“The marketer's traditional role is changing from repetitive optimization to tech-&creative-oriented” – Interview with Christian Eckhardt
Christian Eckhardt is the CEO of Customlytics and a former Mobile Marketing & Product Manager for Delivery Hero. Christian has extensive experience working in mobile marketing and mobile tech stack consultancy, currently sharing his knowledge and experience with global brands, including Audible or SEAT.
To start with, can you tell me a bit more about Customlytics?
I am the co-founder and CEO of Customlytics, a mobile marketing & consultancy agency. I started the company with Raul in 2016. Both Raul and I have been involved in mobile marketing since the very start of our careers. I have started at Delivery Hero, a food delivery company, as a mobile marketing intern.
I always describe our time at Delivery Hero as very experimental and full of learnings – it was practically a start-up back in the days, so we got the chance to touch every aspect of mobile marketing. We started with performance marketing, where we run campaigns such as app install campaigns. Soon enough, we realized that we would have to work on the tracking side of things to optimize or even measure our campaign correctly.
We realized that we needed some attribution tracking tool. We went to our product team and said, “Hey guys, we need you to integrate this tool and do it fast.” You can predict the rest of the story. They said that it has no prio and would not happen anytime soon. This was the point where we started to focus on the technical infrastructure side of mobile marketing.
We decided to skip the product guys, and we’ve learned all the technicalities ourselves, such as events we want to track, SDKs, and more. Then we were able to talk to developers directly to get stuff done faster by bypassing the product team. It took us around a year to have this attribution tracking tool ready, and by that point, we did a fair share of paid advertising, and we had a lot of app users.
However, they weren’t placing as many orders as we would have liked. At that point, we realized that we needed some kind of CRM solution. After again doing some benchmarking, we’ve settled for Braze. As we were now more technical-oriented, we did the integration directly with developers as well. Rolling our Braze for different locations became my daily job. The Delivery Hero growth strategy was very dynamic, where they strived to become the market leader in any market they operated in. This fast growth led to widely-dispersed teams in different countries with their apps that were not standardized. So in a way integrating Braze with all these apps was like a lifetime project. We’ve also dealt with app optimization or deep linking at that time. Around 2016 we noticed that our former colleagues were more and more interested in mobile app optimization and related topics. This was when Raul and I thought about becoming consultants in this area. And that’s how we started Customlytics. Today we have 32 people in two different offices.
What kind of businesses do you work with? Mobile-only companies or also e-commerce with mobile apps?
We are very diverse when it comes to our clients. We don’t discriminate against any of them (laughs). We do a lot of ecommerce, of course, but also gaming, dating, transportation, and travel. It’s typically companies that make money from apps because that justifies spending money on mobile marketing consultancy. We still work with Berlin startups, but we are now moving towards more corporate and prominent companies.
What is the typical problem that you can solve for your clients? A classic use case, let’s say.
The most important part of our work is laying down the technical infrastructure. We figure out what our clients need and then find the best-of-breed solution and implement it. In many cases, clients do not know how to use given tools properly, like they track the wrong events. So finding the right tools and setting them up is the foundation of our work. It’s pretty difficult to show clear benefits from this approach – how can you calculate ROI from having the right attribution tool?
Yeah, we’ve experienced a similar thing when selling Voucherify promo infrastructure. Speaking of the tech stack, what tools do you use in Customlytics?
There is no golden solution in any vertical that’s perfect for every use case and company. I believe that in each vertical, you typically have a handful of good tools. When doing some benchmarking for our clients, we always look at the client's requirements first. So we try to map out what is the most important for the given client and which tools are suitable for this. There is no generic answer here – in each category, you got at least several useful tools we like to work with.
As for my favorites – Adjust, AppsFlyer, or Branch are my go-to attribution tools. There are the essentials – all apps need to have an attribution tracking tool. As for CRM, that would be either Braze, CleverTap, Leanplum, or MoEngage. Then, perhaps I would need a customer data platform, like mParticle or Segment. Then, for product analytics, Firebase from Google or some paid tools like Amplitude or Mixpanel.
Let’s come back to your day-to-day tasks. What are the typical problems that CRM Managers face today?
As I already mentioned, getting a grasp on the technical fundamentals is probably the biggest challenge today. Another issue is coming up with campaign ideas. Luckily, now CRM tools are becoming smarter, and some of them may automatically collect insights from your data and suggest some campaigns for specific segments. The last one is taking care of content distribution like vouchers or ensuring that everyone receives the right deep link.
So basically, it’s about maintaining a high level of user experience. I always say that mobile CRM is more about the product than the actual marketing – we’ve noticed that clients who use marketing and product teams to run the CRM are the most successful.
Recently I talked to Annika Rabenstein, a CRM Manager for Kaia Health and she agrees with this point of view and she suggests that CRM Managers should turn to the technology side.
I see on the market that many CRM Managers do not understand technology, which is the most significant friction source. I would say that even with the most creative campaigns, if you don’t know how to set it all up, you are bound to fail.
Steffen Harting, CMO of Inkitt, agrees with that, he says: "Today’s CRM is a crazy tech game, and it’s less about the creative marketing side of things."
I agree. Even with paid advertising, the machines are getting smarter, and they can only work with good quality data. For now, only a human can ensure that the right things are tracked. So, the core requirement today for any marketing person is to understand how this all works. How the data is coming all together on some dashboard so that they don’t blindly believe anything they see there. You have to do the QA yourself.
It’s even more important for the CRM people where CRM issues may end up as bugs on production where customers can receive test notifications that can damage your brand perception. That’s why having an understanding of network communication protocols like APIs is becoming another critical skill for CRM experts. And there’s knowledge about how different tools talk to each other.
As CRM is getting smarter, I believe that the marketer’s traditional role is also changing from repetitive optimization tasks to being solely tech- & creative-oriented. The number one skill is not coming up with campaigns as those can be automatically suggested for you but maintaining the high quality of data and ensuring that you track the right things. So setting up the fundamentals for the machines to work correctly. Another essential skill is coming up with new creative concepts, as this is the area where humans still outperform the machines.
So, the tech skills spectrum would include basic data analytics skills and messaging protocols like APIs. Would you add anything else to this list? Maybe programming languages?
What I think is very important when working in mobile marketing is understanding the architecture of mobile applications, like what are the settings for push notifications and so on. This knowledge acts as a bridge between the marketing team creating campaigns and the tech team making something happen in the app.
As for programming skills, I think that the most useful ones are focused on SQL query languages. I am not so sure about learning actual coding unless you want to become a developer. I would probably focus on the APIs and SQL as they have the biggest value in marketing.
There’s also a middle ground, right? By understanding how basic logic operators work and how to process data, you can use plenty of martech tools and do pretty amazing things with just a basic understanding of webhooks or a markdown language.
When you do some consulting work for companies, are there any resources you usually share with them?
The sad truth is that there is no literature available that would be up-to-date. So what we did is we’ve created our resource base. For example, last year, we wrote a book Don’t Panic Mobile Developer's Guide to the Galaxy as a charity project. With this book, we try to give an introduction to mobile CRM. There exist some scattered value resources, but they are usually written by companies that are trying to sell you something, so they are not entirely objective.
Let’s move to another topic – marketing and tech teams are often at odds with each other. Do you have any advice on how to create friendly cooperation between tech and marketing?
It’s a tough topic. But having a good understanding of technicalities can help. When you speak their language, they will respect you more and feel that they are talking business and not just chatting. This will stop them from seeing you as a funny marketing guy that doesn’t know anything about the realities of running a business.
Also, make sure to treat the tech team with respect – even if you know what the problem and solutions are, give the tech team a say, so they feel that they have some decision power. So basically, just have some necessary social skills in the business world.
And any tips for developers?
Be friendly with your marketing and product teams. Often when I work closely with some clients, I can sense that the tech team often thinks that they are protecting the product and the marketing team wants to do some harm, which is never the case. So my advice for developers would be to start listening to your product and marketing team because they want the same thing you do – the product to be successful.
Now some questions outside of the tech sphere – do you have any favorite online services?
If you are living in Berlin but still commute by car, there is one service you’ll love. Typically for parking, you would need to go to the ticket machine, and they usually accept coins, which is a nightmare for digital-oriented peeps (laughs). The thing that makes my life easier are parking apps that let me buy parking tickets in advance and also have some monthly billing.
As for the favorite app, I like one of the Delivery Hero’s competitor apps in particular, which is WOLT. They have an excellent app. I also really like the Tesla app, which lets you physically control every aspect of your car.
The final question, do you have any book that you would recommend to newcomers in the CRM space?
The might be a little bit biased, but I would love this booklet that I mentioned to come out when I was starting out. Back then, we had to Google everything, even the acronyms like CPI. I believe this ebook is an excellent introduction to this topic. It can answer some questions about the hierarchy of doing stuff and the timeline for doing certain things, like app optimization. You also get a better understanding of how things are connected. These are the topics that I found extremely difficult when I was starting.
That’s excellent advice. That’s all from me. Thank you for your time.
Thanks for having me!