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Mobile Growth Online; Trends for 2021 Key Takeaways

The mobile growth's news series offers insights from 2020 and expected trends for 2021.

The Mobile Growth series works to bring together mobile experts to discuss the most relevant topics in this ever-shifting environment of mobile, development. The most recent addition to the series was Mobile Growth Online which presented a panel of leaders in mobile for a conversation about mobile strategy trends they're predicting for the year, as well as lessons learned from 2020 and more insights from the year past and year ahead.


The talk was started off by Alex Bauer, a marketing strategy directorate Branch, who began by speaking about IOS14 and how that could impact tracking and measurements in campaigns, Bauer noted that the 'story' of the Apple IOS14 release started when the WWDC announced a policy last summer which meant spectators became more and more interested and started to pay much more attention, later in 2020 Apple stated that they would be delaying the roll-out, and the release lost momentum. In late January of this year, Apple announced new guidance and made clear what they were expecting, which has meant mindshare (popularity and consumer awareness) has risen rapidly to similar levels to that before Apple announced their delay, meaning a frenzy of interest has once again arisen. Bauer mentioned that ' we have just entered a window of likely release for IOS14.5, which is when all of this is supposed to go live", he went on to say that this essentially means that at any point from now, things could change, as Apple hasn't given a specific timeline, it's likely that the release will happen at some point in March. Because apple users update systems quite quickly, the impacts of the update will be seen soon after.

Bauer explains that Apple is introducing this update to remove tracking, the update will begin enforcing its App Tracking Transparency privacy feature, which will require app developers to ask for and receive a user's explicit permission to access their random advertising identifier (known as the IDFA) to track user activity across apps and website. Unfortnately this means that responsible marketing will be a 'collateral damage' of this update. Further, many MMPs are choosing to continue with full SK (StoreKit) Adnetwork, and any other ad attributions on IOS will require an ATT opt-in. Bauer then gave some essential steps that should be taken before the release including;

  1. Ensure SKAdNetwork implementation is done ahead of time

  2. Make a decision about device level data for ads, and choosing to show Apples new prompt if you want to collect this data

  3. Work with your ad network to scan for SKAd Network attribution

The Speakers

Shelly Kalish, who is a Product Director at American Express leading a mobile app team, she is responsible for adding value incorporated benefits into the app such as membership and digital servicing. "From start-ups to established corporations, her through line has always been the customer first. Throughout her career, she's led highly talented, cross-functional product management teams, driving development of shared vision among product, UX, engineering, design, marketing, and operations teams."

Marisa Johnson is Marketing Director at Sanvello, an app that offers therapy, coaching, self-care, and community. "At Sanvello, Marisa leads consumer acquisition and engagement, and drove significant user growth in 2020, earning Branch’s “Best Covid Adaptation” award. She previously worked in health system B2B software and holds a master’s in journalism from Northwestern University’s Medill School. She can’t imagine working in any other vertical than healthcare and is motivated every day to connect people in need with mental health support."

Trends in Business

What trends have you noticed in your verticals and what trends have come up as a result of the shift caused by the pandemic? Kalish mentioned that within American Express (AMEX) the company have tried to find ways to ensure consumers are assisted through this time, with financial relief programmes and financial management. But for trends within the financial sector they are seeing an upward trend in contactless payments and digital wallets with a 150% growth globally, Kalish mentions that this is attributed to demographics that teh company wouldn't normally reach, i.e. people who usually pay cash or card are now more comfortable using contactless solutions. She mentions that there is a large opportunity for this short beyond the financial market and AMEX as well as other companies across multiple sectors are looking for similar solutions to roll out to meet consumer needs.

What did you do to keep users engaged? Kalish mentions that there has been a 50% increase in app users over the last year for AMEX, and a large percentage of people check their phone as one of the first things they do in the morning, meaning they do have the attention, but the important step is to increase the usage, log in frequency and stickiness. Generally making the app increasingly usefulness and seeing the difference between the offline and in-app experience and filling that gap to make more services available across the app.

What trends have you noticed in communication and what has your approach been? Johnson mentions that digital health has exploded in the past year as a result of year fo progressive change were condensed into weeks or months where people weren't Abel too see their physician or therapist in person. Digital health funding hit $22bn in 2020 which was double that of 2019. This change to digital health is a trend that providers dont see changing soon as users have now been exposed to the experience and have grown comfortable with the new service options, but Johnson mentioned that the true question here is which providers will bubble to the top, the Sanvello team believe this will be defined by the (high) degree of access, the quality of care that is able to drive better outcomes, and the engaging consumer experience. The team at Sanvello have seen that the pandemic has been a real unifier in making the relationship between consumers and marketers much more conversational, and 'real' with more frankness in their advertising and conversations about the issues that need to be tackled, as well as trying to personalise the marketing experience and seeing what individual users truly respond to.

Amid the vaccine rollout, what trends are expected to come of 2021, and what features are being prioritised in your app? Kalish states that previously much of the benefit of being an AMEX card member centred around travel perks and travel opportunities, and while the company and many others are expecting travel to come back big, a pivot to new opportunities is essential. Amid the current climate a move towards lifestyle and wellness options may be better as this has been a major trend over the last year, offering rewards in these areas are likely to bring more value to consumers. Another trend seen has bene the sheer amount of high touch offline areas that are now making a digital shift, such as grocery shopping, it is important for firms to recognise this and stake steps towards making transacting more digital. Further, because less people are going out as a result of the pandemic, less offline issues are being raised, e.g. lost card and card replacement, but as services are going increasingly more digital, AMEX is just one of many companies making a shift towards digital servicing and digital self service while striving to continue providing a world-class service. Overall Kalish feels that is important to take the pivot to digital and leverage that to provide value and service to its members.

How do you think marketing strategies have/will be affected by changes seen in the pasta and upcoming year? Johnson sees the most value in embracing that move towards digital, while ensuring companies replicate the experience and high-touch that is seen in offline experiences. One of the main focuses of Sanvello is to ensure wether a consumer is interacting with the app or getting treatment, that they are given a human-experience and one that replicates interaction on a human level. One of the trends Johnson has picked up on is the 'influencer' culture which has grown massively in recent years across social media, her company are trying to remove the stigma of the 'hashtag ad' which can often come across as a disingenuous plug. Sanvello aim to use this new culture, but with a focus on influencers who are able to truly relate to the products and services with authentic stories, which make great multi-year brand partners, both acting as a promotion for the service, but also helping consumers become more comfortable with the idea of therapy and reducing stigma. influencers can act as "an engine for acquisition but also for engagement and retention and as another channel for your brand voice".

How is your team thinking about paid advertising in light of IOS14? IOS14 will bring major changes to mobile industry and particularly the mobile ad industry which was essentially and opt-out system for tracking for attribution. Because of this changes, many companies are beginning to understand and come to terms with the fact that they should not 'count on the opt-in' of many consumers, unless you are a very well-known and well-loved brand, but the vast majority will not allow tracking, Johnson mentioned that some studies showed as low as 5% of people will opt in. Johnson mentioned that her team are focusing on two main areas, firstly; focussing on first-party data, so collecting information on their users and creating a data warehouse so they can better understand user behaviour, as well as better understanding how to retain users and keep them engaged, as well as facilitating their journey. More broadly, Johnson states that companies may want to focus less on getting thousands of new clients and later loosing the, but further creating a user experience that focusses on retention and stickiness. It may also be a great option to partner with complimentary companies that also have greater access to first party data in order to introduce your company to a set of potential consumers that likely share the values or needs of existing users. Secondly, enhanced investment will go to 'tried and true' organic strategies like SEO, ASO, driving and engagement, and retention post-install, as well as leveraging every channel that is at your disposal, like email push, and in app value added content and stickiest activities.

What is your team doing in relation and preparation for IOS14? Kalish mentions that AMEX uses geofencing and tracking to cater to users for offers that are nearby for example, which now users will have to explicitly allow or 'op in'to receive. The company re now looking forward and thinking about Android for the future, but also contextualising the new changes, and giving information to the user about why the company want the tracking and why it is used as well as what opportunities are available as a result. Previously 70% of users were opted in for location services, but now because of the update the company will have to start from scratch, the company are unsure if they will get back to 70% but contextualising the use of these features will hopefully increase this rate. Further, there are more interesting things coming as a result, such as app clips which enables the user to use some parts of the app but without having to download the whole app and still getting usage from it, e.g. with payment options.

Have you had a 'success story; that has made a big impact on your users? Johnson mentions her company won the Branch Mobile Growth Award for Best Covid Adaptation, this was because the company wanted to highlight that the pandemic has created a mental health crisis which has been called the 4th wave of pandemic, because of this the company took down paywall for 6 months and spread the word, which meant huge amounts of people downloaded the app, and surprisingly, word of mouth was the biggest marketing of this offering. The company received many messages from users to thank them as the app massively helped with users coping during the pandemic.

Kalish mentioned that AMEX have started to pay a more focus to supporting small businesses, introducing 'small business Saturday' and releasing campaigns to shop small, e.g. 'if you spend X amount at a small business you get X rewards', The campaigns also helped to support small amex merchants utilising the mobile app. Offers like this have become one of the stickiest features and helped have helped users to redeem offers with small merchants. Further, the company has started offering one tap enrolment which meant a huge increase in redeeming offers, a 30% increase meant the app overtook the web counterparts from uptake.

Keep up-to-date with the latest tech industry insights, trends as well as information technologies, app development, and small business content with the Proteams Blog

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