Business challenge

To become the UAE's leading digital bank, Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank targeted one-to-one digital marketing capabilities—but siloed systems made reaching out based on unique customer preferences difficult.


The bank deployed a centralized platform for omni-channel customer engagement based on IBM Watson Campaign Automation, empowering it to share relevant content on each customer’s preferred channel.



personalized, compelling digital marketing at enterprise scale


time-to-market for campaigns, enabling more targeted outreach each month


of new business originates on the digital channel, supporting the bank’s growth

Business challenge story

Nurturing long-term loyalty

In the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the retail banking market is saturated—and for providers like Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank, driving growth often depends on inspiring existing customers to add new products and engage more frequently.

Usama Zafar, Head of Digital & Direct Marketing at Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank, begins: “In recent years, we’ve seen a dramatic increase in the penetration of mobile devices—and an associated rise in the number of customers visiting us from their tablets and smartphones. To capitalize on this trend, we aim to become the UAE’s leading digital bank by 2020.”

He continues: “As one of the largest retail banks in our region, we have an extensive client base. However, many of our customers were only using a handful of our services, and engaging with us intermittently—for example, to transfer money between their savings or checking accounts.”

To realize its 2020 vision, Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank knew that it would be vital to reach out to each customer with digital content, offers and incentives tailored to their unique needs and preferences—creating valuable up- and cross-selling opportunities.

“We were confident that reaching out with the right message for the right audience at the right time would help us to drive the levels of customer engagement we were aiming for,” says Usama Zafar. “In the past, we relied on separate systems and processes for email and SMS communications, which presented a number of challenges.

“Because we managed each channel separately, it was extremely difficult to enforce a consistent communications strategy, which increased the risk of over-contacting our customers by sharing multiple SMS and email messages on the same day. Similarly, the technical complexity of building customer segments meant we were for the most part limited to generic, catch-all campaigns. To solve the challenge, we looked for a way to transform our approach to digital engagement.”

Thanks to IBM Watson Campaign Automation, we’re inspiring more new and existing customers to engage with us—driving our growth.

Usama Zafar, Head of Digital & Direct Marketing, Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank

Transformation story

Delivering attention-grabbing offers

Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank selected IBM Watson Campaign Automation - a digital marketing platform that enables marketers to harness behavioral data to create, launch and measure the results of personalized omni-channel campaigns.

“Of all the solutions we considered, we felt that IBM Watson Campaign Automation offered us the optimal combination of flexibility and security,” explains Usama Zafar. “Like many leading banks, we store customer data in a range of complex back-end systems, including line-of-business application databases and marketing data warehouses. IBM was the only provider we evaluated who offered out-of-the-box integrations with the majority of our systems—giving us the confidence that we could deploy and start realizing the benefits of our solution quickly.”

He adds: “Security was also a crucial consideration, as we must ensure that sensitive customer data is handled according to our rigorous governance policies. IBM connected our information security division with the expert technical resources they needed to validate that the solution complied with our stringent requirements.”

Working together with IBM, Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank deployed IBM Watson Campaign Automation as its platform for digital engagement.

“We’ve collaborated with IBM on projects across many parts of our business over the years, and we’ve always found their teams to be responsive, skilled and professional,” comments Usama Zafar. “Our IBM Watson Campaign Automation deployment was no exception. IBM partnered with stakeholders from across our organization to ensure all our teams had the skills they needed to hit the ground running when we went live.”

Today, Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank has gained a 360-degree view of individual customer preferences based on their digital interactions with the brand—including its email, SMS, and online channels.

“In the past, a customer might have received and accepted one of our offers via SMS—only to receive the same offer again via email because we had no way to coordinate our approach,” says Usama Zafar. “Now, that’s all changed. We begin our marketing efforts by determining the best message to inspire each customer to engage, and then identify their preferred channel. By embracing a rules-based approach to customer communications, we’ve minimized the risk of over-contacting the audiences for our digital campaigns. Better still, we can automatically suppress an offer once a customer has accepted it, which helps to keep our communications fresh and relevant.”

Results story

Building growth year-on-year

With a consistent, analytics-driven approach to customer engagement underpinning its marketing efforts, Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank is driving toward its 2020 growth goal.

“All of our marketers are now working together to ensure we’re communicating with one voice,” comments Usama Zafar. “Crucially, we shape our campaigns based on each of our customers’ unique needs, preferences and past interactions with our brand—which means that our messages are more relevant than ever.

“For example, we can create a micro-segment of customers who have recently received pay increases. By further refining that group of customers based on their demographics, occupations and other factors, we can design campaigns to offer them a product they might not otherwise have considered, such as financing for a new car or a mortgage for their first home. Because we have full visibility of open, click-through and conversion rates for each customer, we can even re-target customers who haven’t seen an offer by sharing it with them again on another channel.”

He adds: “Similarly, IBM Watson Campaign Automation helps us avoid sending generic or irrelevant messages. This capability is particularly important for customers such as high-net-worth individuals, as it empowers us to nurture their loyalty with bespoke, high-value offerings such as wealth management.”

By consolidating its marketing operations to a single platform, Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank can shorten its time-to-market for new campaigns and track their performance with precision.

“The key to a successful marketing function is the ability to quickly learn and adapt based on what works and what doesn’t,” says Usama Zafar. “In the past, we were heavily reliant on manual, spreadsheet-based approaches to analytics, and we were unable to gain the depth of insight we needed to answer superficially simple questions such as: ‘what is the return on investment [ROI] on this campaign?’, or: ‘how many customers have converted on this offer compared to similar offers last year?’.

“Today, we can use IBM Watson Campaign Automation to drill down into the ROI of our current and past campaigns in a couple of clicks, and utilize capabilities such as A/B testing to optimize our campaigns in-flight.”

Usama Zafar comments: “The results we are seeing are extremely positive. We’ve boosted our conversion rates substantially, and today 20 percent of all our new business can be attributed to marketing on the digital channel. The trends we’re measuring show no signs of slowing down, and we predict that our digital outreach will account for 40 percent of all our new business by 2020: reducing the cost of customer acquisition and enhancing the customer experience with relevant offers.”

Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank is already planning for the future. The bank will soon drive push messaging for its mobile app via the IBM platform, and is exploring ways to enhance its environment with artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities.

“We’re increasingly seeing that customers prefer to engage via our mobile app rather than SMS messages, and the ability to add that channel to IBM Watson Campaign Automation will help ensure our push messages are just as relevant and compelling as our other communications,” concludes Usama Zafar.

“As we move toward 2020, we predict that AI capabilities from IBM will help us further reduce the manual intervention required to offer each of our customers a personalized experience. Thanks to IBM Watson Campaign Automation, we’re inspiring more new and existing customers to engage with us—driving our growth.”


Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank

Headquartered in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank delivers a comprehensive range of retail and corporate banking services in accordance with Shari'a principles. The Bank commenced commercial operations in November 1998, and was formally inaugurated by His Highness Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, UAE Minister of Information and Culture in April 1999.

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