TaskRabbit’s VP of Marketing On Customer Retention, the On-Demand Economy, and the Future of Marketing


TaskRabbit, a home services marketplace that helps customers find help with everything from house cleaning to handyman services to moving, was one of the first entrants in the on-demand economy. As that economy has expanded and customers have become more accustomed to dealing with companies solely in-app, the company’s opportunities have grown, and with them, the importance of dealing with reams of customer data in real time. Here, TaskRabbit Vice President of Marketing,  Rob Willey, offers his take on the on-demand economy, customer attention, and how data is moving marketing forward.

SAILTHRU: We’ve heard a lot about the on-demand economy in the past few years. What’s the most significant challenge that TaskRabbit has faced as an on-demand marketplace?

ROB WILLEY: The adoption of on-demand apps is reaching a critical mass where the companies in our space are able to benefit from each other’s success. Consumers are simply adopting on-demand apps at rates we’ve never seen before, and we’re able to generate a variety of segmentation and data sets that allow us to analyze the key areas and the key audiences that are going to drive our business forward.

The challenge, however, is that that pace of growth requires speed to adopt and utilize marketing tools in real time. With that growth, we also need to understand the changing ways consumers want to utilize TaskRabbit, and the ways in which they will utilize all sharing economy apps. It’s my job, and our job within the marketing department of TaskRabbit, to make sure that we understand the future of the on-demand economy and adapt to what consumers will want in a way that helps us get ahead of the competition.

SAILTHRU: Why did TaskRabbit start prioritizing retention?

ROB WILLEY: Our business, since day one, has always been focused on sustainable economics and long-term growth. We haven’t gone out and raised huge amounts of money with the intent to spend it without guidance on acquisition marketing. We’ve always believed that retention will be the future of our business. We’ve built our marketing teams and our tools to correspond to that metric.  

SAILTHRU: How do you look at the lifetime value of a customer compared to the cost of acquiring that customer?

ROB WILLEY: The relationship between lifetime value and customer acquisition cost is a critical part of how we evaluate our economics on a daily basis. We’re able to set lifetime value by looking at acquisition and conversion cost, and retention is a major player within that.

We aim to have customer acquisition costs be about a third of total lifetime value. That gives us a target price that we can focus on and make critical marketing decisions against on a month-by-month basis.

SAILTHRU: Any special advice on measuring customer lifetime value? That can be a tricky one for some marketers.

ROB WILLEY: When we look at how lifetime value and customer acquisition cost correspond, we aggregate on a quarter-by-quarter basis, versus week-to-week or month-to-month. That lets us average it out so we can operate efficiently without overspending.

Startups today understand that acquisition is only one key part of the profitability puzzle, and retention really is the key driver to long-term sustainable growth

SAILTHRU: Any unexpected benefits from this data-driven approach to marketing?

ROB WILLEY: I think the future of marketing software, and where I think Sailthru consistently excels, is in the power of data as something that will be foundational for marketing moving forward. These tools have allowed us, not only to better understand our consumers and respond in real time, but generally to get a better, clear understanding of the future of what our marketing plan should look like. That’s a revolutionary perspective.