Marketing Automation: What, Why & How?
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I’m sure that you were shocked when Facebook decided to shut down Parse, the much-loved mobile Backend as a Service (BaaS). It is anyone’s guess why Facebook decided to close it down, but most likely it is because they want to focus on more profitable parts of their business.
Let’s face it, as a business model, BaaS has a few things working against it.
From an app marketing perspective, Parse filled a big need. It was an affordable, easy-to-use backend database service that also provided a key marketing functionality…push notifications.
Of course, there are several standalone solutions that will give you the ability to send push notifications in your app. But to have it available in one package is awesome.
So if you are currently using Parse and are wondering what to do next, this guide will help you figure out your options. This post is a little different from most that you might read out there, in that we are going to focus more on the marketing considerations when deciding your next step.
If completely overhauling your backend in less than one year is cutting it too close, then there is a bridge that you can put into place right now, instead of deciding on a new solution right away. Parse has open-sourced their Node.js code and will allow you to download it and set it up on your own self-hosted server.
Keep in mind that the only things that his solution do not support are:
You can use services like Heroku or Digital Ocean to host this solution.
Facebook recommends that you migrate your Parse data to a self-hosted MongoDB by April 28, 2016. Then complete the setup of a self-hosted Parse Server by July 28, 2016.
This will give you enough time get things running correctly and train your staff. For more detailed instructions on how to do this migration, be sure to read the Parse Migration Guide.
Since push notifications are not included in this solution, you will need to implement another third party service. We provide a few of the top options, further down this list.
Kinvey is one of the pioneers of mobile BaaS and is certainly worth a look if you want to migrate to another service. Like Parse, they offer a generous free tier, push notifications and analytics.
Since they are one of the more established companies in this space, they also allow you to integrate with other platforms with their available data and identity connectors. You can read more here about migrating from Parse to Kinvey.
Another big name that comes up in the Parse alternatives discussion is Firebase. They offer backend hosting for both mobile and web apps.
Instead of trying to provide an umbrella solution, Firebase focuses on the application and database hosting. So if you need marketing functions, you will need to use Firebase in conjunction with something like Batch (mentioned below).
Probably the biggest benefit to going with AWS Mobile Hub is that you can be pretty sure that the service will be around for awhile. There are no guarantees of course, but Amazon has a lot invested in the server hosting game.
They can host everything from web applications to simple files, and you probably know someone who uses at least one of their cloud server services. I personally use two of them.
You can implement push notifications via the Amazon SNS.
If you have your application and database solution covered, and simply want to add notifications, then these services are what you need. Take a look at each one and see which solution would be best for your needs and budget.
If you want to learn how to keep users more engaged with push notifications and user retention strategies, read this post.
The Batch team was quick to respond to the Parse shutdown announcement and have a simple two-step process for getting people to move over. It’s a really smart way to get more people to their service.
They have also made it really easy to integrate Batch with Firebase. You can read the guide to learn how to do it.
PushWoosh is another company that is offering an easy migration path from Parse to their service. They are one of the leading messaging providers and certainly worth a look.
In addition to their notification services, they provide analytics, customer segmentation and scalability.
Urban Airship is one of the early success stories in the world of user retention and they continue to expand their product line with digital wallets. Their Starter Plan offers unlimited push and in-app notifications.
You also get up to 10 marketing automation rules for up to 1,000 users. So it is a great way to test out the service and find out if it works for you.
To get a list of other push notification providers, click here.
Of course, no marketing discussion would be complete without mentioning analytics…
While Parse does offer an analytics solution, that probably isn’t what you are using. Even if it is, switching to something like Flurry, Google or Mixpanel is pretty straightforward.
So we won’t get into analytics migration, we are sure you have it covered. Just be sure to download your previous Parse history, so you have something to reference later.
To get an in-depth analysis of the popular analytics platforms out there, read this post.
There are a lot of BaaS solutions out there and we have only touched on the solutions that will help most companies. For example, if you have a game, here are some game-specific solutions that you may want to look into.
Also consider the other alternative, creating your own backend. Services like Parse made it easy to get all of the features you need under one roof.
But with the shutdown of Parse and other similar services, it might be time to finally face the music. Having your own backend solution won’t leave you scrambling next time another service decides to close down.
Many startups create their own backend database/application solution but use third-party services to handle more specialized functions like push notifications. This can will reduce your exposure to Parse-like risk in the future.
Finally, remember that this is not 2009. Marketing has gotten more sophisticated and the name of the game is personalization. So instead of sending out generic push notifications, put some time into figuring out how to segment your users and even provide a unique experience to each individual person.
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