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Apps need email like the lead role needs a supporting actor

App Support Email

Unfortunately I’m old enough to remember the first wave of web portals when every business to consumer (B2C) organization launched a secure portal to encourage customer self service. That was the start of my love-hate relationship with passwords. Oh the inner-conflict when I had to set up strong passwords for all 18 portals I needed to access monthly versus actually being able to remember all those login details.

Here we are, almost 2 decades later and I’m starting to feel the same about customer self service mobile apps. B2C organizations have gone app crazy. Some brands have even launched more than one! There are apps to do banking, apps to order a cab and apps to monitor my loyalty points, fitness or follow the stats of our local rugby team. The home screen on my mobile phone is at least 6 swipes long (and that’s with folders). I guess I’m feeling the start of ‘app fatigue’…

Which brings me to my point about customer self service apps . . . what is the best way to attract app users and keep them active?

I believe the answer is email, and here’s why:

Email is by far the best entry point to encourage downloads

The first challenge is to get customers to download the app. You could use traditional marketing methods, but one cannot click on a billboard while driving in traffic. You are more likely to succeed using digital channels, but again, some are more suitable to this task than others.

Consider this: Everyone with a smart device has an email address, meaning you can reach a large segment of your customer base. Also, the level of information and interactivity that email can handle makes for an excellent teaser. The trick is to provide a delicious taste of the convenience and functionality a customer will get using the app and then point them directly to the app store.

But app downloads are not really the best measure of success of a customer self service app. I would argue that converting downloads to active users is way more important.

Email can do a fantastic job of driving repeat traffic to your app

With email, you not only educate customers about the benefits of using the app, but with the aid of deep links you can move them directly from the email to that functionality inside the app. If they complete their task, query or transaction once in the app – then it has done its job of reducing traffic to the more costly engagement channels.

Will new channels relegate email to a minor supporting role?

I don’t think so. Email will do such a great job of promoting your app that it will play a central role in the app-crazy future. As a channel, email is the best tool to drive engagement at all stages of the customer lifecycle. Our customers use email to:

  • educate and create awareness of the app;
  • promote in-app offers and specials;
  • re-engage lapsed or dormant customers;
  • launch new self-service functionality;
  • drive traffic to in-app customer feedback initiatives;
  • continually educate customers on self service channels;
  • provide loyalty points statements;
  • enable redemption of loyalty points;
  • cross-sell additional partner apps or functionality within an app.

If apps are the new lead actor, then email is the all-important supporting actor. The value of a self service app cannot be fully realized unless you drive downloads. And you won’t achieve the potential engagement levels or customer service cost savings, unless you keep giving customers a reason to open the app.

And the award for best supporting actor in the app genre is … Email.

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Ross Sibbald

Ross Sibbald

Executive Head at Striata Marketing Solutions, Africa

Ross is the Executive Head of Striata Marketing Solutions, an agency focused on leveraging the power of digital communication to achieve the desired results for his clients. Ross is responsible for the customer experience, financial performance, operational efficiency and talent management of the agency.

Ross began his career as a lecturer educating the next generation on marketing strategy. He was deputy HOD in the marketing department at the Durban University of Technology and also lectured at private colleges and various Business Schools. Keeping abreast of the market, Ross managed an IMM franchise (3 years) during his tenure as a lecturer.

Before joining Striata, Ross was a partner and director for an online property valuation company. He then joined Striata in 2010 as an Email Marketing Strategist, and was promoted to Head of Email Marketing in 2012. In March 2014, Ross moved to ABSA where he was acting Head: Digital Commercialise. His focus was on managing the various Commercialise teams with the goal of increasing the Bank’s digitally active customer base, increasing online sales via digital channels, driving revenue opportunities across digital channels and taking innovative digital products to market.

In Sept 2015, Ross returned to Striata to head up the newly formed digital communications agency.

Ross holds an Honours degree in Marketing (Technikon Natal).

Read more of Ross' blog posts here or connect with him on the following social channels: