Q&A with Helene
Helene’s passion for digital marketing started 9 years ago. She’s currently the head of U.S. media at The Weather Company, an IBM Business. She leads paid and organic media promoting the company’s profile of mobile apps and websites including The Weather Channel, Weather Underground and Storm Radar.
In your own words, tell us about the app that you manage?
I manage three consumer apps, all within The Weather Company, an IBM Business profile: The Weather Channel, Weather Underground and Storm Radar.
- The Weather Channel is our most popular, mainstream weather app — in fact it’s the world’s most downloaded weather app. The Weather Channel is your best option for accurate forecasts and timely local weather alerts.
- Weather Underground is your everything weather app, providing hyper-local forecasts that include data from over 250,000 personal weather stations. The app has a smaller following, but an incredibly loyal fan base.
- Storm Radar is for consumers looking for a visual depiction of weather or who live in areas prone to severe weather. Storm Radar is a great compliment to The Weather Channel or Weather Underground for an additional layer of storm coverage.
What drove you to get started in mobile marketing?
To be honest, I really lucked out in that mobile marketing found me. I was a marketing major at The University of Arizona, so I knew I wanted to launch my career in the marketing realm.
Digital wasn’t something that was covered much at university then, since it was evolving too fast to incorporate into the curriculum; but at the same time, that fast-pace and cutting edge nature was what was exciting to me. So when I was offered the opportunity at a digital agency in Atlanta, Moxie, to work on the mobile carrier, Verizon Wireless, I jumped at the chance. I worked on just about every segment within Verizon Wireless throughout my five years there.
While on the sponsorships team specifically, we handled all the sports and entertainment app integrations Verizon Wireless offered. I primarily focused on Verizon’s NFL, NHL, Indycar Apps as well as the first-ever in-app voting entertainment app, X-Factor.
It wasn’t until a few years later that I got a chance to work in App Acquisition again at Elite SEM, this time on a navigation app and a brand new mobile karaoke app. I found it fascinating just how far the industry had come, especially in regards to attribution. I loved how much there was to learn, but also how far there was to go.
My professional interest in mobile marketing simultaneously coincided with my interest from a consumer perspective over the years, as so much more of my daily life began to revolve around apps. How I paid bills, worked out, got from point a to b, discovered new music, checked the weather, read the news, kept in touch with friends overseas, etc. I wanted to be where my life was, and that was on my mobile device.
What do you like most about mobile marketing?
That it’s ever-changing! It keeps me on my toes. I love that I’m doing things today that not only didn’t exist when I started in this industry, but that didn’t exist a few years ago, last year or even last month.
What does it take to succeed in mobile marketing?
A combination of skills inclusive of both quantitative and qualitative analytics, great verbal communication and a lot of guts! You have to be willing to take risks in order to discover and grow your audience.
What does a quality mobile user look like to you?
From our business standpoint, a user who has really built that daily habit and is actively engaging with multiple app features offered. We want to help them make the best decisions, whether in daily planning or when severe weather threatens.
What strategies work best to convert installs into engaged users?
The best strategy to convert installs to engaged users is to hit consumers with messaging that is timely and relevant. Whether by capitalizing on key cultural moments, or highlighting new product features, it’s important to be relevant to your consumer needs.
Examples for our apps would be: featuring the ability to see your weather in multiple locations during peak holiday travel-time, promoting real-time rain alerts during storm season on social or within breaking news push alerts, optimizing ASO to include Hurricane Keywords during Harvey, Irma and Maria, or when we partnered with Twitter to livestream the Solar Eclipse across all our digital properties. The greater the relevancy, the better the chance your consumers will engage and form daily habits.
It’s also important to constantly optimize towards retention. We optimize based on a 30-day-retention and look for our paid vendor retention to be on-par with organic retention.
In the past year, what is one tip you can share which made the biggest performance difference for your app?
My best advice is to test! There are some staple best practices that tend to provide scale of new users almost universally (maxing out first in search, broad or look-a-like targeting, as examples), but for the most part, you need to test. It becomes tough if budgets are scarce, and you want to put what’s limited into what you know works, but technology evolves, your audience evolves, and so does “what works.”
For example, The Weather Channel was one of the first advertisers to run App Install ads with an emerging social app. At the time, the technology wasn’t as advanced, and our audience skewed toward an older demographic. But we re-tested on the same social app during severe moments, such as Hurricane Harvey and Irma, and found mass success. The advancements in technology, growth of users and interest of Millennials to be the leader in keeping their family and friends safe, allowed us to reach a different demographic through a new outlet. I like to apply an 80/20 rule in planning when possible, running about 80% of budget toward historical performers, and 20% toward testing.
What is the biggest challenge in marketing your apps?
For The Weather Channel flagship app in the U.S., in some ways, it’s our existing success … meaning our saturation and native partnerships. Our brand recognition and embedded data are in large part the reason our apps are so successful, but they can also pose an additional challenge as a marketer when the objective is to acquire new users. In addition, as a free app that profits from ad revenue, CPM’s decreasing trend in the industry is challenging. We continually optimize to offset these challenges.
Internationally, it’s very much the opposite challenge, as we’re a newer player. From a global perspective there are new channels, regulations and tones of voice to learn.
How do you stay ahead of changes in technology?
Networking with other app marketers at conferences, especially ones who have similar value propositions and goals, is really helpful. Outside that, I read a lot! Trade publications, industry blogs, eNewsletters, industry award highlights, articles on featured start-ups, internal company write-ups, anything I can get my hands on.
What do you see as the next big thing in mobile marketing?
Personalization! Advancements within Artificial Intelligence and cross-channel data will allow brands to truly develop a one-to-one relationship with their consumers at a level that’s mutually beneficial.
Do you plan to run re-engagement campaigns in the next 12 months? If so, what does that flow look like for your app?
We will likely run another re-engagement campaign during a slower timeframe such as Q1. Our re-engagement campaigns have historically focused on getting users who once were active on our app, but have not been active for at least 30 days. We have a long-time frame of a user who has “lapsed” compared to a lot of apps, as some of our users check when there is more extreme weather in their area. We’ve also seen through testing that users who re-engaged after being lapsed 30-60 days, vs. 20-30 days had about 2x as many monthly sessions once becoming active again.
For re-engagement campaigns in the future, we’d like to create specific messaging, multiple variations to better understand what app features are driving them back (ex.15-day forecast, alerts, lifestyle messaging, travel, etc.).