As a rising college senior studying economics and statistics, a Customer Success internship at Braze wasn’t the most obvious path for me this summer. At the outset, I was a little worried that my lack of marketing experience might make it harder for me to do a good job. Luckily, Braze offers a comprehensive onboarding training that gave me the crash course I needed to feel confident in the role.
Throughout my time at Braze, I’ve gained valuable insights about how brands can promote customer engagement, from learning the ins-and-outs of the Braze product stack to working hands-on with clients on their marketing strategies. As my summer internship nears its end, I want to share some of the most valuable lessons that I have learned about customer engagement from my time at Braze.
1. Think in Terms of a User Lifecycle
Coming into my internship without a marketing background, I wasn’t familiar with the concept of a user lifecycle. I quickly learned, however, that its influence can be felt in almost every successful customer messaging campaign. While the typical user lifecycle varies across different companies and industries, an easy way to think about it is that users can be onboarding, engaged, or lapsing. Many users will experience all three of these different lifecycle phases during their journey using a given product.
To really optimize customer engagement, messaging campaigns can’t be ad hoc—they need to be specifically targeted at individual users based on what lifecycle phase they’re currently in. The user who just signed up for an account might not be thrilled with receiving a series of messages nudging them to “upgrade to premium,” but a customer who has been actively engaging for the past month is much more likely to be receptive.
Furthermore, I’ve seen brands do a great job with an onboarding flow, only to stop sending messages altogether once users complete onboarding. I explain to brands who find themselves in this situation that it’s important to build an effective messaging strategy to target users in every phase of the lifecycle in order to maximize the time that users are actively engaged and bolster their relationships with your brand .
Braze enables clients to do just that with extensive data collection and segmentation capabilities. User data is updated in real time, ensuring that Braze customers always have the most current information about a user’s interactions with their app, website, or messages. That makes it easy to build out different user segments and send them precise and targeted messages aimed at their specific stage in the user lifecycle, supporting a better customer experience and stronger marketing results.
2. Challenge Yourself to Utilize a Cross-Channel Approach to Messaging
Apparently, Ryan from The Office was kind of on the right track with WUPHF’s message-people-on-every-possible-device approach! All jokes aside, different messaging channels can reach different audiences and have their own unique strengths when it comes to message content and delivery. At Braze, we enable our customers to message users via web and mobile push notifications, emails, SMS, in-app and in-browser messages, and Content Cards, among other channels.
One way I learned to think about the different channels is in terms of “push” and “pull.” “Push” channels are ones like email, push, or SMS that can reach out to users beyond your app or website, while “pull” refers to channels like in-app messages that are able to pull those users deeper into your app or website WHILE they are already interacting with it. We’ve seen that using “push” and “pull” messaging together results in an up to 224% increase in engagement over using “push” messages alone!
I had an opportunity this summer to present the merits of a cross-channel approach and introduce in-browser messaging to a client. An interesting use case for them was prompting engaged users to upgrade their subscription status, but push didn’t seem to be the right way to do it, as a push notification can be disruptive when users are not engaging with your app. Instead, in-browser messaging offered them a way to reach out to users who are currently using their website, who are a much more attentive and receptive audience!
One key aspect of Braze that makes our platform an amazing resource for developing a cross-channel approach is our ability to understand users as human beings based on their engagement across all their devices, rather than treating each device as a separate user. This allows our clients to have a unified voice across all of their channels and avoid sending contradictory or duplicative messaging campaigns to a single user who happens to be using multiple devices to engage.
3. Onboarding Is the Most Important Meal of the Day
No, it isn’t breakfast and it most certainly isn’t lunch or dinner—to start things off right, marketers should be thinking onboarding. Even before my time at Braze, I suspected that an app or website’s onboarding flow would be one of the most important drivers of engagement (I even talked about onboarding messaging campaigns in my interview) and my hunch was definitely reinforced in my time here. Less than a quarter of customers who download an app will return to it the next day, making effective onboarding campaigns crucial for customer retention
Customer retention tends to be much cheaper than acquiring new customers—in general, the most expensive part of the user journey for brands is getting users to visit your website or download your app. Having a great onboarding flow is the best way to make sure your users engage with the app after download, deepening their engagement and reducing the risk that the resources you spent attracting them aren’t wasted.
With Braze, an easy way to create a terrific onboarding messaging flow is to build a Canvas. Canvas is our real-time marketing orchestration feature that enables our clients to send users down different customer journeys based on their individual preferences and behaviors, as well as interactions with previous messages. The best onboarding messaging campaigns for someone who immediately signs up and makes a purchase won’t be the same as for someone who downloaded the app a week ago and still hasn’t completed the sign-up process. By leveraging Canvas, brands can help to ensure that each user’s onboarding experience is tailored to their specific needs, supporting a more intuitive, valuable experience for every user.
4. Humanize Your Brand With Personalization
Leveraging a user lifecycle-focused, cross-channel approach in your messaging campaigns means that you’re already personalizing messages based on who you’re sending to and how you’re sending those messages. However, Braze clients can go a step further and personalize the content of each messaging campaign at an individual user level. A study by Forrester Consulting on behalf of Braze found that users are 1.7x more likely to purchase or use the services of a brand they perceive as more human. Users clearly want to feel like they are interacting with brands a human level, rather than at a transactional level.
I believe this aspect of messaging campaigns is as salient as ever during the challenging times that many are struggling with during the COVID-19 pandemic. I’ve seen that many Braze clients are rethinking the tone and content of their messages to be more friendly and thoughtful, and one of the best ways to do that is to personalize messages—even it’s as simple as adding a first name to the message.
One of the interesting projects that I’ve worked on this summer involves the Braze platform’s Liquid and Connected Content personalization tools, which I used to create a push message containing a randomized meal recipe and its associated photo. Liquid is the programming language we use to quickly and easily include unique customer data in messages, from standard attributes like someone’s birthday to more customizable ones such as a user’s favorite dog breed. Connected Content is a way for us to pull data from public APIs or a brand’s own servers, allowing for complex message personalization such as location or even weather based messaging. Many Braze clients that find the most success with customer engagement have become experts at utilizing both Liquid and Connected Content to humanize their brand voices.
5. Use a Data-Driven Approach to Measuring Success
It seems like everything is about data these days—and for good reason. Braze is built on customer data that allows our customers to easily and seamlessly segment audiences and personalize messaging. However, an equally important usage of data is to measure the success or failure of marketing efforts. I’ve found that our clients are really focused on ensuring they have engagement metrics and benchmark data, in order to make informed and objective decisions in their customer engagement strategies.
I’ve worked intimately with data during my time at Braze, most notably helping to develop an alerting process that continuously pulls engagement data from active messaging campaigns and pings Slack when the data looks abnormal. This can help our clients quickly understand when something has gone wrong with one of their messaging campaigns and be proactive about keeping everything running smoothly.
One of the most impressive data-related features that we have at Braze is Currents, our sophisticated data export interface that enables ongoing connections between the Braze engagement platform and data warehouses, customer data platforms (CDPs), or analytics solutions. Customer data is the cornerstone of everything that we do here and we’ve seen many of our clients leverage the agility and scalability of Currents to transform their data infrastructures, supporting more timely optimization and deeper customer insights.
As my summer with Braze comes to a close, I’ve really been struck by how much I’ve learned during my time here. Coming into this internship without a marketing background, it’s been really eye-opening to see how powerful customer engagement can be and how brands can meaningfully impact the success of their messaging campaigns with the right tools and tactics. It’s been a pleasure to work with the Customer Success team, which welcomed me with open arms and gave me the opportunity to work with exciting, forward-looking brands in ways that helped me to flourish and grow.
(For a different perspective on what a summer internship at Braze is like, check out my fellow intern Hadassah Lai’s look at a week in her life with the Customer Success team.)