Brands in almost every industry are rushing to the mobile space, hot on the heels of consumer dollars. While this is awesome news for consumers and marketers alike, an app is only as good as the user experience and defined goals of the project. Make sure you don’t make these common mistakes when you bring a mobile app to market, and if you’ve already pushed your app live, these might raise some red flags.
Taking it from the top, an app merits all the same brand strategy steps as any other big project. That means your app needs to complement your web and/or physical brand experience instead of trying to duplicate it. Unless your users understand exactly how to engage with your app and how that relates to overall brand engagement, you’re setting yourself up for failure. This doesn’t mean your app needs to be an extravagant addition to your brand strategy. Rather, the app experience needs to be comfortable, familiar, and most importantly, valuable for users.
For example, if you’re a restaurant with an informative website and a popular physical location or two, an app might suit your brand in terms of customer loyalty and deal offerings. Customers know what to expect when they come to your restaurant and website, but an app could add a layer of engagement and benefits. By offering a “digital punch-card” of sorts on your app, where customers could build rewards for loyal dining, in addition to action-based or seasonal discounts and deals, you’ll create another way to engage customers and stay top-of-mind.
Every organization has key questions to answer and core problems to solve. Without defined wins and proper measurement, it’s impossible to tell if your brand is on the right track, or headed for disaster. So why would an app be any different? To assure the development and release of your app is much more than just going through the motions, setup some tangible success metrics and follow them closely.
For example, media apps know users are accessing content more and more while on the go. You could rationalize that apps in this industry just need a faster interface to read articles on mobile devices, but is that enough of a reason to pour in the man hours and dollars to build an app? Instead, try thinking about an app as a way to make content more consumable. We already know that consumers digest content in smaller bites, so if you tailor content to this trend and tailor your wins accordingly, you will know if your app is working. In this case, focus on user retention and shorter session intervals (the time between interactions with your app). Then, you can encourage better results by adding app marketing tools like push messages to update users about news and encourage more app visits per day. Now, you’ve got some solid, well-defined metrics to know if all is well in your app.
In the same way that building an app without measuring the results is a waste of time, tracking the wrong metrics will lead you to poor dollar and resource allocation. The most common offense is the fascination with downloads. In the same way that brands want a ton of likes and followers on their social sites but don’t know how to rally these fans, companies who dwell on app download numbers are missing the bigger picture.
It’s natural to want as many people as possible to see your app and try using it. That said, download numbers don’t tell you what happens after the app is on someone’s mobile device.
For example, after downloading, some people may never use your app, use it just once, or use it very infrequently. You can have a million users, but if 40% of them use your app just once, those high-fives on a download benchmark may not be warranted. Instead, if you focus on a critical health metric like LTV (lifetime value), it’s easy to see how much value per user you’re generating over time. Pair this with acquisition data to see which campaigns have delivered the most valuable users instead of just the most users. Now you know where to spend more money.
If you have a clear vision for your app, and are tracking the right metrics, don’t miss the opportunity to steer users in the most profitable directions in-app. While ultra-engaged users will explore your app further and find the features and channels that are most valuable, some users may need that extra nudge. There are a couple ways to accomplish this: you can optimize the screen flow and layout of the app so users find things easier, or you can short-cut the discovery process with timely, relevant marketing. While both methods are valuable, app marketing can get you to engagement goals faster.
For example, finance apps typically have several layers of depth, though most users will just skim the surface of functionality. While optimizing feature layout and emphasizing certain tools will lead to more desired actions over time, in-app messaging can direct users to target behaviors more urgently. An informative in-app message, highlighting new and helpful features can drive users deeper into the experience and deliver more value for them and your brand.
If you’ve managed to avoid all the mistakes listed above, congrats – you’re an app pro. Still, the app experience will feel sub-par if you don’t make the app feel personal and continue to improve the interface over time. The best way to accomplish these goals is to segment users and tailor the experience according to user behavior. The worst way to accomplish this is to blast the same offerings to all your users and never refine the experience.
For example, social media apps have a breadth of user types and different ways users can interact with one another. This forum is a great opportunity for you to learn how users self-identify by the actions they take in-app. If you’ve noticed that some users have filled out all their profile information, while others have left most or all of their details blank, this is an indication of engagement level. By segmenting users along these lines, you can encourage the less engaged users to input more information to gain access to more tailored content and features, while the more engaged users can dive deeper into the app experience when new functionality is added. By segmenting users, you avoid frustrating less engaged users with the same content and messaging as more engaged users.
A great app is more than just a native feel for web content. To keep users coming back and acquire new, engaged ones, you’ll need to design your app from the top-down to incorporate the same brand feel as consumers are used to, clarify metrics to gauge success, nudge users to desired actions, and make the app experience feel personal and engaging. While this sounds like a ton of work, there’s good news – many of your competitors are still making these mistakes, so you can get the jump on them with a killer app.
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