Peggy Anne Salz: “The Future of Mobile Marketing Will Be Human-Focused”


Meet Peggy Anne Salz, a Top 30 Mobile Marketing Influencer and founder of Mobile Groove, a top 50 ranked destination providing analysis, custom research, and strategic content marketing to the global mobile industry.

A firm believer in unearthing under-the-radar trends, Peggy got her start in mobile over two decades ago. At the time, companies and brands were beginning to ask more and more questions about the impact of this new channel. Peggy decided that she would be the one to find the answers.

Flash forward two decades later, and she is an in-demand speaker and mentor with a portfolio than spans over 300 articles and nine books about the mobile industry. She also hosts two weekly podcasts focused on mobile marketing, and writes about mobile, apps, and engagement from her base in Europe for a range of publications, including Forbes and Advertising Week. But don’t let her fame fool you. Peggy’s the most down-to-earth mobile expert we’ve ever met.

In our Q&A, we’re honored to pick the brain of this long-standing mobile veteran for insights on the current state of mobile marketing.

Before we begin, why don’t you tell our readers a little about how you got into the mobile industry?

I began my career writing about business strategy for publications like The Wall Street Journal and The Economist. At the time, companies and brands were beginning to ask more and more questions about the impact of mobile, but there were very few answers out there. It became really obvious to me that mobile was the new frontier.

So, when companies started talking about engaging users in meaningful ways via mobile — starting way back in the days when it was about permission-based SMS marketing, which, surprise, still plays a huge role in mobile marketing today — I was there.

We’re now halfway-through 2018. What do you think will be the biggest trends in the mobile industry the rest of this year, and what are you most excited about?

I’m excited that the app economy is now a solid, real business that looks deeply into the user journey and not just at the top of the funnel. The top of the funnel is where the quick wins are — it is the cheap installs vs. driving engagement and delivering real value to users.

One of the results of deep funnel thinking is a shift of focus from pure user acquisition to user retention. Of course, acquisition is still absolutely essential — you can’t build a business if you don’t acquire users — but retention is what makes that business sustainable.

“Of course, acquisition is still absolutely essential, but retention is what makes that business sustainable.” 

The challenge for brands now is to engage and retain acquired users. Fortunately, there are lots of success stories and smart people in the mobile industry, so I believe the code will be cracked.

What are some apps out there that are mastering their mobile marketing strategies? How are they doing so, and what can be learned from them?

Wooga, a Berlin-based developer of mobile games with engaging stories at the core of their experience, has a highly effective team of “mobile ninjas” that are doing an amazing job in app marketing and boosting user engagement. Their focus is still on user acquisition (because they are a gaming company, and that’s what they do best), but they are now adding retention to their mobile marketing mix.

Wooga is leveraging data to acquire valuable, long-term users, and they are taking a risk by paying more for each one. It is a refreshing approach — many brands I’ve spoken to in the past two years are solely focused on getting cheap installs. It is easy to forget that you get what you pay for.

Wooga has also mastered the art of matching app creatives to their diverse audiences. For example, they experiment constantly with personalized ads by using specific iterations for specific audiences. This way, they can cater to the preferences and needs of each individual user. In some cases, they have doubled their conversion rates using this strategy.

To succeed in the current mobile marketing landscape, it is important to know your customers inside and out so you can give them exactly what they want. Wooga understands this, and is reaping the benefits because of it.

“To succeed in the current mobile marketing landscape, it is important to know your customers inside and out so you can give them exactly what they want.”

In some of your articles, you mention a “mobile engagement crisis.” Can you explain what you mean by this, and how mobile marketers can overcome it?

What I mean by a “mobile engagement crisis” is spending lots of money and effort to acquire users and then failing to engage them. Your competitors will move ahead of you if you waste your time this way.

So, how can mobile marketers overcome the “mobile engagement crisis”? I’ll tell my favorite story to illustrate.

Haydon Young currently leads user acquisition on Nickelodeon’s portfolio of premium games. Previously, he worked at CrowdStar, where he managed a multi-million dollar UA budget for a string of apps. One of these apps was Covet Fashion — a social fashion game where you can play dress up with models.

Covet Fashion’s app audience includes mothers, daughters, sisters, aunts, grandmothers, and everything in-between — a diverse group of races and body types united by a desire to be part of the world of fashion and beauty. To move the needle on Covet Fashion’s campaigns, Young had to think deeply about what this complicated audience wanted out of their app experience.

Turns out, many of Covet Fashion’s users aspired to wear the clothes and have the look, but, of course, not everyone can look the part of a supermodel. A winning approach would encourage women, not discourage them, from seeing themselves on the catwalk.

This is where Young used his real-world observations to drive app engagement. He saw that shops were displaying clothes on mannequins without faces, so he applied this to his mobile ad creatives. Using these psychographic insights, Young developed ad creatives — showing models without faces — that allowed women to literally see themselves as a supermodels. Instead of intimidating players in the games, it inspired them.

This small change sent click-through and conversion rates skyrocketing.

The point to this story: solving the engagements crisis means being emotive in your approach, effective in your execution, and being empathetic to the needs, desires, and interests of your audience at all times. In my opinion, the future of mobile marketing will be human-focused, powered by data, and directed by empathy with the individual.

Mobile marketers spend so many resources engaging their users. From your perspective, why do mobile users uninstall apps — and what can apps do better?

“Personalization can win trust and respect when it is done properly.”

When I look at the apps on my phone, I assess how much I interact with them and whether or not they add value to my life. If the answer is no, then it has to go. Personally, I also uninstall apps because they are either annoying (think constant push notifications) or not communicating with me at all. A red flag for me is also apps that are showing ads from unrecognizable brands. When I see ads that are so obviously dubious, I begin to worry about what I have on my phone.

To prevent users from uninstalling your app, make sure that your ads and notifications are personal, relevant, and valuable. And put your users in control of when they receive them. I find that ABC News is a real inspiration here. It has harnessed this approach to make news notifications valuable, because they deliver precisely what people want — when and how they want it. Apps should appropriately interact with users, which means providing something they will appreciate.

Personalization can win trust and respect when it is done properly.

Mobile Influencer Panel

You wrote a book, The Everything Guide to Mobile Apps. There are so many steps involved in creating a successful mobile app, not limited to building the app, acquiring users, and successfully engaging, converting, and retaining them. Can you walk us through what a comprehensive mobile marketing strategy looks like?

For me, a comprehensive mobile marketing strategy is one that understands the number one rule — that you are available on all the channels your users want you to be on.

When people ask me if they should do text, video, notifications, banners, or something else, my answer is all of the above, as determined by your audience. Your mobile marketing mix should be inspired by your grasp of data, your innovation, and your understanding and empathy of the people you are serving.

Essentially, a comprehensive mobile marketing strategy is one that is custom tailored to your audience.

Additionally, I encourage mobile marketers to push some boundaries. A good rule of thumb is to innovate with 20 percent of your budget, and keep it safe with the rest. This encourages risk taking without having to dive headfirst into the deep end.

“Innovate with 20 percent of your budget, and keep it safe with the rest.” 

Finally, we ask all our Mobile Trailblazers this question: What’s one thing you like to optimize about your life?

I’m a great fan of the blue ocean strategy, which asserts that lasting success comes not from battling competitors but from creating “blue oceans” — untapped new market spaces ripe for growth.

Unfortunately, the whole system is rigged as a popularity contest. When you search for something on Google, for example, you’re going to find where everybody has been already.

So, what I’m trying to optimize is my ability to see what is truly under the radar both personally and professionally — the lesser known voices and stories that no search engine can bring me to. Because if everyone is already there — especially when it come to technology and innovation — then it’s already too late.

For more great interviews in our Mobile Trailblazers series, read our conversations with Bo Ren and SC Moatti.