“For marketers, the COVID-19 crisis has caused a major shift within the digital world and has more strongly emphasized the need to implement retention and customer engagement tactics,” said Josh Wetzel, Chief Revenue Officer at OneSignal, in an exclusive interview with TalkCMO.

TCMO Bureau: Do you feel that companies are missing out on crucial customer retention and engagement strategies if they are not leveraging Push Notification?

Josh Wetzel: Yes, in both qualitative and quantitative studies that OneSignal has published, push directly increases active user growth by 27%. Users state overwhelmingly that Push Notifications not only meet their business needs (82%), but ROI is better than or equal to other channels. In essence, the push is your most valuable and important channel, generating long- term active users and growth.

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TCMO Bureau: Has customer retention become more challenging for brands during the current COVID scenario? If yes, how are the firms tackling it?

Josh Wetzel: The success rate varies greatly by category and industry. For instance, for physical entertainment or service business (think sports league or local coffee shop), there have been periods where the activity is low, and thus retaining existing users can be difficult. For a mobile game or media business, digital usage has grown substantially as users have increased their screen time for users across the globe during a shelter in place orders.

So the answer is, “it depends” What I can say is all businesses that are thriving have and will continue to invest in customer retention & engagement. The successful businesses utilize Push, E-mail & In-App (mobile-specific) to ensure they are consistently messaging their users in their preferred channel in order to grow utilization of their service.

TCMO Bureau: With less than 5% of top 100k global websites having implemented web push and less than 50% of active mobile applications using push notifications, what do you feel is the biggest roadblock for the adoption of these technologies?

Josh Wetzel: Awareness of push notifications as a channel is the easiest answer. Considering a level deeper, it is important to understand what they are, how best to implement them, and also the best usage techniques. Companies that use push understand the value such digital tools can drive engagement. In OneSignal’s MuteSix Case Study, e-commerce brand Inspire Uplift witnessed a 182% increase in revenue

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Companies that have not yet adapted to these technologies fall under two main categories –

1) They aren’t aware, and therefore just need education on what they are, how they work, and why they should be using them and

2) They see them as annoying, similar to what many business leaders thought of asking users for an e-mail in 2005, “e-mail isn’t our business, why would annoy a prospective user by asking for their e-mail.” It’s the same today across all industries, and claiming “push is annoying” is a common refrain.

But what many businesses do not understand is that not every user will opt into receiving push notifications, but the important point is some will, and it’s truly the first messaging channel with mutual opt-in and out. Consumers control when they opt out and what type of content they want to receive. Why would a business not test the business value of push notifications?

TCMO Bureau: Do you agree that the COVID-19 crisis has changed the marketing landscape forever? What should be the top priorities for marketers to ensure business continuity in the long run?

Josh Wetzel: COVID-19 has likely altered the course of evolution in several fundamental ways. We’re more comfortable today with remote, virtual, video-based meetings than we were six months ago, and while staying completely remote may not be fully permanent in our future, the notion of 9 to 5 jobs should be dead like the horse.

For marketers, the COVID-19 crisis has caused a major shift within the digital world and has more strongly emphasized the need to implement retention and customer engagement tactics.

Instead of over-relying on acquiring new users using 90% of marketing budgets, the marketing industry will now shift to becoming more thoughtful about establishing strategies to retain and grow an existing or new user base. Due to collapsing net new acquisition budgets being slashed, or the reality that is focusing on their existing users is the only way to survive a period of business inactivity – such as restaurants, service businesses, travel & entertainment, this shift in the industry is dramatic but necessary.

The top priorities should be:

1) Focus on retention & engagement.  Ensure you are using e-mail, push, and if applicable In-App & SMS.  Even direct mail can work for certain businesses.  Use these channels to provide contextual, relevant messages on promotions, key content, and extend the utility of your product.

2) Reduce low performing paid ad channels by evaluating whether you are just renting users (e.g., from Facebook or Twitter) or actually acquiring them.

3) Streamline digital tools and partners to the best-of-breed.  Eliminate unnecessary acquisition of partners and tools.

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Josh Wetzel is the chief revenue officer of OneSignal and leads the company’s go-to-market functions. He has a two-decade career building digital commerce and software businesses, with leadership stints at eBay, PubMatic, and Bazaarvoice as a sales & marketing executive.