With thousands of apps getting released every year, it becomes tougher for developers to get new apps noticed, installed and worse, used forever. The number of apps in the Google and Apple playstores are beyond imagination (2.2 Million apps in the Google Playstore & 2.0 million in Apple store). Naturally, getting attention from users, making them download the app, use it frequently, as well as share it with friends looks like a daunting task.
Some interesting facts about mobile applications
- Users spend 90% of their time in apps compared to the mobile Web — Flurry, 2015
Users download on average 8.8 apps per month, with app installs up 5% year over year (YoY) — BI Intelligence, 2015
- In May 2016, the average cost per app installation is $2.33 on Android (+93% YoY) and $1.46 on iOS (–3% YoY) — Fiksu, 2015
- 25% of installed apps are never used — Google, 2015
- 26% of installed apps are abandoned after the first use — Google, 2015
- (Only) 51% of companies measure user engagement and return on investment (ROI)— Adobe and Econsultancy,2015
- Mobile retail experience satisfaction is low: 45% of mobile app users dislike their app experience, whereas 47% dislike their Web experience — Mobile Commerce Daily, 2015
- The average Android app loses 77% of its daily active users (DAUs) within the first three days after the install, and 90% within the first 30 days — Quettra
- Of those who stop using apps, 30% would use an app again if offered a discount, and 24% would reuse an app if offered exclusive or bonus content — Google, 2015
- 78% of companies use paid media to drive app downloads — Adobe Mobile Maturity Survey, 2015
(*source Digital Marketing Blog)
Since app installations themselves are not indicators of prolonged use or loyalty, app developers have to make use of the right mix of marketing and programming talent to make users stick, and also share it with friends and network.
Growth hacking is the brainchild of Sean Ellis, serial entrepreneur, angel investor and growth marketing guru. The term simply means using programming skills along with marketing knowledge to arrive at faster growth rates for businesses. The principles of growth hacking applies to all businesses, particularly start-ups. For mobile applications, growth hacking seems to be a perfect fit.
So what hacks are we speaking about here?
Let’s think a bit… what makes us notice, install and retain an app? There are many factors involved, but a few are worth the focus.
The Attraction Phase
Apps have to be attractive enough for users to take note of them at the first instance. Apps have to also convey all key benefits to the prospective user. Once the app catches user attention and they download it, the responsibility of converting these users falls on the app developer. A frictionless experience is needed for users to sail painlessly through their first use.
User onboarding in the context of an app refers to the welcome and integration of a new user to the app. This process is very important because once the user becomes impatient and unhappy with an unimaginative app interface, they tend to leave it after a first use. In fact, statistics show that users abandon 90% of apps after installation.
Users are not very patient when it comes to getting into apps. Unless they find the app very enticing, they normally opt out of lengthy log-in attempts. An important hack for app installations and retention therefore, would be to have an easy and smooth sign-in process. While some apps can afford to have social log-ins, others offering services need to think of several options (giving a walk-through or tutorial) along with the sign-up process.
Conveying app benefits is another important onboarding step that can precede the sign-in process. It needs a smooth flow of screens numbering not more than three. Users find it easier to now move ahead as they understand why the app has to be used.
When the app offers services under different categories, the users must be asked to indicate their personal choices. Music apps and news aggregator apps are examples for this kind of personalization.
Once the user selects preferences, the next step is to quickly lead them to services. Users may be welcomed to the app service first. This can be followed by clear directions to start using the app.
User Engagement and Retention
After the formalities are over through an easy onboarding experience, retaining users becomes a simpler task. Users are now familiar with your app, but need more engagement to make them continue using it.
To make app users stick, developers add innovative features with a loyalty focus.
Notifications – within the app and without
An important step in retaining users is to send them the latest app updates. There are two types of app updates. Some are send to the users outside of the app and the others are given as part of app usage, within the app. The former, called push notifications, require opt-ins by users. Push notifications are important when the user is new and needs more information for continued app usage. If not, the risks of them mentally distancing from the app are many.
In-app notifications are given within the app. These notifications can make the user take a much-needed next step, particularly when he is stuck and unsure of utilizing the app. In-app notifications are most effective when the right timing is adopted. This is because a break in the user’s experience flow will irritate them, prompting them to uninstall the app.
Another way to engage users is to send out email notifications to the users. If they have not been active of late, such emails gently nudge them to come back. This is often carried out by sharing the latest updates. Sharing content such as case studies and user experiences will encourage users to try the app yet again.
It would be a good idea to share personalized user insights at infrequent intervals. This will allow users to understand how they use the app on a weekly, monthly basis. Such insights can be shared through emails as well.
Gamification makes it a competitive and fun experience for app users. This can be done by including gamification elements such as points or levels, following user milestones. Gamification also prompts users to share achievements with friends and colleagues in their network.
It encourages the user to receive compliments on completing actions and other milestones. When users perform worthwhile actions using the app, it is always motivational to say a few good words that they can also share among their friends and network. Fitness apps do this by congratulating the user when they cover a particular set of workouts.
It is important that an app builds a user community around it. This community can discuss between themselves their commonalities and how the app benefits them. The app developer is also able to talk to this loyal community and provide guidance or accept feedback. An example would be a user community outside of the app, for example a community of Uber users.
Always answer user concerns politely and even with concern. The faster you take remedial action, the longer the customer remains with the app.
Sharing testimonials and recommendations from existing and loyal users would go a long way in spreading app awareness.
Creating App Virality
Creating apps that go viral sounds quite exciting, but is not easy. How does virality happen? Virality of apps can happen by,
2) In centivization
3) Team building
Word of mouth virality is created by making the app experience such a good one that people find it motivating to share their experience with others.
Incentivization however, is more a forced activity that happens through referral programs, offers and prizes. Rewards such as points, levels, gift coupons, and free credits create virality.
Apps also go viral when more users are automatically required for the app to be completely utilized. Team apps for project management, such as Asana, are an example. Gaming apps too, fall into this category. In short, to create a viral app, developers have to adopt one or more of the above three methods.
Users who stick to the app through all the methods above remain loyal to the app for a long time. Of course, the app will have to re-invent itself for it to be of continued relevance to users. Growth hacks for building viral apps are not rocket science. However, it takes commitment to create one.
What are your views?