January 27, 2023

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This year, India surpassed 100 unicorns, coming in third behind the United States and China. Many of these companies have achieved their impressive status by excelling in mobile-first marketing. They understand the critical importance of interacting with their audiences across mobile channels, and they use first-hand data, insights into user behavior inside and outside apps, and real-time analytics to build more personal, relevant, and meaningful relationships with their customers.

Meanwhile, in the East, a new breed of mobile-first players is emerging – “super apps” – aiming to become one-stop shops for various services, including e-commerce, delivery, transportation and financial services. These super apps cement a central position in the daily routines of millions of consumers by treating each person as an individual with unique needs and requirements.

A good example of a super app is Indonesia’s Go-Jek, a ride-hailing giant that powers over 500,000 merchants and boasts over 190 million app downloads. Go-Jek is one of the first “decacorns” in Indonesia. Its laser focus on unlocking first-hand data to educate and engage consumers early in their journey helps it gain customer loyalty and market share.

From emerging unicorns to established super apps, many eastern companies are already mastering the use of mobile-first marketing tools and strategies to grow mind share and wallet share in fiercely competitive markets. Their approach provides Western companies with a valuable blueprint to follow as they design strategies to effectively engage – and re-engage – consumers in a landscape where privacy is paramount, where experience is everything.


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Learning from the mobile-first marketing mavericks

The East is home to billions of consumers for whom mobile apps are the go-to tools to access almost anything at any time. Mobile users in Singapore now spend an average of 5.7 hours per day using apps, 40% more than two years ago. Meanwhile, India has more than 1 billion mobile subscribers, who have downloaded a whopping 26.7 billion mobile apps by 2021.

These are huge numbers, and they increase the pressure on marketers in these regions to drive the deep-funnel actions that can keep retention high. The rules of engagement are clear: an alert about a seat upgrade opportunity cannot come in after the plane has departed. A coupon should not offer a customer a good deal on food that they do not like. And news about a new app feature should be presented in a way that takes into account how the consumer is currently using the app and educates them on how to use and benefit from the new functionality.

Compliance with these Rules of Engagement requires companies to leverage first-hand data and behavioral insights to determine the right time, tone, and context for any marketing message at scale. This approach is what consumers in the East have come to expect – even demand – and marketers targeting these audiences are afraid to disappoint them.

Personalization reigns supreme in a mobile-first world

Personalization supports marketing strategies that treat millions of customers as individuals and keep them coming back. It’s all about tailoring offers and reaching the right person at the right time with the right experiences at scale.

Take the super app AirAsia. It personalizes its customers’ journeys with relevant information and services delivered through an omnichannel approach. For example: a customer books a flight and receives an email with the itinerary. When it’s almost time to fly, a push notification in the app prompts them to check in. Another notification warns the passenger of a gate change. And once the customer lands, another push notification asks if they want to book a ride from the airport to the hotel.

Because AirAsia has access to a wealth of data about its users’ activities related to its various services — including food, insurance, groceries and delivery services — it can make its customers’ journeys easier, even if they don’t use the company’s app. use. Take the departure example above; instead of a push notification, AirAsia could send a text message to a customer about a gate change.

Personalization, when customers need it

AirAsia also uses customer data to deliver targeted messages about daily travel. For example, the company can know a customer’s home and office address and what time that person would normally make a ride booking. So when the customer opens the app in the evening, they might get a prompt that says, “Order your ride to work now to avoid traffic jams tomorrow.”

As Sue Lin Teo, head of growth and digital marketing at AirAsia, explained in a recent interview with CleverTap, the ability to deliver hyper-personalized messages is crucial for the company as it looks to add more services and features. “All this ‘micro-knowledge’ helps make the experience very intuitive to the user,” Teo said. “We want to get much better at it so that the services we offer are really tailored to the needs of the customers at the time…when they access our business.”

Essential elements for the success of mobile-first personalization: real-time data and insights

Excelling in personalization is worth it. According to global management consultancy McKinsey, companies that personalize experiences generate 40% more revenue from those activities than average players.

In a mobile-first world, the ability to excel in personalization depends on a company’s ability to store, retrieve, and analyze detailed data about user behavior. This should be collected from every user touchpoint: mobile app, website, email, phone, social media, SMS. The more first-party data a company has, the better it can understand its users and create relevant, personalized experiences and messages for them based on their specific needs, habits, preferences and buying patterns.

Delivering engaging, individualized customer experiences also requires companies to have an intelligent layer of data that enables them to leverage real-time insights. With artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) modeling, companies can gain insights into the key behaviors of their mobile users so they can answer critical questions, such as:

  • How can we get a user who installed our app to register?
  • How can we ask a registered user to buy or subscribe?
  • How can we motivate a user who has bought once to buy again?

Mobile-first marketing: Automation is critical

When selecting technology to support mobile-first marketing initiatives, companies should also look for a platform that offers real-time capabilities and has proven scale. As a rule, scale should never be an afterthought, especially for companies that want to grow quickly.

Behavioral analytics, AI and ML, and marketing automation are essential tools to deliver personalization for today’s mobile audience. They can unleash the true potential of data through deep segmentation and delivering real-time customer insights, enabling companies to create marketing efforts that help them nurture meaningful relationships and magical experiences with increasingly sophisticated mobile consumers.

Unicorns and super apps in the East are already proving that a data-driven, mobile-first marketing strategy can increase user retention and drive significant growth. They know how to use data volume effectively to deliver highly personalized experiences that appeal to mobile consumers. Western companies can learn a lot about mobile-first marketing from these companies’ strategies and playbooks.

Sidharth Malik is CEO of CleverTap.

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