred channels, shoppers were engaged at various touchpoints in their journeys. The effective email campaign, combined with insight-led journey design, led to a quantifiable improvement across HNAK’s engagement metrics(2).

“WebEngage brought a holistic approach to our brand. There was dedicated teamwork in getting us the best of the platform. We have enjoyed a close relationship with the team at WebEngage, and we hope that they continue to bring us more features, more operational-level attributes, and help us build and grow the overall reputation of the domain,” opined Navodit Ravi, User Engagement and Retention Manager, HNAK.

In HNAK’s success story, the logical conclusion is that customers are more likely to engage with a brand if the messaging is hyper-personalized and meaningful. Effective customer engagement is the first step to building loyalty, which pays great dividends in the long run: Reduction in customer acquisition cost, more sales, and revenue boost. Such possibilities have great implications for the KSA’s, and the Middle East’s, ecommerce industry. It is also encouraging that the efforts to enhance competencies and efficiencies are on a rise among regional brands at a time when the KSA is gearing up to be a knowledge-based economy.  


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