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Experience-First Thinking: How Knowing Your Product and Your Customer Creates App Loyalty

Subharun Mukherjee 18+ years of experience leading product strategy, Go-To-Market (GTM), new market entry, value-based sales, analyst relations, and customer experience programs. Expertise in Financial Services, eCommerce, on-demand services, and the SaaS industry.
Experience-First Thinking: How Knowing Your Product and Your Customer Creates App Loyalty

Reams of research suggest a strong relationship between the quality of a mobile app experience and the customer’s opinion of the brand. A good mobile app experience is read as a clear indication of both an innovative and empathetic brand. By the same token, delivering a poor mobile app experience can do irreparable damage to your brand. Even worse, a sub-optimal experience can lead to consumers switching to a different brand altogether.
So, how can marketers create holistic customer experiences, accompanied by contextually relevant messaging, that delight the individual user at every step of the journey?  
Fortunately, the answer lies in much the same insights into which marketers already have visibility when they use data to better understand how users interact with an app. Marketers just need to view this data through what Vishal Anand, CleverTap’s Chief Product Officer, calls an ‘experience-first’ lens: “The job of data is to help you understand what’s going on in your product, what’s going on with your user, and what’s going on in the marketplace.” 
Appearing as a guest on the Reimagine Growth podcast series, Anand helps us connect the dots data provides. If we can distill the signals delivered by the product and the insights generated by marketing, these will help create the best practices for delivering an end-to-end experience that keep users engaged.

Why Product and Marketing Is Better Together 

But before we get to the benefits of creating a data-informed feedback loop between product and marketing, Anand says that the departments that are aligned to drive customer satisfaction and success need to do their homework.
It starts with understanding what makes your app amazing
As he puts it, “There’s a symbiotic relationship between the two [departments]. Marketing is telling the story of why the product is valuable, and Product is actually meeting that promise to the customer.”
This teamwork, he adds, requires both to tear down silos, democratize access to data, and get down to the business of “making connections” so everyone in the organization has what they need to ensure:

  • The product delivers a great experience because it works and meets user expectations set by all the other interactions and touchpoints, which range from above-the-line advertising to straight-from-the-heart brand storytelling.
  • The users can relate because marketing and messaging both reinforce the value proposition and go the extra mile to provide the right message and the right answers when users have a question or concern. 

In this scenario, data becomes what Anand calls the ‘connective tissue.’ It’s also an enabler because a grasp of behavioral data allows everyone to understand what the user does currently and develop a user journey that adapts to that individual behavior, while also ensuring the overall product is a crowd-pleaser.

Tapping Behavior Patterns to Power Better Marketing 

It’s important for product and marketing to draw from the data to deliver a great user experience. But, there’s a potentially greater opportunity when we shift our focus to understanding how app-usage patterns can inform effective marketing across all consumer touchpoints.
“With platforms such as ours, a marketer is armed with a lot of insights around the intent of the customer,” Anand explains. This includes direct insights drawn from user behavior, to contextual insights (when, where, and how users watched a video or added an item to a cart, for example).
“What time did they use the app? Were the users at work, at home, or outside? All these factors are very important signals — data that can be further fed through machine learning algorithms to get advanced models that tell you, for example, is this user likely to make a purchase today, or in seven days, or never?” Anand says.
These insights—explicit and implicit—allow marketers to adapt the rules and achieve higher retention rates. And, in a space where a single-digit increase in retention can mean a double-digit increase in profits, the work to combine the “who” of your audience and the “what” of their actions pays some serious dividends.
The same dynamic also acts as a kind of ‘early warning system’ to stop churn before it materializes.To illustrate, Anand shares the example of a CleverTap customer in the travel vertical. The consumer-facing travel company has embedded this approach in its wider efforts to monitor when users experience payment issues and can’t complete their purchase.
Understanding the signals that indicate the website or app is not functioning correctly triggers a flow that escalates the situation to an interactive voice response (IVR) system. This automated phone system calls the customer and gathers information by giving them choices via a menu.
“Without a real-time system and the capabilities to connect the dots in the data, this would be a terrible user experience,” Anand explains. However, the outcome for this CleverTap customer is the polar opposite because product and marketing function in lock-step with the customer every step of the way, delivering the right messaging via the right channel at the right moment.

Avoiding the Blame Game

Bringing product and marketing together is not only essential to deliver a complete and consistent customer experience. It’s also a must if marketers want to avoid taking the rap when the many moving parts and partners that contribute to that experience don’t live up to customer expectations.
There are many variables to factor into the equation, including bandwidth, app size, and resource consumption (memory, battery, throughput). Anand uses an example from when he was a product manager of a content app in Asia called Daily Run to make an important point: don’t give up on good marketing too soon.
After a milestone release and memorable marketing that should have seen downloads and upgrades go through the roof, data indicated that the number of upgrades had instead fallen off a cliff. The culprit wasn’t communications or campaigns—it was the app size, which had grown to more than 10MB to accommodate the awesome new features. But this improvement missed the mark within mobile-first markets where users are acutely aware of what eats battery and devours data tariffs.
Data related to product doesn’t just provide the missing link in marketing, it helps marketers attain results. “To solve a need for a customer you need to remove all the hurdles in the product for them to meet that goal,” Anand says. “And you need to be adjusting your marketing in real time to accompany and inspire them on the journey.” 

The Takeaway

A good product allows you to engage customers. But the ability to offer a great experience builds relationships that last.
Lasting loyalty and strong retention are the outcome when companies tear down the silos to build bridges between marketing and product. 
Why? Because each department sees a different side of the customer. Keeping them apart results in a fragmented view of the consumer (and their journey) and can muddy the context of when, where, and how users are behaving in your app.
Knowing an app isn’t delivering the experience you promised is a signal from product to marketing to adjust communications to reflect this. Imagine a scenario in which a shopping app can’t, for some reason, accept a payment. Data will group the number of users affected and provide insights into their corresponding profile, such as Champions or users showing signs of churn. 
On the basis of the real-time analysis provided by the platform, the marketer knows this disruption will likely have a tremendous negative impact, particularly on its most valuable customers. They can nip this problem in the bud by sending a personal apology via SMS or push, assuring the customer that they are working to resolve the issue quickly. 
But product and marketing aren’t just a great team for damage control. 
Understanding how users interact with the product allows marketers to add richness to their data and unlock the power of machine learning algorithms to deliver the right marketing to the right users at the right stage of the lifecycle
Knowing what works, validated by product data, empowers marketers to drive connection and achieve higher retention rates. More importantly, it allows them to wash, rinse, and repeat winning approaches to market effectively and successfully at scale.
To learn more about how Anand is reimagining growth, tune into the entire interview. 
Listen to “CleverTap’s Product Chief On Why Marketers Need To Start Thinking Experience-First” on Spreaker.

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Posted on May 13, 2021