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Migrating mobile app messaging providers can be painful. Enter: Custom Keys.

5 Minute Read

Andrew ShieldsMobile Product Manager, Cordial

I’ll say it once (in the title), I’ll say it twice: Migrating mobile app messaging providers can be painful. When prospective clients are looking to make the switch to Cordial’s mobile app messaging channel—if there’s any apprehension, it usually has something to do with the migration to another mobile app provider. And we completely understand why, but we’re here with a solution.

Our retail client Revolve is a great example of a migration story. Revolve Group operates three web-based fashion brands, and in the middle is high-end Revolve. Revolve began partnering with Cordial in 2016, and they use technology for automated inventory, pricing and trend forecasting, on top of good digital marketing on Airship. But, as aforementioned, the e-tailer wants to move to Cordial for its mobile app messaging services. Throughout this post, we will discuss the two options Revolve had, how we adapted to help the migration to a new messaging provider work and how it turned out. 

Revolve and the fork in the road

Revolve came to us with two migration options that were both difficult in their own ways—a fork in the road, if you will. The first option was to remove Airship’s software development kit (an SDK is a collection of software development tools in one installable package) and replace it with Cordial’s SDK. This way, Revolve could release an app update and all the data would flow correctly once again. Option two: they could try to run both SDKs side-by-side for a while so that contacts, events, and other integral data points would still sync to both messaging providers. 

Revolve attempted option two, but found it was riddled with difficulties. In fact, to force the two SDKs to work together on iOS, Revolve attempted to implement a lot of custom code and sadly, never got it to work. Pro tip: Most migration gurus don’t recommend using two mobile app messaging SDKs on iOS. So, when Revolve came to us to troubleshoot, we revisited option one. 

The major problem with option one: users who didn’t update their Revolve app would not have the personalized customer experience Revolve is known for. Without an update, the app wouldn’t be able to pass event data like notification taps, orders, and the like back to Revolve. This blind spot would cause a drop in opens and wouldn’t accurately reflect revenue attribution during the migration until the large majority of users have updated.

The workaround and the solution

We had previously built our Custom Keys feature to address challenges like these in similar migrations. At the time, the feature was a perfect fit for Cordial’s vision. We saw a huge opportunity to increase our flexibility while only taking a little bit of development time. For more information, visit our latest Support article for further details.

What are custom keys? Custom keys are extra bits of data you can send within a mobile app message that opens up a world of potential use cases. 

Fashion retailer Revolve had existing functionality in their app that could process deep links from Airship’s SDK and parse out the Google Analytics UTM tags, to show order attribution and campaign metrics. Using Cordial’s Custom Keys feature, Revolve was able to mimic the deep link functionality that Airship requires, since every messaging provider has their own unique piece of data in an app message to signal a deep link. 

For instance, Cordial looks for “deepLink”: <value> while Airship looks for “^d”: <value> in the mobile app message payload. Once we learned that Airship was looking for “^d” we used the Custom Keys feature to pass that data along with Revolve’s messages. This prompted the Airship SDK into processing the deep link, which not only improved the customer experience (directing them to a specific product page versus the home page), it also allowed Revolve’s Google Analytics to still capture data, which helped minimize the pain points often associated with migrating messaging providers.

In the long term, once everyone with the Revolve App (or at the very least, “enough” customers) have updated their app, Revolve will no longer need this feature as all devices will process Cordial’s deep link without issue. From a feature view, longer term perspective, we are going to continue investing in making it possible to replicate more complex fields from other messaging providers.

Of course, this is not a total differentiator, but we think it’s a pretty innovative way to use our Custom Keys feature. Many mobile in-app messaging providers offer custom keys, but aren’t using them to help make migrations easier. Revolve is now creating a new-and-improved app messaging experience for its customers, and we’re looking forward to seeing the results.

For more information on how Cordial can help you send a better app or in-app message, check out our messaging platform capabilities. If you’re ready to talk to a Cordial expert, we’d love to show you our next-gen vision for mobile marketing and how it’s empowering leading brands like Revolve to create personal, meaningful customer experiences.