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Do not just have an app presence, ENGAGE!

Dustin Amrhein // March 1, 2017

What is your strategy to inform, engage, retain, and convert users of your app? It is a question we ask of nearly every mobile app owner we meet now, whether they are a digital marketer, product manager, or otherwise responsible for the business success of the app. We get a lot of interesting, and in many cases, innovative insight from their answers.

Then it’s time for the next question. What tactics are you using to support that strategy? The answers are a lot less innovative, or varied, in this case.

Many of the answers regarding tactics point back to two main vehicles of engagement: push notifications and in-app messages. To be clear, there is absolutely nothing wrong with either of these common engagement techniques.

Multiple studies have shown that when used correctly, they yield very positive results. So we are not bashing the use of push notifications and in-app messages in mobile campaigns. Use them and use them well!

That said, it is worth noting that there is much more to the mobile engagement equation than these two techniques. We are positive you are nodding your head and saying ‘Sure there are’, but let’s recap a few anyway:

Video

The era of mobile video consumption is fully upon us. In Q4 of 2015 46% of all video plays occurred on tablets or smartphones. YouTube, and a host of other video streaming services, have created a generation of users that prefer video engagement.

Naturally, app owners should take advantage of this preference and deliver in-app video to inform, entertain, connect with, and convert users.

But why? Where? When? The key concept with video is the ‘emotion’ it can convey for brand marketing. For example, many brands want to use in-app videos to highlight new products/services and then follow that up with a request for feedback, or a direct offer related to the new release. Others see in-app video as a key way to integrate social influencer marketing into their app.

Surveys

Frequent mobile app users are very likely to be some of a brand’s most loyal customers. It stands to reason that companies want to communicate with this loyal user base and let them know their feedback has been heard.

Imagine a salient use case. You have just released a major app upgrade. You have completely changed the look and feel of your app or service. You want to solicit feedback from your app users. One of the best ways to do this is with in-app surveys that provide immediate feedback or provide a contextual AND personal reaction based on user response.

Something as simple as ‘Thank you Dustin for your feedback!’ instead of ‘Thank you for your feedback’ can make a positive perception difference on app users that respond to your survey requests. Sure, it takes more than a simple thank you message to show your users you listen (you need to actually address feedback), but don’t overlook the powerful effect of small personalization touches either!

GIFs

It’s fair to say that in the world of mobile sometimes bigger is not better! Smaller engagement features such as GIFs, tooltips, and banners, can be a very effective way to grab a user’s attention.

Whether the intent is to inform a user about new features, promote a special offer, or simply to entertain, it’s hard to go wrong with a small, yet timely animation or layover. And yes, GIFs have been around since 1987, but they seem to be more popular than ever.

Think of these as additional ways to create a more personalized, contextual app engagement experience that satisfies and connects with your app users.

You are probably asking “What’s the big deal about additional engagement options?”. After all, video, surveys, and GIFs are nothing new. We completely agree. However, that’s not the question we think garners the most insight.

The question we like most is “If all these engagements benefit the app users and owners alike, why we do not hear and see more about the use of these forms of engagement when we talk to app owners?”

App owners should drive in-app engagement

The answer is quite simple: App owners have not been efficiently empowered to truly own and drive in-app engagement. What do we mean? If you take a look at a mobile engagement solution today, you are likely to find two striking characteristics.

First, the solution will probably be focused on a narrow subset of possible engagement forms (usually push and in-app messages). While the solution may go fairly deep in terms of capability, the lack of breadth is constraining.

Mobile app owners need much more than just push or in-app messaging. They need and want to engage. However, with the lack of breadth, the result is a binary choice.

App owners either procure multiple ‘point’ solutions that collectively provide the engagement options they need, or they accept a lack of engagement diversity. On one hand there is increased complexity, and on the other, a lack of creativity. Neither are ideal outcomes.

The second characteristic you are likely to notice from a mobile engagement solution is that it really does not offer much control or leverage to the typical app owner (that is, the non-developer).

It is probable that customizing the UI and UX of the engagement requires code and in-app configuration – that costs precious time and money. It is beyond probable, almost certain, that inserting the engagement feature into the app will require development. In some cases, the development will be quite intrusive.

The result is that an app owner’s engagement ideas are tightly coupled to engineering teams. This means app owners get chained to internal cycle times and cannot engage at the speed mobile app users demand.

Perhaps an analogy here is apropos: if a tree falls in the forest and an app owner claims they heard it 3 months later, does your app user care? You likely missed your window to engage…..

Given the importance enterprises are placing on mobile apps, and the resulting need to effectively engage app users, can app owners remain so “handcuffed” without their very own engagement tool? We think it is safe to say they cannot.

Pushing the art of mobile engagement forward requires that we unleash the creativity of app owners. To unleash true creativity and to enable this engagement shift, it is time for mobile engagement solutions to address both the need for breadth of engagement forms and for app owner empowerment. When that happens, we will all be much happier and engaged app users!


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