The Changing Landscape of Customer Acquisition, Engagement and Retention in 2020

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Marketing has evolved over the years from a largely intuitive exercise based on an executive’s judgment and experience, into becoming a data-obsessed occupation. A hundred years ago, department store magnate John Wanamaker was famously quoted as saying that he knew half of his advertising spend was wasted. The problem, he said, was that he didn’t know which half. That’s not the case today.

Not only have the tools of marketing and promotion changed, but also the mindset of marketing professionals, which has morphed into one built around campaign performance data and event-level data detailing every phase of the buying process – data which is then augmented by third-party customer information from multiple sources. Algorithms constructed around that data have proven very powerful in focusing marketing resources on precisely the right individuals at the right times.

Processing all that information to create useful marketing intelligence is already a huge challenge to marketers and their technical development partners. But we expect it to become even harder in 2020. Data privacy regulations, like the European Union’s GDPR and California’s CCPA are changing the way data is collected, stored, exchanged, and used – restoring a measure of privacy to individuals, but at the expense of consumer market targeting practices.

Greater reliance on the resources of the brand’s own apps and websites to leverage critical data and create appropriate actions will become more evident in the coming decade. Here’s how we see it unfolding:

Ads will be less personalized, less attributable, and less effective

New privacy laws like GDPR and CCPA, along with technology changes like Safari’s Intelligent Tracking Protection (ITP) will make it much harder for advertisers to track and personalize their advertisements. Companies will increasingly invest in efforts outside of advertising for growth. User retention will become increasingly important as user acquisition prices increase.

Marketers will focus on re-engagement, as much as acquisition

Technological and market changes will make new user acquisition through advertising much more costly. As a result, marketers will become increasingly direct their efforts on ensuring they’re maximizing the value of the customers they already have through re-engagement channels. Successful adoption and optimization of push notifications, email, and SMS channels will be considered instrumental to growing user engagement and revenue.

Developers will work more closely with marketers to personalize messages in real-time

To effectively reach new prospects and re-engage existing customers, companies will better leverage their engineering teams to better connect many first-party and third-party systems. Synchronizing data between internal databases and third-party engagement and analytics products will become increasingly important for effective and attributable marketing efforts. The best performing businesses will leverage data they collect about users in real-time to trigger and optimize personalized ads, push notifications, and email messages.

Notifications will drive a majority of user engagement

The days of regularly refreshing for new content on social networks, email inboxes, or collaboration tools are going away. Instead, users are increasingly engaging primarily in response to receiving a real-time notification. The increasing popularity of Web Push Notifications is furthering this trend on the web. Effective usage of notifications will be a key part of the user experience for every app and website. For example, Chrome, Firefox, and Safari all have a combined market share of over 75% for web browsers, meaning that web push notifications can potentially reach over a billion users.

Developing applications to engage customers and best meet the needs of marketing the 2020s will almost certainly have to focus on mobile devices, which bring users the benefit of discovering vendors by way of search, social media, or other services on their smartphones. Data will still be king. But a word of caution: insisting that customers complete a feedback form immediately after every point of contact with the brand erodes people’s affection for your company. Feedback can be valuable, but like anything else of value, it should be used sparingly.

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About Author

George Deglin is the Co-founder and CEO of OneSignal, and is passionate about helping businesses of all sizes send more effective messages. OneSignal was born out of a pivot from a game studio that sought better tools to increase user engagement. George was previously the Co-founder and CTO of Uversity, and studied Computer Science at the University of California, Berkeley.

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