What we call as “in-the-moment” engagement. And to do that brands should start thinking about mobile, as not just another channel, but the main channel around which the entire brand experience needs to be built or rebuilt,” says Ashwin SL, VP Marketing at MoEngage in an exclusive interview with TalkCMO.

TCMOBureau: Why has hyper-personalization become a priority to engage with customers?

Ashwin SL: For decades, brands offered personalized products and services to engage consumers and build loyalty. Historically, consumers always preferred brands that delivered a personalized experience and that has not changed. What’s changing are the channels or touch points through which consumers interact with brands today.

The new-age consumers’ lives revolve around their mobile phones, but they also hop between devices, locations, and channels. They expect brands to always be “in step” with them and deliver personalized experiences across not just physical but also across digital touch points. And if a brand does not live up to these expectations, it’s very easy to switch – consumers just have to install a competitor’s app or visit their website.

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We live in a world of a thousand options for a product/ service; brands are always on a lookout to up their game to consumers by offering experiences that others don’t.

Also, considering how technology has improved over the years, with the amount of data available about consumer behavior and preferences – basic personalization has become table stakes, putting additional pressure on brands to stand out. So marketers are always looking for ways to stand out and engage their consumers with messages that just feel perfect at that moment.

TCMOBureau: What are your views on today’s data-driven insights platforms? Where do they lack and what can be done about them?

 Ashwin SL: A typical marketing department is usually stuck with a complicated network of tools for campaign management, automation, analytics, and more. These tools are siloed and provide an incomplete view of the consumer journey and behavior.

As a result, marketers and product owners run campaigns, measure results, and iterate to uncover the missing pieces of consumer behavior, journey, preferences, and attributes. We believe this needs to change.

Brands cannot afford to experiment with consumer engagement – you have a very small window to get it right. For instance, in ecommerce, we analyzed the behavior of 2.2 million mobile app shoppers. We found out that more than 56% of consumers uninstalled the app within a week, after just one or two sessions.

So consumers are impatient and they need to experience the value of using your product as soon as possible. And to meet these expectations, marketers need to lead with insights first – instead of running campaigns first and then iterating. In fact, the latest Q3 2020 Forrester Wave for Mobile Engagement Automation report highlights this and recommends that marketers should first look for insights into consumers’ past engagement, behavior, journey, and preferences and then craft a cross-channel engagement strategy.

TCMOBureau: What steps can brands take to improve their personalization capabilities in the current COVID-19 scenario?

 Ashwin SL: I think the fundamental framework has not changed. Brands should still follow the principle of Analyze, Segment and Engage. That is, Analyze consumer insights -> segment them based on behavior, lifecycle stage, attributes, preferences -> engage them with relevant messages across touch points.

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Due to COVID-19, brands are displaying a bit more empathy in their communications, because everyone’s going through tough times and are cautious about their spending. But it doesn’t change the fact that the new age consumer thinks mobile-first, likes to channel hop and is more impatient – which means that the personalization needs to happen in real-time at all touch points.

What we call as “in-the-moment” engagement. And to do that, brands should start thinking about mobile, as not just another channel, but the main channel around which the entire brand experience needs to be built or rebuilt.

TCMOBureau: Customer retention is one of the factors that brands are struggling in today’s economic crisis. What steps can they take to effectively address the issue and keep their customer-base loyal?

Ashwin SL: In the current scenario, consumers are naturally cautious about spending. So, just throwing discounts or offers at them will not lead to long term retention. At best, discounts and offers can deliver a short spike in purchases, but not long term loyalty.

Also, consumers are hesitant to interact with brands physically because of the pandemic – so brands need to leverage their digital or mobile apps to keep consumers engaged and retain them. To do that, brands first need to identify the leading indicators or metrics that maximize retention.

Every consumer has a point in their journey where they are likely to stay back and continue using your mobile app. This is closely tied to the set of actions that consumers perform that keeps them as an active “user”.

For instance, Slack found out that they can maximize retention if 2000 messages are sent between a team. Facebook maximized retention by getting “users” to add 10 friends within 7 days of signing up.

Read Also: Digital merchandising, changing consumers and the Covid-19 impact

Once a consumer hits this baseline, the chances of the consumer uninstalling the app reduces drastically, as they are now “engaged”. So the first step is to identify this baseline.

Once this has been identified, then brands need to map customer journey and understand how different consumer segments are reaching this baseline, what are the friction points and what can marketers do to nudge more people towards this baseline with the right communication at the right time.

TCMOBureau: How can brands create personalized marketing campaigns across all customer touch points at a fraction of their marketing budget?

Ashwin SL: Acquiring new consumers is always more expensive than retaining your current ones. The best way to deliver growth with limited budgets is to focus on retention marketing. And fortunately, there are plenty of “low cost” ways to reduce churn and increase retention – you don’t even have to try to be “hyper-personalized”.

To start with, brands need to closely analyze consumer data, segment them and understand the journey of each segment all the way from acquisition to long term product usage. A lot of insights can be uncovered around both voluntary and involuntary churn.

For instance, one of our customers observed high cart abandonment rates. When investigated further, they identified several friction points in the checkout process, which they went about resolving systematically resulting in higher conversions.

Simple personalization like sending an email with the specific products that a consumer had earlier browsed or recommending products or content based on the consumers’ city, can go a long way. These campaigns don’t cost a lot of money, it just needs more in-depth insight into the consumer behavior and journey. When you lead with insights first and then engage consumers – your marketing spend automatically becomes more efficient.

Ashwin SL heads marketing for MoEngage, an intelligent customer engagement platform that lets marketers gain insights into consumer behavior and engage them with personalized messages across multiple channels