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    Q&A: Julie Simon – One-Size-Fits-All Won’t Work in Asia’s Mobile Market

    By Bobby McGill - Apr 6, 2020
    Q&A: Julie Simon – One-Size-Fits-All Won’t Work in Asia’s Mobile Market

    In February, AI-powered customer lifecycle and user retention platform, CleverTap, announced the appointment of Julie Simon to the newly-created role of vice president of marketing for Asia-Pacific tasked with driving the company’s global expansion in Asia following the completion of a $35M Series C funding round led by Tiger Global Management and Sequoia India.

    Simon brings over 16 years of experience to the role, most recently as head of marketing in APAC for Temenos, and she has previously held marketing roles at Quadient and Neopost.

    We recently caught up with her to talk about building the CleverTap brand in the region, where we are in terms of AI and machine learning technology, the state of mobile in Southeast Asia, why brands usually lose nearly 50% of their users within the first 4 to 5 days, and more.


    What’s been keeping you busy lately?

    It’s been twelve weeks since I joined CleverTap and right off the bat, I’ve been working with our teams to expand and strengthen our regional (APAC) presence, specifically in Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand where we see tremendous potential. In these booming economies, our goal is to unlock opportunities in key sectors like travel, eCommerce and fintech industries through a robust go-to-market strategy that includes engaging product, marketing and growth professionals.

    Beyond this, I’ll be driving CleverTap’s digital marketing, partner marketing, and branding and awareness programs region-wide. 

    Given the current situation, I’m also reshaping the go-to-market strategy to ensure that we address these testing times appropriately as well as to align with our target audience.

    CleverTap is described as an AI-powered customer lifecycle and user retention platform. Tell us more about that and how it works.

    CleverTap combines artificial intelligence and machine learning to deliver real-time, individualized marketing messages based on actual customer behavior–instead of merely a static user profile.

    “Despite widespread mobile adoption, engagement rates are much lower in Southeast Asia compared to the rest of APAC and the US. That’s because a one-size-fits-all approach to scaling mobile growth doesn’t work in a region with starkly contrasting income levels and cultural diversity.”

    Our biggest differentiator is that we’re able to provide a unified approach to common challenges such as data silos–and enable businesses to quickly experiment, learn and optimize mobile application strategies for increased user engagement and retention. 

    You were recently appointed VP of Marketing for the Asia-Pacific region, tasked with building the brand name and leading the go-to-market strategy. How do you plan to accomplish your remit?

    I have had the opportunity to work in the region for a major part of my career and as a result, have a deep understanding of key markets and the finer nuances of each. Drawing on these experiences will be important as we aggressively expand our footprint in the region. Having said that, it’s a boots on the ground type of role, which means I’ll be working closely with our clients to identify and address their present and future needs.

    Who are your biggest competitors in the region and what differentiates CleverTap?

    There are multiple legacy point solutions that have tried to retrofit their solutions to become an omnichannel marketing platform like CleverTap, but fundamentally they are not. What makes CleverTap unique is that we are innovating and investing in data science in a way that nobody else in the industry is currently doing.

    “The first stage of onboarding is the most critical because this is where users get their first impression of your app and brand, and it is at this stage that brands usually lose nearly 50% of their users within the first 4 to 5 days.”

    We are focused on understanding how brands can engage with their audiences in individualized ways beyond campaigns and automation employed by other marketing players. This makes us unique as an all-in-one solution that helps brands win new customers and retain existing ones inside and outside of their app.

    Where are we at in terms of the development and efficiency of AI and machine learning technology in this industry and where do you see it going in the future?

    Although a lot of marketing is currently automated, it is still human enabled. Incorporating AI into the inbound marketing methodology can enhance and optimize it even further. In the future, we expect to see more in-depth user insight and personalization via AI.

    AI has been around for a while and it is definitely here to stay. In the coming years, AI and ML will shape marketing through a number of ways. For instance, brands will be able to access in-depth user insight and personalization. Prescriptive analytics is a step up from the predictive version and it is when AI and analytics will really come to full bloom.

    User profiles will also be supplemented with data such that brands can paint a holistic picture of their customers across the users’ entire digital life cycle. There will also be a shift from manually curated rules to using machine learning to dynamically personalize a website in real-time based on a user’s browsing pattern (predictive user behavior analysis). There are also increasing possibilities of dynamic content optimization such as automatic content creation.

    According to studies cited by CleverTap, “90 percent of users abandon a mobile app within 90 days”. What is driving this high departure rate and what are brands doing to improve retention?

    When it comes to user retention, there are typically three phases– Onboarding, The Nurture Stage and The Attrition Stage. The first stage of onboarding is the most critical because this is where users get their first impression of your app and brand, and it is at this stage that brands usually lose nearly 50% of their users within the first 4 to 5 days.

    There are a variety of reasons why people uninstall. For instance, a confusing user interface that involves a steep learning curve could deter them from exploring the app further. Too many notifications or emails could also annoy users.

    “78% of consumers say they would be happy to receive mobile advertising that is relevant to their interests.”

    On the flip side, too little communication can lead them to forget about your app. Many brands fail at this stage and there is very little they can do in the next stages to make up for it. The second phase is all about nurturing user habits because no matter how exciting a user’s first experience with the app is, the novelty will wear off. Too many app teams believe a successful “aha moment” in phase one will automatically make phase two a success.

    CleverTap strives to fix this “leaky bucket” by helping companies reach out to users inside and outside the app through effective omnichannel messaging. For instance, by implementing personalized push notifications for Carousell, week 3 retention numbers improved by 71%. Similarly, Style Theory has witnessed significant growth of 3x uplift for browsers converting into subscribers with CleverTap’s personalized omnichannel engagement campaigns. CleverTap, therefore, empowers brands to create unique, individual experiences to connect and capture user attention.

    In an interview last year CleverTap CEO and co-founder Sunil Thomas, it was said that engagement by mobile has a long way to go in the region. Talk more about that and what brands are doing to address this issue.

    Despite widespread mobile adoption, engagement rates are much lower in Southeast Asia compared to the rest of APAC and the US. That’s because a one-size-fits-all approach to scaling mobile growth doesn’t work in a region with starkly contrasting income levels and cultural diversity.

    Brands looking to establish a presence in the region need to work towards tailoring and personalizing content for the different audience segments to improve relevance. Effective mobile advertising could change how consumers view ads — and your brand. In fact, 78% of consumers say they would be happy to receive mobile advertising that is relevant to their interests.

    For instance, online entertainment ticketing giant BookMyShow saw a multi-fold increase in user engagement with a personalized app experience. With CleverTap, BookMyShow is able to access real-time user data. They can easily segment users who like a particular movie genre or event type and engage them with targeted campaigns. With such deep customer analytics, it’s easy for the team to make data-driven marketing decisions on what messages to send users, when, and on what device. This includes tailoring notifications to suit user interest based on their activity and user behavior, and sending push notifications between 12- 4 PM as that is when they are most active.

     

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