What Went Wrong in the Mobile App Love Affair

Posted on by Josh Todd

Surfing the net before the flightFor years, the story of mobile apps and brands has been hopeful—a love affair showing massive potential to boost a company’s bottom line. But like many relationships, growing pains exist, and in this case, we’ve seen the implications to both consumers and brands.

When apps were first launched, consumers were enthralled by the ease of access and the ability to engage with their favorite brands through personalized experiences. But new research shows that many mobile users are less engaged than many brands think—with low time-in-app and poor app abandonment rates. In fact, a worrisome 23% of users only ever use an app once (a notable increase when compared to just two years ago when consumers had more trust in brands).

When apps were first launched, consumers were in the honeymoon stage, soaking up these mobile experiences that seemed to meet their wildest expectations. But alas, as technology has advanced so too have consumer expectations—and businesses just can’t seem to keep up.

Trouble in Paradise

As mobile devices have become more of a necessity in people’s lives, expectations for superior experiences have grown. With increasingly high expectations, businesses are in a position where they need to step up and innovate—or get left behind. But for many, it’s proving difficult to keep up with the pace of consumers’ demands and expectations when it comes to mobile. In turn, we’ve been faced head-on with a mobile engagement crisis.

With apps at a mobile tipping point, there are several things that companies can do now that will help drive more successful mobile app engagement in the near future:

  • Personalization: A surprising 94% of marketers feel confident they know their users. But as it turns out, users want you to get to know them a whole lot more. To make these fleeting moments last, businesses must build personal relationships with each and every user. And they can do this thanks to the bevy of user data that is available thanks to apps, and the insights that machine learning helps businesses pull from this data. Leveraging all of the customer knowledge that is at the fingertips of most businesses will be crucial in delivering the right content and mobile experiences that users really want.
  • Push notifications: Once you have data on your users, you can then strategize how push will help deliver value in those moments of need. Localytics’ own research shows that a whopping 52 percent of consumers view push as an “annoying distraction,” so keeping messages timely and relevant are keys to success. To further entice users to take action, include proven success words and CTAs. This varies between app categories, but we’ve found “off” to be a top word signaling discount promotions — which has resulted in an average clickrate of 15.5%, a lift of 5.3% compared with the average.
  • In-app messages: It’s proven that sending in-app messages leads to more loyal and engaged users. They’re the perfect vehicle to guide users to the most valuable parts of an app, and once a user sees the value of an app, they are more likely to stick around. Using data on user preferences, attributes and actions, you can put your analytics to work to create campaigns specific to their interests. In fact, we’ve seen that sending in-app messages equates to 2-3.5x higher user retention and 27% more app launches that those that don’t send them.

With these tactics in place, our data found that user retention recovered from 34% in 2015 to reach 38% in 2016. While this number is an improvement, there is still work to be done in order to avoid churn and make for more loyal customers. The progress may be encouraging for brands using mobile to reach consumers, but it doesn’t change the fact that the number of people who launch at app just once is still high, at 23%.

Josh Todd is CMO of Localytics

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