On October 21st, App Growth Summit held a virtual version of its annual San Francisco mobile event: App Growth Summit SF 2020. YouAppi CRO Leo Giel sat down with Michael Reese, Mobile Marketing Manager at The North Face, to talk about engagement messaging best practices. During this Fireside Chat titled, Engagement Messaging FTW!, Leo and Michael discussed engagement strategies for SMS and push notifications. Below, read our top takeaways from the discussion.


Key Takeaway: In times like these with COVID-19, location-based targeting for both SMS and push notifications can offer new ways to connect with customers.

Leo: How are you using SMS and push notifications to engage your consumers?

Michael: For us as a brand there are a lot of different touch points which enable you to connect with your consumer base, but I think the beauty of mobile messaging including SMS and push is that it can be really personal. I mean, you have your phone with you at all times. People respond to text messages faster than they normally see emails. So I think finding the right balance of messaging customers in the mobile space is really important to having an overall 360 marketing strategy. SMS is new for the North Face. It’s something we are just launching right now. It's exciting to be on the ground floor and help drive the launch of this new channel of marketing for the brand that will engage customers in a new way.

I think the main differences between the two are the use cases. Push notifications are tied to your apps. So if you have an app, using push (especially in times like these with COVID) with location-based push messaging can enable you to connect with customers when they’re coming to your locations and trying to interact with your brand, especially on the brick and mortar side. Location-based targeting is really important for both SMS and push but specifically with push I think it helps customers connect with brands and brands reach out to customers in new ways. Brands are using it to find new ways to make it easier for the customer at the end of the day. 


Key Takeaway: If you’re utilizing both push and SMS, use them in tandem for more impact. Keep goals for each type of messaging specific to the channel. For example, push is a great way to drive revenue by re-engaging customers through specific product recommendations.

Leo: What’s the most effective engagement messaging strategy with push and SMS? Hybrid? Do you lead with one and finish with the next?

Michael: I mean, I think the main thing is that you use everything in tandem. Obviously, we do a ton of email as a brand. Mobile messaging helps support that channel and those direct-to-consumer communications. I use push to drive customers to specific products or events that are happening within the app space that you can touch in mobile. That’s really key to keep it specific to the channel that you’re trying to reach customers in.

So, if you’re trying to grow transactions on your mobile channel, I think push is a great way to re-engage those customers. I mean, obviously, first they need to have opted in to receive those messages but I think customers that have an affinity for your brand will respond favorably to push notifications. It’s a way to re-engage them and push them back to the app space which at the end of the day is what you’re trying to do: grow revenue or sell products or whatever your action is for the customer to perform on the app. I think push is a great way to re-engage customers in that space.


Key Takeaway: Use segmentation to find the people that want to hear the message that you’re trying to push out to them. Oh and short codes do, in fact, still exist.

Leo: How do you send an SMS these days?

Michael: We definitely do short codes still. I think there are great ways to segment your audience within the SMS space. Once you have a customer base opt-in to SMS for your brand, definitely segment the messages. Make sure you’re hitting the customers with relevant messaging based on their preferences. We have a lot of different products at the North Face, from snow gear to hiking gear to running gear. So, it’s really important to message customers based on the things that they buy from your brand. Use segmentation to find the people that want to hear the message that you’re trying to push out to them.


Key Takeaway: When it comes to effective SMS, strike a tone with your customer that doesn’t just try to sell them something. Keep it conversational and authentic. Remember, you’re in someone’s personal space.

Leo: How do you do it without being spam-y?

Michael: There’s definitely a fine line to walk with SMS. [Compared to email], I try to be a little more calculated on SMS. Obviously, you’re in someone’s personal space which is their phone. People wake up with it. They go to sleep with it. They always have their phone nearby so you don’t want to bother them too much. I treat [SMS] more like a conversation. It’s not all about pushing sales and messages about products. It’s about engaging with the customer and making sure you can add value to their daily lives.

If you’re living in Colorado, for instance, where I live, and it’s going to snow today. I might send you a message about the weather. And, try to engage with you on a personal level about things that are happening in your life that aren’t specifically related to the brand. I want to be able to connect with you and make sure these messages are resonating with you and allow you to connect with the brand in a different way than just saying “Hey, we have a sale”. Instead it’s “Hey, it’s going to snow in your area today. Do you have a snow jacket or a warm coat or a scarf?” Something like that. So, it makes it more conversation-based and not so sales-y.


Key Takeaway: Push notifications + location-based targeting = engagement messaging that leads to impactful in-person connections with your brand.

Leo: When do you typically start to layer in the push notifications?

Michael: The way I envision push is more around location-based. So, yeah, if you get to a location or a point. I know within our app we allow customers to check in at our stores and various outdoor locations to earn loyalty points. Which I think is really cool to get people out and exploring which is our motto: “never stop exploring”. So, we’re always trying to push people to be outdoors and explore. Leveraging push for location-based messaging to alert customers when they’re near a check in point is really important in the push space.


Key Takeaway: Personalized push notifications via segmentation, dynamic product feeds and dynamic creative optimization is the key.

Leo: When we retarget, we’re always very aware of the importance of showing images and messages that are relevant to the consumer based on their age, gender and demographic. So, we’re big on dynamic product feeds so that if a consumer looks at a North Face jacket and they’re a male we’re not going to send them an image of a woman’s North Face jacket. Do you adopt similar tactics on the push side of things so that you’re sending relevant content to your target audience?

Michael: That’s a great point and it’s something we’re looking to expand upon. We’re actually looking at doing some more with push. It hasn’t always been the main driver of our mobile strategy, but that is something we want to look at. At the end of the day, the more relevant information that you have on your customer base, the more relevant you can make those communications. I think you’re on track as far as using that data to try to segment and ensure you don’t send customers the wrong type of message. 

Michael: On that point, a question for you: do you think there’s a need for personalization from a creative standpoint within the reengagement space for mobile messaging.

Leo: Absolutely. If you’re going to do it, do it well. I’ve been at YouAppi for 7 years and from the beginning I always knew how important creative was. In my previous life I used to take people from mobile phones into physical retail locations. I spent a lot of time working with creative and tech teams to understand the value of a change of the merchandise and the colors of an ad to conversion rates and in-store average order values. So, I’m a huge proponent of DCO. We do everything we can to optimize creatives based on the user’s demographic. 


Key Takeaway: Know your audience. Start the conversation through SMS and build trust with users. Then when the time is right, use location-based push messaging to drive engagement at key moments.

Michael: Are there any high level strategies for brands to re-engage customers to come back and make repeat purchases?

Leo: The #1 thing is: know your audience. I see so many times throughout the years, people rush. They’ll see you and I talking here and then they’ll go “Oh my gosh! I’ve got to do SMS and get push!” My advice is to stop and think about everything from your customer’s perspective. Do one thing right and then build upon it.

It’s how you represent yourself to the consumer that matters. Focus on your brand. Focus on your advertisements and make them relevant and data-centric before you do anything else. Crawl before you start to run. That’s my high level advice for most of the brands out there. So I think you’re doing the right thing: start sending them some SMS, start that conversation.

Get them to know you. Get them to realize: Hey, I’m not just going to try to inundate you with marketing and push a bunch of products in front of you. I want you to know that we just want you to have a nice day on the mountain.  Know we’re thinking about you. And, one day when the time is right we might push you a notification when you’re walking by one of our stores to come on inside and check out relevant products because we’re starting to know who you are. I think if you can harness that kind of relationship as a brand, you’ll win. 


Thanks for reading our AGS SF 2020 recap! Stay tuned for the next virtual App Growth Summit event in your region.