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How Rent the Runway’s in-app push notifications combat lost conversions

NEW YORK – A Rent the Runway executive at Forrester’s Marketing 2016 Forum said that the online rental service leverages push notifications within its mobile application – combined with a heavy SMS push – to remind consumers of their saved items one hour after carts are abandoned, capitalizing on fresh purchase intent.

During the “Mobile Engagement Automation” session, executives from Rent the Runway, Travelex, Lumosity and Forrester Research highlighted the importance of tapping new engagement and commerce-driving tactics to complement emerging technologies. Rent the Runway, in particular, opts to use trigger-based push notifications that remind app users to finish their transactions, which works even more effectively than the company’s previous strategy of sending emails the day after shopping carts were abandoned.

“This is a campaign we [originally] had running through email, but with the advent of push, we began sending it directly within the app,” said Conner Boyd, senior product manager at Rent the Runway.  “Within 60 minutes of a conversion not happening, we would trigger a push notification to go out to you.”

Unbuttoning mobile’s sales potential
Per Mr. Boyd, Rent the Runway – which enables consumers to rent apparel and accessories for special occasions – initially launched its app without push notification capabilities, a feature the brand quickly realized it needed.

“Push is table stakes when you have a mobile app in the market,” Mr. Boyd said.

Rent the Runway then opted to switch its vendor to ensure that all of its desired app functions would be implemented in the designated time frame. Mr. Boyd and the other executives affirmed that transitioning vendors can become expensive over time, suggesting that brands should conduct extensive research when onboarding a vendor partnership for the first time.

The online rental service’s app generally functions as a hub of convenience for solving customer problems, as users’ anxiety can spike if they fear their outfit will not arrive in time for their special event.

“The app really serves as the main mitigation for that high-level anxiety,” Mr. Boyd said. “Going forward, it’s evolving to how do we provide inspiration for their next event, not only the one they transacted for.”

The company’s abandoned shopping cart campaign was an optimal fit for mobile app users, and culminated in a halo effect for sales.

Whereas previously, customers who left the app without making a transaction were targeted the next day via email, Rent the Runway now follows up with users one hour after the missed conversion. This enables the brand to incite more action, since the intent to check out is still fresh in consumers’ minds.

In addition to push notifications, individuals may receive texts reminding them of the items in their abandoned shopping cart.

Currently, the company’s sales efforts are focused on rolling out one responsive site, as its mobile Web site still functions as an extension of desktop.

The streamlined responsive site will allow the brand to run universal campaigns and introduce more personalized content without duplicating its efforts.

However, the mobile app remains a top source of revenue for Rent the Runway.

“People are more willing to transact through a native app, so that’s where most of our focus lies,” Mr. Boyd said.

Building mobile engagement
The mobile Web vs. mobile app debate continues to provoke differing responses from companies. For Travelex, a foreign exchange company, mobile Web yields the highest new customer acquisition. People that have transacted on the site more than twice generally begin using the app.

Travelex is currently experimenting with a slew of mobile-first technologies, including geolocation and integrated CRM systems. A/B testing has also proven to be invaluable for the company.

For example, Travelex has a subset of customers it refers to as penny pinchers, people who only purchase foreign currency when exchange rates are extremely low. By A/B testing whether to widely advertise sales to all customers or only to penny pinchers, Travelex discovered that revenue-wise, it made sense to not widely reveal rate sales, except to penny pinchers.

“The key to our strategy is the frictionless flow of money,” said Adam Warburton, head of mobile at Travelex. “The whole purpose of our mobile engagement strategy is all about being with customers at the right contextual moment.”

The Forrester Research analyst also doled out advice for marketers seeking to bolster their customer engagement tactics. She urged attendees to keep up with constantly-evolving methods of targeting consumers in order to maximize the potential of fostering a one-to-one relationship.

“The old engagement tactics aren’t going to work with the technologies of today,” said Jennifer Wise, senior analyst at Forrester Research. “You have to go from targeting a customer segment to targeting an individual.”