Once upon a time we added digital to stone age marketing methods, and all the data we collected was siloed, separate, and hard to integrate into our Flintstones-era TV numbers, our snail mailer response rates, and our dead-tree magazine ads.
Now, the challenge is integrating data from your mobile app users — who are increasingly just your users — into the entire customer journey online, offline, and in your customer records.
“Everything that happens in your app is one step in the customer journey,” Localytics CEO Raj Aggarwal told me this week. “Profiles takes all of that data we’re learning and feeds it back to our customers so they can combine it into a central repository … including combining it with their offline data.”
A number of vendors in the traditional marketing automation space, which generally focuses on web, email, and social data, are reaching out to include app information in their universe of data. Adobe Marketing Cloud, Salesforce, and IBM’s Silverpop come to mind. And there are a probably 15 mobile analytics companies building engagement and marketing solutions specifically for mobile apps — essentially in-app marketing automation.
But this is the first solution I’ve seen from a mobile-first analytics vendor that helps brands and larger companies with significant customer interaction both inside apps and out of apps, in the larger world of web, CRM, third-party, and offline data.
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Aggarwal started the 130-person, Boston-based Localytics about five years ago after working directly with Steve Jobs on the launch of the original iPhone and with Disney, launching its Japanese properties. He and his co-founders were building mobile apps when they ran into problems: getting good data on how their apps were being used. With a founding partner who built Microsoft’s desktop app analytics system, he set out to build “the world’s most powerful app analytics platform” — one that eBay, ESPN, the NY Times, and SoundCloud use today.
Then, for the last two years, Localytics has been building a marketing platform on top of that analytics system.
“It’s a closed-loop analytics and marketing system,” Aggarwal says. “By combining the analytics and the marketing we can measure the impact of every user action … and give marketers and product managers the knobs to do more of what’s working and less of what’s not.”
The data that Profiles collects allows you to slice and dice your users, finding those who are most likely to churn, for example, most likely to buy, or what will appeal most to different segments. That’s basically table stakes in the emerging in-app marketing automation space. Where Profiles goes farther than other solutions that I’ve seen is in allowing marketers to enrich that app data with customer data and third-party data, such as data from companies like Axciom or BlueKai. More interesting yet, Profiles allows you to take back all your in-app data and layer it into your CRM, your marketing automation system, and your website experience software, so that companies can truly map the customer experience from web to mobile to in-store to phone to … whatever other touch points you might have.
Of course, challenges remain. One of the biggest is app anonymity.
“It’s easy when you know stuff about your users, such as their email address,” Aggarwal agrees. “But most apps have anonymous users … the challenge is that you may not be able to bring together other channels. But that does not stop you from gaining insight, and then using that insight to still deliver personalized and targeted campaigns to them.”
That’s of course something you can work to solve via offers, via customized content or experiences tied to a user account, by social logins, or by other data-based tracking technologies. And then you can build in interesting — and profitable — technologies such as iBeacon awareness and location-based marketing.
If you’re sensing a trend here around companies that aren’t just an app, you’re right. I asked Aggarwal if this was primarily for mobile-first companies (like an AppBoy or Nudge might be) or if it was for mobile-and companies. The answer is very definitely the latter.
“Typically when you’re an early stage start-up, you vet your concept, and mobile-only might do the job for you,” he said. “But if you’re a fast-scaling startup or a brand, you’re going to go beyond apps … you’re going to connect with users in different ways: offline, or certainly the web. And it’s essential that they get a cross-platform view of the customer, not just a siloed view in an app.”
In other words, Supercell and Kabam should look elsewhere. But if you’re Pepsi, or American Airlines, an in-app marketing automation that embraces the entire customer journey makes a ton of sense.
There are some parts and pieces that Localytics has yet to build.
It can’t yet retarget your app users on the web or in other apps for a retention or win-back campaign via built-in functionality, although that is coming. And it does not yet allow you to modify your app’s actual behavior and user experience — in addition to content and messaging — to the degree that a live ops platform such as Nudge might. That too, is on the horizon, Aggarwal says, and some beta customers are doing it today via structured JSON messages which tell an app what to do next based on customer journey and other considerations.
But it is a very intriguing entrant in the entire customer journey discussion where it hits mobile. And it’s built on what Aggarwal says is the deepest and richest app analytics engine available.