Talking lifecycle marketing with Heetch

For this second episode of my "CRM Leaders" series, we're heading back to France — well almost. I was able to chat for a good while with Daniel Shunn, the Head of CRM of Heetch, a French company based in Paris which has the particularity of having some of its employees working remotely. This is the case of Dan, who works from London. We had a very interesting conversation together, and here is a summary of it...

Heetch was founded in 2013. Its activity: passenger transportation. More precisely, passenger transportation by PHV. Heetch edits a mobile app allowing anyone to order a professional driver to make a ride in the city.

To date, Heetch has nearly 300 employees and is established in 15 cities, in 5 countries: France (the 10 largest cities), Belgium but also in several French-speaking African countries. Its 20k drivers have made 2.4M rides in Q4 of 2019, ordered by 500k passengers.

That’s a lot of data to manage…

Dan joined Heetch in early 2019, after experiences at BT Sport, Deliveroo and Eurosport, all in CRM roles. There was no dedicated CRM team at Heetch when he joined: several people were involved in CRM across several departments and it was not really organized. The tracking was not optimal, neither were the processes.

Things have changed in one year ⬇️

A sharp strategy, a precise organizational structure

Heetch has the particularity of working with two different types of users: drivers and passengers. They also have the particularity of offering a service that can be used frequently (the notion of loyalty is therefore central). Lastly, they are established in different countries, and each of them has different marketing needs.

All these elements give high importance to the CRM team.

The first thing Dan implemented when he arrived was to split the customer relationship in two parts.

  • First, there’s the “Lifecycle CRM”, managed by his team and which basically consists of all the automated messages sent to passengers and drivers.
  • Then there’s the “Local CRM”, managed by the local marketing teams and which consists mainly of manual campaigns, newsletters, etc.

The same platform is used for these two “divisions”: while the CRM team is responsible for this tool (best practices, governance) and is also fully responsible for the “Lifecycle” part, it only plays a support role for local initiatives, to train and coach the different marketing teams in sending out their campaigns.

I really liked the “Lifecycle” focus of Dan and his team. To make sure they follow drivers and passengers through their lifecycle, they mapped these life cycles, then all the touchpoints and all the messages they want to send. It’s called a lifecycle marketing strategy, and this is what it looks like:

Of course, this mapping is only an overview of the complete strategy, but it gives an idea.

To take care of this lifecycle marketing strategy (and support local initiatives), Dan has recruited three people to work with him, and will be opening a new position soon.

I was expecting some people on the team to be in charge of the driver lifecycle, and others in charge of the passenger lifecycle. That was the case before, but Dan and his team actually chose another organization. Instead, they divided the two lifecycles into three main “moments”:

  • Early Life: the first few weeks after they’ve downloaded the app
  • In-Life/Engagement: the time period during which the passenger or driver is active
  • End of Life: when a passenger/driver shows any signs of churn

Then each CRM manager took responsibility for a “moment of life”, both for the drivers and for the passengers. These managers are headed by Dan, who is the keeper of consistency, and supported by the data team.

The primary mission of the CRM team is to increase the frequency of passenger & driver rides.

And to achieve this mission, the team has two mottoes: “Automate when possible” and “Always experiment”.

A culture of experimentation

You can really feel it when you talk to Dan: he has put in place a real culture of experimentation in his team.

It can be as simple as small optimizations of existing messages, like changing a channel, a subject line, a piece of content, the time of sending, the targeting… It can also mean introducing new tactics and exploring more technical things, like adding personalized data to their emails (à-la-Spotify) or setting up a model that better predicts churn, in collaboration with their data team.

They try to always have new experiments to run. To keep track of them, they use Jira and measure the success of the experiments in Looker. It’s a scientific process and it allows them to validate or invalidate their hypotheses and then to communicate the results afterwards.

Because another thing that I found very cool about this team is the internal newsletter they send out almost every month. In a short email (using a professional template), they keep the other employees of the company up to date with the team’s news: results of experiments, recruitments, changes in the organization, good moves… Great practice!

A simple stack, a powerful CRM

Here comes my favorite part, the geeky part, the part that allows Dan and his team to execute their strategy. Heetch’s marketing stack looks pretty simple, with a powerful tool in the middle and only a few extra things. Here’s what it looks like:

The centerpiece is called Braze. It’s a B2C-oriented and mobile-specialized CRM, which enables Heetch to orchestrate its customer communications.

Braze had just been implemented at Heetch when Dan joined, and Dan was familiar with the tool from his time at Deliveroo.

I asked Dan what he thought of Braze and this is what he replied:

I like it. I far prefer it to something like Adobe Campaign. I don’t like Adobe Campaign very much, I find it difficult, Braze is very user-friendly when you compare.
Actually Braze is very good if you do the hard work from the start and set it up to be very good. For example, for email editing, it’s not great, so if you don’t have someone who can code in HTML, it can become tricky, because their classic editor is a bit clunky.

PROS: for me the main pro is the canvas, where you build your automated workflows. Very powerful. Also having so many channels available in one place: emails, push notifications, in-app messages, SMS… We’re testing WhatsApp (I’m not convinced but we’ll see), we can even add Facebook Messenger as a channel, or automatically generate a Facebook audience to be used for retargeting…

CONS: you need to make sure you’ve done your homework before you start, with the email templates but also regarding the data. The more data you have the more powerful you’re going to be, so you have to be meticulous about data collection in your app. And probably the weakest element on Braze is its reporting: you can look at individual campaigns to see how they performed and it’s pretty good, but to get a custom report, it’s not super useful. So we pull our engagement data to Amazon Redshift (using Braze Currents) and then we can manipulate it with Looker which is much easier to use.”


Braze is an American software company founded in 2011. Their tool was originally called Appboy, and became Braze in 2017. The specialization of this CRM platform was mobile, and it is still the main strength of this platform today. Gartner ranks it as one of the leaders in its Mobile Marketing Platforms Quadrant, along with competitors such as Airship and Swrve. 

Although its customers include companies with a strong focus on mobile, such as Heetch, Deliveroo or SouldCloud, it is also used by companies such as Domino’s, The Guardian or Urban Outfitters.

Even if the platform still seems imperfect in some places, it is evolving rapidly, just like the company that is no longer a startup: several hundred employees worldwide, $175m of funds raised, and a turnover that exceeded $100m in 2019.

Another interesting thing at Heetch is the use of a tool called Dataiku. This tool allows the CRM team to add custom events right on the app, without having to deal with the engineering team as it’s usually the case. Huge time saving and flexibility, and the possibility to optimize faster.

Apart from that, Dan also mentioned a tool called LaunchDarkly that Heetch uses for running A/B tests on their app. Also MovableInk for email personalization (they don’t use it now, but may consider it). And MailBakery, a service for transforming a PSD wireframe into an HTML template.

And some bits of inspiration

As with Louis in the first episode, I asked Dan which companies he likes for what they do from a CRM standpoint:

“As most people, I like Spotify for the data they have and how they use it. I also like what Airbnb is doing, and Chubbies because their content is strange, fun and has a totally different approach.”

Then I asked him which trends he feels in the email/CRM industry:
“I don’t think that it’s changing a lot. The conversations don’t change a lot: it’s always about hyper-personalization, about being as human as possible. And that’s obviously our focus at Heetch.”

Then I asked him what are the things he’s proud of having accomplished at Heetch:

“The first thing I’m proud of is the team I have assembled. I think we have a great mix of personalities and skills that complement each other well. We’re almost completely self-sufficient as well, which helps a lot when you want to move and learn quickly in your experiments.

I also like the fact that we’re in a really good place with our driver lifecycle approach. We’re pretty confident that we are able to have a positive impact on active drivers and rides per driver at all of the key lifecycle stages.

And the last thing… well, it’s a bit simple maybe but our email delivery rate, up until recently Heetch only offered Facebook signup (a user can now sign up with email) which meant the quality of our mailing lists were not brilliant and IP warming when moving to Braze had a few hiccups. We worked very hard to clean our lists and improve our reputation.

And to wrap up with one last question, what is his main challenge there:

The trickiest thing for us is trying to get passengers active without incentivizing them. It’s quite difficult to manufacture the need for a taxi without someone having somewhere to go. So we try to contextualise our communication whenever possible.”

Thank you Dan!

If you have any questions for Dan, you can find him on LinkedIn here.

And if you have any feedback to share with me on this format (for example other topics to be discussed in the next ones), feel free to write a little comment below!

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