Wayfair, Spotify & Rue La La on Mobile App Acquisition, Personalization and Retention

Attending a networking event after a long work week might not be everyone’s idea of wild Thursday night. But, as a marketer that works for a company that’s sole purpose is to help enterprise brands create and deliver valuable experiences for their customers on mobile, I jumped at the opportunity to be in the same room as mobile experts from Wayfair, Spotify and Rue La La during a recent Mobile Growth meetup in Boston. 

Featured Panelists:

  • Michelle Parsons, Product, User Engagement and Personalization at Spotify
  • Ken Pickering, Director of Engineering at Rue La La
  • Dylan Chin, Senior Manager, Mobile App Marketing at Wayfair

The discussion lessons and best practices for app growth, including paid user acquisition, retention and engagement strategies. Below are the soundbites that I found the most interesting from the event.

Since 40% of app discovery happens in the App Store. What’s your most effective strategy to drive user acquisition outside of the App Store? 


Dylan Chin, Wayfair -
 App user acquisition has been a challenge for us at Wayfair since we’re not a mobile first company. We try to to surface the Wayfair app through all marketing touchpoints. New customers tend to make their first purchase on desktop or mobile web, then we funnel mobile web users into app at the right time. Customers are far more likely to download the Wayfair app when we offer valuable experiences that aren’t available on desktop such as our augmented reality app feature.

Ken Pickering, Rue La La - App users are our most valuable users. The ROI on our app is much greater. That’s our cadillac market! We pay to acquire users. For us, it’s about delivering value out of the gate and funneling users afterwards.

What kind of bad experiences have you had with mobile? What lessons did these experiences teach you?


Michelle Parsons, Spotify - At Spotify, our Discover Weekly feature helped us recognize that users tastes change over time. Just because you listen to Hamilton one day, doesn’t mean you want your discover weekly to be loaded with songs from the Hamilton soundtrack.

Ken Pickering, Rue La La - Failure comes with pre-conceived notions about what the customer wants. If you’re in the business-to-consumer market, you have to be data driven. Start small, test and learn. Personalization has had mixed feedback. When you fail it’s about collecting the data and learning from it. Focus on doing it better next time.

Dylan Chin, Wayfair - We were really excited to advertise our app by sending emails with promo codes. People love promo codes! It flopped. It didn’t even generate enough installs to cover costs. We quickly realized that we didn’t spend enough time on the email copy. You really have no idea what kind of creative will do well. Sometimes strange looking products seem to drive the most clicks, which proves that you don’t know the customer as well as you think you do. I’ve learned to design your tests in a way that gives you the best chance at achieving success.

There’s a lot of buzz around personalization. Is this a priority for you in 2018?


Michelle Parsons, Spotify - Personalization has become a buzzword. Delivering a personalized experience is the differentiating experience now. At Spotify, we tailor the user experience to the time of day, this is simple and doesn’t require a lot of machine learning.

User dashboards display energetic music recommendations in the morning and more relaxed music in the evening. The data we collect is used to improve the user experience. When a user types ‘Frank’, Spotify will suggest ‘Frank Ocean’ to those who listen to R&B, and ‘Frank Sinatra’ to those who listen to jazz or old school songs. When it comes to personalization, understand your metric and use small touch points to make it work.

Dylan Chin, Wayfair - The majority of people expect personalization. That is the new normal. When users open your app, they expect the content to be relevant. I expect all my apps to be personalized and tailored to me.

Ken Pickering, Rue La La - Ecommerce is pretty nuts these days with companies like Amazon. You can go down the commoditization route like Amazon, selling vacuum cleaners at the most competitive prices, or boutique where you have to go way deep on personalization. Either way, you have to offer something that’s impactful or meaningful to a user. You can invest in a crazy drone delivery system or ask yourself "how do I engage with people without hiring a bunch of people to engage with people?"

How do you retain the app users you work so hard to acquire?


Dylan Chin, Wayfair - You need to do both - acquire and retain. You must have strong unit economics for both strategies. If you focus solely on acquisition, user growth will sky rocket then flatten. Build retention by investing in an internal ad stack to build a marketing retargeting program.

At Wayfair, we have a thousand engineers serving ads as relevant as possible to customers. We make sure our push notifications are contextual and relevant. Recently, we reduced the number of push notifications sent to customers who have just completed an order. This reduced our unsubscribe rates by 30-40%. Whatever marketing touchpoints we’re using, we make sure our messaging is relevant as possible and avoid over-messaging our users.

Simply sending users an email that highlights the benefits of using the Wayfair app increases engagement significantly.

Michelle Parsons, Spotify - We leverage deep machine learning. We learn from users’ every interaction and model people’s behavior. At Spotify, we ask ourselves "how do we push more users down a funnel so they have more actions?"

What’s your most successful organic user growth strategy?


Michelle Parsons, Spotify - Staying abreast of competitors is part of the day to day at Spotify. We ask what is the market doing and what are competitors doing. It’s essential to staying competitive.

Ken Pickering, Rue La La - Ecommerce apps are pretty stale, they all have the same onboarding etc. To stand out in the space you need to leverage your targeting strategy to differentiate the experience. At Rue La La, we sell the value proposition of the app to mobile web/desktop users by saying "this feature is great, you should try it within the app."

Dylan Chin, Wayfair - App customers are our best customers. During a customer's initial site visit, we show the Wayfair app as placement where it’s most relevant. For example, when you complete a transaction on Wayfair.com, we’ll encourage you to install the app to get real time tracking.

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