Lorenzo Rossi is many things, including a charismatic conversationalist, a Mobile Masterminds contributor, and the Head of Marketing at Free2Move. We picked his brain to uncover a bit of his fascinating journey through the mobile app industry and learn from the insight he has gathered while working in dating, shopping, and most recently, transport, at the leading aggregator app for car, bike and scooter sharing services.
Where are you from and where do you live now?
I actually get asked this a lot, as I am an Italian living in Germany. I am from a small town near Florence, but with only 8,600 inhabitants, you probably haven’t heard of it (alright it’s called Monte San Savino). Everyone knows each other where I’m from, it’s like a big family. But currently, I am living in Berlin, and have proudly survived 6 winters thus far. There’s so much culture, many museums… it’s the hub for startups and mobile in Europe and it’s THE place to make connections. The weather is terrible but everything else is great.
So how did you get into the mobile app industry?
I started out in more traditional marketing roles, managing online and offline services for a training & consulting company. I got into Mobile when I arrived in Berlin in 2013, working for a mobile startup that was basically a paid app for backgrounds and lock screens. It was still in those early days before the big performance focus, but I began running my first mobile campaigns on Facebook. I took to it instantly. I liked creating the texts and being a bit creative in photoshop. Watching the data was exciting as well and I enjoyed seeing how small changes to the creatives would result in improvements.
And how did you end up at Free2Move then?
After my first hands-on experience, I ended up moving into another position with the dating app LOVOO, right when dating apps seemed to be hitting their stride. There I met a lot of expert colleagues and great people who taught me a lot, and I found a boss and a mentor, André Kempe, who helped me become more of a performance marketer. I remember he gave me all the difficult channels and pushed me out of my comfort zone; in the beginning I didn’t like it too much, but it helped me to develop a real passion for testing and experimenting. I worked at LOVOO for 2 years, then I moved to Zalando, and later ended up at Free2Move. After 3 months at Free2Move our CMO left Berlin and the company, and due to his absence, I temporarily took the lead of the entire marketing team to fill in the gap. We were in a critical moment trying to scale so we needed to keep everything rolling.
I hired 15 people, and then, months later, I had the opportunity to participate in the process of hiring the new CMO. We knew we needed someone with experience, and we found the perfect person. Our new CMO Seth Elliot, has brought us to something I hadn’t experienced before. And I have shifted from being Head of Performance to Head of Marketing, which means I now get to coordinate online and offline marketing activities, events, CRM, design and lots of fun stuff. So that is the short version of how I ended up where I am.
Are you a jack of all trades or do you focus on a specific area of app marketing?
I am involved a bit in everything, even content. If I had to pick my area of specialty I would have to say, nontraditional channels and experimenting. I have always liked challenges. For instance, influencers and content marketing are two channels that are still getting figured out right now for mobile apps, but both have huge potential. Working with them gives me the freedom to be more creative and I find that I can get different users with different approaches.
What is Free2Move’s unique selling point? There are a lot of competitors, what helps you stay ahead of them?
We give users access to a lot of providers with just a single registration. Mobility is huge right now, everyone is launching their application, there are a lot of people in the market, but we have been around for a long time so we have staying power.
What are the tools you can’t live without?
Tableau. I am always checking out what’s been going on and if we are on track. Our Business Intelligence team is good, and makes it so that I can see everything I need.
What is the best advice for promoting an app in your vertical? What strategy change has improved how you promote Free2Move?
We actually had a bit of a surprise and struggle when dealing with Free2Move. We started out with Facebook as the main channel. The thinking was, Facebook is the social platform for adults, which was exactly who we were aiming for with a transportation app. But, due to a very quick need to scale UA activities, we had to quickly start experimenting with many different user acquisition channels and adopt what I call an “Omnichannel Approach”. We need to see if we could find a UA sweet spot, even among channels that we thought would never work. For example, Snapchat was a long shot we thought, because we saw it as more of an audience of kids, right?
Well, it worked really well in France, but nowhere else. But we had to try to find out. And actually, the creative that ended up working on Snapchat was very homemade. We just had a team member, driving the scooter, screaming like a lunatic, saying that anyone who wanted to drive a scooter should download the app. So that was a random strategy that ended up working, but I think the real takeaway here is: try channels. You don’t know until you know.
Has there been difficulty launching into new geos? What is the most important thing you have learned while expanding?
We’ve found that different markets react very differently to what we offer. In Washington for example, it was very expensive to promote ourselves because we had to first educate our audience. People didn’t understand the basic concept of how car sharing worked. We had to take a very content-heavy approach and not overly sell ourselves before people understood the concept. In France, on the other hand, the market is much more mature for car-sharing. One of the biggest car-sharing companies is already there and audiences understood what we were selling from the moment we arrived. Obviously, in each market, there is always a mix of both people who need to be educated on your product and those that are already aware, but knowing the ratio makes a big difference.
Where do you see yourself and your transport sharing app in a few years? How might ridesharing transform future societies for the better?
I believe there are a lot of opportunities when it comes to the sharing economy and the mobility industry. Governments and Administrations are actively participating in the creation of what are called “smart cities” because they see intelligent mobility as a solution for problems like traffic and pollution. The need to own a car will probably decrease gradually within the next few years, but it won’t be an easy process: as we’ve seen already, people still need to be educated.
Data will play a crucial part in this process: sharing services will need to understand how people behave and when people need a particular service. If people have access to shared services, in the exact moment they’re needed, they will be more open to the idea of abandoning vehicle ownership.
Regarding myself, in a few years I still see myself helping people, maybe helping them discovering an app that may change the way they commute or perhaps helping a company in the exciting early stages of growth. Life is full of surprises and you never know what might be around the corner.