Airship’s Journey to Build an Innovative Customer Experience for Brands

Digital customer engagement is changing rapidly and staying ahead of the curve is not just an advantage; it’s a necessity. Airship has been at the forefront of this revolution, pioneering sophisticated, cross-channel experiences that resonate with consumers on a global scale.  

In this article we will highlight our conversation with Mike Herrick, SVP of Technology at Airship and uncover the essence of Airship’s strategy to help brands navigate the complex landscape of customer engagement. From leveraging AI and analytics, to orchestrating journeys that captivate audiences, Airship’s platform has been on a 15-year journey of innovation to enable brands to acquire, engage, and retain customers at every touchpoint.

Q: Can you tell us about Airship’s mission and how you help the brands you work with?

A: Airship is dedicated to helping global brands deliver sophisticated, cross-channel experiences to consumers worldwide. Our platform enables brands to orchestrate and optimize customer interactions across the most important digital touchpoints, including email, SMS, web, app, and mobile wallets. We combine marketing automation, journey orchestration, and real-time data streaming with AI and analytics to help brands create memorable and personalized experiences for their customers, on the engagement channels they prefer.

Q: Who are Airship’s customers, what problems are they facing, and how do they utilize your platform to solve them?

A: Our customers range from household names to emerging startups, with a focus on those with a substantial digital audience. They span various industries, including travel, media, sports, financial services, telecommunications, and retail. They use our platform to create personalized messages, campaigns, and no-code app experiences that drive high-value customer actions, leading to increased activation, conversion, retention, and ROI.

Because we have the pleasure to work with brands across a variety of industries, we get an up close look at the challenges they face surrounding customer engagement. Businesses struggle with fragmented communication channels and data silos, leading to a lack of personalization and customer churn. Airship tackles these issues by providing a unified platform that integrates messaging tools, no-code experiences, experimentation, and data analytics. Our no-code Experience Editor allows marketers to create native app experiences, freeing developers to focus on other projects.

For our customers, success is quantifiable. It’s seen in higher conversion rates, improved customer retention, and a clear return on investment from their marketing initiatives. For example: 

  • Shell PLC was able to improve its retention rate 3X and its active user base by 3.5X with Airship’s personalized real-time communications and in-app automation. 
  • In hospitality, Radisson Hotel Group created a cart abandonment journey series spanning three messages over four days — the first of which guarantees the room’s rate — driving an 11 percent lift in completed reservations over the control group. 
  • On average, GasBuddy sees a 24% increase in daily active users on days it uses Airship to message users, and a 5x increase in daily transactions in its GasBack affiliate marketplace for the specific brand promoted in messaging.

Further, with Airship, marketers can continually optimize data collection strategies by testing the context, value and simplicity of requests they make for customers to share their data. The agility for marketers to do this on their own means they can focus on collecting only what’s needed at that moment and in ways that more effectively advance customers through the lifecycle and grow insights progressively rather than asking for too much information upfront. 

Q: How does Airship balance its product roadmap between out-of-the-box solutions and API-based solutions?

A: We recognize the importance of both APIs for developers and out-of-the-box functionality for non-technical teams. Our approach is to enable these solutions to work together, providing a UI/UX layer for out-of-the-box tools while maintaining robust APIs for technical integration. For example, when a marketer sends an SMS from our UI, it is using the same send API underneath that a developer would use. So they end up working together and we supply the UI/UX for that OOTB solution on top of an API that more technical teams can use.

Q: With the evolving digital landscape, how does Airship continue to support its customers?

A: As digital engagement continues to evolve, Airship constantly innovates to meet the changing needs of the digital customer journey. Airship has a rich history of pioneering mobile-first innovations, delivering the first push notifications and first in-app messages for both iOS and then Android. Then we powered the first cross-platform mobile wallet boarding passes, which is now the digital norm for travelers. 

In 2022, Airship enabled the first commercial use of Live Activities on the day it was launched by Apple. Then we invented Live Updates for Android to provide a comparable experience for all of a brand’s customers. In 2023, Airship launched the world’s first no-code native Experience Editor, enabling marketers and product managers to get work done in minutes instead of months, without ongoing developer support.  

This year, Airship’s new Wallet Notifications API offers the industry’s first consistent method for messaging all mobile wallet passholders across both iOS and Android, including dynamically updating and personalizing passes. We supported Google Wallet notifications on Day 1, and our API makes it easy for brands to achieve greater visibility across all customers and benefit from broad mobile wallet marketing adoption.

To sum it up, we are definitely still building and advocating for our customers through new customer engagement innovations. 

Q: Why did Airship choose to partner with Twilio?

A: More and more, digital experience is customer experience and meeting today’s high expectations means your entire team needs to operate in perfect unison. Twilio’s strength among developers and Airship’s proven track-record with marketers are advantages that are better together. Twilio’s leadership in communication APIs and global engagement capabilities aligns with our go-to-market strategy and the innovation we are continually striving towards. Additionally, the natural synergy between Airship and Twilio Segment, given our many mutual customers, presented a significant opportunity to enhance value for our customers. Our aim is to create a streamlined communications, insights and experience framework, wherever brands engage with customers. The partnership between Twilio and Airship enables us to provide a richer framework of capabilities to better serve the needs of brands today.

Q: What has Airship built with Twilio, and how does it align with your vision?

A: Integrating Twilio’s SMS and email messaging with our platform has enabled brands to guide users through personalized journeys, optimizing engagement, and loyalty. This collaboration supports our vision of leveraging first-party and zero-party data to enrich customer experiences.

Positive customer experiences are the cornerstone of brand loyalty and sustained revenue growth. The best way to enrich customer experiences is to harness first-party and zero-party data. Together Airship and Twilio support an open approach to data with real-time bi-directional data ingestion and enrichment. We’re combining Segment’s comprehensive customer profiles with Airship’s rich behavioral data and zero-party information customers provide via surveys, embedded content and preference centers. Together, this will make it easier for brands to grow customer lifetime value throughout the customer journey.

Q: Tell us what you’re excited about for the future of your company. Big initiatives this year? Product launches?

A: This month (June 2024) marks 15 years since Airship delivered the very first push notification. More than 6 trillion messages later, the scale and variety of mobile experiences continue to grow. As we look to the future, Airship is committed to driving mobile innovation that unlocks growth and value for businesses in various industries. Our focus is on empowering marketers to independently create and enhance app experiences, reducing reliance on developers and the associated delays and costs.

Our recent platform enhancements have granted marketers unprecedented flexibility and control. They can now personalize content and collect zero-party data within the app experience, engaging customers seamlessly without disruption. This approach moves beyond traditional pop-ups and interstitials, allowing for precise engagement within the app content itself.

We also believe mobile wallet marketing is poised for much broader use across many industries and all sizes of businesses now that the experience is consistent and highly visible for all customers regardless of their operating system of choice. Mobile wallet passes significantly improve customers’ experiences, and perhaps nowhere is this more apparent than the hundreds of millions of travelers a year who use Airship Mobile Wallet boarding passes to receive real-time updates on flight delays or gate changes directly on their smartphone lock screens. Email and SMS are the most used distribution methods to deliver a mobile wallet pass to customers, so there are obvious synergies there, but that’s just the beginning.

At Twilio we are proud to have partners and builders like Airship utilizing our customer engagement products and making a true impact in the world of digital engagement. Engagement innovation has been a core part of their DNA since Airship was founded 15 years ago and they are committed to supporting new levels of agility and effectiveness as brands create truly personalized and meaningful experiences for their customers.