Communicate spoke with Sandra Tinari, Head of Viya, to discuss the new luxury lifestyle rewards app's launch in these difficult times.
In this Covid-19 context, the hospitality industry has been hard hit. How has this impacted your business outcomes and how have you addressed this challenge?
With the Viya App, we have been very fortunate that a number of our businesses and partners on the app have done very well in recent months, as more residents stayed in Dubai over the summer rather than travel abroad. This is particularly the case with our partners that provide leisure and relaxation services in the Emirate. They have actually delivered a stronger performance than previous years since their re-opening pre-summer.
As a result, the launch of the Viya App has surpassed our expectations in terms of revenue and user growth. From my perspective, it's adjusting much more quickly to the unexpected demand and preparing for faster growth, including bringing additional development forward as well as ensuring that there are enough promotions and small scale events offered through the app that all our users can access.
The benefits of taking an app-based approach to business with Viya is that we were already COVID safe for our customers because of our [contact-free] features such as QR code menus, digital check-in, in-app billing, and payment capability.
Your business model focuses on activities that were most restricted by the crisis. How have you adjusted your business and communication strategy?
For the Viya App, [the focus] has really been more about keeping up with its growth. Our strategy has been to scale faster and ensure that the tech and our offers are robust. We've always been a digital-first marketing and communications team and I believe that this strategy and commitment to direct-to-consumer communication has paid off for us with our fast-paced growth and the outlets that we partner with. What I love with apps is that our Viya team can be a very small close-knit group that is immensely agile and responsive to changing market needs.
In a normal environment, hospitality is one of the industries that has moved to digital the fastest, with the launch of numerous apps and websites. How would you describe this landscape in the region?
Having worked in Australia, London, and across Europe, including with business partners in the USA, I've really noticed that in Dubai, we're really early adopters of technology in marketing and communications. The rise of technology has only expanded the influence of marketing and communication professionals in business.
What I love about Dubai and the hospitality industry is that we have the ability to move fast and launch new concepts quickly. We respond quickly to change and grasp opportunities with a commitment and zeal that reminds me of the Silicon Valley mindset. The landscape here is changing with the launch of more apps and websites which is great for consumers and outlets. It also means more competition and that existing apps and website players need to offer [better] pricing, services, and benefits.
How do you differentiate yourself from other similar services?
Viya is a luxury lifestyle app, backed by a strong loyalty proposition rather than discount culture. We want to use technology to get back to basics, to bring loyalty and relationships back to customers and the outlets that they frequently visit. [We want to bring it back] to the times when your local barista knew your name and how you take your coffee.
In our team meetings, this is a statement that constantly comes up and drives everything we do. With Viya we wanted to use technology and loyalty propositions to get to know each other better, to offer a more personalized service, to the benefit of both the customer and the outlet.
Is targeting residents your original strategy or are you refocusing on residents due to Covid? If it's your original strategy, what insights was it based on?
We've always been focused on doing more for local residents and Dubai brands. That's been the premise of the Viya App from the start. Dubai has an active, social population that wants to be able to experience the best of what the city offers more often, with easy booking and to be rewarded for their customer loyalty - in Viya rewards points and with invitations to exclusive events curated especially for our users.
This strategy originated from the success that we had last year with a golf booking app. We saw the vast potential audience that was out there, how they like to communicate with our brands directly if we offer opportunities and activations that resonate with them and also provide value. Brands and customers want these more personal relationships and loyalty - a back to basics service approach - and this previous app really reaffirmed our thinking on this approach. This is why we decided to build and launch a new, far more comprehensive loyalty app in Viya.