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Building a Sustainable Mobile App

  |  July 20, 2011   |  Comments   |  

Tactics to promote user frequency and measuring success for your mobile app. Part two in a two-part series.

How the mobile app is developed will determine its future sustainability. We discussed three key areas to consider in the app development and sustainability plan earlier. Here, I'll share how to sustain longevity for the app once it's downloaded.

Promote User Frequency and Build Habitual Usage

The app is now installed onto the users' handset. Users begin using the application. Their activities lead to results on the app. For instance, users who download gaming apps will deep dive into the game and attempt to win the right to go to the next level or challenge. Whenever users fail to reach the next level, they are prompted to enter their results to a scoreboard that is presumably stored in the cloud. This simple chain of user action and subsequent results forms the basis of a strategy to build user frequency and habitual usage.

Consider the game that's being played by the user. The results in the scoreboard reflect the gaming style and ability of the user to win the game. Obviously, a continued lack of success in the game could inadvertently discourage users to continue with the game and experiment with others in the app store, which may present an easier path to success (e.g., higher scores). Hence, the developer should assess the pattern of scores submitted to the scoreboard to measure the level of success experienced by users that downloaded the app.

  1. Consistent high scoring users would suggest that they have maximised their utility on the game, and they will begin to experience the Law Of Diminishing Marginal Utility. Hence, these users should be prompted through push messages to make in-app purchase of new levels so as to promote its continued use. These new levels build on the users' familiarity in navigating their mobile handsets to beat the challenges in the game, thereby promoting its continued use.
  2. Consistent low scoring users and the infrequent update on the scoreboard will suggest these users have either stopped using the app or transitioned to other gaming apps that could bring the gaming success they crave for. In this instance, these users' scoring pattern should reflect a gaming strategy that is clearly not working. As such, the game developer should reach out to these users through push messages to direct them to websites (formatted on the handset) that gives gaming tips and cheat sheets on how to overcome the obstacles to gaming success. This effort can be incentivised by crediting a limited number of gaming credits or tools that are usually earned through gaming success to these users' account. Such an approach mirrors the golf handicap system where relatively poor golfers are given a score advantage that are derived from their ability. Accordingly, the advantages offered by the game developer serve as the push factors to promote continued game usage by this user segment.
The above suggests that developers should leverage on the data captured on the cloud to promote incentives that are targeted at specific user segments with common user experiences. It is a reactive strategy that is tailored to the experiences of the various user segments (of the app) after assessing the activities and resulting consequences from the app. This approach is different from the often-used strategy of launching a lite or free version of an app, and then promoted in-app purchases before the start of the game (at the splash screen). I would argue this approach assumes all users are categorised into one silo, and the developer's objective of promoting higher app frequency will be compromised in the long run. Hence, the reactive strategy is based on user feedback and quantitative results from actions undertaken on the app that splits users into different silos, which require different responses tailored for their common needs.

Final Thoughts

The plans described above are some core principles that can be used for planning any mobile app. There's a deliberate thought process that needs to take place before the app is developed so that its relevance to the target users is subject to critical benchmarking against what others will respond once it is released on the app store. An understanding of user purchasing behaviour dictates how the messaging should be crafted to shift the users' focus on benefits, rather than the cost of downloading the app (even if it is free). Finally, take advantage of the many new functions found in today's mobile handsets. The combination of push messages, cloud computing that moves the data processing and analysis off the handset, and immediate access to the Internet through the built-in browser gives developers a constant link to the users who downloaded their apps. The careful dissection of the data gathered from these channels offer insights to developers that can then plan reactive strategies to increase the usage frequency and its eventual longevity over time.


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Darren Yan

With more than 16 years of experience in mobile, digital media/advertising, and e-commerce, Darren has successfully developed and launched pioneering mobile Internet initiatives such as subscription-based mobile news services, location-based advertising, behavioral targeting using consumer analytics in Singapore Press Holdings, SingTel, Cisco Systems, and DBS.

At InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG), Darren will serve as the regional subject matter expert on mobile and drive overall utilization of mobile to increase revenue and engagement in Asia, Middle East and Africa (AMEA). His mandate includes developing, implementing, and managing mobile marketing strategies to generate greater brand awareness and revenue through owned, paid, and earned media.

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