Interview with Bill Magnuson, Co-founder & CEO of Braze (Previously Appboy)
On Marketing Technology
MTS: Tell us about your role and how you got here. What inspired you to start a lifecycle engagement platform?
I am the CEO and co-founder of Braze (recently renamed from Appboy). In 2011, Jon Hyman, fellow Appboy cofounder, and I won the TechCrunch Disrupt Hackathon in NYC, cementing a relationship that would lead to Appboy’s creation later that summer. I’ve always believed that technology can bridge the gap between scale and brilliant experiences and I’m constantly looking for ways to create stronger, more sustainable, and valuable relationships between brands and customers with technology. We renamed Appboy to Braze last week.
It’s the end of an era for Appboy — and the beginning of a new one for Braze. It’s a transformative moment for our company. Not just because of what our new name, new brand identity, and new website will help us accomplish in the months and years to come, but also because of what it says about the customer engagement landscape and Braze’s place within it.
MTS: How does Braze connect customer data to drive better engagement across channels?
Braze, and previously Appboy, is a lifecycle engagement platform for marketing, engagement, and growth teams. As relationship builders, we provide consumer scale CRM software that enables marketers to collect data to build complete profiles of each customer, and then deliver real-time, personalized messaging across all relevant channels.
Our system ingests data on users and how they are interacting with brands. The data comes from interactions that the customer takes throughout their journey with the brand. For every individual user, we look at a lot of different data points including online and offline behavior, browsing, purchase history, etc. The goal is to provide brands with the tools they need to have personalized conversations that deepen relationships with users.
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MTS: How should brands determine the baseline for their customer lifecycle management based on audience behavior?
Brands should be listening closely to consumers in order to better understand how people are interacting with them and to better interpret behaviors and preferences associated with each user. Braze helps brands customize messages that match that customer behavior, resulting in personalized, real-time interactions between brands and consumers, at scale.
MTS: How should advertisers and publishers leverage mobile data to drive their digital transformation with a greater authority?
Advertisers and publishers need to hone the fundamental aspect of their business which is managing relationships with their readers and audiences. Publishers, in particular, can drive digital transformation through a strong onboarding process to welcome prospective readers to their app. From there, they can deploy a content strategy that provides readers with regular updates and incentivizes them to come back to the app, all supplemented by targeted re-engagement messages and calls to action like opting in to email.
MTS: Would you tell us about your standout digital campaign? (Who was your target audience and how did you measure success?)
We work with a number of enterprise and digital-first brands across industries. Delivery Hero is the global leader in on-demand food delivery with 12 million orders processed each month across 200,000 restaurants in 34 markets. Delivery Hero uses Braze in 20+ apps active in 40 countries within the Delivery Hero network. By understanding the increasing cost of acquiring new users, Delivery Hero and Braze developed a CRM campaign that utilizes mobile marketing best practices via education, multichannel and creative messaging, gamifying and testing aimed at increasing engagement and conversions while remaining culturally relevant and timely to their global audience.
With the Braze platform, Delivery Hero experienced an 85% increase in purchases when leveraging multiple channels (in-app, news feed cards and push notifications) versus a single channel alone. Additionally, they experienced a 30.9% increase in conversions when customizing experiences based on location, using data from local weather APIs to create hyper-personalized messaging and to turn satisfied customers into long-term relationships.
This campaign has been recognized by Digiday as a 2017 award finalist for Best CRM Platform.
MTS: How do you prepare for an AI-centric world as a business leader?
We’re anticipating and evaluating the consumer technology landscape as it evolves, especially as we move into this next wave of ambient computing impacting the way we interact with the world. We’re already testing use cases in conversational platforms, whether that’s via messengers or digital voice assistants. We’re also working with teams that are using our product, Canvas, and our webhooks to run 1:1 paid retargeting ads alongside their first-party channels during nurture campaigns. Plus, we’re exploring integrations on Set Top Boxes with an early beta on tvOS and exploration into other platforms.
Looking further into the future, we’re already thinking about how augmented, virtual and mixed reality channels are going to affect customer relationships, and what role marketing messages will have in these ambient environments. Our goal is to scale with our clients, but also empower them with the solutions they need before they even know they need them. If you’re not analyzing the world as it’s happening, you’re being inaccurate because it’s changed in the meantime.
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This Is How I Work
MTS: One word that best describes how you work.
MTS: What apps/software/tools can’t you live without?
Gmail, Lyft, Kindle, and Git.
MTS: What’s your smartest work related shortcut or productivity hack?
When collaborating with colleagues on documents and planning, it’s crucial to use tools that support real-time shared editing. Whether you’re using Google Docs, collaborative Keynote, or Office 365, teams move substantially faster and achieve better results if everyone can contribute and review simultaneously.
MTS: What are you currently reading?
Right now I’m reading The Passage Series by Justin Cronin. I’m also a member of Appbooks where we cycle through books of all genres.
MTS: What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
While I was working at Google on App Inventor for Android, my eventual thesis advisor and EECS professor at MIT, Hal Abelson, told me that whatever I ended up doing, I just had to make sure I did “something great.” Hal is an inspiring individual, responsible for multiple decades of incredibly important innovations in Computer Science education, online learning, and serving as a founding member of both the Free Software Foundation and Creative Commons. Coming from someone that had accomplished so much and been so impactful in my own education, that simple charge has been incredibly inspiring as I reflect on the path I have followed.
MTS: Tag the one person in the industry whose answers to these questions you would love to see:
Logan Bartlett from Battery Ventures.
MTS: Thank you, Bill! That was fun and hope to see you back on MarTech Series soon.
Specialties: Technology organization building. Software engineering and design. Mobile. Technology. Entrepreneurship.
We are the strong, unwavering bond between people and the brands they love. We join data, technology, and teams together to deliver brilliant messaging experiences at every turn resulting in better experiences and increased retention, lifetime value, and ROI. We are a force, united in action. We are Braze, formerly known as Appboy. Braze’s technology helps brands automate sophisticated marketing and growth strategies simply, in real time, on a global scale. With Appboy (soon to be Braze), brands can seamlessly gather and manage actionable customer data from across systems in comprehensive user profiles, then use that information to reach their audience with highly relevant, personalized cross-channel messaging experiences. By taking advantage of this intuitive, secure solution, brands can easily understand the impact of past marketing efforts and carry out fast, effective iteration supported by our intelligent optimization tools. Each month, tens of billions messages associated with over one billion monthly active users are processed through the Braze platform. Enterprise and digital-first brands rely on Braze and our best-in-class strategic expertise and support to reach, engage, and retain their audiences and keep pace with a rapidly changing landscape. Braze is a venture-backed company of over 175 employees, with offices in New York City, San Francisco, and London. Braze has been recognized as a Digiday Signal Award Finalist for Best Marketing Automation Platform and Best CRM Platform, Top 10 MarTech Upstart by Business Insider, VentureBeat Omnichannel MMA “Best Bet,” and was selected by Forbes as a Cloud100 Rising Star.
The MTS Martech Interview Series is a fun Q&A style chat which we really enjoy doing with martech leaders. With inspiration from Lifehacker’s How I work interviews, the MarTech Series Interviews follows a two part format On Marketing Technology, and This Is How I Work. The format was chosen because when we decided to start an interview series with the biggest and brightest minds in martech – we wanted to get insight into two areas … one – their ideas on marketing tech and two – insights into the philosophy and methods that make these leaders tick.