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Braze’s Forge22 highlights quality customer experiences as key to building long-term relationships

By Mike Nutley , Editor

December 19, 2022 | 9 min read

Leading comprehensive customer engagement platform Braze brought its European community together in London to learn from each other. The theme of the event was “Start anywhere, go everywhere” – that it doesn’t matter where you are on your digital journey, real progress comes from a deep knowledge of your customer, built on engagement.

braze forge

Key lessons from Forge: No matter where you are on your journey, real progress comes from a deep knowledge of your customer

Autumn 2022 saw customer engagement platform specialist Braze bring its Forge conference to its wider European community.

CTO & Co-founder of Braze Jon Hyman said on the first morning, the aim of FORGE22 is to bring the Braze community together from across Europe to learn from each other.

“You’ll hear about setting bold goals, fostering interdisciplinary collaboration, leveraging new sources of data, and attacking problems from novel angles,” he said.

braze forge

The theme across the two-day event was ‘Start anywhere, go everywhere’. As Hyman explained, that means recognizing that: “Bettering your customer engagement takes time. We often see customers start on only one or two channels and run a handful of blast messaging campaigns.”

“Then, their standard for excellent customer engagement rises and we see them wanting to do more. Their work becomes more interdisciplinary and involves marketers, engineers, data scientists. Experimentation becomes critical to measuring the success of their new creative ideas.”

Learn from experimenting

This idea that experimentation is vital to business success was picked up by entrepreneur, author and Dragons’ Den star Steve Bartlett in his session.

“No-one has ever solved the precise marketing challenges you face today, the eighth of November 2022,” he said. “You’re not going to find the solutions in something you read, you’ll have to discover them yourself. You’ll have to experiment. I measure my teams on how many experiments they carry out, how many times they fail. All my ideas are based on out-failing everyone else.”

The problem, Bartlett explained, is that while many companies pay lip service to the idea of fast failure, they don’t have the culture in place to support it. There’s too much bureaucracy at the top so change takes too long. Meanwhile, at the bottom, the people who are being told to experiment more are still incentivized to carry on doing their job the way they did before.

“Until you change the incentives, you can’t change behavior. You have to reward people for conducting the experiment, not for the results of the experiment,” Bartlett said. “The biggest cost is not the cost of the failure, it’s the time you take to fail.”

The day’s second keynote speaker Mary Portas, the retail expert, author, TV presenter and co-chair of Better Business Act, picked up on the idea of businesses facing challenges they’d never encountered before.

“There isn’t a cookie-cutter approach for how you’re going to do business,” she said. “We’ve got to look forward every day because the landscape is constantly changing. We’ve got to read the zeitgeist, feel the cultural pulse, understand people in more complex and nuanced ways, and I think that’s exciting.”

Understand your customer at every step

After the keynotes, the sessions turned to more practical discussions and stories. In a session titled “Why the Downturn is Making Retention and Subscription Levers Critical”, Rachel Robertson-Brown, Head of Retention at The Guardian, talked about the work the publisher has done to reduce churn and increase revenue from subscribers. And she offered the audience three lessons: “Churn risk is highest at the beginning of the lifecycle, so don’t ever take your eye off onboarding. The discipline of focusing in this area of a customer’s early life has definitely paid off for us.”

braze forge

“Then the transactional aspect – payment frequencies and types – makes a huge difference. They’re not the most glamorous activities, but they are often your foundations and your biggest levers.”

“Finally, don’t underestimate the untapped value of your base. And while it can feel counterintuitive when you’re worried about the impact cost of living is having on churn, don’t take your eye off trying to drive customer lifetime value. Think about what your products have to offer your subscribers now, when people are having to consider what’s important to them. It’s definitely worthwhile fostering those deep relationships with the people who are staying with you.”

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Data, data, data

How to drive gains in customer spend, repeat purchases, upsells, and lifetime value was also the central theme of the “Make the Most of Your Customer Monetization Campaigns” session. This brought together Matt Cresswell, Chief Data Officer at financial services price comparison website MoneySuperMarket; Matt Dyson, Director of CRM at learning app Blinkist; and Lisa Raciti, Senior CRM Manager at streaming platform Joyn, among others, all under the watchful eye of moderator and facilitator, Magith Noohukhan, Head Evangelist at Braze.

Once again, building an understanding of your customers was central to the discussion. Asked what marketers should do to lay the foundation for monetization with a new customer, Raciti explained Joyn’s approach of promoting its free, ad-supported version to encourage trials.

“Then, after getting them to use the product, we know more about them and can do personalized campaigns to further monetize through subscriptions,” she explained.

That product onboarding is key, was a clear take away from the session, echoing the thoughts of The Guardian’s Robertson-Brown from earlier in the day. And to be truly effective, the panel agreed that onboarding must be short but value-adding and provide a better user experience quickly, because users don’t like changing their habits.

Customers build brands, brands build loyalty

Buy-now-pay-later service Klarna’s Head of CRM Channels Justyna Kaletka, and Head of Customer Activation Taylor Hoffmann-Subjack talked through their approach to these same issues in their session; “How Klarna Builds Loyalty With A Cross-Channel Approach to Brand Marketing”.

braze forge

The pair left the audience with five crucial steps to think about:

  1. Build to scale – make sure you have a solid technology foundation;
  2. Leverage the data you have – rather than going down new routes;
  3. Don’t be afraid to be unique – highlight your USPs;
  4. Let the customer be your guide – engage with them through the channels they want to use;
  5. Leverage your brand – make sure it shines through your CRM activities.

The end-result for embracing all five tips according to the session? Long-term, meaningful connections with customers that fuel sustainable growth - an aspirational goal for any marketer.

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