Shopping apps are soaring in popularity, but the influx of organics may be too much of a good thing. The opportunity: Costs and conversions are in a rare balance, with install-to-purchase rates rising through the roof. The challenge: Marketers need to make tough choices about the new users they should retarget and retain, and the ones they should let lapse. To help marketers make the right call, our host Peggy Anne Salz catches up with Scott Kepnach, Head of Growth Marketing Partnerships at Rappi, mega high growth, consumer tech startup positioning to be the everything store of Latin America. Scott, a Mobile Hero recognized for his accomplishments, weighs in on what marketers need to monitor and measure to turn browsers into buyers. He also draws from his personal journey ‒ across cities, continents, and careers ‒ to share how marketers can unlock talent and unleash powerful performance marketing.
I mean, it’s their daily job and they’re amazing at it as well because they have achieved accomplishments that have earned them success and the title Mobile Hero as chosen by Liftoff, a full service mobile app marketing and retargeting platform and I love to continue our world tour of the Mobile Heroes – this time stopping in LATAM with our guest today, Scott Kepnach, he is Head of Growth Marketing Partnerships at Rappi and Scott, great to have you here on Mobile Presence.
SK Ola, Peggy, cómo estás from Bogota.
PAS Now, there you go, now we know where you are, you are in Colombia, indeed, you’re in Bogota. I mean, any interview at this point – I learned some Spanish too, we could rip here… I mean, any interview right now, you have to sort of start a little bit along the lines of what is going on in where you’re at. You’re in Colombia, is there – how are you doing? I mean, I guess it’s a work at home world, right?
SK Pretty much, I mean, I’d say it’s pretty similar to what’s going on around the world, I'm in Bogota, I’ve been here for about a little over nine months or so, I’m in mandatory lockdown since mid-March, it looks like we’re going to be locked down until June 1st, the airport’s been closed, so looking to eventually escape once the airports open up and get back to the States to see my family, so fingers crossed on that one. But there’s been a low amount of cases countrywide, maybe 5,000, I think there’s about 300 have passed due to the virus, so for a city of 10 million in Bogota, I think we’re doing okay, we got out ahead of this compared to some other cities and countries.
So, I think people are starting to now feel a bit better that we’re getting closer to some kind of re-entrance into society but a radically changed one that we’ll all have to adapt to for the foreseeable future.
PAS Absolutely, and as you said, crossing fingers that you get back to see your family and that’s interesting because, you know, you have a long track record in marketing, you’re also a consultant, we’ll get to that as well but you started off in Silicon Valley, you make it to Rappi, great company to be with – of course, in Bogota – maybe you want to describe for just a moment, tracktrack, tell me about that journey because it’s a move in more ways than one, I’d say, from what you were before and what you are now.
SK I’ve always had a passion for looking at emerging markets, understanding the global mobile app eco system, so I’ve worked for companies that are based in pretty much every continent, maybe South Africa and Antarctica, but with Rappi, they reached out to me, they were looking to really modernize their marketing and UA strategy and bringing in experts from around the world, so had a few conversations over WhatsApp, which is their common method of communication rather than Slack or email with the CEO and founders.
And within 48 hours, they had me on a plane to Bogota to meet the executive team and the rest of the group for work and they moved pretty quickly. I’d lived in Bogota for a period of about six to eight months back in 2014 so I was familiar with Colombia, was definitely a big fan of Colombia, had some friends here, so it wasn’t a big barrier for me and the role that they were building was really tailored around what I wanted to do and that was this hybrid of user acquisition and partnerships with a lot of the relationships that I’d developed over the years working in Silicon Valley.
So, they brought me in to manage growth partnerships on the tech side, so that’s essentially a lot of it is centered around performance marketing, user acquisition which is something that I'm an expert in. But… it was also working with large companies that they just certainly didn’t have the headcount or resources to work with so it gave me the work with Snapchat and Apple Search and Twitter and Reddit and Pinterest and Twitch and all these guys that don’t even have a presence down here, a lot of these companies don’t have an office or dedicated people in Latin America and so what I did is brought a lot of those relationships from the States to work with their first company in LATAM and happened to be a unicorn and one of the largest on demand delivery apps not only in LATAM but also in the world.
PAS So, Rappi is a commerce app, a marketplace app, is that correct?
SK Yes, it’s similar to Gojek and Grab in South East Asia or a hybrid of instacarts, postmates, storedash in the United States all within one app. I think its goal is to be essentially like a Gojek or a Grab where it’s a super app where you can have your laundry done, you can have massages, people can pick up items for you and deliver them to your house from a friend or a merchant, but also groceries, restaurants, electronics, alcohol which is very important during the quarantine as well. So, there’s a number of different services that Rappi provides.
PAS And of course the super app is the model, right, and that’s what you’re doing, you’re assisting with the partnerships, you also have your focus on performance and UA, it’s really about making that model work. And we’ll talk about what you do also as a consultant later because I'm sure what you’re doing there, very capable of doing it for others and some of our audience might want to know about that as well. But looking overall at the model, you know, is it a good time to build partnerships, can we use this reset to build alliances, is that a good point?
SK I think it’s tough, I think everyone across the board in the sector has gotten conservative whether that’s partnerships or marketing or hiring for that matter and I think from Rappi, there’s two sides to partnerships. One is partnerships with your McDonalds and Dominoes of the world where they’re subsidizing some of your marketing and McDonalds is offering exclusives for Rappi customers like a free burger etc whereas what I work on is more on tech partnerships where it literally benefits growth for both companies.
So, for instance, like a Twitch, we talked about an integration potentially where you could order in Rappi through the Twitch app and then you could watch Twitch through the Rappi app – things like that I think are always important for growth and everyone’s looking for an edge and paid media has obviously gotten more and more expensive over the years and people realize that organic growth is going to be a key driver for success because you only can spend so much money in acquiring users.
So there’s definitely a desire from both sides of every tech company that I’ve talked to to identify ways to organically grow and find a seamless integration with, you know, the largest delivery app in Latin America especially in a territory that they may not have had a lot of focus in, in the past. So, it really depends – I think it’s a unique situation we’re in right now with COVID-19 so a lot of the rules and standards, who knows how they’re going to change or evolve in the post-apocalypse world.
PAS Absolutely and full disclosure, we’ll be hearing more about that as well because I was so impressed I’ve invited you to a webinar upcoming, I’ll be having that in the show notes to talk about this, to talk about the impact of COVID and our unprecedented times on retail. But we do have to go away for our break for just a minute right now, Scott, but listeners we will be back with lots of information, inside advice, just gems from Scott after the break.
And we’re back to Mobile Presence. I’m your host, Peggy Anne Salz, we have Scott Kepnach, he is Head of Growth Marketing Partnerships at Rappi. And before the break, you know, Scott, we were talking more about what’s changed, how we can allay, if we can allay, is that the model for now but another thing that’s changed a lot is also the organics, right, because in your traffic, in your model, it was about paid and organic and that balance is shifting a lot. What are you seeing over there at Rappi?
SK Yes, we’re certainly seeing a large increase in organics which affects our supply strategy. It’s almost an embarrassment of riches, you get a lot of users that are coming in that are using the app they used to pay for with a high cap but now we’re seeing a lot of organics which can potentially overwhelm your customer support which can overwhelm your supply. So there’s challenges with that as well.
And so when looking at this going forward, I’d say a big part of our strategy is going to be potentially after this is all over is to retarget those organic users that have come in, used the app during the crisis and then have gone back out into the world and might not be using Rappi, so retargeting, a strong retargeting strategy for those lapsed users is going to be very, very key for companies like Rappi and gaming companies that are seeing an influx of people that are downloading apps and playing games on their couches during this period.
PAS I’m interested, that’s a fascinating point, I hadn’t thought of that – I was thinking about incrementality, you’ve got all these organics and now you have to figure out, okay, when I'm thinking about my strategy going forward, how do I know I'm not paying for the same people twice? But you bring up an even more interesting point about retargeting. We’re not there yet but it would be fascinating to hear from you is there going to be a shift and a change in retargeting as well – because it won’t be what you thought it was.
SK Right, and I think there’s a growing knowledge base and kind of an always on strategy when it comes to retargeting that I'm seeing in the industry with my peers where retargeting was always thought of – we have lapsed users that are gone through 30 days, let’s run, you know, 10% of our budget, 5% of our budget trying to retarget those users and bring them back into the app.
Whereas really it should be an always on strategy where you’re acquiring new users but you also want to – a lot of them are going to lapse out very quickly, some of them were never going to purchase. You want to hit them at multiple touch points similar to the way that you do with a new user acquisition strategy where hitting people on Snapchat, potentially on YouTube, potentially on Facebook, you know, but now in this world, the way that I look at it is you’re acquiring users and you’re acquiring organics that are eventually going to lapse whether it’s a couple of days or thirty days or whatever that time period might be, and you develop your retargeting strategy based on those varying time horizons to just promote engagement and promote usage within the app.
So it’s not necessarily an afterthought, it’s more of an integral part of your user acquisition strategy and so that’s something that I’m focused on personally and I think retargeting has been more of an afterthought for the industry as a whole and there’s a few companies that do it well and some that don’t do it well at all. And so I think it’s a big learning curve for us and it’s going to be a bigger part of how we approach acquisition going forward.
PAS And also how are you going to approach it from the sense of, you know, it’s going to get a bit scrappier, right? We’re going to have to make some choices, tough choices. I’m listening to marketers out there saying at one level it means smaller teams, so we’re going to have to do more with less people, we’re going to get scrappier about how we do that within the teams or you’re going to get scrappier about okay, how many channels do you really, really, really need and how many can you really support?
Maybe you could give me some, you know, because you are a marketer, you also are a consultant advising marketers, advising companies – are there any channels out there we should never cut or which we can cut while we’re thinking in this new mindset of trying to do more with less?
SK Yes, I tried to build the role when I joined Rappi around exclusive inventory and so I think the first things that I always seemed to get cut regardless of this situation back at Zynga, if there’s a cash crunch or a budget change, you know, the ad networks and DSPs tend to go first because there’s a tendency for fraud and overlap with some of the larger networks.
I think a laser focus on the channels that can give you the most insights, that can give you the best targeting and we all know who those are – those are the Facebooks, those are the Googles of the world – but also the channels that have their own exclusive inventory where you can really go after a certain type and segment of person, so a Snapchat user, seems like a very specific type of user, a TikTok user is a very specific type of user – a Reddit user is a very specific type of user that might not even be on Facebook or Instagram or on YouTube and they’re on Reddit.
I think there’s a lot of channels with exclusive inventory that I would lean towards and getting laser focussed on being, performing really well on those channels before you want to open it up broadly. So with this role that I brought in, I tried to focus on the Snapchats of the world and the ones that I mentioned to get those perfected before you’re really looking kind of flying by it a little bit on the DSP and ad network side.
PAS What about with teams, you’re going to have to do less with more, also in the teams, you advise companies, you’re also helping companies – as you said, you’re forging those alliances, those connections in LATAM for companies that have no presence there. So as a marketer, as an expert and as a consultant, what do you advise there?
SK Yes, I’d say consulting allows me to see a bunch of different perspectives, at Rappi I came in as one of the few Silicon Valley people so that gave me access to executives so I could see larger strategy but also it allowed me to kind of go off and experiment with new approaches that Rappi had not been used to before and so I utilized my resources, relationships in that world in Silicon Valley with the companies I mentioned before.
It really let me get hands on with the bus dev side, contracting side and then just running campaigns, AB testing creative, so I’d wear the channel manager hat, I’d wear the executive hat and that’s something that I relish because it allows me to see what’s working on the ground but also at the 30,000 level. And then I bring in people within my team that just have a thirst for learning, who are smart and try and just educate them and coach them in a way that I think that they can take over, they can manage certain pieces of the project whether they have experience in managing campaigns or doing CRM or other ancillary aspects of marketing that I could take into this particular role on partnerships and user acquisition at Rappi.
PAS And you are a Mobile Hero, we said that at the top and we have this mini-series, this bi-weekly mini-series dedicated to Mobile Heroes – it’s an accolade you get for a reason, you have an accomplishment, there’s something you do particularly well, sometimes you don’t know exactly why you get it but it’s simply because your track record is amazing. I mean, what are you particularly proud of that you’ve accomplished so far? Maybe not only just at Rappi but overall – I mean, what do you think makes you a Mobile Hero?
SK I think thriving in a variety of different scenarios like I mentioned, I’ve worked in – and this has been intentional, there’s been working at, you know, a large company like a Zynga or a Glu Mobile that’s public managing large teams and not really being hands on to being the first marketing hire at, say, Firework which was TikTok before TikTok beat the world where, you know, I’ve had experience managing large teams and working with executives but of also running campaigns myself.
So I think I’m most proud about the diversity and being able to do things on the ground, you know, in the mud but also work well with defining the strategy with the executive team, board members, investors, things like that, that has really kind of separated a little bit in my experience.
PAS So, assorted world, Scott, how do you do it? You come from Silicon Valley, you come down to LATAM, I can see you love getting in the mud, getting in there, you’re a maker, you’re a doer, I can feel it. Was that always what you had intended or is there something that you can share about that motivation, that preparation for being what you are?
SK I think it’s, you know, you do it one time, just like anything, if you dip your toe in the water one time, you throw it outside of your comfort zone, you really learn a lot about yourself and then you start to get more comfortable with it and start learning more about all these different verticals or different territories from a marketing perspective but also how to grow as a man and personally being in these different situations.
And so I thrive off of that, I definitely find a lot of value in understanding and being a part of different cultures whether it’s the food culture, a big foodie, it’s just making friends from different parts and walks of life that has been appealing to me from a personal perspective and has allowed me to kind of just take risks and opened myself up to different opportunities to learn.
PAS Okay, I mean absolutely, you’re talking about adding value and creating value – valuable discussion here with you right now, Scott, but we do have to go to a break a final time, but listeners, don’t go away, we’ll be right back.
And we are back to Mobile Presence. I’m Peggy Anne Salz, we have Scott Kepnach, he is Head of Growth Marketing Partnerships at Rappi, we’ve been having a great show here, Scott, learning so much from you because you have so many hats, you’re so interesting and energetic – you do tonnes. I’m just wondering overall, you give advice to people but what would you say is the advice you wish someone had given you?
SK Yes, I think back to when I was in high school, I was not the model citizen in high school and I was lucky enough to have a switch turn on that allowed me to be more ambitious and grow up more broadly than growing up in the shadow of New York City and New Jersey, get out there and see the world. I think one of the things that I’ve given advice to younger people in college and the high school age group is follow your passion, try to really think about what you could conceivably do for the next 20, 30, 40 years of your life but also that life has different chapters and you’re allowed to switch things up – I have as well in my life, taken some time off to travel indeed, between different roles.
So think from a 40-year perspective of what you’re truly passionate about but also stay limbered and, you know, malleable so that you can change if you want every 10, 15 years if you want to try new careers. Knowing that there’s possibilities, the possibilities are endless and that you can live a lot of different lives within one, in the one chance that we get – I think that’s one of the pieces of advice that I’d give young people or people coming up in the industry.
PAS That’s very inspiring, it’s also very timely because now we sort of have the big pause, the big reset sort of forced upon us, what are you using your reset for?
SK You know, essentially planning out, you know, and god laughs, but you plan out what you’re going to do once we’re allowed to leave and so I’ll be going back to San Francisco and trying to build out the consulting firm that has been more of a informal thing over the years. But yes, but just practically, you know, working from home, I also DJ so I practice DJ here and there…
SK Providing some of these blogs for Mobile Heroes and doing interviews and appearing in some virtual conferences. So, doing a lot of different things in preparation for the great return back to the Bay area.
PAS And for yourself, I mean, you are a consultant, you’re going to dial that up. I’m just curious because some of our listeners will be interested – how do I engage with you or is it a thing where that’s not the case because it could be that I have to be prepared, I can’t just come to you and say, hey, I’ve got a big UA problem or I want to do something – maybe it’s a little bit different than that, I don’t know, I’m just curious.
SK Always open to talk to folks, I’ve been on vacations and or I’ve taken time to travel and I’ll go to Singapore and I’ll reach out to people and say is there anything you want to know about Singapore in the space that I can meet up with, even though I’m not there for business but it would be just nice to connect with someone local that can recommend a restaurant but also connect with that we can work with in the future.
But as far as getting in touch with me, I’m an open book, obviously LinkedIn is the best way for most people but I don’t have a problem giving out my email, it’s skepnach@gmail – you can reach out to me directly and I’m happy to talk to people in the space and meet whoever and have a discussion that people feel might be valuable from that perspective.
PAS And I was going to ask you that, but there you are, you’re so accessible, you answered it before I could ask you. I just have to stop because people like you, they’re kind of rare on the show, Scott, because you’re eclectic, you have an overview, it’s not just like I come in, I do my performance marketing, I get out – no, you’ve got the overview. The overview is rare, it’s also a rare opportunity than to just say okay, so offer us a motto, a mantra, to inspire us in our times or overall in our careers. What would you say, what would it be?
SK I would say just being open, this comes from just being open to new experiences, understanding your value, and also understanding your place and what you’re working on – don’t take yourself too seriously, definitely take work seriously but also find a balance. I think this comes from just my background, I studied philosophy at Rutgers University which is one of the best philosophy schools in the country and so before I got into this, I was planning on being a philosophy professor and getting my PhD and so there’s this kind of philosophical aura, I studied a lot of Spinoza and Kant and Locke and a lot of these guys and so there’s that kind of perspective that I came out of in college when I was really developing who I was going to be in the future and that’s kind of stuck with me, I think a lot of the teachings of some of the great philosophers that I got to study at Rutgers.
PAS I have to just smile ear to ear, this is audio you can’t see it – if you would have Zoom, we would do it, because I was a Philosophy Major.
SK That’s awesome.
PAS That would explain why we have just been just great in the briefing and talking and I want to absolutely continue the conversation and I know that you’re going to be on the webinar that I’m also producing on behalf of Clevertap, another one of our sponsors here at Mobile Presence, new reality, new rules, retail, we’ll be on May 19 and you’ll be live well before then. So, I’ll have those in the show notes as well. So, Scott, great to have you on the show, I can see why we connected.
SK Thank you so much and I’m looking forward to spending more time talking to you and we can have an off the record philosophical conversation about our favorite philosophy teachings.
PAS Absolutely, absolutely, I am up for that. And listeners, you can of course check out Scott and all the other Mobile Heroes in the series, you can go to their dedicated page over at heroes.liftoff.io.
If you want to keep up with me throughout the week, find out how you can be a guest or sponsor on Mobile Presence, then email me please, firstname.lastname@example.org, mobilegroove.com is where you can also find my portfolio of content marketing and app marketing services.
Of course you can also check out all earlier episodes of our show by going to wmr.fm or you can find our shows on iTunes, Stitcher, Spreaker, Spotify and iheartRadio simply by searching Mobile Presence. So until next time – remember - every minute is mobile, so make every minute count. Keep well, stay safe and we’ll see you soon.