3 Secrets to Branded Mobile App Engagement

Remember when Apple assured its customers that, regardless of what they needed to accomplish on their mobile devices, “there’s an app for that?” The company wasn’t wrong. Today, the leading app stores cumulatively offer around 3 million apps. Google has reported that smartphone users have an average of 33 apps installed at any given time, though they typically only use 12 of them each month. 

Mobile apps are still a major part of many cross-channel marketing and customer engagement strategies. Brands like Visa have created 360-degree interactive video apps, while Sherwin-Williams built an app that helps consumers choose the perfect paint color. Pop-Secret’s Perfect Pop app actually listens to your microwave popcorn pop to prevent your snack from getting scorched (and offers fun movie facts while you wait).

There’s no end to the creativity that brands have displayed when developing their own apps. And yet, new data from Forrester Research reveals that time spent with apps is dominated by established players like Facebook, Google, and Amazon. Social media apps, along with apps that facilitate communication, get the most use, accounting for 21 percent of all minutes spent with mobile apps.

Going head-to-head with app giants isn’t easy, but the struggle doesn’t stop once a brand secures an app download. User retention is, quite possibly, the most difficult thing about a mobile app strategy to get right. Consumers have no time for mediocre brand activations and little tolerance for lackluster interactions that require space on their increasingly cluttered smartphone screens.

When you’re trying to connect with a customer through mobile, you’re competing against distractions above and beyond other apps. Every brand covets that elusive spot on a mobile user’s phone. Sometimes they get it. But keeping those users interested leaves many marketers scratching their heads. What do consumers want from a branded mobile app, anyway? What does it take to sustain interaction over time?

Last month, mobile marketing automation company Kahuna released a report on consumer engagement with mobile devices. After analyzing anonymous data from 39 million mobile customers, it found that close to 90 percent of app users will “fade” if brands don’t continuously engage them. Unless a brand successfully engages its app users within three months, 90 percent of app installs lose their value to users.

How, then, can brands ensure their apps keep users coming back? Start with these three steps:

1. Implement Social Sharing

Forrester found that social networking apps account for 14 percent of all smartphone minutes – more than 25 minutes per day. Incorporating social sharing into your app lets you tap into the inherent appeal of sharing via mobile device. Fitness apps, for example, routinely include a social sharing feature that allows users to post their progress to their social feeds. It doesn’t sound like much of an enhancement, but it resonates with the millions of consumers who use apps on their smartphones to share status updates with friends.

Social sharing can also become a prominent part of an app’s utility. Volkswagen’s SmileDrive app is an ideal example of how effective this approach can be. Consumers can use it to create shareable travelogues that include drive details, such as miles traveled, weather, and minutes on the road; photos; and status updates, and even play the old “PunchDub” game in a new digital format.

SmileDrive users can even share the stickers they earn for unlocking special moments like late-night rides. Through social sharing, this app turns an everyday brand interaction – a ride in a VW – into a memorable brand experience while increasing brand exposure and generating additional downloads, too.

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2. Employ a Push Messaging Strategy

According to Kahuna, the average opt-in rate for app push messages on Android and iOS devices is 62 percent. This creates an opportunity to interact with your app users over time. “Messaging bridges the gap between install and engagement,” the company says, meaning that it can turn what may have started as a trial into a long-term user relationship, maximize return on investment, and sustain user interest. Brands should prioritize a messaging strategy that highlights app benefits, as well as promotes new app features that users might otherwise overlook.

3. Create App-Based Content

When Bank of America wanted to honor veterans during Fleet Week, it packed its mobile app with original articles and videos. The banking brand’s mobile content marketing partner Zumobi reports that 93 percent of app visitors watched one of the branded videos.

Consumers view their apps as reliable sources of information, so the demand for quality content is strong – and getting stronger. When Nielsen asked consumers about their app consumption habits, 53 percent of smartphone owners said they download apps for leisure or entertainment, and 68 percent said they use apps while they’re “bored” or “killing time.” Seven out of every eight minutes that consumers spend on their mobile devices now goes to apps

Apps, therefore, are a great vehicle for delivering branded content. Is your brand app strategy customer-ready?

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