Advertising Technology

Urban Airship’s Brent Hieggelke on the Future of Mobile Apps

Brent Hieggelke is the CMO of Urban Airship, a company that powers Push Notifications, In-App Purchase, and Subscriptions for mobile applications across major mobile platforms.

The Makegood: Brent, you started your career working in finance before moving over to media at a newspaper publisher. Can you tell us what motivated you to make the change?

Actually, I started my publishing career before heading into finance. I made that leap to understand the world of high finance but quickly realized it did not offer the creativity and entrepreneurial experiences that actually appeal to me on a day-to-day basis. My last gig before joining Urban Airship was as co-founder and CEO of SecondPorch, a social marketplace for vacation home rentals, which we sold to HomeAway. I really wanted to contribute to another startup, and Urban Airship is blazing trails for marketing’s newest and most interesting communication channel so I was happy to come aboard here as CMO last December

The Makegood: Currently you are the CMO of Urban Airship, an ad tech company that powers mobile apps. Can you tell us about the services your company offers?

We are the leaders in push messaging–those messages that hit your phone’s home screen when you download a mobile app and opt in to receive notifications. So far, we have served nearly 30B push messages for more than 65K app developers including major brands like CBS Interactive, ESPN, Groupon, Warner Bros., the list goes on. We offer mobile engagement suites that provide easy and effective management of the mobile messaging process from customer and location targeting, through to message delivery as well as in-app landing page creation and analytics to optimize engagement success and effectiveness.

The Makegood: Because mobile is growing rapidly, push notifications have the potential to be a very effective form of direct marketing? Can you tell us how you see this space evolving over the next few years?

Push is the most direct way to reach consumers via the most intimate device in their lives. It is a channel for brands to directly socialize with their best customers anytime, anywhere, and since it is still early days, this must be handled with the utmost respect. Right now, we are focused on helping educate agencies, marketers and brands on precision-targeted messaging strategies. Push, as the voice of an app, is critical in helping to retain users and sustain engagement, in addition to delivering mobile moments of delight that truly serve users’ needs. The messages users receive must be really relevant, and should consider everything you already know about them to serve them better.  We are just now rolling out location-targeted push notifications that go far beyond geofencing scenarios to understand where consumers live, work and play. We think this kind of push service could result in the most sophisticated 1:1 marketing we have seen, delivering the right message at the right time and right place.

The Makegood: Can you tell us about some recent client successes?

Sure, I’ll give you two examples.
Our customer Airbnb is a host and renter marketplace that aims to compete with the immediacy of other travel service sites that offer online hotel and travel bookings. Airbnb needed a solution that would allow for real-time communication between renter and host, and chose push as the mechanism for their mobile app. As a result, they have seen bookings being made 8 times faster than when the conversation is conducted just through email. So clearly push is having a real impact not just for Airbnb, but also its users. Another example is Rue La La, an app that sells heavily discounted designer merchandise from brands such as Diesel, Chloe, and Armani through its daily 11AM flash sales. Their merchandise usually sells out within hours of going on sale. Given the immediacy of the business model, Rue La La needed a way to remind shoppers about the upcoming flash sales and also get them excited about the brands. The marketing team needed a way to reach customers who were not in front of their computer reading email with the same brand voice that Rue La La uses in all other marketing channels. To do this they wanted an agile messaging strategy so they could easily tweak and adapt reminders based on shopper response. By finessing its messaging, Rue La La increased its push click-through rate tenfold and its number of app user sessions by 25%. These are real success metrics that show how push, when implemented well, can really work.

The Makegood: Thank you, Brent.