Engaging And Retaining Mobile Users: Why Data And Machine Learning Are Your Best Friends
With massive amounts of data at our fingertips, how do we make sense of it all? Columnist Josh Todd explains why the answer lies in advances in mobile and machine learning.
“Only the data-driven will survive.” That’s my new mantra for marketers.
As marketers, we know the keys to our continued success lie with data. However, our challenge is in moving beyond the vague platitudes designed to appease the corporate masses and toward an in-depth knowledge of customers that can inform decisions accurately and at scale.
Everyone is looking to marketers to show them the way — to lead with data — but we’ve still got a way to go before we can achieve that.
We all know there are mountains of data out there just waiting to be mined, but it’s those same masses of data that are contributing to the challenges facing today’s marketing leaders. To succeed, we must know not only where to start, but how to intelligently make sense of that data to push toward our business goals.
Do You Know Your Users?
As the CMO of Localytics, I recently surveyed companies for whom mobile was a critical part of their business. (As you can imagine, in the app marketing business, we run into a lot of them.)
In this study, 40 percent of our respondents reported being extremely satisfied with how well they know their users. Another 54 percent report being somewhat satisfied.
That means that 94 percent of those we spoke with were confident that they know their users — a number that surprised me, to say the least.
But companies today are rarely, if at all, looking at the full user lifecycle, which leads to a skewed perception of users. As we begin to rely more heavily on data to execute marketing campaigns, having a comprehensive understanding of those you’re trying to reach is paramount.
Yes, you may have an initial understanding of who your users are, but to truly understand them, you need to dive down enough to have a deep-level view of each customer and where they are in their journey with your company. Only then can you be confident that your hunches about your users are founded in fact.
The Role Of Machine Learning
While humans are amazing beings, the amount of information we can process is limited. We need machines to help sort the signal from the noise to unleash the power of marketing that people enjoy — the kind that adds the right value at the right time and improves the user’s experience.
Unlike human beings, machines can scale endlessly and identify correlations between customers and actions before they even happen. Through predictive techniques, you can tell when a customer might churn, make a purchase or fulfill any other fundamental event that your team has chosen to highlight, based on their profiles and the actions they have taken before.
Fulfilling The Data-Driven Mandate
Mobile, and, more specifically, apps, bring together several elements that have the potential to fulfill the data-driven mandate facing today’s marketers.
1. Through every interaction with an app, users are screaming out their personal preferences, interests and desires — this is truly big data delivered on the individual level.
2. Customer marketing channels (specifically, push messaging and in-app messaging) can be triggered directly from those interactions within the app, allowing decisions to be made in real time based on those customers’ individual traits.
3. Recent advances in machine learning can bring together the first two points in ways that auto-generate segments and match channels, creating an automated marketing environment. This can alleviate the challenges marketers face with churn and user retention — especially within apps.
Our own data has shown that 58 percent of users will churn in the first 30 days of using an app, and a startling 75 percent will leave within the first three months — a mind-blowing number for an app marketer trying to grow his or her business.
Segments and channels can be used to proactively reach each user, providing him or her with content or a notification at just the right time that may prevent them from leaving, even before they know they are going to.
Beware Data’s Unintended Consequences
However, despite the advances offered by mobile and machine learning, challenges remain. One of the most dangerous things that can happen to the data-driven marketer — especially in regard to mobile and apps — is focusing on discrete campaign results and missing the true impact of actions.
For example, if we see an increase in conversion or cross-sell, the tendency is to immediately want to push the test live or double down on the initiative. In many cases, that is the exact wrong thing to do.
You may be missing the unintended consequences of your actions and the downstream impact on key metrics like retention and lifetime value. The key is to see the whole picture and understand the ripple effects throughout the funnel.
It’s important to pause and make sure that your marketing campaigns are connected to user analytics. This is why campaign metrics and analytics in isolation often do more harm than good.
The future of machine learning in marketing is not science fiction; solutions exist today to help marketers improve the effectiveness of their efforts.
The critical piece is making sure that you are thinking about the entire customer lifecycle and not letting campaign metrics alone drive your decision, but instead focusing on the full impact on increasing lifetime value.
After all, it may just mean your survival as a marketer.