The Apple app store has hit more than 25 billion downloads, while Android Marketplace continues to grow with more than ten billion. Of those, however, only a small percentage has ongoing appeal to users, and many are abandoned -- some after the initial download. There’s nothing that compels the user to return. High rank in the app store is often self-perpetuating, and success continues to breed success.
Without an unlimited advertising budget, unrecognized apps may never bubble up. Launching an app requires an investment -- in design, development and production; in promotion; and in creating ongoing value. Once you have allocated and spent those dollars and deployed the resources, rather than spending them elsewhere, how do you continue to extract value from that investment and maximize your return? Whether your business model is advertising, paid apps or in-app purchases, you need and want to ensure that users keep coming back.
Take advantage of the platform
Remember that mobile devices are personal and always on. Take advantage of that factor and utilize the capabilities to drive usage of apps. Push alerts are great for driving usage as well as consumer response -- which is the ultimate goal of the marketer. For example, flash sale apps such as Gilt and Fab take full advantage of the notifications. I have sat in meetings at noon when everyone’s phone went off and many of the participants were trying to sneak the phone under the table to catch the hot items before they ran out.
Another way that alerts have been used effectively -- specifically on the commerce side -- is in the Girl Scout Cookie Locator app, in which users sign up to be notified when Girl Scout cookie sales are nearby. Not only did this drive app usage, but it also prompted real-world behavior with an actual visit to sales, purchase of cookies and support of local troops.
It’s amazing that with all the metrics collected by connected devices, some marketers still look only at the basics, such as the number of downloads. By digging into the numbers, you can see what is working within the app and what is not, so you can make smart decisions for the next revolution of the application.
From determining which platforms your users have embraced to when they are using, good data interpretation can translate into increased dollars if you plan your next iteration of the application based on that knowledge. Push notifications can lead to significant spikes in traffic coinciding with the notification delivery.
Usage patterns can reveal that features considered to be must-haves during the design phase did not appeal to users, and these features can be replaced in later iterations. Social analytics can drive the sharing of app content, in turn driving app adoption via strong word of mouth.
One of the biggest lessons of the digital age is that no product shipped is ever final -- there’s always another iteration. It’s important to harness the knowledge that apps can and must be updated. First, pay attention to user feedback and ratings. What’s working and what’s not? Are there elements that have been criticized that you can respond to? Next, are there new campaigns or content that you can use to make the application more appealing to users? Finally, take advantage of the rapid pace of technology and leverage it to add new features and functionality. If they know you’re consistently delivering new elements that surprise and delight, entertain and inform, then get them hooked on coming back.
It’s useful to consider the iteration process from the beginning when planning your app -- to build in an extensible way so that new features and functionality do not warrant an entirely new development initiative.
Except in cases of very finite campaign-specific applications, most publishers look at apps as longer-term investments that are core to their digital strategy. Promotion -- not just at launch, but on an ongoing basis -- can help to fuel the fire, driving both adoption and usage. Apps must be knit into the DNA of the brand’s overall marketing plan, not just in a silo at launch.
Taking advantage of social media and engaging your consumers to spread the word can do wonders when it succeeds, particularly through periodic promotions that include some element of virality. If the publisher has additional promotional channels through other media, hard goods, retail or elsewhere, use them.
Cross-media promotion -- particularly if the mobile experience is integrated, such as live chat during tv programming -- can make the app a critical part of the viewing experience. For packaged goods, on-box tie-ins can be constant reminders to consumers of the value of companion apps.
When developing your mobile strategy, keep in mind that getting the app built and launched is just the beginning. It’s no longer just about app creation. Just as critical is app management -- which includes analysis, responding to the key data points you learn, iterating with new content and features and ongoing promotion.
Whatever your business model, ongoing usage and engagement means higher ROI, and ongoing promotion enables you to achieve that goal.