On May 12th, 2022, App Growth Summit hosted their first European event of the year in Berlin, Germany. Xavier Bourlard, General Manager of EMEA at YouAppi, joined the largest panel at the conference to discuss the state of re-engagement and retargeting strategies as they pertain to app marketing strategies. Moderated by Valeria Lovato, Director of Account Management Games at Remerge, this panel dug into winback campaign strategies and tips on how to reduce user churn early in the customer lifecycle. During this session, Miro’s Lifecycle Marketing Manager Anuvind Kanwal, Head of CRM at Flink, Aitor Abonjo, Emma Sarret, Growth Manager at Holy Owly and Global Director of Customer Acquisition at JOKR, Thomas Le Hardy break down the top tips and best practices for building a comprehensive app marketing strategy.

Valeria: We mention winbacks, Retargeting, Engagement, Re-engagement: how do you define these terms?

Emma: This is interesting because it depends on your business model. For us, since we’re a subscription based business model, retargeting is any kind of user that has engaged with us but hasn't purchased. We don’t retarget after day 0, we let the user buy as they want to. Then engagement is engaging a user after they’ve subscribed in order to prolong life cycle. Strategic for us specifically during the 7 day free trial period. And then with re-engagement, after a user has churned (in this case unsubscribed), we re-engage with them to try to get that back. We try to understand why the user has churned in order to re-engage – for example, if their child was too old for the app.

Thomas: Yes we are more or less aligned on the retargeting part. We try to convert a user that hasn’t converted into becoming a new customer with us. We try to use push notifications at first to get a user back into the app but then if this doesn’t work after a few days, we go to retargeting to get a user to make that action. Then we have other mechanics as well, for example we do a lot of online video so we can always retarget those users who watch the video but didn’t convert. Engagement is every type of action that you can push with an existing user. You can communicate brand value and specific things that attract users. Re-engagement is trying to win-back customers and the key is understanding when a user will churn. 

Xavier: It is really important to define these topics. From my experience, working with hundreds of apps across all verticals, we see re-engagement terms really well defined but on the retargeting side it changes per vertical. For example, with food delivery apps they considered retargeting as  first order activation. Wording is important, since every strategy is very different and involves a different segmentation, and different KPIs to measure the performance of every action.

Valeria: We’ve mentioned user churn a bit in these answers. In terms of your business, when do you consider a user churned?

Xavier: A churn user is basically a user who has stopped using the app. We tend to see the biggest amount of churn within the first seven days of an install. This means that within the first week it is incredibly important to start those actions and in-app messaging in order to prevent user churn. 

Aitor: For us, churn is something different because of the amount of competition in the market. We have some forecasts and averages that we keep track of in terms of churning moments for the most common types of users but the goal is to react prior to the churn. We identify what “bad” experiences contribute to churn and react to them in the next hours/days. 

Of course, we also try to reactivate churned users but usually the cost is always higher and mainly driven by discounts which is a loop that could ruin the health/performance of your audience. Users will churn but the question is how you know who actually should be kept versus “trying to make everyone happy”.

Thomas: I definitely agree – when it comes to churn you need to immediately think about the winback strategies for those users. 

Valeria: Let’s talk about segmentation – what is your segmentation approach when engaging or re-engaging users? How does personalization (message, creatives) fit in it?

Anuvind:  You need to use segmentation as a way to create different pieces of content. Imagine you are a food delivery company and your users start to churn, you can either give them a voucher and say “here’s 20% off, please come back”, or you can look at their preferred cuisine type and use that data to present them with personalized messaging around their favorite foods. You can use content heavy emails with the user’s preferred food choice in order to resonate with the user. From my experience, this really does work and can be recreated in all verticals. 

Thomas: We really try to link segmentation to the communication funnel. From the awareness part to the churned and understand what type of messages/communication a user will get while experiencing your app. You will then define the type of message you deliver to keep your user engaged during the onboarding phase and active ones (if you have several) with the creative that is tight to it. For our business we can talk about products, promotions, but also app features and brand values. For re-engagement, you first need to understand why your users are churning (for example giving them a survey) and apply the same logic on finding the right message. 

Aitor: In my current and previous experiences, the main thing when it comes to avoiding churn or reactivating customers is understanding what problem you are trying to solve. Understanding why those users are churning is key. We approach things based on what solution we can provide for every type of churn or, ideally, we tackle the problem before the user even churns. 

Valeria: What are some effective Win-Back strategies you’ve been using? Any examples that have proved to be particularly successful?

Anuvind: I can share one example and it's two words: loyalty program. If you have a loyalty program, use the buildup to the loyalty program to exhibit the value a user has earned. Use this as a financial incentive to win them back! In my past experience when I was working in food delivery, every time a customer accumulated loyalty points or stamps, the value became tangible for the user. You can use this tactic as a method to reduce churn. If a user is in the churning stage, you can send them a push notification that says “You have X amount of points, if you place a few more orders you receive X.” It’s very simple but effective. 

Aitor: One thing for us that has worked in the past is direct mail for activation. Some customers appreciate receiving something in the mail, especially if it is something very personalized regarding an issue they might have had. This helps get a lot of feedback as well as win back customers. If you have the budget, I recommend trying this strategy!

Emma: We have found that one of the most successful strategies for us, similar to a loyalty program, has been discounts. Now it is possible within the app to give discounts (custom codes for iOS), also mobile web makes it pretty easy if you have web signup available. 

Valeria: Can you speak to the channels that have been most effective for you when engaging and/or re-engaging your users? 

Anuvind: Again, from a life cycle perspective it depends. Some people say email is a great channel, however I believe that it is rather content heavy. Mobile is a channel that can be used to captivate audiences with push notifications and other advertising. Depending on where the user is still active as for apps, most phones give a recommendation to the users to uninstall the app with a couple of weeks of no-usage. If you think the user is about to churn, utilize that mobile channel!

Thomas: Just to add some additional color on what is doable outside of our owned media, we have found value in paid advertising. You always have a certain amount of your users (engaged and churned) that don’t interact with your owned media, so you need to reach out to them elsewhere. Show that you have new items in stock or new availability to excite a user that might have been about to churn. 

Valeria: Any last tips to share with the audience?

Xavier: I think based on what we heard, that we start integrating marketing strategies on Day 1 of user acquisition campaigns. Already having your marketing plan and looking at the data in the first 7 days after install is incredibly important to see how many app opens, installs, etc you are receiving. Defining the churn points early can save you a lot of time and money. It’s not about doing either user acquisition or retargeting, it is about doing both at once to maximize your campaigns. 

Takeaways from Apps Growth Summit Berlin 2022:

  • Define retargeting goals early. Depending on your app, you may have a unique way of looking at retargeting and engagement. For example, retargeting for a subscription model is different from retargeting for a food delivery app. Know your audience and define these goals as soon as possible! 
  • Segmentation is key. Segmenting audiences based on behavior gives you the ability to create personalized messaging as well as win back users that may have been disengaged by showing them relevant content. 
  • Define the marketing plan early! Have your integrated marketing strategies set from Day 1. It doesn’t help to just have your user acquisition strategy in place, you need to set the retargeting goals early so that you can minimize user churn.