October 12, 2020

The Second Law of Customer Retention

Retention is not a Single Moment in Time, but Rather a Series of States Determined by Actions in the Customer Retention Lifecycle

In The First Law of Customer Retention (previously published here), we talked about how retention is a cornerstone to sustainable growth and a key driver of new organic customer growth within a business. We defined it as the volume of customers as a percentage of the total base who come back to an experience over time and continue to exert the effort and/or pay the cost to reach the value available in said experience.

Further, we provided an equation to determine whether or not a potential customer moving through a business’s customer experience will be retained based upon the ratio of value to cost and effort. This equation and the retention k-factor that it produces is powerful if used correctly, but is only a piece of a much larger retention puzzle.

This larger puzzle shows us that customer retention is not a single moment in time. Rather, it’s a series of states that are constantly changing based upon the actions people are taking in response to content and features they experience from a business.

These states are determined and governed by key action gateways that potential customers must go through to become a loyal customer who comes back time and time again.

The Customer Retention Lifecycle

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The Customer Retention Lifecycle

All potential customers will enter the customer retention lifecycle by becoming “aware” of a business through some piece of advertising or marketing content, or by word-of-mouth.

The first retention gateway that a potential customer goes through is the “identity” gateway, and potential customers make it through this gateway by creating an account or some other action where they give a business a way to identify who they are through an email or phone number for example.

It should be noted that businesses that do not require an account to be created or do not collect any personally identifiable information (aka — P.I.I.) are not able to effectively measure retention and thus this framework would not be 100% applicable. Further, many businesses, such as an e-commerce website for example, offer people the ability to checkout as a guest. While you don’t explicitly create an account, these brands often collect a personal identifier during the checkout process and append it to the purchase record and thus are able to measure retention states. You simply cannot measure customer retention without knowing who a person is in the context of your business.

After a potential customer establishes their identity with a business, they have two choices:

  1. Continue performing actions with the business
  2. Stop performing actions with the business

Below is a flow diagram showing the possible paths potential customers can take based upon these two different choices:

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The Customer Retention Lifecycle

Measuring Your Retention Pulse

In order to measure this lifecycle in your business and make it actionable, we need to view this retention lifecycle window over time and then draw conclusions from the trends. An example of how this can be visualized is shown below.

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The Customer Retention Lifecycle Over Time (Source — William Zhang, Amplitude)

From this visualization, we are able to see the flow of people between different retention states within a business’s customer experience. We can use this to measure the retention pulse of an experience which tells us the trajectory of retention at any given point in time (Source — William Zhang, Amplitude).

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The Customer Retention Pulse

If the Customer Retention Pulse (CRP) is less than one, that means the business is losing retained customers faster than adding new or resurrected ones and thus are in a state of retention decline for that given time period. Conversely, if this CRP is greater than one, that means the business is adding more retained customers than it is losing and thus are in a state of retention growth for that given time period.

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The Customer Retention Pulse Over Time

Shifting from Decline to Growth

If a business wants to shift from a state of decline to a state of growth, they need to add more value and/or decrease the effort and/or cost associated with reaching that value, as detailed in The First Law of Customer Retention here.

Insuring that potential and existing customers are always seeing more value than the effort and cost associated with acquiring that value, will give a business the best chance of keeping their CRP above one. Businesses that always maintain a CRP above one will always have a greater in-flow of new and resurrected customers than the out-flow of dormant users, insuring sustainable retention growth.

In summary, retention is not a single moment in time, but rather a series of states that are constantly changing based upon the actions people are taking in response to content and features they experience throughout their time with a business. These states are determined and governed by key action gateways and measured over time can be used to calculate the customer retention pulse of business to highlight if it is in a state of retention decline or growth for a given time period.

April 28, 2020

The State of Product Analytics 2020

Although COVID-19 is leaving us with more questions than answers, one thing is for certain: product investments of all shapes and sizes are being­ scrutinized more than ever. And, like it or not, this trend is not going anywhere soon.

Providing data backed POVs on what is resonating with customers and how it impacts the business is now a non-negotiable. This imperative is accelerating the already rapid growth we’re seeing in the adoption of self-service product analytics platforms. Gone are the days where a data request takes a week to turn around. Now, more than ever, individuals across the organization need to be fully empowered to access, understand, and action on data in real-time.

"Even before this pandemic swept the country, we at Bottle Rocket were observing a significant uptick in brands coming to the table with more focus, more passion, and more humility around leveling up their data and analytics strategy."

In a matter of weeks, COVID-19 has turbo-boosted this mindset. It is no longer acceptable for brands to not have a reliable source to go to for quick-turn product insights. Platforms like Mixpanel, a leader in the product analytics space, give brands the access and confidence they need to ensure they are continuously making the right product decisions.

Regardless of where your organization is on the journey to having a meaningful product analytics strategy, there are four key principals to consider to help increase the likelihood of success.


  1. Organizations must first shift their mindset before investing in a toolset. Articulating the value of embracing data at the organization and cultural level is one of the hardest, yet most impactful, levers a product team can pull. It requires persistence, patience, and the right amount of pressure. Once you encourage teams to #LoveTheData, operationalizing this mindset is the next complex challenge to tackle.

  2. Stories move people to action, data does not. Finding compelling insights from the data is critical; however, weaving these insights into a persuasive story is equally–if not more–important. Zoom in to mine and tie data points together but remind yourself to regularly step back to organize your findings into a cohesive and strategic story. Oh, and please be a gracious host to your audience: do the thinking for them.

  3. Regardless of title, strive to be a “data champion.” Data champions not only find creative ways to habitually share insights across the organization, but they find ways to empower others to discover insights on their own. Democratizing data and enabling others to understand user behavior is a surefire way to move faster and smarter. Leveraging data is a team sport–the more perspective, the better. It’s the product managers’ role to step up and be the team captain.

  4. Product analytics tells us the what, while qualitative research tells us the why and brings to light the questions we should be finding answers to. They must work together harmoniously to make real impact. Finding lean and scalable ways to get “closer to the why” is just as important as standing up and supporting a reliable analytics platform. Understanding both the what and the why will increase the odds of getting closer to the truth.

What’s interesting is that regardless of where an organization sits on the data sophistication spectrum, everyone is looking to level up their skillset, toolset, and–most importantly–their mindset. We are seeing more and more “data champions” within our clients’ business. These are the individuals who are not only finding creative ways to share insights across the organization, but are finding meaningful way to empower others to discover insights on their own.

Having a pulse on user behavior has never been more important that it is now. An objective view on how users navigate your products and how that activity contributes to desired business outcomes is your lifeline to future investments.


Alex Cohen is Client Partner, Director of Strategy and Transformation at Bottle Rocket, a Dallas-based digital experience consultancy. He has spent the last several years of his career leading product teams in the ever-evolving world of mobile technology. While at Bottle Rocket, Alex advises clients on focusing on the highest value opportunities and addressing the right gaps across the product spectrum. When Alex isn’t helping teams ship product, he is pretending to know how to landscape and garden.‪ 

April 23, 2020

Bottle Rocket is a Certified Amplitude Solutions Partner

To support clients’ growing Product Growth needs, Bottle Rocket has formed strong partnerships with industry-leading technologies and has developed deep domain expertise in digital product intelligence. This expertise will help our clients use data to understand user behavior and create better product experiences. Today, we are excited to formally announce that we have achieved the highest level of accreditation as an Amplitude Certified Solutions Partner to help clients with product analytics strategy, implementation, and growth iteration. All members of our Product Growth practice have completed the trainings and attained required certifications that allow us to serve as strategic and technical advisors for our clients.

“At Bottle Rocket, we crave data and insights and use both to inform the digital solutions we design and build for our clients,” says Tim Duncan, Bottle Rocket’s Product Growth Practice Lead. “For the past few months, we’ve been working with an increasing number of brands who seek to optimize their digital products via a sound analytics strategy and platform to support strategic marketing campaigns both now and in the future. We are excited about our continued partnership with Amplitude as the product allows us to help our clients measure the impact of campaigns and quickly improve the digital properties that they are linked to.”

Amplitude is the leading product intelligence platform that helps companies use their customer data to build great product experiences for systematic business growth. The company is on a mission to help companies build better products and have been a pioneer helping brands understand that customer experience doesn’t end at acquisition. This Silicon Valley technology company has been making waves with a next generation product analytics platform built with digital products and services in mind. They process over 1 trillion events per month in 180+ countries by 30,000+ businesses including IBM, Twitter, Microsoft, Samsung, Under Armour, Adidas, HubSpot, PayPal and many more.

“We are excited that Bottle Rocket, one of the leading experience agencies in North America, has chosen to take their partnership to the next level with Amplitude. Their commitment to designing delightful products and experiences with the brands they support is world class. Our partnership will accelerate the way brands understand their users’ behaviors and help them develop strategies to improve customer experiences,” remarks Lisa Hopkins, VP of Partnerships at Amplitude.

At Bottle Rocket, we’re all about doing the right thing and doing it right when it comes to designing and delivering digital products and platforms. Our partnership with Amplitude means we can help clients improve and grow their products at the speed required to keep up in today’s competitive digital world.

A robust analytics program is a key part of observing whether products we develop grow over time and if our clients see a significant return on their investment in digital. Analytics empower us to track KPIs and understand what is—or isn’t—working, and help us make data-driven product, marketing, and business strategy decisions.

If you have a project in mind, would like to learn more about our Product Growth Practice or Amplitude, we’d love to hear from you. Please get in touch at [email protected].

About Bottle Rocket:

Bottle Rocket is a digital experience consultancy that provides strategy, product, design and technology services that drive business results and exceed customer expectations. Bottle Rocket is a strategic partner within the worldwide WPP integrated communications network. To learn more, visit us at bottlerocketstudios.com or drop us a note at [email protected].

January 28, 2020

Who’s Doing QSR Right?

Many leading QSRs in the U.S. are already seeing benefits in productivity and profitability from digital ordering. It has become clear that mobile apps and ordering are a winning combination. The near-term financial and efficiency benefits of adopting a digital ordering system far outweigh the set-up costs and associated technological challenges.

However, the wider QSR industry has been slow when it comes to making investments into technology. For example, just 18% of operators offer the ability to place an order via a mobile app and one in three operators report that they're lagging in technology. (Source)

QSR brands are cognizant of this and are allocating more resources to this arena. Seventy percent of QSR operators plan to devote more resources this year to customer-facing, service-based technology like online or app ordering, mobile payments and delivery management. (Source)

When brands invest in a frictionless mobile ordering experience, they are able to understand their return on marketing and quickly see owned channels deliver the greatest increase in customer frequency at the lowest cost of acquisition. How does your brand stack up to others in the industry? Below is a list we’ve compiled of the Top 50 QSR and third-party delivery mobile apps as of January 2020:

While it could be assumed that any brand that is ranked high in the App and Google Play Store is doing something right, we’ve chosen to dig into three examples that highlight brands that are going above and beyond to deliver experiences that are delighting customers, creating deep loyalty, and garnering incremental revenue for the business.

Example 1: Chick-Fil-A

iOS Rank: 1
iOS Rating: 4.9
# of iOS reviews: 1,000,000
# of Android installs: 5,000,000
Android Rating: 4.6
# of Android Reviews: 78,223


In a recent interview with Business Insider, Chick-fil-A revealed that “digital now makes up almost 20% of its overall sales. That is a significant increase from 6% at the beginning of 2018 and 16% at the end of the year.” Chick-fil-A executives say the chain is “entering a new era in which mobile sales, delivery, and nontraditional formats like food trucks fuel growth.”  (Source)

Chick-fil-A boosted downloads of its mobile app by 14% in early 2019 by showing a QR code in its digital signage, according to an analysis by the brand's vendor on the campaign, UPshow, that was shared with Mobile Marketer. By scanning the code with a smartphone camera, customers were pointed to the relevant app store to immediately download Chick-fil-A's app, UPshow said. (Source)

The newest way Chick-fil-A is going above and beyond to delight users is via the release of its latest feature in the mobile app called “Mobile Dine in Ordering.” Customers can order food through the Chick-fil-A app and have it delivered directly to the table. Customers place an order and choose “dine-in” and, once ready, an employee will deliver the food directly to your table. The company said that 92% of customers who used the service found it “appealing” due to ease and convenience. The new technology offers busy customers more time together at the table, less time standing in line. (Source)


Additionally, Chick-fil-A continues to find new and innovative ways to engage app users through the Chick-Fil-A One loyalty program. One recent tactic includes publishing blog articles congratulating and recognizing customers who have reached Chick-Fil-A One Red status along with recognition in Twitter of their new status.  (Source)

Example 2: Dominos

iOS Rank: 8
iOS Rating: 4.8
# of iOS reviews: 3,900,000
# of Android installs: 10,000,000
Android Rating: 4.7
# of Android Reviews: 1,339,791

Domino’s is ahead of the curve compared to its competitors when it comes to embracing technology. Digital channels account for more than 60 percent of its U.S. sales, according to the company’s latest earnings release.

Domino’s released a new feature in 2019 that allows fans to earn a free pizza by buying pies from Pizza Hut, Papa John’s or other any other rivals. The pizza chain is using artificial intelligence software in its mobile app to give away points for eating pizza. The promotion is intended to drive downloads as well as increase digital sales as rival Pizza Hut turns its focus to delivery.

Members of Domino’s loyalty program just need to take a picture of any pizza using the company’s mobile app to earn 10 points. The pie can be from anywhere, even homemade, as long as the app’s artificial intelligence software recognizes that it has sauce, cheese and crust. The promotion is an extension of Domino’s Piece of the Pie Rewards loyalty program, which gives customers points for ordering Domino’s pizza that can be redeemed for a medium pizza.


Example 3: Burger King

iOS Rank: 12
iOS Rating: 4.6
# of iOS reviews: 58,000
# of Android installs: 10,000,000
Android Rating: 3.3
# of Android Reviews: 99,441


Burger King has a history of creating creative marketing campaigns linked to specific features in the mobile experience to drive major growth, and they didn’t disappoint in 2019.

In December of 2018, in the U.S., Burger King rewarded customers with one-cent Whoppers for using its mobile app while visiting its arch-rival, McDonald’s. Now in Brazil, Burger King has added an innovative augmented reality function to its mobile app that invites customers to “burn down” competitors’ advertising. By simply using the feature to zero in on a billboard for the Golden Arches, for example, the app will set it virtually aflame--and then provide the user a voucher for a free Whopper.

The idea was created by Burger King’s agency partner, David San Paulo, and promotes Burger King Express, a new concept that allows customers to pre-order meals digitally to avoid real-world lines. "Technology as a means to provide the best customer experience is one of our main investment targets in 2019,” explained Ariel Grunkraut, Burger King's marketing and sales director for Brazil in a statement. “With ‘Burn That Ad,’ we hacked the competition by leveraging our biggest advantage, which is fire,” says David San Paolo Creative VP, Rafael Donato.

The resulting numbers below speak for themselves.


Need help growing your QSR mobile app or want to flesh out your use cases with an expert?

January 21, 2020

Personalizing Experiences with Location Data

It’s no secret that consumers demand contextual, personalized mobile and web experiences. And in a crowded app marketplace, it is more important than ever to stand out. Adobe research uncovered that 60% of marketers struggle to personalize content in real time, yet 77% believe real-time personalization is crucial (source). To add a little more wood to this fire, Epsilon concluded that 80% of consumers are more likely to make a purchase when brands offer contextual experiences (source).

Traditionally, the holy grail of personalized mobile or web engagement is delivering the right content, to the right user, at the right time. In order to fully deliver on this, real-time context is everything. Understanding who your users are, how they behave and what their preferences are is critical.

The rise of location data infrastructure and geofencing technology has added another layer to the holy grail: delivering the right content, to the right user, at the right time, at the right location. Further, location data can provide increased capabilities in the other three categories.


Location data infrastructure should enable unlimited geofencing, allow you to tap into a place database, and generate machine-learned insights, and brands that are investing in enhancing their mobile app with infrastructure like this are gaining an advantage over brands that don’t. These platforms give product, marketing and engineering teams increased understanding of their users and added context that can be used to personalize engagement messages, in-app content, and product recommendations.

At Bottle Rocket, we use location data infrastructure to enhance the mobile experiences we build for organizations. This tool opens up many new opportunities for brands to increase customer engagement. Further, it enhances a brand’s ability to be more creative with their marketing campaigns. Burger King used location data to carry out their Whopper Detour campaign which sent a digital coupon to any app user who was within 50 feet of a McDonald’s location, for example.

It’s important to note that, in the same way that brands need to gain the trust of users to win their business, brands also need to gain the trust of their users by providing clear value to a user that shares their location. They can do this by only using infrastructure that is privacy-focused, ensuring that the software limits battery drain, and providing clear explanations as to how the user’s location will be used.

When brands have gained the trust of their users, users will opt into location tracking in exchange for an experience that contains dynamic, personalized content based upon this increased understanding.

A privacy-focused location data infrastructure like Radar allows brands to understand when a user has entered a place of interest, is at their home or office, and whether or not they are traveling between different regions. This understanding gives brands the ability to drive massive increases in their user engagement, leading to increased metrics that align to business goals.

Location data infrastructure allows brands to build the following:

  • Contextual app experiences
  • Personalized, relevant messaging
  • Location-driven user segmentation


Brands across travel, hospitality, retail, and media (just to name a few) are leveraging location data to create personalized journeys for their users.


In the travel industry, the OTA market is filled with companies offering the same prices on the same products, so the most advanced brands are leveraging location data to keep customers loyal to their platforms. As you can imagine, there are hundreds of ways that OTAs leverage their app users’ real-time location; it’s easy to envision Kayak using location to engage users by welcoming them when the customer checks in at their hotel and popping up their reservation details. They might also send timely reminds for flight check-ins and rental-car drop-offs when the user isn’t near the gate or lot, and offer recommendations for things to do in London, once the user hops in a cab from Heathrow airport to their hotel.

On the flip side, sending a spammy welcome message when someone’s flight is delayed or offering outdated recommendations based on last-known location are two surefire ways to make customers churn; location data can keep engagement and content personalized and relevant. Why would you need the “book a hotel” screen when you’re already at your hotel in a new city?


When it comes to hospitality, most hotel brands have their own loyalty apps. And a brand like Caesar’s has an extra incentive to know when you’re traveling near one of their locations, even if you’re not staying in their hotel. Obviously, some features and products available in the Caesar’s mobile app are not available in every corner of the country; location data can allow them to ‘gate’ certain features, and only send relevant notifications when a customer is in a certain region.


Using location data infrastructure in their mobile app, Target, with the 3rd-most-popular shopping app on the App Store, can deliver customized content and better app experiences to their customers. Knowing when a customer is inside a Target can also help Target promote features that only apply within the confines of the building, like a barcode scanner or an in-store promotion. When a customer shops at a competitor, walking into a Walmart will trigger a promotion or discount at the nearest Target via a push notification, or even an email.

As one of the most common uses for location data, nearby notifications are able to drive incremental foot traffic and revenue, but personalization can also be leveraged when it comes to in-app content; a recommendation engine powered by the zip code that someone lives in, as well as knowledge of what other products a customer might be searching for (based on where else they shop), can both help consumers find what they’re looking for more quickly.


In the media space, brands are focused on competing with a proliferation of media options for consumers. Personalization, relevance, and market share are three main focuses for every media brand. TuneIn Radio wants to know when a user begins their commute, and then prompt them to open the app to play music or listen to a podcast as soon as they walk out their front door. And if they know how long the commute lasts? Only recommend a podcast that can be finished within that time frame.

Personalized recommendations are how most media brands are helping their users sift through the hours of content on their platforms. If a user heads to a stadium, or always watches games at a local sports bar, they’re more apt to tune in to the game broadcast than someone who’s been to a symphony in the past two weeks. If a customer opens Spotify in the gym, they probably want a workout playlist to be one tap away.

Beyond retail, travel, and media, brands in food and beverage, delivery and on-demand, sports and entertainment, and social media are all looking to gain an edge when it comes to personalization and stickiness for their mobile audiences. The brands that we have seen win are the ones who truly understand who their users are, how they act, and the real-world context around how they’re using the app; brands without real-time location data are flying blind.


Below is a short guide showing you how to get started with Radar and how to leverage it within your mobile experience. Further, we’ll show you how you can gain buy-in from your leadership team without making a substantial monetary investment.

Note: If you are trying to gain buy-in from your leadership team, make sure you document these steps as you go along in a Keynote or PowerPoint presentation so that you have a record of what you did when it comes time to prepare your final presentation.

  1. Sign up for a free trial at radar.io/signup.
  2. Download the free Radar Toolkit app from the app store and paste in your publishable key within the settings.
  3. In the online dashboard, make a geofence around your work, or home, or favorite bar/restaurant/other social destination.
  4. Track yourself and spend some time learning the different parts of the platform.
  5. Define a use case that would add value to both your users and business. Two examples could be: A) More relevant messaging & B) More personalized in-app experiences.
  6. Understand the differentiators between Radar and other location data infrastructure: A) Developer friendly, lightweight SDKs, B) No data sharing or monetization, C) Unlimited geo-fencing and D) Enterprise ready with the ability to process large amounts of location data points.
  7. Prepare a short presentation to gain buy in from your immediate team members to run a POC on your live mobile app.
  8. Choose a segment of users to run the POC on and a length of time (5,000–10,000 would be a good number for 1 month).
  9. Implement the Radar SDK into your mobile app.
  10. Launch your campaign and start measuring.

If you need help with your POC or want to flesh out your use cases with an expert, feel free to send either of us an email and we would be happy to answer any questions you have. It’s the least we could do after you’ve read this far.

Tim Duncan — Bottle Rocket — [email protected]
Aidan Cleary — Radar — [email protected]

This piece was originally published at Medium.com/rocket-fuel.

© 2020 Bottle Rocket. All Rights Reserved.