Episode #24: Overcoming Growth Challenges Through Customer Lifecycle Management with Victor Seca

The customer lifecycle is not a topic we deal with often on our podcast, yet such an imperative part of any marketing strategy. Our latest episode welcomes Victor Seca, to explain and share more.

In this episode of Mobile Growth & Pancakes, Esther Shatz is joined by Victor Seca, who was the Marketing Manager at OLX Brasil when the interview was recorded. Victor talks about the customer lifecycle, how they manage it at OLX in their real estate category, and a time when OLX recommended a cemetery plot to a user as their next home.

Check out all the other episodes of Mobile Growth & Pancakes here.

To connect with Victor:

Timestamps:

00:41 – Introduction to Victor Seca and OLX
03:21 – Basics of Customer Lifecycle Management (CLM)
05:17 –  Defining customer lifecycle and customer satisfaction in Real Estate
11:44 – Examples of customer lifecycle optimization by OLX
20:11 –  Balancing between product and growth marketing 
24:48 – Start of customer lifecycle at OLX
25:43 – Cross-platform Product Lifecycle
27:30 – When OLX recommended a cemetery plot as a customer’s new home 
31:35 – The KPIs that OLX uses to track its growth
33:36 – Tips for aspiring growth marketers and mobile growth resources

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    “The idea, basically, {is} how can we bring down barriers that are blocking him to go further on the conversion funnel, to make his experience seamless”

    Victor Seca

    Key Takeaways:

    Victor has worked for OLX Brasil, a C2C marketplace, where he grew from being a Marketing Data Analyst to become the Marketing Manager in less than 5 years. With 60% of its user base coming from the app, OLX is a mobile-first classifieds company. OLX currently wants to grow in the real estate market but their main challenge is to transition the web users of the real estate category on OLX to their mobile app, to keep them engaged, and increase their lifetime value after their first purchase. 

    CLM differs from CRM because it goes beyond transactional conversations with the user. The goal is to interact with them at the lifecycle level across all touchpoints, break down barriers to conversion, and make the conversion seamless. Better customer experience will lead to easier conversion and higher retention.

    In any business with a really long sales cycle, the customer lifecycle must go beyond the one-time purchase transaction. In real estate, more frequent conversations can be had with the user around supporting services such as the need for movers, payment of utility bills, mortgage rates, and others.  

    Adopt a data-driven mindset in listening to the user and segment them based on what that data tells you.  

    Start with the goal of helping users achieve their core goal with your app. OLX started by sending their push notifications at a time when most Brasilians were expected to see them. Their strategy matured over time to help users achieve their core goal on the OLX app. 

    Product and Growth Marketing departments have to work in tandem to generate good experiences for the customers and improve their retention.  

    A cross-platform customer lifecycle strategy starts with data. Look at the big picture and find what’s common between customer interactions across all platforms. 

    A manual review of content to match the user’s intent in C2C may not be possible and the automated recommendation algorithm can throw up some funny results. Machine Learning can help improve the quality of recommendations but when goof-ups do happen, respond promptly and recover quickly to minimize any damage.

    OLX uses RFM models to monitor and understand the level of user’s engagement with the platform. They track the deliverability of their messages as a key metric to filter and improve the quality of their data.

    App Icon do’s and don’ts plus six steps to testing




      Full Transcript:

      Esther: Welcome to Mobile Growth and Podcasts. I’m joined today by Victor Seca, dialing in from Brazil. Victor, can you take a few minutes to introduce yourself?

      Victor: Hi, Esther. It’s great to be here. My name is Victor. I’m from Brazil. I work with growth marketing right now. I’ve been working with OLX, which is a C2C marketplace. It’s a classifieds website and we are mostly mobile users. Right now, I’m joining another part of our business, which is a real estate vertical and we have a big challenge in growing our mobile user base in this kind of vertical. It’s going to be interesting to talk about growth and to talk about CLM, which is the subject why we are here, with you a little bit further.

      Esther: All right. Awesome. When you say it’s the growth in mobile, are you primarily a web-based platform or are you really starting in the mobile world and looking to conquer from there?

      Victor: Well, with OLX, we are, 60% of our user base is app. We’re app first. On our real estate vertical, most of our users are web users. We have a big challenge in bringing down to the app platform. The challenging mobile growth there will be interesting because it’s different from classifieds where there are multiple categories and a user can navigate through many of them. It’s not likely that he will sell one thing or buy one thing and uninstall, has a lot of other options there.

      When we think about real estate, maybe the person will find their new home and move out and that’s it, they can uninstall the app. The lifetime that we have with this user is not long. How do we keep them engaged? How do we increase the lifetime value? These are very interesting subjects that’s a challenge for us right now, but it’s something we have to do.

      Esther: That’s super interesting. I’d imagine you don’t have that many people who are buying properties about once a month and [inaudible 00:03:18] if only. Okay. Let’s talk for a minute. You mentioned CLM at the beginning, Customer Lifecycle Management. Can you define that a bit further? What does that actually mean?

      Victor: Before we discuss CLM, it’s similar to CRM, but I think CRM, there’s something bad about it. It’s basically a transactional conversation like welcome, and then at the end of the month, pay your bills. The difference that I like to see in CRM is we do not only do transactional conversation with the user. The idea is to follow the lifecycle of the user, follow all the path, all the touchpoints that we have with each user, to really know what he’s interested in, everything that he’s doing, of his problems and difficulties, so we can personalize our communication to better suit those users.

      The idea basically, in the end, is how can we bring down barriers that are blocking him to go further on the conversion funnel to make his experience seamless, easier? In the end, of course, the business idea is the conversion and the retention. We believe that through better experience, we’ll have better conversion and better retention.

      Esther: Let’s talk about the lifecycle for a minute and I guess when it comes to the real estate side, we’ll put a benchmark in that and come back to it because you do have this huge challenge of it’s a one-time interaction in a way that mostly, you wouldn’t be in consumer apps where you’re hoping that you create a sticky experience. Lifecycle, if somebody is using your product for five years, are you continuing this project all the way throughout? Is there an end date? How deep do you go? How far do you take it? Where’s the line where you say, “Okay, we’ve satisfied the customer.” or is that ongoing forevermore as long as they’re in the system?

      Victor: In this real estate business, we’re just getting started with building the idea of the CLM communication. We’re not far ahead on knowing how far we’re going with continuing the communication with these users, so it’s going to be one year, two years, five years, we don’t know yet. We’re building it. It differs from business to business.

      Probably on real estate, it would be further than it is on the classifieds business. Maybe with a bigger window gap between the last time that he came to the next time that he’ll come back because if you’re renting a new place, maybe in about two, three years, you’re going to want to rent another place to move again and that could be a good window for us to start again a conversation with you.

      What I like to think about is there’s also, not only the act of renting or buying a place, but there are other things that we can connect with it and interact further with the user. Like this person, he’s going to need services because he’s moving out, he will need to paint his house, he will need electric services, he will need transportation to move his furniture. He may be interested in decoration tips. He may be interested in financing, how he can ask for money to purchase his new apartment.

      There are other things around buying or selling or renting a place that we can bring to the conversation with these users so that we can extend the period of time we’re talking to them. Not only, “Hi, you’re starting to look for a place, we’ll show you a few other options.” because this is very basic. This is basically what every website or app is doing, sending you recommendations. We want to go further. We want to really be helpful to you, and really know what you will need during this journey of looking for and after moving out of your place to a new place.

      Esther: I’m interested. Talk me through the process for a minute because it sounds like there’s a proactive and a reactive side. Which is, you’re trying to look at what the user is doing and thinking about how you can communicate based on what they’re actually doing? It sounds like you also have a lot of planning that comes beforehand. You have to hypothesize what might be relevant to a user. How do you kick this off? You’re at the beginning now, how much of it comes from, “Okay, here’s our theory of where the life cycle goes and we just put it in action.” and how much of it is actually observing what happens and then trying to build it from there?

      Victor: I like to think it’s a combination of hearing the user, hearing the feedbacks that they give us with data, because with data, we can know how many people are coming in, how many people are going to the next step, and the next step, so we can know– well, maybe the data shows us that here, there’s a problem. People are bouncing. They’re going out. Let’s go deeper into this part of the journey and try to understand what is going on and how we can help them. Feedback data and of course, AB testing all the time.

      We create hypotheses based on feedback and data. We try to implement creating communications and we see if it’s working or not. One thing that I especially like to do is usually with performance marketing, we track things with the last click or any other attribution model, but I like to always use control groups to compare the conversions. This way, I’ll separate, this is a segment of people that I want to send this communication to because it makes sense, based on my hypothesis. A part of these people, I won’t send the communication.

      Later on, I’ll compare the conversion rates, how many of them came back to that part of the journey and really went through that step. This way I can see how incremental I’m being if I really generate lifts in conversions. That helped me really ensure that I made a difference. It’s not something that the user was going to do anyway. If you do a lost card communication, and this is something a lot of e-commerce do, and it’s very common and useful. It really works, but usually the lifts are not that high because many people will naturally come back to that and finish their purchase.

      If you could cut down the number of messages that you’re sending to a lot of people that would naturally do that, you will save money, and you will be much more incremental because you will only send that communication to those ones that wouldn’t come back organically. [crosstalk]

      Esther: Interesting. I think that’s critical. I think it’s something that also is incredibly challenging when it comes to performance marketing. You’re so used to that real time measurement. You’re so used to, “These are my click rates. These are my action rates.” I’d love to drill into this even further, especially when it comes to this mentality of being able to say, “It’s not about the actual metric, it’s about ‘What was the improvement that I’ve made?'” How do you take– is it a matter of pre-post? How do you separate out that desire to say, “I sent this email campaign and I got this much out?” Practically, how do you go through and create the right control group when you’re assessing what impact you’ve had?

      Victor: We do it all, right now, through sequel programming. It’s all automatic, but we build it all internally. As we write a query where we can set the target, what are the attributes that say, “These are the people that you want to target.”? Our system automatically chooses randomly, a percentage of them and they separate them and the other goes to the dispatch, so they will receive the message and the others won’t. In the end, like the next day, I don’t know, we can compare conversion rates between those groups and see how incremental they were.

      Of course we can compare in more real time vision, the conversions of those groups that received the communication. Later on, we will compare against the control group and see if it really was incremental.

      Esther: Amazing. Could you share a concrete example? It can be– I know you just started on the real estate side, but from OLX side before– how does this work in action? What’s something that actually went into place when it comes to optimizing the life cycle?

      Victor: Yes, sure. I can give you an example, but I like to think about the overall impact. Back in 2016 or ’17, in Brazil push notifications were not so well used by other apps. We saw an opportunity there and we started this whole project just with email communication and push notifications. Right now, we want to go further and be– It’s important to be where the user is.

      In Brazil, WhatsApp is the biggest communication tool. If you want to get in touch with your user, you want to be where they are. You want to connect your whole ecosystem of communications with the tools that they also use. Back then, we used only push notifications and email. Push notifications were the best tool that we had for increasing traffic, especially app traffic. Once we got started, we first did a lot of work on our database. We created a huge database where we concentrated all the information that we knew from each customer, and a few others where we knew everything they were doing. Of course we don’t see it one by one. It wouldn’t even be nice for GDPR reasons, but–

      Esther: Also, for having a life of not having [unintelligible 00:15:34]

      Victor: True, because we have [unintelligible 00:15:36] traffic monthly. It would be crazy to see them one by one. At the end of the day, the idea is to send communications that feel personal, feel personalized, made specially for you, even though we’re doing it in a huge number, like from millions and millions of people. When we got started, we did this whole work of getting the data right prior to starting.

      When we started turning on a few communications, since it’s classified, we were talking about sending communications to sellers and buyers. We had to create a few different segments and a few triggers that would say, this is the moment that we know we have to send this communication to these users. Once we got started, we used to send the communications every day at 4:00 PM. I don’t know why– actually, I do it. We saw that it was the best time people would open push notifications. We started simple, at 4:00 PM, we would send the communications.

      On the first day, we already saw a 14% increase in traffic in that specific hour. That was very interesting for us. A few weeks later, we saw an increase of 28% in daily active users in the entire day.

      Esther: That was based off that same– likely, that was following that same push notification later [unintelligible 00:17:25]

      Victor: That’s why it was interesting. We saw a peak at 4:00 PM, but of course, some of them went out, but some of them stuck and we see the curve of daily access per hour going up. This was really interesting. We could really see an impact, not only on instant access, but also on retention. This was really interesting for our business.

      Esther: It’s amazing. It probably wasn’t the main KPI I’d imagine necessarily retention, but [unintelligible 00:18:07] It was a fun bonus.

      Victor: Yes. It’s important to generate impacting business metrics, but our idea was really– I like to think it was pure. It was to really engage and help the users. Giving you an example, I forgot to give you an example of one of those communications. We know that something that is really important for someone that is selling something is to really sell, otherwise, they will not have a good experience and they may not come back. They may go to another company that offers the same solution.

      We started analyzing what made people really sell. There are more complex answers for that, but there are really simple ones. We have started with the simple ones, like if your ads don’t have photos, it’s really likely that you won’t sell. If your description says, “I’m selling this.” It won’t attract people. You have to be clear regarding what you’re selling. We started just by that, telling people, “You don’t have photos, start inserting photos and you’ll get more viewers and probably a higher chance to sell.”

      People started noticing that the communications were made for them with really good advice that could help them. They started editing their ads and getting a better chance of selling. This generates good experiences and generates return. They came back more often after that. That was the big idea behind what we were trying to do.

      Esther: Interesting. How does the breakdown work between product and growth marketing in cases like this? It sounds like, especially the example that you’ve shared just now, add in images so in the sense of product feature, you detect that there’s somebody who hasn’t taken advantage of this, we build into the product to make sure it happens.

      How does that interplay work when it’s something that there’s things that are happening externally and that you’re using your marketing tools in the suite available to you, and then there’s the side I’d imagine of, “We need to change the product to accommodate a specific [unintelligible 00:20:47] to enhance a specific [unintelligible 00:20:49]. How do you work on that balance?

      Victor: Great question. This example looks transactional. This team, the CLM area in our company, began in product, but then we brought it to marketing, to work closely to performance marketing, in our growth cell. The idea was basically performance marketing would bring people in, and we will have to make sure their experience was great to generate better retention so it all will work better. I think that’s it. Did I answer your question?

      Esther: Yes. For me, one of the things that I look at a lot, or that I’m hearing a lot, especially as we continue forward, is maybe traditionally, companies have grown in very segmented ways, which is you have product who are responsible for products, and you have marketing who are responsible for marketing, and UA is responsible for this, and everybody has their role. Then, you will end up getting stuck on the interplay of if everything in your growth funnel is speaking about one thing, but you don’t fulfill that in the product, or the product is going in a different direction, of course you backlog yourself.

      As a whole, the industry understands this much better today than what they did a little bit ago. There is this concept of feedback, but there’s the challenge of who gets to drive the– do accommodate your product roadmap, and just product come and say, “This is what we’re going for.”? The dream is the synergy where everybody’s feeding everything. I wish it was happening everywhere. Maybe it is happening, but from what I’ve seen [unintelligible 00:22:48], it’s hard. It’s hard to create that.

      Victor: It is.

      [crosstalk]

      Victor: I think it’s necessary, product and marketing should work better together because at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if I’m telling people to come in, if their experience is not as good when they are inside of our products as the communications that we’re sending out, or if what I’m saying to them doesn’t match the path that I put them in when I bring them into the gap. It all has to work together to generate good experiences. Product and marketing have to work together.

      Again, another very important thing regarding CLM and performance marketing, and why we brought it to marketing, even though it has attributes more related to product and technology. We wanted to work better combining better our investments with our internal communication. Why would I do remarketing to bring back someone that I could bring back–

      Esther: To make sure they don’t leave.

      Victor: Yes. How we can work better together with internal tools and external tools. I’m not saying that we are doing a great job, but we are starting to do that. It’s going to be very interesting because we’ll save money that we wouldn’t have to be spending right now. Maybe we can keep them engaged some other way, or re-engage through internal communications before we go out and try to reach out to those users with external tools.

      Esther: The CLM, would you say it starts when somebody actually downloads the product and begins with their usage there? Or do you begin it higher up in the funnel. Does how they come in matter in how you’re segmenting them and following them?

      Victor: Yes, it could begin prior to the download. Maybe if you have a blog where you can subscribe, maybe you could start your communication there. Right now, we’re starting once the user downloads the app or creates the account. We can start reaching out to them and give them all the incentives that we believe that will help them go through the experience, through the journey.

      Esther: Definitely not going to get easier to touch higher up in the funnel once [unintelligible 00:25:35] drops, and you get really far from there. It’s a way to start. One thing I’m actually interested about, because you’re looking at cross platform, you’re a cross platform product, it’s not all happening in mobile, you have this web component. How does that tie in? Do you focus on the mobile side in and of itself and where we want users to come into? How do you create a life cycle that touches on those multiple platforms and that more dynamic usage?

      Victor: It all starts with data again. We have on our database, everything that is going on the app or on the website, and if we can identify those users, we can see this big picture of what all the users are doing no matter where they are. Also, it’s important to try to generate a seamless experience, like if I’m sending out emails and I don’t know if the user is going to open on their mobile phones or on a desktop, I always try to deliver the best experience. Usually, our best experience is on apps.

      If he’s opening the email on their phones and they click on the call to action, and they have the app installed, this should take them to the app because that’s where they will get better experience. Even if maybe if it goes to the website, he’ll then maybe have to log in and it gets in the way of a good experience. We always try to deliver the best experience.

      Esther: Do you have an example of what’s called CLM gone wrong, where you missed the mark, you had something that just wasn’t where it belonged?

      Victor: Totally, yes. Actually, we have a few funny stories, but one that I really like is, and it’s terrible. I like it, but it’s terrible. It was at OLX. We also have real estate, and we have recommendations for people that are looking for ads. We show them similar ads. This is very basic. Everybody does it. Since it’s like a C2C platform, everybody can sell anything, almost anything. Someone decided to sell a place in the cemetery, and for some reason they put it into the real estate category like–

      Esther: Kind of a residence, I guess.

      Victor: Yes. We ended up recommending that to another person that was looking for real estate around that area at similar prices. He ended up receiving a message that said, “We found your future home.” Once he clicked in, he saw the cemetery, and he was really scared and–

      Esther: I hope you saved screenshots of that?

      Victor: I don’t have it, but we got to know this story through our CX team. They told us, “What are you doing? How are you recommending a cemetery to other people?” After that–

      Esther: Just that messaging of your future home.

      Victor: Yes, the message fitted perfectly. It was terrible, but it’s really funny. After that, we created a few filters to avoid similar things. That’s part of growth. We try to do things in an easier way, see if it works. When we find out any problems or opportunities to get better results, we start twitching until it gets even better and better.

      Esther: That’s amazing. I guess that’s something that you have to consider when you’re in C2C, is that you control the side of what you’re surfacing, when you’re surfacing, but you can’t comb through the content on that manual level of “I’m handpicking everything that you can’t do.” In a sense, there’s that risk side because you’re enabling your customers to do what they need to do and you have to make sure that you’re matching your efforts to something that you have to be blind to, to some capacity.

      Victor: For sure, yes. Maybe in the near future with machine learning, we can do a better job avoiding that prior to having such a case.

      Esther: Basically giving a death threat to one of your customers. That’s amazing.

      Victor: Yes. The funny thing is, we are trying to give better experiences, and we ended up generating such experiences. I think it’s part of the job. In the end, the most important thing is that we act fast and fixed, when we get it wrong.

      Esther: Yes. I guess my last question here is when it comes to KPIs that you’re looking at for CLM and I’m sure it varies, because obviously, where it’s coming in the funnel will shift, but what kind of KPIs are you using to measure your success? What are your indicators that you need to respond and update something and fix something?

      Victor: There are multiple levels like, we see how much the users are interacting. We have RFM models, recency, frequency, and monetary value. It helps us understand how much a user is engaged with our platform, or if he’s getting less engaged. It’ll help us set how much we should or shouldn’t talk to them, and for which reasons. After sending really the messages, we keep track of how many people are really receiving it. Maybe if we have problems with delivery rates, we should look into it, maybe we don’t have the most updated token of their device.

      The click rates, the conversion rates, and as I already said, the uplifts like comparing with the control groups to see the incremental conversions that we’re bringing, so the uplift.

      Esther: I’m going to say it again, just because I think it is so important to have that control group. I think it’s missed a lot, a lot, a lot because you’re looking at your effort and it makes sense because those are metrics that are coming through, but you have to assume that some of these users at least naturally, were going to come back and take their action. What have you spent acquiring them when they were coming in anyway? I’m telling everyone who’s listening now that that’s something critical to keep in mind for sure. Are you ready for the quick-fire round now, Victor?

      Victor: Yes, let’s do this.

      Esther: All right. If you could give just one tip to an aspiring growth marketer, what would it be?

      Victor: I think, listen to your customers. I think it’s crucial to listen to your customers. If you’re not secure about it, back it with data. I think if you combine data and the feedback from your users, you can create a good hypothesis and really do something about it. Test it and see if it works.

      Esther: Your favorite mobile growth resource?

      Victor: My favorite mobile growth resource, I would say benchmark. Since OLX is part of a huge group, two huge groups, Prosus and Adevinta. We have lots of other companies around the world. Most times that I get in touch with them, they already did what I’m trying to do, so it’s easier and you avoid wasting time and effort on doing something to find out an answer that they already have, so benchmarking is one of my favorite tools.

      Esther: I think that’s actually the first time that I’ve heard that as a response. It’s a good one.

      Victor: Really?

      Esther: Yes. Why invent the wheel if somebody has already put it forward? I’m flashing forward to when Brazil has vaccine rollout at the percentages that let you go out and be normal again. Who’s the person or wherever in the world you can travel? I don’t want to restrict you to just one place, but who’s the person in the industry that you’d most want to take out for lunch and why?

      Victor: I think in the world, I would say, one of the founders of Netflix, Reed Hastings. I was recently reading his book. It’s amazing, not because of the communication, which is what I work with, but because of the experience that the product has. I think it’s amazing how they created a product with [unintelligible 00:36:00] easy user experience. I think I would really love to talk about it with Reed.

      Esther: Amazing, all right. The most important question, what is your favorite type of pancake?

      Victor: Wow, okay. My family is from France, even though I am Brazilian. My family is from France, so I would say crêpes. I would love to say crêpes Suzette, but it’s not. What I really love is a regular crêpe with sugar on it and that’s it. That was my favorite thing my grandfather used to do for me when I was a little kid. That’s how I would eat and it brings me a lot of good memories.

      Esther: That is a great answer. I also like that you had an aspirational favorite and then the real actual favorite. It’s a good answer. Victor, this is amazing. Where can people find you if they want to hear more or learn more about what you’re doing?

      Victor: You can reach out to me on LinkedIn. My name is Victor Seca, you can find me there. I’m head of mobile growth marketing for ZAP Imóveis, which is the real estate company that OLX just acquired, and that I’ve been talking about here with you.

      Esther: Amazing. If I ever look for a place in Brazil, I’ll make you give me the best tips. Victor, thank you so much for joining and for sharing. This was awesome.

      Victor: Thank you, Esther. It was great sharing a little bit of my experience with you.

      About Esther Shatz
      For some it goes: Moses -> the elders -> People of Israel. For most of us here it's simply: Everything that happens in the mobile world -> Esther -> Storemaven. When not on maternity leave, Esther is leading all consultancy and product marketing activities as Senior VP.

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