In the mobile-first ecosystem, we used to talk about users exclusively: acquiring them, understanding them, engaging them, and monetizing them. For most leading mobile-focused companies that has radically changed. Now, most are focused primarily — whether they realize it or not — on customers.
Mobile customers are “users” with two specific characteristics:
- they derive specific value from what a mobile publisher offers
- they provide significant value back to that mobile publisher
This means that user-acquisition campaigns, which used to be all about quantity — the numbers of app installs you could drive — have become customer acquisition campaigns, which are all about quality and the value of new users. That changes how mobile publishers advertise, and it changes what data they feed back to their ad partners.
I asked Raj Aggarwal, CEO of Boston-based app marketing company Localytics, what this means.
Koetsier: Almost no-one buys mobile users anymore. Instead, mobile marketers build campaigns for customers … users who go beyond the install. What percentage of your mobile-first clients send in-app events to you to help you target the right kinds of people for their apps?
Aggarwal: One hundred percent; it’s the absolute core of who we are and what we do at Localytics. Our whole reason for existing is around connecting the data to the engagement. We encourage our customers not to do any blast-based engagement, it should all be based on the context that you have about the user and what they are doing. That comes from in-app events and other in-app data.
Koetsier: Non-mobile first companies are slower to do this, although I’ve talked to some CMOs in very traditional industries who are very advanced. What do you think the percentage of non-mobile first companies doing similar things is? Why?
Aggarwal: I can’t guess at the percentage, but I think that the reason a lot of them don’t is two-fold.
First, a lot of the non-mobile first companies are less mature in their path to mobile. It’s with maturity that you start to better utilize your data to roll out more personalized, contextual and relevant engagement.
Second, many of these types of companies are ones that put a lot of focus on other channels. For them it’s somewhat of a greater challenge because they have to figure out what is going on in the mobile channel. They haven’t learned how to connect it to non-mobile data to get the full perspective so they are still in the dark. There used to be a belief among these types of companies that it would all eventually coalesce into one platform — but mobile has become so different that they’ve had to readjust to put that at the front of their marketing strategy.
Koetsier: Recently, messaging and bots have been huge. Strategically, this is great for messaging platform owners, who are trying to become the new app stores and the new gatekeepers … perhaps. Thoughts?
Aggarwal: Chatbots and voice activated systems are essentially just an extension of apps. It’s another endpoint by which to communicate and interact with the user.
For marketers and companies trying to engage with users — whether through messaging or bots — having the appropriate context around the user and their actions and leveraging that to improve communication with users is paramount, no matter what the platform is. So yes, chatbots will become relevant for some kinds of companies. And yes, there will be new gatekeepers and app stores.
But in the end, it’s just a matter of being where your user wants you to be and engaging with them based on the context that you have.
Koetsier: Interestingly, Pokémon GO has reminded us that apps not only are still alive, but kicking, and can drive huge usage, huge adoption, huge change, and huge revenue almost overnight, given the right confluence of factors. Agree?
Aggarwal: Absolutely. I believe that mobile is still relatively untapped – Pokémon GO showed us that. It was one of the top apps in recent memory to really tap into that potential, utilizing all aspects of mobile: location, camera, etc.
I think we’ll see more apps take off as app publishers figure out how to take advantage of everything mobile has to offer. The list of use cases (logistics/transportation, healthcare, and restaurants to name a few) that we haven’t quite figured out is huge — we’re only at the surface of what is possible.
Koetsier: What are the factors that have led to the massive engagement numbers that we’ve seen from Pokémon GO … engagement that beats Facebook, until now perhaps the stickiest app ever?
Aggarwal: Pokémon GO has been a breakout success because it allows you to gamify your life. It connects your digital world to your real world in a new and awesome way that few apps have been able to before.
To me, that is fundamentally what mobile is all about.
It’s probably not going to beat Facebook’s stickiness long term and it probably won’t maintain that level of mainstream popularity forever – but it’s amazing to see how it’s taken a hold in the cultural zeitgeist.
Koetsier: When you’re building marketing campaigns for apps and you’re looking for users that will engage, what factors are you looking for? Are there any that can be listed, briefly, or are they a confluence of dozens if not hundreds of factors that you really need a fairly big data automated approach to understanding?
Aggarwal: We don’t really think of it that way – I think that’s the wrong question to ask in today’s machine learning-driven world. When we are building marketing campaigns for apps, you aren’t really looking at specific factors about users that will drive engagement, but rather we are looking to do more of the things that drive the actions that we want. Part of that is a big data automated approach – it allows you to take action quickly and iterate continuously.
Koetsier: That’s kind of a comforting thought for publishers: they have more influence than they know on driving the actions that they want. Any other thoughts on apps and engagement?
Aggarwal: Over the past few months I’ve talked a lot about how I believe we are in a Mobile Engagement Crisis. This is because a lot of companies haven’t been able to innovate fast enough to keep pace with consumers’ and expectations. According to the latest data we have internally at Localytics, 23% of apps are only ever used once – that’s a scary number for someone involved in mobile marketing.
Many are making efforts to engage with users through mobile tools like push and in-app messaging, but are still getting it wrong. Our latest data shows that many mobile campaigns launched by retailers are actually driving customer retention down. I think we’ll start to see apps and businesses fail if they don’t drastically change their approach to meet and exceed consumers’ mobile expectations by engaging with them in personalized and contextual ways.