How to use marketing automation tools to increase app engagement?

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Mikołaj Saik
How to use marketing automation tools to increase app engagement?

Do you strive to provide a more personalised experience to your customers? Do you want to launch a new mobile application or improve an existing one to achieve greater user engagement? Or maybe you’d like to be closer to customers than your competitors are? No matter the exact goal, the answer to all those questions is to leverage personalisation based on good usage of marketing automation (MA) tools. 

The research shows that 63% of surveyed consumers are highly annoyed by the way brands continue to rely on the old-fashioned strategy of sending generic ad messages repeatedly. To make sure it’s not the case when it comes to your marketing efforts, you should implement proper tools to help you improve and personalise communication with customers. 

In this article, we will highlight the systems and features you can use to boost customer engagement, along with the ways to implement them properly. We’ll also take a closer look at the most popular mobile marketing automation tools to make it easier for you to choose the best ones for your needs. 

How to build an engaging customer experience with a mobile app

Customising, measuring and analysing marketing activities can be extremely problematic for marketers. Oftentimes, they simply don’t have the right tools at their disposal. When they do, however, they have to rely on service providers - as developing their own, dedicated software and solutions is very complex and expensive. 

In order to build an engaging experience, though, there’s often a need to leverage multiple tools that have to be integrated - not only with one another but also with transaction processing systems, e-commerce solutions, and many other services. All of those should be connected within the app to provide the users with a coherent, omnichannel experience. Check below how the simplified architecture of such a system looks like.

As a result, the marketing leaders tend to choose powerful mobile or omnichannel marketing platforms offering mobile-specific analytics, automation and segmentation tools. This way, they can leverage two important tactics that can boost customer engagement:

Personalisation

Personalisation means tailoring the communication to a specific audience, which requires collecting information on your customers and getting to know them first. Since increasingly more businesses decide to use the available technology and data to their advantage, marketers can leverage both personalisation & marketing automation in their efforts. And rightly so.  

According to Harvard Business Review, personalisation can reduce acquisition costs by as much as 50 per cent, lift revenue by 5 to 15 per cent, and increase the efficiency of marketing spend by 10 to 30 per cent. These are remarkable numbers that no one should pass by indifferently.

Personalisation can be used in various ways across marketing activities, but when it comes to mobile apps - there are a few aspects of it worth mentioning in particular: 

  • Geolocalisation - since it helps to collect user data regarding places they visit, their habits, and time spent on different activities, it proves to be extremely helpful when it comes to personalisation based on location,

  • Data analytics and segmentation - with mobile apps, marketers can not only leverage data on user location but also their behaviour and purchase history, as an example. This way, they can distinguish different groups of customers to tailor communication to their needs, 

  • Content creation & distribution - marketing automation tools help to create and deliver the best possible marketing content to the right groups of app users,

  • Push notifications - messages sent by the application that appear on the screen automatically, which makes them hard to be overlooked by the users,

  • Omnichannel experience - when used across the channels, personalisation can truly make a difference in terms of marketing efforts. It’s crucial to provide coherent and valuable content everywhere, no matter the channel. This way, you can provide your customers with an omnichannel experience and boost their engagement once you’re at it,

  • Retargeting - retargeting potential customers is a powerful marketing tactic that also takes advantage of customer data. In essence, it makes it possible to show relevant ads to your target group (i.e. with products similar to those that the customer was already looking for). The more relevant and personalised the message is, the better.

User loyalty

Let’s assume that thanks to a well-executed marketing campaign (based on personalised communication and marketing automation), you’ve attracted a considerable group of customers. What is the most popular scenario? They will choose your product once, maybe twice if you’re lucky - but as soon as they find out that your competitor offers better prices or quality, they will churn. Your customers are not loyal to your brand (yet), which is why it’s not that easy to increase market share. 

If you truly want to see the influence of brand loyalty in action, take a look at the most popular brands like Apple or Nike. It’s no secret that they bring lots of profit from their brand loyalty, and they don’t even have to boost it much with dedicated loyalty programs anymore. Still, a customer loyalty program is a great start if you want to improve retention. Since it costs 5 times more to acquire a new customer than it does to retain an old one - it shouldn’t be surprising that many companies are willing to invest in customer reward programs, especially mobile ones. Why are they so valuable? The main reasons could be cost-effectiveness, ability to attract and retain more customers, and to merge their online and offline activities. 

As a matter of fact, the demand for loyalty programs seems to be growing. According to the “State of Marketing” research report released by Salesforce, the use of customer loyalty program platforms will probably grow by 80% in the next two years. 63% of high-performing marketers are already using loyalty program platforms, one way or the other. What’s interesting in particular, though, is that 75% of consumers would engage more with loyalty programs that offer mobile-friendly rewards. 

To give you an example: żappka, a mobile application of the biggest convenience store network in Central and Eastern Europe created by Future Mind, offers plenty of features aimed at boosting customer loyalty and engagement. Users can collect points (żappsy) while shopping with the app, and exchange them for products offered by the shop. The app has been a great success - it’s one of the most popular applications on Google Play and App Store in Poland, which might be partly due to the well-executed customer loyalty program.

The question remains, though: How personalisation and loyalty can be achieved with the use of marketing automation tools? 

Marketing automation in practice 

Push notifications 

Push notifications are simply automated messages sent by an application, that can reach the target user anywhere and anytime - even when the app is not being used. Clicking on them, though, will open the app that sent them in the first place.

In general, push notifications tend to be shorter than regular messages. It’s mostly because their click rate depends on their length - the research shows that the fewer the words, the better (as you can see below). In fact, the open rate of push notifications is said to be higher than emails. 

Source: https://info.localytics.com/blog/ideal-push-message-length

This doesn’t change the fact that push notifications should contain a relevant message - inform the customer about the available reward, discount or new product, for example. Such information can be conveyed with text or picture, but no matter its purpose still remains the same: to grab the attention of the user and encourage him or her to click on the notification.

By using push notifications properly, you’re actually having another valuable touchpoint with your customers at your disposal. The only issue here is that many users choose to block the notifications during the app installation. It’s mostly because such notifications might easily be seen as “spammy” and irrelevant for the users - which is why you should make sure you make good use of them. Thanks to machine learning and geolocalisation, for example. 

Basically, successful apps send notifications which are somehow personalised and tailored to the users’ behaviour - based on the search & purchase history or location, just to name a few. 

User segmentation and analytics

When it comes to customer segmentation, there are often 4 main categories on the basis of which customers are divided: demographic, geographical, psychographic and behavioural traits. In mobile marketing, all of these categories are commonly used. 

It’s mostly because mobile applications have the ability to collect information about the users, allowing you to take advantage of it later. The user data might vary - from places that users visit (thanks to geolocation) to their behaviour - specific time when they research products or their purchase history, for instance. 

With this kind of information, marketers have the opportunity to tailor communication to certain users. This way, they can easily send more personalised messages to attract new customers or reward the most loyal ones - which is beneficial for those users as well. Actually, according to Salesforce, 62% of consumers say that it’s acceptable for companies to send personalised offers and discounts based on items they’ve already purchased. 

The main point here is to target the users in the right way - by segmenting them into groups of customers that might need a different marketing approach, offers, or discounts. How is this possible? Thanks to a well-developed analytics module within the app. 

The available data paired with proper analytics enables marketers to figure out the best content and the exact moment when a message should be the most relevant to a consumer. This includes specific offers, discounts and deals that might apply only to certain app users, based on their recent activity and location. Keep in mind that customers receive between 300 and 3000 marketing messages a day. In such circumstances, only a few of these messages are going to stand out and make an impression on them.

That’s precisely why it doesn’t make sense to waste resources on sending mediocre and generic messages. Instead, you should do your homework and provide only the best possible content for every single person - based on the data that you have at your disposal. 

In fact, data collected via the mobile application or your website should be processed by a proper tool, enabling you to see the charts, diagrams and timetables with live statistics and results of their marketing actions.

Omnichannel

When customer segmentation and analytics are already covered, it’s time to actually start communicating. But which channel should you choose? Since we live in the age of multi-screening, marketers don’t even have to limit themselves. Mobile channel is the future of communication - but it doesn’t mean that there’s no point in leveraging omnichannel solutions. In fact, with all this data at your disposal, you can easily send personalised messages across multiple channels.

With omnichannel platforms, you can have all your communication in one place - including push notifications, chats, emails, text messages, web messages and ads, social media content,and many more. Apart from keeping all your messages in one place, such tools also help you to create actual campaigns and marketing assets, and send them to the selected customers at the most appropriate time and amount. 

Omnichannel platforms also offer advanced analytics, to track the results of your campaigns. The main goal is to make the marketing efforts easier and more data-driven while providing the customer with the full omnichannel experience of the brand and its products or services.

Good examples of companies that benefit from providing a great omnichannel experience for their users are definitely Starbucks, Disney and Sephora, where all mobile, mail and web ads are well-thought-out, personalised and coherent.

Customer loyalty program 

Speaking of Starbucks - apart from providing personalised and omnichannel experiences to their customers, the brand offers a customer loyalty program on top of that. 

How does it work? Every time a loyal customer pays for coffee with a Starbucks card (via a physical one or on their mobile device), they collect reward points. The users can keep track of their points with the app, and exchange them for free coffee when they have a certain amount of them. This loyalty scheme has existed for more than 10 years and has more than 16,3 million active members

There are plenty of programs like this, but not all of them are that well-designed and successful. To see the best examples and practices, have a look at our article: “Retail Loyalty Programs: The Definitive Guide”

One thing is certain, though - the best loyalty programs are mobile-friendly. Here are some results from the Codebroker’s “2018 Loyalty Program Consume Survey” :

How to develop a good loyalty scheme, then? All you have to do is to create a proper customer experience. Essentially, users should be provided with a set of important features that are obligatory for a good mobile loyalty program - and you should be able to leverage them with a dedicated loyalty management software. These include: 

  • Points system. Users should be able to gain points for their actions. To give you a few examples: they can be rewarded for purchases, the amount spent, or specific actions they perform - such as ordering via the app or “unlocking” certain features. These points can be later exchanged for products, discounts, or upgrades. In fact, a point system can also introduce gamification to the overall experience - i.e. allowing the users to compete with their friends or obtain a “Super Customer” badge. It’s up to you to set the rules for every action and transaction and decide how many points the users will get. Every new possibility to gain points encourages customers to engage more with the loyalty program.  

  • Tiered rewards. This solution is often a good enough incentive for customers to spend more in order to get more points and access better rewards. It also makes it easier for the brand to segment the customers based on the tiers they’re at.  

  • Special rewards or events. Offering attractive rewards that are relevant to your customers can easily contribute to valuable customer experience. They can either be personalised or customisable, as well as form part of a series of special products that can be collected by the most loyal customers. Not to mention that loyalty programs also make it possible to run reward campaigns, aimed at boosting sales (i.e. “Only this week: Buy 5 products and get a special reward!”).

  • Integration of all channels - both online and offline. It is important for the users to have the omnichannel experience, which is why all points should be collected automatically, no matter if they shop offline, online, or through the mobile app. It is also important to promote the mobile channel across all the others and maintain a consistent user database. 

How to choose the right marketing automation tools for your business, then?

There’s no doubt that taking advantage of marketing automation can be beneficial for your customers and your business. The good news is: there are dedicated tools that can help you leverage marketing automation. In order to choose one that suits your needs best, though, you need to establish a few things first:

  • Channels you’re planning to use. There are many to choose from, such as mobile, email, SMS, web, and social. In general, the more channels your company takes advantage of, the more effective your marketing efforts are - provided that you offer an omnichannel and consistent experience. On the other hand, you should also figure out which channels allow you to reach your target audience best and focus on them in the first place.

  • Industry - different market segments require appropriate actions tailored to them. Basically, each industry has its own specificity and needs - for example, push notifications are one of the most important features for retail apps, while a customer loyalty module is not exactly needed for a bank application.

  • Features - the needed functionality depends not only on the market segment but also on your customers and their needs. That’s precisely why you should get familiar with your target audience first - what kind of customers you have, which channels they prefer using, and what kind of marketing messages and activities would attract their attention. For example, if your customers are rarely getting back to your physical stores, it might be a good idea to implement a customer loyalty program and encourage them to do so.  

  • Quantitative data - implemented solutions should be data-driven in the first place, but also generate a significant amount of relevant data on top of that. Start with your reach: how many contacts do you have in your base, how often do you stay in touch with them and how do you want this communication to look like in the future (with push notifications, emails, etc.). If you’re planning to expand, you should also make sure that your tool can help your business grow (also internationally, if needed). It’s worth keeping in mind that the pricing is likely to change with the number of contacts in your database and the number of messages you send out. 

  • Ease of implementation and integration - when it comes to mobile applications, the key is a Software Development Kit (SDK). It provides a set of tools, documentation, code samples, and guides that allow developers to create software on a specific platform - in this case on mobile. The service providers should be aware of what platforms do you plan to integrate, how easy the integrations are to set up in order to collect and sync data from multiple sources (such as POS, e-commerce and other transaction processing systems), and what developer skills are going to be needed throughout the process. This is also important for estimating the time needed for the actual implementation and integration of all required systems. In many cases, MA vendors offer ready-made integrations that can be leveraged in just a few clicks.

  • Timeline - speaking of time estimates, a process of implementing marketing automation tools can consume a lot of time and resources, which is why it should be well-planned. In the planning process, you should take into account the margin for possible delays, in case the developers need more time to get familiar with a new API / SDK, for example.

Marketing automation and loyalty tools to choose from

Once you have your needs covered, it’s time to look for specific tools to meet them. There are many service providers that claim to offer “everything you need”. As a result, they are often positioning themselves as platforms that support audience targeting, campaign scheduling, personalisation and performance measurement, omnichannel marketing, push notifications and messaging, loyalty and engagement boosts, and many more.

With such a high number of available solutions and their providers, it is easy to get lost. To make it easier for you, we took a closer look at the most interesting tools to choose from. 

Emarsys

Emarsys was recently named as a market leader by The Forrester Wave™: Cross-Channel Campaign Management (Independent Platforms), Q4 2019 Report. Emarsys specialises in cross channel ecosystem solutions based on advanced technology, and provides very good product support and analytics on top of that. The Emarsys Marketing Platform also offers good data management and campaign automation, along with AI-based campaign recommendation for marketers.

Emarsys has collaborated with brands like Runastic, Brand Alley, Char-Broil, or Nike, which should be a good enough reason to give it a try. As one of the most popular and comprehensive platforms, it’s been recommended for all companies with substantial budgets and aspirations, especially from the retail and ecommerce segment. 

Iterable

Iterable’s goal is to boost customer engagement at scale. It’s a strong performer with a focus on mobile, allowing to manage other channels at the same time. Plus, it makes it possible to take a data-driven approach and leverage many customisation options for messaging customers across the channels. 

The Iterable’s team has worked with companies from different industries - especially health and wellness, hospitality and retail. They also cooperate with other vendors to provide i.e. online campaigns on top of their offer. On the other hand, though, their product is “fixed” - there’s not a lot of ways to customise it. Still, when it comes to marketing automation tools - higher customisation often means much higher costs. 

Synerise

Synerise is a strong Central European player and one of the most successful startups in this region. What’s worth mentioning, in particular, is their cooperation with Microsoft on implementing cloud solutions. When it comes to marketing solutions specifically, though, they specialise in deep data analytics. Based on that, they offer personalisation, cross-channel integrated promotion, and loyalty programs as well. They have also cooperated in the project mentioned earlier: żappka application for Żabka Polska retail chain.

Swrve

Swrve is known for providing comprehensive mobile support and experience for marketers. According to the report by Gartner, Swrve is considered as the leader in the mobile market. It’s providing tools for real-time and cross-channel communication with customers based on deep analytics. What’s more, it’s been working on developing behavioural observations of the user to offer the best possible targeting. The service is also a good solution for customer engagement and churn management, as well as customer retention. On the other hand, its users are complaining about dashboard limitations and not a very customer-friendly pricing model.

Airship

Airship is praised for its efficient push and in-app messaging features. Their platform is highly customizable so it can be connected to, for example, the Internet of Things network. Their analytics and targeting are also advanced, and based on AI and ML technologies. In fact, their analytics segment has been rated 5/5 by the Forrester Wave. They have successfully cooperated with brands like Gamestop, Adidas or Vodafone, even though its customers seem to be complaining about the pricing sometimes.

Cheetah Digital

The Cheetah Digital Customer Engagement Suite offers a set of tools boosting the user engagement and providing multichannel personalised communication through for example mobile apps and SMS. Their main product is aimed at customer engagement, data collection and cross-channel messaging.

Their Loyalty segment, on the other hand, is one of the most developed and consistent in the market. They offer lots of features ensuring the best customer journey. These are, for example, points, loyalty tiers, privacy protection, exclusive rewards and personalised offers, just to name a few. The goal of the Cheetah Digital is to establish an emotional connection between the brand and the customer. Given the number of satisfied customers, they have been doing a good job.

To sum up, we have created a table with the most important features of the described platforms.

Conclusion

It’s no secret that mobile applications become increasingly important for every business out there. Increasing mobile app engagement and loyalty, though, seems to be challenging for many. Fortunately, there are plenty of marketing automation & loyalty tools that can help you face this challenge - and the ones we’ve analysed are definitely worth considering.

We are convinced that the concepts of customer engagement and personalisation across the channels, especially in the mobile realm, are the future of marketing. The future which is already among us and knocks to our doors. The earlier you leverage them, the more competitive advantage you will gain. If you need any assistance once you’re at it, just let us know - we can make it work.

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Mikołaj Saik

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