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Travel app engagement & retention – what you need to know

Increasing competition, declining confidence, and an industry on the cusp of a new golden age, keeping customers close to your travel app in 2021 is about to become the holy grail for travel marketers literally the world over. 

Long gone are the days of infatuation with quick wins and endless growth hacking to overcome challenges. During the next 5-10 years, the most successful travel apps will be heavily focused on user loyalty and retention rather than seeking out new audiences,  paving the way to sustainability, profitability, and long-term success. 

Travel apps – where we’re at and what’s next

We love our travel apps –  they boast some of the app industry’s lowest churn rates, with an impressive 47% of users returning to their travel apps, and just 53% churning one month after their first session (the average being 80%) – that’s good enough for me, But why so popular? 

Like any app, for a whole host of reasons, but it’s the sheer numbers of travelers driving these impressive rates. Pre-pandemic, around 1.3 million of us in the US traveled for business every day, with non-business travel reaching a stratospheric 1.4 billion international tourist arrivals, both fueling an industry worth almost $1.7 trillion. And whilst we need to approach future predictions around travel with a healthy dose of uncertainty at this stage, there’s little doubt that we can expect travel – for whatever reason – to enter a golden age once the world gets back on its feet.

How travel apps can successfully engage and retain

More than 80% of new users stop using travel apps within 90 days. It makes sense – travel isn’t something we do every day, so once we’re back on terra firma, the apps are put into hibernation, sometimes permanently. But hibernation or not, letting your travel app languish post-trip, never to be used again is a wasted opportunity. Let’s take a quick recap on why engagement and retention are so darned important:

  • Selling to an existing user has a success rate of around 60-70%, compared with a measly 5-20% success rate of selling to a new customer
  • Increasing customer retention by just 5% can boost profits by between 25% and 95% 
  • And companies that put customer experience at the heart of their growth strategy enjoy engagement and retention revenues 4-8% higher than those who don’t

Bottom line – travel apps need to provide an experience that’s so engaging, and so valuable that when users are ready to travel again, they pick up their phone and log back into your app, however long you’ve been apart. Here are our top tips on how to do it:

1. Make onboarding flawless

Onboarding is the art of delivering the optimum ‘a-ha!’ moment to new users … the point at which they understand the value of your travel product or service and are convinced enough to let your app live on their phone.  Think of onboarding like a first date. The first time your user meets you, it pays to make an impression – a flawless onboarding experience has the potential to increase your travel app engagement figures by up to 400%. 

Must-do’s when it comes to onboarding? 

  • Don’t force sign-up
  • Minimize effort and friction – make it as easy as you can
  • Help new users to understand quickly what your travel app’s about. Being able to quickly demonstrate your product or service in ways that engage from first touch-down will pay dividends
  • And highlight your travel app’s best features and showcase how they should be used – video is particularly good for this.

Hotel bookings giant HotelTonight are particularly good at this. Their app gives users brilliant last-minute hotel deals based on their location and does it quickly and easily – “three taps, one swipe, and you’re booked!” 

  • No sign-up required – bonus!
  • The app simply asks for the user’s location and delivers the relevant content immediately
  • If users do decide to sign-up, it’s the super-simple Google account or Facebook sign-in – no endless keyboard tapping required.
  • New users can invite friends, giving them £20 off of their first booking – and bagging £20 off for themselves, and can earn extra discounts and credits as they level up. 
Retention rates increase by up to 50% with effective app onboarding.

2. Tell a great story

Being able to tell a great story is critical, whatever industry you’re in. Stories engage us, connect us with each other, and allow us to dream of futures as yet unrealised. 

Destination storytelling gives users reasons to open an app rather than just searching or booking a trip. And one travel brand that consistently nails destination storytelling, captivating their audience way beyond the mere act of booking, is Airbnb. Engaging users with enchanting stories and postcard-perfect images of breathtaking locations for each of their offerings, the Airbnb app gives users the perfect excuse to dream of far off adventures – and to keep coming back for more … stories like this one:

Join me on a virtual interactive South African safari experience that is great for groups and corporate team building events We will take a look at the beautiful world of some of the most amazing animals on earth by exploring footage of the great savannas, grasslands, and wetlands of Southern Africa and virtually encounter my favorite animals that we would normally encounter on an outdoor Safari. I will guide you, as if on safari, and discuss the animal’s behaviors, habitats, and appearances to learn why they are so special and essential pieces to the ecosystem.

I don’t know about you, but I’m sold – and there’s plenty more to whet the curious travellers appetite, ensuring they return to the app time and again. 

Takeaway? Create a powerful story around travel deals – one that fires the imagination and gives users a reason to book other than cost. Make the effort to really understand who your users are and what inspires them to seek out new places and experiences – then find creative ways to show them that your destination has what they’re looking for (and more!). 

3. Enrich the travel experience

From nailing the competitive advantage to enjoying higher return rates, travel brands with digitally engaged users mean happier, more loyal users – and the smart travel brands are smashing it, ready to make 2021 a year to remember and elevating retention rates at the same time.

Delivering the enriching, valuable travel experience is a big part of engaging and retaining users – but what does that look like? For some, it’s delivering a straightforward stand-alone experience that can make or break a great trip, like LoungeBuddy. If like me you travel a lot, you’ll spend a significant amount of time pacing about in airports, sometimes for way longer than expected. LoungeBuddy has come to the rescue, giving users the facility to purchase lounge time at almost any airport in the world, and enabling holidaymakers to skip the crowds, and relax and recharge in an oasis of calm before jetting off.

Or how about HotelTonight, which allows users wherever they are to book hotel rooms at the very last minute. If you’re out exploring for the day and are having way too much fun to even think about getting on the train home, you can book a hotel room at a heavily discounted rate and party into the night.

But when it comes to enriching the traveller’s experience through mobile, it’s the big hotel brands that smash it. Kumulos favorite, the World of Hyatt app, provides a guest experience that truly excels, making it super-easy for travellers to get the most out of their vacation with one of the world’s most distinguished travel brands:: 

  • View room charges during your stay so guests can keep on top of spending
  • Back in your room after a day out and missing something? Request fresh towels, the all-important hairdryer, room service, and more, direct via the app.
  • Get access to your room without fumbling around in your bag on pockets with your phone as a room key.
  • Or how about the ability to stream your favorite movies direct via the Chromecast feature?  
  • Use the app to ask the concierge anything, doing away with the need to trek all the way down to the lobby

… lots of small, but highly-valuable features that keep loyal guests happy during their stay, and returning year after year. 

4. Reward users

Loyalty and rewards in the travel industry – indeed any industry –  are about so much more than points for purchases. With 90% of travelers expect a personalized digital experience when they book their travel, any savvy travel marketing knows the benefits of nurturing a two-way relationship with their users:

  • Loyal customers convert more (and more often) with brands they like rather than the brands they’re impartial about 
  • They also spend more than those of us who aren’t particularly loyal to any brand
  • And perhaps best of all, they’ll tell anyone and everyone about their positive – and especially negative – experiences with the brands they interact with.

The best of the travel brands out there mix a rich understanding of user behavior, a seamless brand experience, and relevant, tangible rewards that give travelers a reason to resist the uninstall.  

4 out of 5 people are more likely to engage with a brand that offers incentives (Loyalty360)

One of the most popular rewards programs in travel comes from Hotels.com – and with over 10 million downloads, they might just be on to something …

For starters, when a customer books 10 nights with Hotels.com, they’ll get one night free – and if you’re a regular traveler, these free nights soon add up. But of course, there’s way more to the success of their program than free nights:

Customers can bag plenty of these a-ha moments – like free breakfast or spa vouchers, and even more  at VIP Access properties

  • They get complimentary room upgrades 
  • And enjoy early check-in and late check-out at their super-popular VIP Access properties – ideal for guests who tend to arrive early to get the most out of the day – and leave late to savor the experience! 

Rewarding customers pays off. Once users are actually on board with their preferred brand, and that brand is providing real, tangible value, then the sporadic, passive decision-making that’s so prevalent in the travel industry eventually makes way for loyalty – and long-term advocates are born.

5. And ask for feedback!

The best way for an app to succeed – heck, the best way for any business to succeed is by listening to customers. Feedback will help steer your roadmap, underpin your marketing and sales strategies, help you shape your value proposition and most importantly, ensure you’re delivering what they’re really looking for. 

By using audience segmentation and pinpointing specific user pain points around your app, service or product, you’ll have valuable insights that will help you to enhance the user experience in ways that provide the most value to them — and thereby boost your retention rates.

There are loads of ways to get user feedback for your travel app:

  • In-app messages are a great way for users to engage with you in real-time quickly and directly – with the added advantage of catching any negative feedback before it hits the app stores. These two-way conversations are also the perfect way to build relationships with your audience while they’re using your app, negating the need for these awkward emails and irritating phone calls.
  • Social media is perfect for travel brands, engaging travelers through storytelling, trip-sharing, and rewards incentives and competitions. It’s also the place where travelers love to leave feedback – like this one for luxury hoteliers, Four Seasons. 
  • Not only is this kind of feedback the holy grail for every travel brand, posts like these have the potential to be seen by thousands. The key to success? Being present to respond quickly and engage with customers who have taken the time to feed back. 
  • Surveys are one of the most effective ways to get customer feedback on your app, providing the opportunity to drill down and ask the questions that are going to deliver the most value to you – and eventually your users. Who are they, what were they looking for today when they opened your app, did they find what they came for, and what could you have done better? By drilling down with short, easy questions, you’ll have nuggets of gold at your fingertips that will help you deliver the app your customers really want.
  • User Data. How users interact with your app is often the most effective way to glean insights on what they really think of it. How often are they using the app? How long does a typical session last? What are they doing in-app? Once you’ve got a handle on how your app is being used, you can deliver the optimum experience – one that engages and retains your audience and builds loyalty over the long term.

At the end of the day, gathering user feedback is about gaining a deeper understanding of why and how your audience uses your app. With these insights, you’ll be able to exceed expectations and turn casual users into loyal customers and brand advocates.

Conclusion

Driving engagement through an exceptional app experience is – and will continue to be – the key element of every successful app, regardless of what industry you’re in. Building meaningful, valuable connections through easy onboarding, storytelling, rewards programs, and more, means that you’ll be in a really strong position to nurture loyalty in a space where everyone is about to start vying for your users’ attention. To find out more about how Kumulos can help your travel app outrun the competition and stay relevant, talk to us!

Deferred Deep Linking – what it is and why you need it

Thinking about where your focus should be when it comes to increasing sales across your digital estate? Then it’s worth remembering that the gap between mobile app usage and mobile website usage continues to widen … A significant number of us “went digital” over the last 18 months, and as we did, we powered a new wave of in-app shopping resulting in global consumer spending in mobile apps tipping an eye-watering record of $111 billion – a massive 30% on the previous year. 

While mobile sites account for almost 50% of global web traffic, research shows us that 90% of our time spent on mobile is spent in mobile apps, with only 10% on websites. But here’s an even more compelling fact – mobile app users spend an average of just over 200 minutes per month shopping (generating around $50 billion), compared to a teeny tiny 10.9 minutes a month for mobile website users. The message is clear – spending increases significantly in-app, and for good reason! Competing successfully and increasing spend in a burgeoning sector where everyone is vying for your audience’s attention means delivering a seamless, friction-free CX; being on the channels your customers prefer, personalizing the CX at each touchpoint, and using big data insights to deliver value – all the things which apps do far better than a mobile site ever could … But how do you nudge users from your site – or your ads – straight to your app, especially when they don’t have your app installed? Step up to the plate, Deep Linking!

A bit about regular deep linking

In the olden days, links from one app or mobile website would only send users to the home screen of a different app. Once there, the hassle of searching, scrolling, and eventually landing on the page they were originally looking for was the user’s responsibility.  So when deep links came along, marketers everywhere breathed a deep (no pun intended) sigh of relief. 

Regular deep links send users straight to an app instead of to a website – and more often than not, to a specific location in the app. By default, this saves time, energy, and frustration for users – they land on the screen that has the item they want to purchase (or the subscription they want to sign up for, or the product they’d like to trial, and they get a great user experience until, that is, users are deep-linked to an app they haven’t installed. Why? Default deep links are only capable of directing users to an app if they’ve already installed it. If that’s not the case then the link won’t reach the intended endpoint and the dreaded error message will be presented. No one wants that.

So why use ‘em? Generally speaking, default deep links are really really useful for deploying as part of retargeting campaigns where a business is only interested in users that already have their app installed. They’re also used when targeting users who have a severe case of cart abandonment (a condition that costs businesses  $18bn in lost sales each year), encouraging them back to the app to complete their purchase … but there’s more:

  • Deep linking boosts conversions – for every extra step your users have to take to do what they want to do will lower your conversion rates.  Deep linking allows you to point your users straight to the point-of-sale in-app, even after the install.
  • Deep linking increase retention rates. Why? Because deep links contain contextual information so that your app can deliver a personalized experience before, during and after the onboarding process … and we all know how critical a smooth and frictionless onboarding experience is when it comes to retention.
  • Deep linking increases sales. Your users are twice as likely to spend money in-app as they are on your mobile site – and they’ll also spend more. Over 2.5 times more. Not to be scoffed at!

… OK, and Deferred Deep Linking?

55% of consumers say that a poor mobile experience makes them less likely to engage with a company, so it’s critical to provide the optimum customer experience, and that’s where deferred deep linking comes in.

Imagine you have a fashion retail app with various clothing types –  tops; shoes; outerwear etc … you get the idea – and you want to kick off a marketing campaign via SMS, Google or banner ads, or Emails, and which will include sharing links to these items. Wherever the recipient clicks on the link in your campaigns, the app will open and the user will land on the relevant item in-app if they have the app installed.

 

If the user clicks on a deep link and doesn’t have the app installed, rather than the error-message experience, they’ll be deferred to the relevant App Store where they can download the app. But that’s not where the cleverness lies … the brilliance of deferred deep linking is that when the user installs and opens the app, they’ll still be sent to the location of the link they originally clicked on, minimizing friction and increasing the likelihood of a successful sale. 

Yes – the additional ‘default’ deep link step of asking users to navigate the app to find what they were originally looking for might seem trivial or inconsequential, but the actual experience of these two routes to conversion – being directed straight to the required screen vs. searching for the app, browsing menus, scrolling through lots of different products etc – are markedly different and often the difference between a sale or a fast sprint elsewhere.

A few examples of how deferred deep links are being used

Finance: A trading app might want to run a referral program campaign. Using deferred deep links,  it could send a push notification containing a link to an existing app user. The user could forward the link to a friend via email or SMS, and when that friend clicks the link, the deferred deep link would take them to the app store, and then directly to a personalized screen deep within the app with the specific offer, for example, “Hi Kate! Jack has referred you to Free Trade. Sign up for free and you’ll both receive a FREE $25 share”.

Sandals DDL email flow

Travel: An app offering flight deals might run a paid search campaign. When a user searches for “flights to Boston” they’ll see an ad for the flight app. After clicking on the CTA the deferred deep link directs the user to the relevant app store. Once the user has installed the app, they’re then automatically sent deep within the app to the specific screen that features flight deals to Boston.

Sports: A sports app might run an ad on Facebook for tickets to a big summer game. When the user clicks on the link and installs the app, the deferred deep link sends them directly to the screen in the app where they can book seats and purchase tickets. 

The benefits of deferred deep linking

  • Minimizes friction. Creating a smooth, fuss-free path to conversion is every marketer’s goal. Deferred deep linking does this by minimizing user friction. By taking first-time users directly to the relevant screen within an app and enabling them to quickly and easily do what they came to do – purchase an item, sign up for a subscription, set up a free trial etc – they get an optimum user experience, and the app marketers boost their conversion rates.
  • Improving the user’s first-time experience: A favorable first-time app experience often influences the likelihood of a user returning to your app a second time or engaging with future campaigns. 
  • Increases the likelihood of conversion: With friction removed and a faster, easier, more streamlined app experience, users are far more likely to convert.

How can I use deferred deep links?

  • Links on your website and on banner ads that bring users to your mobile app
  • You can also send deferred deep links by email and take users directly into your app
  • You can engage users by sending links by SMS or Push Notifications
  • And acquire new users via social media and create incentivized referral programs.

Conclusion

A seamless, valuable customer experience is the key to success in any business. Today, with e-commerce sales at an all-time high, your business might well be struggling to deliver an optimum CX, increase engagement and boost those retention figures.  Deferred deep linking allows you to deliver a superb user experience – one that can create loyal, life-long customers. If you’d like to find out how Kumulos can support you to reach these goals, talk to us!

WWDC21: Privacy and Personalization

WWDC21 Keynote

WWDC21 is now underway and top of Monday’s opening keynote, Apple’s Craig Federighi (SVP, Software Engineering) gave us a glimpse of what’s coming in iOS15. The good news for users and potentially bad news for (some) brands and advertisers is that Apple continues to put our privacy at the forefront of everything they do with new features such as the App Privacy Report and Focus feature.

However, if you dig beneath some of the more adversarial headlines (for example the BBC led with Apple continues privacy war), we believe these new features continue to represent a progressive opportunity for brands to offer better, true personalized experiences.

Background

One year ago at WWDC20, Apple announced that iOS14, to be launched last September, would include one of the most significant changes in the history of mobile advertising and measurement – users would now have to opt-in to allow apps to use the IDFA (ID for Advertisers) in order for brands, advertisers and mobile measurement platforms to track user behaviour across different apps and websites.

We’ve written at length about the changes to the IDFA, including the stay of execution that delayed this until iOS14.5 was released on April 26th this year. TL;DR once iOS14.5 reaches widespread adoption, it will signal the end of using third party data (collected from other apps and websites) to serve targeted advertising. That point is approaching fast as six weeks after launch, adoption of iOS14.5 (and its successor 14.6) has accelerated to 41% in the past few days as users are prompted to update.

iOS14.5+ Worldwide Adoption after 6 Weeks

Kumulos

 

Google have somewhat followed suit announcing that sometime in late 2021 users will be able to opt-out of the Android Advertising ID (their equivalent to the IDFA). More good news for users and good news for brands! However, with iOS15, Apple are going further still with features such as the App Privacy Report.

App Privacy Report

Before you install an app from the App Store, you will be told what permissions the app may request, e.g. access to your contacts – a simple “nutrition label” according to Apple. The new App Privacy Report announced at WWDC21 goes further. You will be able to access this from your Settings at any time and see how often, in the past seven days, an app has used the permissions you have granted it and where the app is sending data.

WWDC21 iOS15 App Privacy Report

Apple

 

Here at Kumulos, we think this is a great idea. If you’re Head of Mobile for a theme park and want to use location to update your guests on nearby attraction queue times as they move around your venue, then simply ask them and explain why – if you have a good reason, most will opt-in and you’ve nothing to worry about!

However, may people are asking why, now, are Apple putting so much emphasis on ensuring you know (and can control) what apps on your phone are doing? To answer that, we need to look at some of the other announcements from WWDC21…

Apple Wallet

Not only has Apple announced (again) that you will be able to store digital keys for your car, hotel room and even your home in your mobile wallet, at WWDC21 they announced that in iOS15 you will be able to store both your state ID and driving license in your mobile wallet! Already accepted in several states, discussions are now ongoing with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to use this.

So, if your iPhone –your digital identity and connection to the online world, is also to become your offline identity for the real, physical world then not only is it reasonable to show you what other apps on your phone are doing, it should be expected. This, in part, explains why Apple is so focussed on putting you in control of your privacy!

What else was announced at WWDC21?

Over in email marketing land, the Apple Mail client will now hide the IP address of the device it is on. This means that some email marketing platforms will no longer be able to track if an email has been opened and where the recipient was when they did that.

A more significant announcement concerning IP Addresses, is the new Private Relay feature for iCloud subscribers that will route all Safari web traffic through two separate proxy servers, therefore masking their IP address, much like a VPN. Why is this significant? IP addresses are a key, if not staple, ingredient in the black arts and witchcraft recipes of the device finger-printing and probabilistic tracking – unofficial, non-consent approaches make a best guess on who you are and where you have been to determine what to serve you – a marketing tactic that is ageing fast (in case you hadn’t guessed, we’re not fans).

So this signals the end of targeted advertising? How does it empower personalization? Again, to answer that, we need to look at another announcement from WWDC21…

Focus Mode and Notification Summary

At present, the only control you have over when you receive notifications is Do Not Disturb. When iOS15 is released, you will be able to better customize which apps can notify you and when. You will be able to group apps into work and personal and then ensure only work apps can notify you during the 9-5 and that they can’t then notify you in evenings and weekends. In today’s BYOD world where, for most of us, your work phone and personal phone is just your phone, this sounds heavenly.

WWDC21 iOS15 Focus Mode

Apple

 

Even if you do not configure this, iOS15 will also include a new Notification Summary which you can schedule for any time you choose to automatically group and prioritize notifications based on things like time of day.

For brands, this is also an opportunity. First and foremost, there will be an override, so that any time-sensitive notifications can get through – don’t abuse this though, think about how we all react to an IMPORTANT email from a colleague where the subject line is in caps (not well, usually). Secondly, don’t obsess about what if I send a notification when the app is not in focus, instead obsess about ensuring you send your notifications when the app will be in focus! How? Personalization! Make use of features such as intelligent delivery to deliver messages when a user is most likely to want to receive it.

Still need convincing that iOS15 is as much about personalization as it is privacy?

Personalized Healthcare

The Health App will go beyond recognizing when you have fallen, to predicting when you might be at risk of a fall based on analysis of your own personal walking gait. It will then make suggestions as to exercises that might help you improve. All of this data and processing is securely encrypted and on-device… private and personal.

Our Summary from WWDC21 Keynote

Privacy and personalization are not mutually exclusive. Both are constantly evolving. With iOS15, the balance of power continues to shift – giving users more control of the data they share and visibility of with whom.

For brands, forget about the data you don’t have access to and instead listen to the sources you do still control – your app, your website. And obsess, obsess about personalizing the journey and experience for every, single, customer.

If this strikes a chord and you want to know more, let’s talk!

Further Reading

To find out how to build and execute an effective, personalized push notification strategy, download our Push Notifications Best Practices Guide or, schedule a personal product tour to see how Kumulos can help you achieve this now.

Sports Fan Loyalty | Apps Smashing it in the Engagement Stakes

best sports fan loyalty apps

While the world of sports may look very different today than it did just 18 short months ago, the need to engage fans has never been more critical. As stadiums have sat empty for the duration of COVID, and off-season carries a whole new meaning, it’s been a long, long 18 months for avid sports fans the world over, many of whom turned to their mobiles for their fill of sports news, views and results. So, now as never before, sports fan loyalty apps have become an essential way to stay in touch with fans and keep them interested. We thought it was about time to celebrate those that we see getting it right, so heres our top 4 sports fan loyalty apps from the world of tennis, soccer, basketball.

Why are Sports Fan Loyalty Apps important?

Wherever we are, in-season, off-season, at the grounds or in front of the tv – or mobile – the engagement game has changed. Our appetite for content as we spend more and more time online consuming our sport of choice, means we’re starving for ever more engaging, ever more innovative fan experiences, and we’re looking to our phones to deliver them … and for good reason:

  • 95% of fans interact in some way with their favorite team or league off-season.
  • Over 60% of fans say that a great year-round experience would make them more likely to be more engaged with their team in future seasons, with 55% more likely to purchase a ticket at some point in the future.
  • Avid, regular content consumption delivers almost 20% higher spend from fans than general news consumption.

The best of the sports fan apps

Mobile apps are incredibly versatile and, with the right data in play, they also deliver huge potential when it comes to serving up the highly valuable, relevant content that today’s sports fans demand. It’s also the key reason they’re so popular amongst Gen Z and Millennial fans, the fastest growing fan demographic.

Manchester United, for example, has a global fanbase touching 120 million – yet Old Trafford seats a mere 76,000 (or 0.06% of their fanbase).

For fans, the top apps provide a single touchpoint to grab exclusive news, and personalized offers, experiences and updates. And for the teams and the clubs, they provide rich, profitable data that helps them to better understand their fans so that they can serve up that highly engaging content that keeps them coming back time and again. It’s a win-win for everyone.

Fans affect how teams brand themselves, how they perform and how they grow their revenue streams. When something so integral to success can have such an impact, it becomes clear how critical it is to maintain and boost fan engagement efforts. Loyalty shouldn’t be taken for granted – treating fans as welcome, valuable guests that are choosing to interact with your brand will go a long way. The best sports apps do this by mixing a robust understanding of fan behavior, a seamless brand experience across each touchpoint, and by delivering valuable, innovative content across these touchpoints … the kind of stuff that gives fans reasons to hang around long after the final whistle.

So who’s nailing it when it comes to the brightest and best apps in sports? Which trailblazers are hell-bent on personalizing the fan experience and smashing engagement? Here’s KHQ’s pick of the bunch:

Chelsea Football Club

Over 60% of fans say that a great year-round experience would make them more likely to be more engaged with the team throughout the coming season.

Chelsea Football Club can accommodate just over 40,000 fans at their Stamford Bridge stadium – a mere fraction of the 100 million Chelsea fans found across the world, so how to keep the other 99.96 million fans close to the club year-round? The more fans are engaged throughout the year, the more likely they are to spend money on tickets and merchandise during the season. Step up to the plate, The 5th Stand mobile app, built to deliver the ultimate mobile football experience to fans wherever they are, powering engagement and driving the kind of loyalty coveted by sports teams the world over:

  • The Match Centre – a feature delivering live match updates, line-ups, game analysis and live audio commentary for every game played in the Champions League, Premier League, FA Cup and any other you can think of.
  • Match Chat allows fans to connect and chat with each other before, during and after the game.
  • Fans can stay up to date with breaking club news and check in on official interviews with the club manager and players.
  • Games are streamed live, including extended highlights, post-match analysis and reason from the dugout, live press conferences and behind-the-scenes footage.
  • The app allows fans to watch exclusive box-sets featuring the club’s greatest moments.
    And fans can even find other fan forums around the world, fantasy league tips, exclusive content quizzes and polls.

ATP Tour

One of the most important elements in fan engagement is creating personalized content for members and fans. This means looking at ways to leverage the valuable user data at your fingertips to help create a detailed, holistic view of who your audience is, what content most resonates with them, then creating a strategy that personalizes the fan experience through that content. 

Entertaining over one billion global fans, and showcasing the world’s greatest players at the more popular tournaments (not to mention inspiring the next generation of tennis fans and players) the ATP has its work cut out for it when it comes to fan engagement. Their ATP Tour app smashes it on all fronts …

ATP tour

  • Get the latest news, videos, and features on the game’s best players, tournaments, and news
  • Daily schedules, draws, and results from all ATP Tour and Challenger Tour draws, schedules and results
  • Get the low-down on your favorite player stats and bios
  • A customized news feed that gives users immediate access to the latest news and views of favorite players and tournaments
  • Live streaming of ATP and Challenger tournaments
  • Real-time scores and updates of ATP Tour and Challenger Tour tournaments

… everything fans need to know to enhance their experience of the ATP, the game, and its players – and helping inspire the next generation of the great game’s advocates.

NBA

Whoever you are, a robust fan engagement strategy can be the catalyst for nurturing long-term fan loyalty. Get it right, and there are rewards for all, not least the super-engaged fan.

That’s why we had to include the National Basketball Association’s app because the organization have been smashed the digital innovation route to deliver exceptional fan experiences across the board – and we love what they’re doing.

The NBA AR app is the first AR app from any professional sports enterprise. Built using Apple’s ARKit, the app lets users shoot hoops anytime, anywhere, by superimposing their NBA backboard and court onto whatever environment the fan’s phone camera can see. The app then leverages the users’ device accelerometer to shoot hoops for 30 seconds. Fans get to choose their favorite team to play as, compete with their mates for top spots on the Game Center Leaderboard, deploy audio to hear the crowd cheering for you and share best scores and replays of their successes (or failures!) across social media. Pretty smart, right? There’s more …

Just a couple of years ago, the NBA launched their mixed-reality app for the Magic Leap One headset so that they could deliver a truly immersive, ultra-engaging fan experience. Fans with the mixed-reality headset can now watch live NBA games, enjoy game replays and highlights across a number of virtual “screens, and check in on team and player stats. And we’re not done yet …

best sports fan loyalty apps
Their “AR Portals” allow fans to “step onto the court and behind the scenes of the NBA and some of its biggest events. Place the portal door in front of you, then walk inside to immerse yourself in a 360-degree video of your favorite NBA players and teams.” And it’s not same-old-same-old either – new portals are available to fans to enjoy every week so they’ll never get bored … Are these guys the most tech-savvy sports enterprise in the world? Probably! (Although German football team Bayern Munich also launched their own AR app which gives fans the opportunity to take a selfie with current Bayern players.) Expect more AR action across the sports space as these innovations become the norm …

Mercedes-Benz Stadium & The Atlanta Falcons

Home to the Atlanta Falcons (along with Atlanta United) the Mercedes-Benz Stadium has been delighting fans and reeling in the accolades since it opened its many doors in 2017, and for good reason.

Built on top of thousands of miles of cables and with the fan experience at its very heart, technology stalwarts IBM were not only a key player in the design and build process from the get-go, they also oversaw the design of the accompanying fan app that’s been busy playing a fundamental role in delivering that ultimate stadium experience to the fans of the teams that call the stadium ‘home’. Here’s our pick of the features:

        • ‘To Be Journeys’, roadmaps for fans going to an event at Mercedes-Benz, as well as delivering relevant and important information before and after their visit.
        • Turn-by-turn navigation to your parking space – in real-time, so you’ll never be stuck in traffic after kick-off.
        • In-venue navigation – whatever you’re after, and wherever you’ll find it, the MBS app will get you there.
        • The app includes the ticket, so no more rummaging around for paper tickets.
        • Users also get access to stadium maps, parking booking, a 24/7 virtual concierge, a range of stadium food & beverage menus, and …
        • Those non-negotiable exclusive rewards and discounts

      Best Sports Fan Loyalty Apps

Wherever fans are, having the right conversations with them at the right times means that every moment matters – and why fan engagement strategies now sit at the very heart of the savvy sports enterprise. The most engaging sports apps successfully create value and meaning for fans, extending the game experience way beyond the stadium and matchday.

Wrapping up

Using mobile to continuously engage, entertain, and cater to fans in ways that are personal and valuable means building stronger connections with fans, which in turn powers growth. It’s a no-brainer! But how to do it? Watch this space for our upcoming article on building user engagement and retention in sports and fan engagement apps!
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The best loyalty apps | Travel & Hospitality

woman using phone on beach

This year, after 12 months spent on its knees thanks to COVID, the travel and hospitality industry is gearing up to make one of the most long-awaited comebacks in a post-pandemic world.  And although there’s still some way to go before any of us consider this year ‘normal’ again, rapid vaccination rollouts are giving all of us more reasons to feel optimistic. 

The return of travel – and perhaps even a travel boom – as we emerge from what’s been a crushingly difficult period, is within touching distance, which means it’s time for travel and hospitality enterprises to lay the groundwork for glory in what’s gearing up to be a new dawn for travellers and travel brands. What does that mean? In this case, delivering the ultimate traveller and guest experience – a key part of which is the humble loyalty app.

Loyalty and rewards apps in the travel industry – indeed any industry –  are about so much more than straightforward user acquisition; we all know there’s little point in record-breaking download numbers if these users aren’t engaged:

  • Loyal customers convert more (and more often) with brands they like rather than the brands they’re impartial about
  • They also spend more than those of us who aren’t particularly loyal to any brand
  • And brand loyalists will tell anyone and everyone about their positive – and especially negative – brand experiences … 

Mastercard’s recent research report, “Recovery Insights: The Shift to Digital,” told us that travel is one of the top three activities that we’ve missed most during the last 12 months. What’s more, a similar report by Airbnb tells us that 54% of travellers say they’ve either booked a trip already, are currently planning to travel, or are expecting to travel at some point this year. As travel begins to bounce back, brands need to be reevaluating the new and emerging priorities of travellers in a post-pandemic climate and build their offerings accordingly.

So who’s nailing it when it comes to loyalty apps in travel and hospitality? Which brands are smashing engagement, staying focused on personalizing customer experiences – what the new traveller is looking for from a brand when they start travelling again? 

The best of the travel & hospitality apps

From nailing the competitive advantage to enjoying higher return rates, ensuring you’ve got digitally engaged guests means happier, more loyal guests – and the smart hoteliers are smashing it, ready to make 2021 a year to remember. 

From the straightforward simplicity of being able to order room service via your app to accessing your hotel suite with digital door keys, redeeming on-site offers to real-time concierge chat, innovative hotel engagement apps can deliver a truly 21st-century travel experience that promises to keep guests close. 

The best travel brands mix a robust understanding of customer behavior, a seamless brand experience across each touchpoint they find users, and valuable, relevant rewards that give travellers a reason to stick around. The benefits speak for themselves:

  • You’ll find it easier – a lot easier – to retain and engage your customer base. Functionality such as gamification through points and rewards will give customers reasons to keep coming back fpr more. It’s not all about the purchase – engaging your customers beyond the transaction is the name of the game. 
  • You’ll save money – we all know it costs business far more to acquire new customers (five – twenty-five times more)  than it does to sell to an existing one. 
  • Over time, you’ll find you can stop competing on price – instead, this new playing field will see you enhancing the customer experience of your brand by connecting with them on far more meaningful, value-add terms. 
  • And you’ll enhance your CLV – or customer lifetime value. The data gleaned from your rewards program will mean that over time you’ll be able to calculate the CLV for each and every one of your customers and build out a business model which focuses on strategies to engage and retain them over the long-haul. No pun intended!

Our favourites? The Hilton Honors and the Hyatt apps, who have made it their mission to put their brand firmly at the centre of the guest experience by delivering a veritable cornucopia of guest-focused benefits- from easy mobile check-in to digital keys, tips on local must-sees to real-time chat with the hotel concierge…

Hilton Honors

With two-thirds of frequent travellers staying with the same hotel brand for over half their stays, (regardless of location), it’s often up for debate exactly how (or why) reward programs win customers. Convenience? Habit? Genuinely rewarding features? I’m plumping for the latter. But once customers are actually on board with their preferred brand, and that brand is providing real value, then sporadic, passive decision-making makes way for loyalty and fans are born.

Millennial business travellers are willing to pay $41/night more to stay at a hotel in his or her loyalty program.

Earning the accolade of the “most rewarding” app in the sector, and with over 5 million downloads, Hilton know what they’re doing when it comes to keeping their customers close:

  • Beach view? Street view? Near the elevator? Guests can pick the perfect room direct via the app, just as you can do when booking your flights …
  • View and manage your reservations in one place
  • Use your device as your room key and check in out from the app

World of Hyatt

For loyalty programs to find a covetable level of success, there are a few factors that need to be considered. Most of us are generally happier with a rewards app when as little as possible is required from us to accrue and activate our rewards. We also like ‘em quick, and we like ‘em relevant – non-negotiable standard elements of any app worth its salt. No one, after all, wants to be spending more time than they need to when it comes to being rewarded for their loyalty to your brand.

18 per cent of us choose to become actively loyal to a brand based on their loyalty program, including the benefits and “perks” it provides.

One brand that’s been doing everything right and subsequently making big noise in the loyalty stakes is Hyatt. Their World of Hyatt app makes it ultra-easy for travellers to manage and enjoy their escapades with one of the world’s most recognisable brands. Here are just a few of the app’s features that keep its customers coming back:

  • The ability to use World of Hyatt points to book stays
  • Check-In/Express Checkout means users can bypass the front desk when they arrive and depart – my favourite!
  • The ability to view room charges during your stay so you can keep on top of your spending
  • Being able to request items for delivery to your room such as towels and toothpaste
  • Their digital key feature – aka your smartphone as your room key – no fumbling around!
  • The super-popular Google Chromecast feature so guests can stream their favourite shows straight to their room’s TV
  • The ability to track and spend rewards points – from earning extra nights and airmiles to bagging discounted car rentals and dining experiences.

… all the little (and big) things that keep their loyal fans coming back for more. Again and again.

American Airlines

A satisfying, engaging brand experience that meets all of the demands of the digital customer demands a personalized app experience – one that can both reduce spend and increase ROI for the brand, and cultivate long-term loyalty at the customer side. Not many get it right, but when they do, we’re all ears. That’s why we love the American Airlines app. 

American adults between ages 18 and 34 numbers 80 million and spends $600 bn each year. Come 2025, they’ll make up three-quarters of the workforce—which is to say, they’ll be frequent business travelers.

With the American Airlines app, you’re covered with the information you need exactly when you need it. Curious about traffic to the airport? Need a mobile boarding pass? Wondering where the closest Admirals Club® lounge is located? All of this info, and more, is available at your fingertips:

  • Mobile boarding pass: Check in for your trip and retrieve your mobile boarding pass. No need to print, and it’s updated along the way.
  • Interactive terminal maps: Navigating airports is a breeze with interactive terminal maps. Find the closest bar or get directions to your connecting gate. (I need this!)
  • Request and purchase upgrades and get eyes on the standby list to see what your chances are
  • Travellers can change their flight seat on the spot within the app
  • Track luggage from the time it leaves your hands to when you’re ready to grab it from the carousel at the other side.
  • And the app even integrates with the Apple watch so travellers have access to the most important info.

And that’s just the very tiny tip of the AA app iceberg. Not app-related, but part of their loyalty program, these guys have even got their own Chrome extension which delivers notifications to users while shopping online so they can earn miles “with the push of a button”. 

The feature automatically applies coupons at checkout, locates new stores that offer ‘miles per dollar’ and makes sure shoppers grab the lowest price possible with a price comparison feature. I’d call this smashing it when it comes to the customer experience. We LOVE this feature because it makes things so damned easy for the customer –  as every great app should.

Marriot Bonvoy

One of the largest hotel chains in the world, the Marriot Bonvoy loyalty app just also happens to be the industry’s No1, and for good reason.

75% of millennials would stay with a valued hotel loyalty program even if they lost all their points and status. (Deloitte)

Launched in February 2019,, members can earn and exchange points when they stay at one of Marriott’s thirty hotel brands across nearly 7,000 locations in over 150 countries. Divided into five different categories: Luxury, Premium, Select, Longer Stays, and Collections, travellers are rewarded for their loyalty with an ever-growing bounty of benefits, not just for their customers, but for the world at large – see the feature that allows users to donate rewards points that go towards providing support to communities severely affected by the pandemic.

There’s the usual digital check-in, room service and customisation, and dining rewards, but the reason the MB sits at the top of the charts when it comes to loyalty apps in the travel and hospitality industry is the sheer breadth of benefits that users can expect, and which are working hard to earn the loyalty of their ever-expanding fanbase:

  • The Mobile Dining feature means guests can order food for delivery at any location on the property – poolside, room, spa, restaurant, gardens, beach … you’ll never be hungry at the Marriot!
  • Shuttle Tracker means when guests land in their holiday location, they can track in real-time where their hotel shuttle bus is, and how long it will take to reach them. 
  • Mobile Chat allows guests to find out the hotel information they need – gym equipment, pool size, spa opening hours, restaurant availability … you name it.
  • Mobile key functionality opens your room, gives entry to the spa, parking and more … 
  • Guests can even opt-out for housekeeping via the app –  keeping their stay green, and earning points for doing so.

Sandals

To win the loyalty race, your brand must stand out. That means knowing your customers, understanding what they really value, and giving them the rewards that provide value to them.

Travellers favourite Sandals nails it with their app that delivers all kinds of bookings functionality, from booking vacation extras to restaurants to butler services (fancy!) – and putting mobile firmly at the heart of their customers’ vacation experience.

And of course, that’s not all – as you’d expect from a brand like Sandals:

  • Stay up to date with the latest Sandals news, exclusive membr events and special offers only available to program members
  • See at a glance your booking number, resort name, and travel dates for both future and past Sandals vacations
  • Guests can share vacation information through social media channels direct via the app
  • After the trip, guests can provide valuable feedback via the app by submitting a survey post travel and earn points into the bargain.

The best loyalty programs and apps successfully create value and meaning for their users – a satisfying, seamless, engaging experience that meets individual demands and stands out. For travel and hospitality brands in the mobile marketplace, the rewards are there. No two travelers are alike. If you’re successful in getting a customer to sign up for your loyalty program, it’s really just the start of your journey together. The ability to understand that customer’s motivation and deliver valuable, relevant, personal rewards that really matter, and then walk them from passive participation to active loyalty, is about building benefits for everyone.

What next?

To offer users a better experience on your app, create loyalty and see results like these brands there needs to be a focus on retention and engagement after customer acquisition. Kumulos gives you the tools to understand user behavior and send relevant, highly targeted, personalized content. Connect with users, create loyalty and boost retention. Book your free demo.

 

Launch date for iOS 14.5 announced!

This week, Apple announced the launch date for their latest iOS release – 26th April. Apple have added some new features in iOS 14.5, responding to the COVID pandemic by ensuring users who want to unlock their phone whilst wearing a mask, can do so with the help of their Apple Watch!

One of the major updates was the long-anticipated update to privacy terms and how Apple will allow brands to handle user data in the next release. Last month, we wrote about the anticipated changes in detail here . So what changes are coming and what does that mean for users and brands? Here’s a look at what you want to know about the iOS 14.5 release.

IDFA

Apple IDFA (Identifier for Advertisers) is a unique identifier assigned to each Apple device. It enables advertisers to understand the device owner by monitoring their actions in other apps that can track in-app behavior and also track which marketing campaigns the user has interacted with. This enables businesses to understand their customer and ensure they’re receiving targeted and customized ads.

Receiving relevant, targeted advertising is good for users – it means we receive offers that are targeted based on our likes and engagement, rather than being spammed with meaningless special offers (many of which we aren’t interested in). Apple believe that users should be given the right to explicitly opt-in to these initiatives and offer more control over who has our data. The changes to iOS 14.5 and the addition of App Tracking Transparency (ATT) means that users will have to opt-in to give their consent to use IDFA.

AirTags

If you’re the type of person that is constantly losing their keys this is the new addition you’ve been waiting for. This new feature allows you to add a small device to your keys, wallet, bag or whatever your heart desires so that you never need to lose them (for long) again. Much the same way as the ‘Find My Phone’ feature has worked in previous years, you’re now able to use these AirTags to find lost items using your iPhone. If you want to attach them to anything you’re afraid of losing you’re adding an additional $35 to have one as a keyring!

Unlock with Your Mask On

For everyone that likes to be Covid-safe this new feature will be a welcome addition. A real 1st world problem associated with the pandemic has been trying to unlock your phone whilst wearing a mask. Sure, you want to use your phone, but do you want to be seen as the irresponsible person that would remove their mask in public to do so? No, but now you don’t need to (provided you also own an Apple Watch). Just enable this in your watch setting and when your Face ID sees your mask, it will unlock your watch, which will ask if you want to unlock your phone. Nice, but this would be been a better addition last year.

What’s next?

These changes to the IDFA will inevitably mean businesses will need to update their strategy to focus on how they can retain and engage current customers whilst using more innovative approaches to discovering new customers. Customers will opt-in to these changes when they want to engage with a brand so it’s essential to provide them with engaging messaging and relevant offers to ensure revenue continues to grow.

For more information on the impact of IDFA and how you can navigate these changes, check out our recent blog for more information.

 

APNs Legacy Binary Protocol

APNs Legacy Binary Protocol

After a stay of execution, on March 31st Apple are finally discontinuing the APNs legacy binary protocol used to send push notifications to iOS devices. If you have an app in the App Store with push notification capability or an Apple Developer account, you will have likely already received an email from Apple telling you to update to the HTTP/2-based provider API.

In this article, we’ll quickly explain what this means and what you have to do (spoiler alert: if you’re a Kumulos customer – nothing)!

First, some background…

The Apple Push Notification service (APNs) was first announced in June 2008 as a more battery efficient way to send or push messages to apps than long-running background processes that would continually poll for and pull new messages if there were any. Interest in the service was immediate and led to Apple pushing back the initial launch so they could re-architecture APNs to scale to meet to the overwhelming demand.

APNs was first launched in June 2009, back when iOS 3.0 was the operating system of choice on your iPhone 3GS! Since then, push notifications have become widely accepted as the single, most effective way to reach out to and engage (or annoy if done badly) a mobile user.

APNs Legacy Binary Protocol

Back in 2009, if you wanted to send a push notification, you had to call APNs directly using the APNs Legacy Binary Protocol (of course it wasn’t legacy back then, but keep reading, all will become clear). Writing this as a long-ago Comp Sci graduate, who started out coding C++ on Unix servers for Telcos, even I can fully appreciate that although highly efficient and functional, binary interfaces are challenging to use, unforgiving of errors and therefore not necessarily for everyone. Therefore, it was no real surprise that in 2015, Apple released a new HTTP/2 provider API for APNs.

In the intervening years, and with Google adding Push Notifications to Android in May 2010, some vendors such as yours-truly, emerged as a means to abstract away the complexity of interfacing with the APNs Legacy Binary Protocol and Google Cloud Messaging (GCM – as it was called back then). Furthermore, these vendors such as ourselves, incorporated analytics to expand upon the basic push functionality of APNs and provide sophisticated, intelligent user, behaviour and location-based audience segmentation and targeting, accessible either through an easy-to-use campaign management UI or a transactional, RESTful API that worked with both platforms. However, under-the-hood, these vendors were all using the APNs Legacy Binary Protocol themselves.

Apple supported the APNs Legacy Binary Protocol and the HTTP/2 Provider API alongside each other for the next four years, before announcing in 2019 that support for the APNs Legacy Binary Protocol would be discontinued. At first, this was expected in 2020 but a stay of execution was then granted until 31st March 2021 – perhaps due to the aforementioned vendors who were still using it themselves!

What do you have to do?

First off, if you are a Kumulos customer, nothing! Why? Because we have already done this for you! Kumulos switched over to the HTTP/2 Provider API in early 2020, not long after the initial announcement from Apple. Win!

If you are using another push notification vendor, then the chances are you won’t have anything to do either. However, it might be worth checking in with them, just in case. It is widely believed that the reason Apple granted the APNs Legacy Binary Protocol a stay of execution was to allow some vendors, who had not been as prompt as Kumulos in adopting the HTTP/2 Provider API, further time to migrate. Best not leave anything to chance and give your vendor a call today.

Finally, if you have built your own in-house integration using the APNs Legacy Binary Protocol and haven’t yet updated this use the HTTP/2 Provider API, then you have some work to do, and fast!

Build vs. Buy

The re-opens the debate of build vs. buy. Why pay a vendor such as Kumulos when you can call APNs directly using the HTTP/2 Provider API? If your app is only available on iOS and only ever targets notifications to individual users, this may be a compelling question.

However, there are four significant reasons why using a specialized mobile messaging vendor to send your push notifications might be the way you want to go from now on…

  1. Firstly, and most obvious, is that vendors such as Kumulos, enable you to send mobile push notifications across different platforms including iOS, Google Android and Huawei Android through a single SDK, UI and/or API without having to build interfaces against each platform’s APIs (which we have already done for you).
  2. Secondly, vendors such as Kumulos are backed by analytics and as such provide intelligent user, behaviour and location-based audience segmentation and targeting options, all through an easy-to-use campaign management UI – functionality that increases the impact of your push notification campaigns and functionality that you will have to code and build yourself, should you choose to go down that route.
  3. Next-up, and related to the above, vendors such as Kumulos invariably incorporate other messaging channels such as in-app messaging, web push notifications, SMS and email, enabling you to provide a rich, seamless experience through the complete user journey.
  4. Finally, and perhaps most importantly in this context, vendors such as Kumulos shield you from numerous changes to the platform APIs and the significant complexity in using them. For example, Apple require you to hold open and reuse existing connections to the HTTP/2 provider API for “as long as possible” (for many hours to days) and have also recently required all connections to incorporate a new root SSL certificate. In addition, Google have also deprecated their own legacy HTTP API and are encouraging everyone to migrate to the latest HTTP v1 API – we also migrated to this API in early 2020, so again no action required for Kumulos customers.

Wider Implications

One of the wider implications of Apple discontinuing support for the APNs Legacy Binary Protocol is that many apps and vendors used the feedback mechanism, rightly or wrongly, as a proxy for app uninstall events. The HTTP/2 Provider API will return if a token is invalid it (either by blocking push notifications or uninstalling the app) but, for privacy reasons, this will only happen after a random delay of days or even a few weeks.

However, rather than focusing on the uninstall number, we would instead recommend you focus on retention and engagement – how many users you have retained, engaged and converted to the next step in their journey through timely, personalized messaging? Great! Now what can you do to increase that number!

For those that do drop-off or for those who simply prefer to be engaged via different messaging channels, the Kumulos platform contains a range of features designed to ensure you know and can target users on the channels they are most active on, without having to broadcast across them all (or worse, shout into an empty room). For more details on our reachability checks, Contact Us and we’ll be happy to discuss the options that are right for your app and its audience.

In Summary

Despite the somewhat alarming email from Apple, users of Kumulos and more than likely most other push notification vendors will have nothing to do. If, however, you have built your own integration with the APNs Legacy Binary Protocol, then you now have a decision to make – update this to the new HTTP/2 Provider API or start using a specialist push notification vendor, such as Kumulos. There are a number of factors that will influence this decision, but in our experience, more and more are stacking up in favour of outsourcing the delivery of push notifications to specialist providers, freeing you and your team up to focus on the app itself.

We’d be more than happy to discuss the pros and cons of both approaches with you and promise absolutely no hard sell. Contact Us today and we’ll put the kettle on!

Further Reading

To find out how to build and execute an effective push notification strategy, download our Push Notifications Best Practices Guide now.

IDFA changes – good news for your users, good news for you

Apple IDFA Changes

The Apple IDFA is changing and based on some of the headlines and news reports, you could be forgiven for thinking the sky is falling in. In this article, we’ll look at what this change actually means in practice for you and the opportunity it presents to shift your focus onto engagement and retention.

In doing so, you might find that this has a much greater impact on your bottom line than any new user acquisition campaign ever can.

What is the IDFA?

Not to be confused with Dua Lipa’s 2017 hit single IDGAF, the Apple IDFA or Identifier for Advertisers is a unique identifier generated for each Apple device. Although it doesn’t contain any personal identifiable information, the IDFA enables advertisers to serve targeted, customized adverts based on the actions you have performed in other apps that track in-app event behaviour and associate this with your device’s IDFA.

It also enables advertisers to track and measure which mobile advertising campaigns you then interact with to further refine and target the adverts you and others will then see, the principle around which has spawned the multibillion-dollar mobile app attribution industry.

Why is the IDFA in the news?

Although the IDFA is not new, it hit the headlines at WWDC in June 2020 when Apple announced it would that as of iOS14 (released in September 2020), you would have to give each app explicit permission to use the IDFA (just as you do for push notifications or location tracking). This is one part of a wider Apple initiative called App Tracking Transparency (requiring apps to be completely transparent about the data they collect and hold about you) and a wider shift in the industry away from third-party tracking data (such as Google’s proposal to block third-party tracking cookies in its Chrome browser).

You have always had the option to opt-out of being tracked via the IDFA, but in practice few of us did this, with well over 70% of us not bothering to reverse our implicit consent. However, with the simple change of requiring us to give our explicit consent it is widely accepted that this figure will fall to only 10% – 15% of us allowing apps to track what we do for the purposes of serving targeted adverts.

Why are we still talking about the IDFA now?

As we’ve previously discussed, iOS14 adoption was swift (pun intended) reaching 90% adoption within three months of launch (by contrast iOS13 was only at 76% adoption by that same time).

Apple IDFA - Worldwide iOS14 Adoption after 90 days

So why is the IDFA still in the news now?

Well, for that there are two simple reasons. Firstly, bowing to pressure from mobile ad networks and attribution companies, Apple announced in September a grace period delaying the change to requiring explicit user consent to use the IDFA until Spring 2021. This was to allow the industry time to switchover to using Apple’s new SKAdNetwork (which allows advertisers to measure the overall success of their campaigns, but not to an individual user level).

Secondly, the reason the IDFA is still in the news is because the mobile ad networks and attribution companies want it to be, in the vain hope of forcing Apple to reverse their decision. In a blistering attack in December, Facebook accused Apple of hurting small businesses reducing their sales by upto 60% by limiting their ability to serve personalized adverts (Facebook themselves are expected to take a multibillion-dollar revenue hit as a result of these changes).

When will the change actually happen?

With the sun getting higher in the sky, spring is now well and truly underway, so when will you require explicit user consent to use the IDFA? The answer is no one really knows.

The one thing that could delay the change is the relatively low levels of adoption of Apple’s new SKAdNetwork, currently sitting at around 20% as many ad networks are still evaluating their options. Rather than accept the seismic change, many have simply buried their head in sand hoping that Apple will bow to commercial or legal pressures.

Similar to the ongoing investigation by the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority into whether Google’s proposal to block third-party tracking cookies (that many argue will make advertisers even more reliant on Google than they currently are), a number of legal complaints have been lodged against Apple’s proposed changes to the IDFA claiming they amount to an antitrust violation. However, early indications are that these are set to fail, with the French Competition Authority refusing to order Apple to further delay implementing the changes as the French trade body the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) had been seeking.

Furthermore, in a recent press release from Apple they doubled down on data privacy, improving transparency and putting you firmly in control. So, although we don’t know for sure, we are still expecting the change to happen sometime soon before spring makes way for summer. Regardless, there is now an opportunity to revaluate how you reach and connect with your mobile audience and here at Kumulos, we recommend you take it!

First off – does this change impact Kumulos?

No! Kumulos does not use the IDFA and so this change will have no impact on Kumulos. In fact, we are fully supportive of the principles that are driving this change. You can continue to use Kumulos to track first-party analytics events within your app, remaining compliant with Apple’s privacy policies, and then use this to segment your audience for targeted messaging campaigns but rest assured, this data belongs to you and we will never, ever share this data with anyone else.

Furthermore, Kumulos Deferred Deep Links are deterministic, and we do not use device finger-printing or any other probabilistic tracking techniques to try and identify your users.

Be transparent! B-E transparent. B-E-T-R-A…

Secondly, whether you have to yet or not, be completely transparent about the analytics data your collecting and why! For years, we’ve been explaining that if you want to track users’ location or send them push notification, you need to explain why to maximize your opt-in rates.

“Allow Cloudburger to access your location?” vs. “Allow Cloudburger to access your location so we know when you will be arriving at your local restaurant so we can start preparing your order.”

“Cloudburger would like to send you notifications?” vs. “Cloudburger would like to send you notifications such as updates on opening times and weekly special offers”

The exact same principles apply to analytics, for example “We’ll record what you order from our menu the most, so we can display them first and also make suggestions of new items we think you might like.”

Focus on Engagement and Retention, not just Acquisition

Another thing we’ve been advocating for years is to shift more of your focus from new user acquisition to onboarding, activation, engagement and retention. We’re not saying user acquisition doesn’t matter – of course it does – but acquiring a new customer is much more expensive than retaining an existing customer yet has a much lower chance of conversion! Whereas even just a small increase in retention, can have a significant impact on the bottom line.

Apple IDFA Changes - Focus on Activation, Engagement and Retention

Think about how you onboard new users into your app. What can you do to activate and engage more of them? Measure retention and use analytics to see where and when most users drop-off. Then, make small, incremental changes to increase activation and retention. For example, a timely message with a personalized money off coupon for your first or next order. Measure the impact and then repeat the process moving onto the next drop-off point. Build-Measure-Learn!

Make the most of the other channels you control

Just because the IDFA is going to become less prevalent, doesn’t mean you can’t still connect with your users via other channels. Use the other channels you control to acquire more users into your app (ideally, with a personalized onboarding flow) and re-engage lapsed app users with Deferred Deep Links. Whether this is by email, SMS, social or even a QR Code on the side of a pizza box, you can acquire new users for your app or re-engage and drive existing users back to your app, increasing retention. 

Close the loop

Good things happen to good people! Use Crash Reporting to monitor the user experience, be transparent about the information your collecting and ensure your messaging campaigns are personalized, timely and relevant to each individual user. If done well, you’ll see this reflected in the star ratings and reviews your users give your app, which will improve discoverability in the App Stores, increasing acquisition and so it goes on!

In Summary

Despite what some tech giants might want us to believe, requiring explicit user consent to use the IDFA is coming, and its hard not to argue that putting your users in control is a good thing. It gives us all a chance to think about how we connect with our audience. If this leads to a greater focus on engaging and retaining existing users, away from constantly acquiring new users, then not only will that be better for your users, it will also likely be better for you. If this strikes a chord and you want to know more, let’s talk!

Further Reading

If you want to learn more about how you can use the other channels you control to acquire more users and re-engage lapsed users, download our Ultimate Guide to Deferred Deep Links.

Remote-Working – How to improve your mobile marketing team’s productivity

working from home

As mobile marketing teams settle in to the new remote- working landscape, the need for innovative marketing tools that enable seamless collaboration across countries and continents is becoming ever clearer.

For mobile marketing teams, the ability to pivot rapidly to meet the ongoing challenges of remote-working, while at the same time being able to successfully respond to a radically redefined mobile customer, has been challenging – but critical for future growth. 

Because whilst teams and budgets may have found themselves negatively impacted over the last 12 months, mobile app use skyrocketed a massive  25% YoY in Q3 2020  – and across multiple sectors:

  • 2.3 billion Hours in mobile shopping apps – in a single week
  • Time spent in finance apps surged by 45% 
  • Health and Fitness app downloads increased 30% 

Managing this new mobile landscape while at the same time shifting to managing remote teams has meant mobile marketers are experiencing both a lack of transparency across campaign activities, and a lack of consistency across channels, making it difficult to manage team activities and, by default, meaningfully optimize campaign impact.

 

challenges marketers face during remote working

Remote-working challenges facing marketers – Marketing Week

 

In response to these challenges, we’ve implemented new capabilities across the Kumulos platform – capabilities that allow teams to improve the efficacy of building and shipping campaigns, and at the same time do so efficiently, cost-effectively, and transparently. 

Bolstering security 

Security has always been important when it comes to accessing and managing customer data.  In 2021, with unprecedented increases in mobile use, mobile marketers now have access to an ever-more complex, wider pool of customer data than ever before. 

On the one hand, it’s a marketer’s dream. On the other, however, securing access to (sensitive?) data across large, distributed teams (that can quickly lose visibility of roles and permissions) can become problematic. So we’ve integrated the ability to enable two-factor authentication and set password policies in ways that align with the often very specific needs of their own organization. 

Streamlining consistency

And one of the quickest, most effective ways of streamlining processes across distributed teams is the ability to set up processes so that they’re easier to understand and undertake – so when your team’s working on multiple mobile marketing campaigns across multiple user groups, geographies, and timezones, the time-consuming, resource-intensive activities have already been taken care of.

We all know how important it is to reach the right customer at the right time with the right message; never so crucial than in the current marketing climate when one wrong move can undo years of hard graft. But how do you ensure consistent, on-brand, relevant messaging when your team is separated and working on multiple campaigns with different, often complex needs? With Push Notification Templates, of course!

Push notification templates make it super-easy to create and send pitch-perfect push campaigns that hit the right note every time, enabling marketing teams to easily replace any dynamic content with their own campaign-specific content – so, think titles, deep-link destinations, user attributes for personalization, and button titles, all helping streamline consistency across entire teams and freeing them up to focus on individual campaign goals.

Optimized Approval Process

With nine out of 10 marketers telling us that it’s the delays in the approval process that are the top reason for their deadlines being missed, we know that there’s a problem. 

Streamlining an often complex sign-off process across multiple campaigns is challenging – doubly so across a remote team where clarity and visibility around projects can often be missing. Over-running deadlines, even by a couple of hours, can soon become problematic, particularly when it becomes a habit.  

Building and integrating message approval workflows is our way of helping teams address these challenges, allowing teams to specify users that can draft push notifications and in-app messaging campaigns, alongside allocating permissions for specific users to approve them before shipping. 

Users can be assigned roles such as Content Editor, Approver – or both – with the ability to implement approval permissions such as target audience, message content, and delivery schedules. 

We’ve also built these new capabilities in such a way that team members don’t miss a beat – once a message has been submitted for approval, an email alert will let the designated approver know that there’s a message awaiting their approval. And the icing on the cake? You get a full audit trail of the workflow so you’ve got 360 visibility of who created, approved, and sent each message. 

Combined, these features will make it easier for large, distributed enterprise organizations to retain and engage their web and mobile audience in a secure, controlled, and highly effective way.

Conclusion

Being able to engage and retain the 2021 mobile customer means recognizing the importance of an efficient, effective web and mobile messaging strategy, while at the same time making it easy for large, distributed enterprise teams to collaborate seamlessly, and in a highly effective way. 

The mobile marketing strategies that drive healthy conversions are focused on producing optimized content and campaigns – those that deliver an exceptional customer experience and streamline effortless behind-the-scenes management. Kumulos clients are excited about the ways these new platform features stand to impact their app business by improving security, transparency, and consistency. If you’d like to join them, let’s talk!

How mobile technology is redefining the hospitality industry in the wake of COVID

Post-COVID, the hospitality industry is suffering – a rapid drop in bookings, huge job losses, and lost revenues mean that many won’t survive.

For many, it’s difficult to see the path forward. Yet waiting until there’s a clear view is only going to ensure that when travel does return to a near-normal (and it will), guests that can’t trust their preferred hoteliers to have stepped up to the plate to address their new needs and offer them an exceptional, safe guest experience, will simply turn to those that can – leaving the stragglers struggling to bounce back.

The solution? A focus on mobile technology investments that support and foster a safe guest experience, way into the future …

Hospitality in a post-COVID world

The disruption caused by COVID has changed how we all engage with the world around us, forcing commerce to reimagine what ‘doing business’ looks like as we adjust to that very different way of life.

Travel and hospitality especially are feeling the impact of this new world order. Strict travel bans and lockdowns on repeat, social distancing, and an exceptionally wary public have delivered a devastating blow to what was, until March 2020, a thriving hotel industry. Add to that the uncertainty of when we can expect to see rooms starting to fill again with the sound of happy travelers, and it’s small wonder that many have been caught out like the proverbial rabbit in headlights, unsure what to do next, unclear what the road ahead really looks like.

The American Hotel & Lodging Association told us only last week that half of all hotel rooms in the US are projected to remain unoccupied this year, and business travel is unlikely to return to pre-COVID levels until 2023 at the earliest. 

But – and it’s a positive ‘but’ – over half of leisure travelers are already telling us that they’re planning to travel this year, encouraged by vaccine roll-outs and, by extension, the gradual relaxing of restrictions. When that happens, it’s going to pay to be ready to deliver the new guest experience – a secure, more safe experience that confidently fosters trust and loyalty – and keeps guests returning time and again. 

How mobile technology can help meet the needs of the 2021 guest

With each passing year, the global tourism industry has accelerated industry innovation through the use of technology, and delivered through the gadgets in our hands. Air travel, hotel booking, exploration, and guest experiences … utilizing the power of smartphones and the apps they deliver has redefined how we discover the world around us, making travel more accessible, convenient, flexible and personal than it’s ever been.

The post-COVID travel experience, while very different to the one we’re used to,  will also be underpinned by that industry-defining technological innovation, and delivered by our smartphones.

Not convinced? Right now, almost nine out of ten travelers would choose a hotel that offers a mobile app that can provide an entirely contactless mobile check-in, reservation and concierge services, and check-out over one that doesn’t.

But what does a focus on mobile look like when it comes to delivering an optimum guest experience in a post-COVID world? How can mobile help guests feel safe and confident, informed and reassured?

Here are the areas where we’re seeing the biggest potential for success:

Mobile check-in and keyless room entry

Guests are becoming increasingly aware that contactless entry is already widely available in many hotels already, influencing booking decisions and rewarding operators who have been quick off the mark to implement the technology.

Introduced last year in response to the COVID crisis, the Time Hotels app features a wide range of mobile services that meets new guest requirements  -including online check-in and check-out and mobile entry room keys.

This innovative solution – already used by a multitude of hotel operators – allows guests to check-in and access their room upon arrival using the app’s smart lock to unlock the door with their smartphone and negating the need to visit a busy front desk or locate concierge services to assist.

Dwayne Pascal, CTO at Criton agrees,

“We’ve certainly seen the adoption of mobile technology for driving a ‘contactless guest journey’ and features like check-in, mobile keys and payments are features we’ve built in that will certainly continue to gain traction in 2021.  Going forward however, we must go beyond this and give guests the information they want when they want it and wherever they are.  Optimising those micro-moments through personalisation and up-to-date information will build trust and help hotels provide additional benefit to guests which can also add revenue.  Over time, hotels will need to bring together all their services into a common place where it’s easy for guests to find everything – and as the market recovers, the answer to that is increasingly mobile.”

 

keyless mobile check-in

Keyless mobile check-in with Time Hotels mobile app

 

Chatbots and Live Chat

With many concierge and guest service teams now working with reduced staff numbers, chatbots and live chat facilities provide a simple, effective and efficient way to meet guest needs for information and answers to questions that they might have during their stay – and at the same time meet that need for less contact.

Chatbots themselves can quickly and easily address guest queries around most key topics – think pricing, room information, location, accessibility etc – with the more complex questions connecting to  flesh-and-blood guest services who are able to provide more detailed answers. The benefits are manifold. Not only can chatbots quickly ease the pressure on reduced teams, but they’re often far more efficient in terms of speed, and timely responses.

Mobile Concierge Services

Concierge apps are enjoying a boom ‘thanks’ to COVID – supporting operators to deliver their services in ways that ensure customer safety and trust. We know that guests are looking to minimize time spent with concierge during their stay – if not doing so already, hotels should now be looking at all points of guest contact and planning how to mitigate the need for face-to-face services during their stay.  One of the most well-known of the concierge platforms – HotelFriend – enables hotels to provide all that a physical concierge offers, without the risk. For example:

  • Arranging housekeeping visits when occupants are out, minimizing contact, and adhering to distancing requirements
  • Ordering fresh towels, extra toiletries, or morning coffee, avoiding the front desk
  • Booking excursions or taxis and avoiding busy travel desks.
  • A concierge chat facility – allowing real-time communication from a distance.
  • And digital gratuities – providing the ability to tip staff without hand-to-hand exchanging of money

A great example of concierge services delivered via their mobile app is Hilton’s Honors app, providing keyless room entry, the ability to chat with hotel staff, and the functionality to order items like pillows or toiletries for your room.
digital hotel check-out

Mobile Payments

Perhaps unsurprisingly, many hoteliers have spent the last 12 months looking at restructuring their payments systems with a view to becoming both cashless and contactless – after all, the exchange of cards and cash are now considered to be a key risk factor in the transmission of COVID.

shangri-la hotel in-app payments

Shangri-La Hotels mobile app provides in-app payments for guest activities and services

 

Whilst most travelers rarely pay for rooms with cash, there is a myriad of hotel services and activities throughout a guest’s stay that not too long ago would have had them reaching into their wallet to pay for – but which now have them reaching for their smartphone. Restaurant bills, spa treatments, poolside cocktails, and tipping, as we kick off 2021 with neither guests nor staff relishing the prospect of business-as-usual when it comes to payments, we can expect to see cashless, contactless payments via mobile the absolute rule of thumb, keeping guests and staff safe and (as a knock-on effect), streamlining processes and efficiencies.

Voice | Alexa for Hospitality

No mobile technology listicle is complete in 2021 without mentioning Voice, in this case, “Alexa for Hospitality”, coming to a mobile strategy near you, supporting the post-COVID guest experience, and delivering a multitude of benefits along the way.

amazon alexa

If you thought Alexa was all about reminders and weather updates, think again …

 

Released in  Summer 2018, Alexa for Hospitality made minor waves in a big industry – but its moment in the proverbial spotlight may just have arrived. Addressing contactless, touchless guest needs, Alexa for Hospitality delivers in buckets to provide vital guest information (think safety information, room-service hours, entertainment activities, spa hours, and check-out times); allowing guests to request services such as room service or housekeeping, and can be customized to deliver smart-hotel functions such as adjusting heating, tweaking lighting, opening, and closing blinds, playing music, placing calls and so on … minimizing the need for face-to-face concierge interaction and positively empowering guests to customize their own safe experience for the duration of their stay.  Even better, providing that information in a melting pot of languages. Our top pick is a technology that will go from strength to strength during these unprecedented times.

Conclusion

Today, no savvy hotel operator can ignore the essential role that mobile plays at every stage of their guests’ journey – from deciding where to go, to how to get there, to booking, arrival, stay – and departure. And no savvy hotel operator can ignore mobile in a world where COVID has changed the rules of doing business, perhaps for good.

But mobile technology is about so much more than helping keep us safe  – mobile enhances the guest experience, helps increase engagement (and by default, boosts revenues), saves valuable time and already squeezed resources, and can, when done well, boost guest satisfaction and loyalty ten-fold (and more!).

Hoteliers will bounce back from these challenging times. If you’d like to find out how Kumulos can help, let’s talk. or if you’d like to find out more about our platform…
Please sign up for your free demo.