Far and wide across the global economy, more and more businesses are recognizing the value of mobile apps as a core component of their digital strategies.
With very tangible benefits in the areas of cost reduction, consumer value, and brand awareness, it is no surprise that the Google Play Store has over 3.6 million apps available for download. And yet, given the fact that only 0.01% of mobile apps will be considered a financial success in 2018, it appears that many businesses still fail to appreciate that quantity doesn’t necessarily equal quality in the digital age. While a few years back, “number of downloads” may have been the defining measurement for gauging app viability and success, many of today’s most prominent app developers and businesses (including duopoly giants Facebook and Google) have recently transitioned to a more nuanced approach. For digital age businesses looking to reliably measure app success in 2018 and beyond, “app engagement” now reigns supreme. Given that this shift reflects a broader evolution in consumer preferences (i.e., from mobile-friendly to mobile-first), adjusting to the new status quo will require maximizing value-driven user engagement.
Let’s take a look at 3 strategies for how.
#1 Revamp Your Onboarding
App onboarding is the first point of contact between you and your target market. It is often referred to as an intimate, “get to know you” moment. And yet, the time available to make a first impression is limited – less than 60 seconds by some accounts. Given the clear constraints of this narrow time-frame, it is no surprise that you should look to avoid complicated instructions, information requests, and confusing tutorials. They are the quickest way to end up in the app graveyard. As nearly 1 in 4 users will abandon your mobile app after only a single use, look to keep things simple and implement the following onboarding best practices:
- Highlight Your Value Proposition: Emphasizing concision, clearly explain the what, why, and how of your app. Users want to know why an app is useful, not a detailed explanation of every feature. Reduce friction by applying the 80-20 Rule – i.e., 80% of user results will come from 20% of their efforts. Focus on those features that will lead to the most significant results, leaving the bells and whistles for another time.
- Avoid Needless Inquiries: While many apps require permissions and data access to properly function, too many requests (especially in this post-Facebook-scandal era) can be detrimental to adoption. The Pew Research Center reports that 60% of app users have chosen not to download an app after discovering how much personal information the app required. Ask for essential information only, and transparently explain why you’re asking for it.
- Provide Context: Remember, new users did not download your app to learn how your UI works. They went through the trouble of downloading and installing it because of your value proposition. Enhance this proposition by providing your users with context at the point of action. Welcome boards, focus tips, and guided learning are all great ways to convey value while providing context.
- Follow Up: Even the most successful onboarding won’t be able to explain everything. Look to provide users with additional value driven-resources to keep them engaged and educated. Video tutorials and targeted messaging (see below) are great tools for not only satisfying those users hungry for more information, but for simultaneously providing slower learners the ability to go at their own pace.
#2 Focus on Multi-Channel Messaging
Multi-channel messaging refers to an omnichannel-like strategy for actively engaging app users through messaging. The goal is to present your users with personalized and relevant content on a diverse range of messaging platforms. Look to create an efficient and effective messaging workflow via the following tools:
- In-App Messages: Also known as the communications that customers receive while actively using an app, in-app messages lay the foundation for a successful multi-channel messaging strategy. These messages can quickly grab the attention of your users and alert them to promotions, updates, and other relevant points of interest. In fact, recent studies show that appropriately targeted in-app messages have the potential to drive user retention at 3.5x the normal rate.
- Push Notifications: Often confused with in-app messaging, push notifications are messages sent to your users outside of the app (i.e., even when they are not using their mobile device). Push notifications can act as an integral part of your app’s experience, providing users with direct and actionable value (i.e., news, weather, traffic updates, flight check-ins, etc.). They not only have the ability to increase retention rates by 65%, but push notifications will never get lost in the deep abyss of spam filters.
- SMS: As the traditional backbone of mobile messaging, SMS (or “text messages”) continues to play an essential role in multi-channel messaging and user engagement. Text messages are received almost instantly, can concisely communicate valuable information, and, unlike other mobile messaging channels, are rather difficult for your users to ignore. Best uses include new user authentication, password resets, and for relationship building.
While different messaging channels are likely to provide you with different results (both individually and in combination), multi-channel messaging campaigns are unique in their ability to create compelling, memorable, and value-driven experiences for your users. Focus on creating personalized and targeted content, and keep tabs on emerging trends in mobile communication (i.e., in-app chatbots and mobile messaging apps).
#3 Utilize Deep Linking
Mobile app deep linking is the process of employing uniform resource locators (i.e., URLs) to connect web links (and your users) to a specific piece of content within your mobile app. While the concept of deep linking has existed for some time (circa 2006), it is only recently that is has been employed to help solve some all-too-common and frustrating defects in the app/mobile browsing user experience.
- Defect #1: You, the consumer, are on your mobile browser. You see an advertisement for a pair of shoes that you like from Brand X. You click on the ad, but instead of being taken directly the shoes on Brand X’s mobile app (which you have installed), the link brings you to the homepage of the app or web browser. You must now search for the shoes on your own.
- Defect #2: You, the consumer, are on your mobile browser. You see an advertisement for a pair of shoes that you like from Brand X. The ad is linked directly to the shoes on Brand X’s app. However, you don’t have the app installed on your phone. Once you click on the advertisement, your browser shows an error or fallback page.
The general point illustrated by both scenarios is that If users are forced to take extra steps to engage with a piece of content or complete a sale, they are likely to get frustrated and abandon or delete your app. There are now three deep linking tools available to overcome and solve these defects:
- Traditional Deep Linking
- Deferred Deep Linking
- Conceptual Deep Linking
Traditional deep linking solves Defect #1 by directing users to a specific piece of content within your mobile app (i.e., the shoes). This reduction in effort not only facilitates user engagement, but is likely to increase loyalty as well. And yet, as Defect #2 demonstrates, traditional deep linking does, in fact, have a limitation that we often take for granted – mobile users must have your app installed to reach the linked content. A second type of deep linking, called “deferred deep linking,” solves Defect #2 by immediately directing users to the location of your app within the Google Play Store. Once your app is installed, users will be presented with the deferred content (i.e., the shoes) immediately upon launch. A third and final linking strategy is known as “conceptual deep linking.” This type of deep linking has the enhanced functionality of deferred deep linking, plus the ability to record data on both senders and receivers. This data can provide you with added user insight, and can be used to further personalize the experience of your users.
The three strategies detailed above (particularly deep linking) can all significantly improve valuable usage/engagement metrics. As such, they should be considered priorities when looking to improve user engagement and retention in 2018.