How have the latest privacy updates (led by Apple) impacted consumers, and in turn, customer engagement strategies for brand marketers?
Apple’s recently announced changes are a huge win for consumer privacy. Along with Apple’s privacy nutrition labels for iOS apps, new permissions for tracking introduced in iOS 14, consumers now have even more transparency and control over how their data is used with iOS 15.
It is a critical time to reassess customer engagement strategies and become even smarter in getting to know your customers better through direct interactions across apps, websites, and messaging channels. To state the obvious, more user-centric iPhone controls mean more opportunities for customers to shut down brands that aren’t meeting their needs.
The changes to tracking highlights the importance for marketers to be even more sophisticated to ensure they are sending timely and relevant messages and leverage first-party and zero-party data as intelligently as possible — third-party data will only get more scarce. Marketers also should not forget the opportunities for transactional messaging that streamlines and enhances customers’ experiences.
It is also crucial to re-evaluate in-app messaging strategies for engagement while ensuring preference centres are in place to let customers choose what information they would like to receive. Marketers can best prepare for this new era of customer-first marketing by continually optimizing app onboardings, opt-in prompts, customer journeys and messages themselves, finely tuning executions with ongoing A/B or multivariate testing.
Mobile app usage soared during lockdown – what strategies can brands use to retain and strengthen engagement post-pandemic?
Indeed, we have seen usage soar and it is likely to continue post lockdown. The pandemic increased global mobile app audiences by 31% — nearly twice the growth of the year prior — as more customers than ever now rely on their mobiles when shopping or simplifying their lives. This “mobile advantage” that consumers are embracing is easily lost if brands do not invest in retaining users. Our data across thousands of apps shows that 78% of users will churn in the first week after installing an app if brands do not have an engagement strategy. And that simply means they will go to competition.
Airship provides a SaaS platform to help businesses more easily engage mobile audiences by responding to their latest context and behaviours with highly relevant, in-the-moment experiences orchestrated across push notifications, in-app messaging, SMS, email and more. A proper retention strategy requires brands lean heavily into optimizing onboarding experiences, app tours, opt-in prompts and critical customer journeys in order to grow conversions and lifetime value.
Sending a customer the right offer at the right time and through their preferred channel is the holy grail, as that drives them back into the app where subsequent behaviours and automation fuel a virtuous cycle of continuous individualized engagement. And if you’re unsure what the right time, offer or channel is — and you don’t have analytics or machine learning to tell you — the most important thing to do is to ask your customers what they want and adapt your communications and offers accordingly.
I would also add that brands should welcome customers combining mobile activities and in-store experience to make it their vital shopping companion. The Home Depot is a great example of a brand focused on a mobile-first approach to in-store shopping. Its app includes key features such as an in-store mode providing shoppers with a store map that specifies the aisle and bay number, as well as stock status, of items in a shopping list or a search result. This is a great example of how mobile usage can help remove friction and streamline customers’ in-store experiences.
How should brands adapt strategy for customer engagement for the rest of this year and into 2022? What trends do you see coming to the forefront?
One trend to be aware of is that the rollout of 5G and the increase of bandwidth will make it even richer for users to experience mobile services.
Previous increases in the speed of connection have led to a rise in digital usage. The difference between 4G and 5G may not be as dramatic as from 3G to 4G or RTC to broadband, but it will have an effect and brands need to be prepared for it. The mobile experience must become brands’ priority, as it will increasingly be the first point of contact between the consumer and a brand.
So how do we make the mobile experience better? We can invest more to optimise mobile apps and mobile websites and innovate features that are still lacking. I’m also a big believer in artificial intelligence. AI can enhance the mobile browsing experience through suggestions, better messaging, and contextual quality of life improvements.
Tell us about a typical working day for you…
I wake up early at 6:30am – though since the first lockdown this sometimes slips back to 7am. I always start the day with exercise; I’ve recently adopted Tabata training, a form of high intensity aerobic exercise, which I’ve been doing every day since March 2020. Then I’ll spend 15 to 20 minutes on mindful reflection. This isn’t necessarily meditation, but more of a chance to think about my objectives and what I want to achieve.
When I start work, I will review my schedule, the company’s objectives and our yearly goals to set my priorities. I’ll then check my emails and Slack notifications. This is especially important, as being part of a global company means new information often comes in overnight.
I’m most productive in the mornings, so I keep this time clear to focus on specific tasks. The afternoon is usually taken up with internal meetings or speaking to clients. The afternoons are often busy – because of the time difference between the US and France, there is a lot of new information that comes in from around 4pm when the US team starts working.
I usually work long hours and it’s hard to predict when my day will end. Having started my career in investment banking, where people typically work very long days, as well as having co-founded and run my own businesses since 2000, I have taken the habit to work late into the night.
What is your perspective on managing a healthy work-life balance?
For me, the barrier between work and life has always been blurry. I’ve been an entrepreneur for 20 years and I’ve founded businesses with my closest friends. I’ve always felt a big commitment to work as best as I can for the sake of my companies and employees. At times it has felt like a moral dedication to work hard, and I’ve found it difficult to mentally separate work and life.
As a company, we recognise the importance of balancing work and life. The global teams are very considerate of our employees in different time zones. We’ve also implemented policies such as meeting-free days, when staff can focus deeply on their work. This has had a positive effect of reducing the overall number of meetings, as people now take the time to consider if a meeting is really necessary.
One piece of advice I have is to set a personal goal in addition to your work. Mine has been to exercise more, which has encouraged me to take part in more sports, go for walks during certain calls, and switch to a standing desk.
Your company Accengage was acquired by Airship in 2019 – what advice would you give business leaders when facing an acquisition?
The most important advice is to do your due diligence on the buyers. Evaluate and have in-depth discussions with the people you are going to work with.
Before Airship, I was involved in another acquisition with a different company, and that experience did not go so well. Without delving into detail, the performance of the buyer “surprisingly” plummeted shortly after our acquisition. In contrast, Airship consistently performs, is very transparent on its goals and challenges, and the management team were experienced and considerate.
It is crucial to do your research to have confidence in the acquiring management team and understand the expectations on both sides. Having a clear understanding of your individual and collective goals are key to success as the inflow of information can be quite overwhelming, and you need to keep track of the desired direction to be able to arbitrate between this or that meeting.
Once you’ve reached an agreement, communication aside, it is important to quickly set up training and integration processes, so the merger goes smoothly. In some cases, it might be good to facilitate the integration with external help if you think there might be friction. We didn’t see the need for this, as there was strong excitement to merge with Airship.
After the merger was announced, the whole of the European team went to visit Airship in Portland, Oregon. Events were organised so the teams could mingle and build personal rapport. This experience made a huge difference, as people understood who they were going to work with, report to, and how to get relevant information and it created an incredible atmosphere overall, with effects we still see to this day, more than two years later.