During 2016, the mobile app space reached a tipping point. Since it was no longer possible to ignore the imminent mobile takeover, many brands rushed into the mobile app space without giving much thought to strategy or execution. They opted for broadcast messaging that toed the line of spam rather than tapping into the vast amount of user data at their fingertips to tailor messaging to the user. As a result, we were faced with the mobile engagement crisis.
As the year continued, we saw a clear divide between apps trying to engage users through personalization and those that weren’t. Apps that provided personalization were industry leaders and saw higher retention and conversion rates. Those who didn’t burned through valuable users and faced public backlash in the form of negative App Store reviews.
As we look towards 2017, this notion of personalization will no longer be optional. Gone are the days where a brand knowing information about you is viewed as invasive. In fact, consumers expect brands to know them; their preferences, their interests, even their location so that they can have interactions that are catered to them. In addition, consumers expect interactions with a brand to transcend channels and create an omni-channel experience.
The data in this report is meant to serve as a roadmap for your 2017 app marketing strategy, while keeping in mind the consumer’s preference for a personalized omni-channel experience. Let’s reflect on the past year to ensure we continue our recovery from the mobile engagement crisis, and prepare for our journey into a 1:1 app marketing world.
In 2015, we found that app engagement was higher amongst apps who utilized effective push notifications. In 2016, we added retention to push’s repertoire:
*graph shows average 3 month retention rates across apps
This is great news for mobile marketers, as retention continues to be a major issue for apps. It means push notifications have passed the reliability test and are now viewed as a permanent fixture in any successful app marketing strategy.
But what makes a user want to open a push notification? When it’s individualized to the end user. An individualized message moves beyond just knowing a user’s name; it takes into account their actions within the app (and possibly on other channels) as well as if they fit into a particular audience based on their profile attributes.
By November of 2016, it became clear that our message about the mobile engagement crisis was hitting home, since we found that by then, 65% of push notifications incorporated some sort of audience segmentation:
This is great news, considering our data team found segmented messages have proven to be wildly successful, leading to a 2x lift in sessions and 5x increase in conversions. If you take a step back to really think about it, none of this should be a surprising. The very nature of apps is a personal one, allowing users to carry out tasks and access information relevant to them. Incorporating user data, such as profile and behavioral information, into your push notification strategy is a surefire way to entice users to engage with you:
The proof is in the data; individualized push notifications work to drive sessions. And we saw the same compelling story for click-through rate. The more personalized information the app took into consideration when crafting the push, the more likely the end user was to click-through:
So if you’re not seeing push pay off for you, it’s time to go back to the drawing board and optimize your strategy to ensure it accounts for user behavior and profile attributes.
While push notifications are unsurprisingly viewed as the darling of app marketing, in-app messages should not be overlooked. During 2016, our data showed that apps who took advantage of in-app messaging saw on average a 21% increase in monthly app launches over apps that didn’t:
As for retention, in-app messages drove higher rates here too with 23% of users returning to the app after 90 days:
There are 2 ways to trigger an in-app message: off the start of a new session (app launch) or off of an action a user takes within the app (app event). Our data found that the click-through rate for an in-app message triggered by an event was almost 2x higher than those triggered by an app launch:
How can you take individualized app messaging one step further? Through user segmentation. This means that your in-app messages are segmented based on relevant audience information, and then triggered off of an action. For example:
A user searches for her favorite artist in a music app and an in-app message is triggered with the message:
This type of user-specific messaging based on profile attributes has proven wildly successful, increasing app launches by 11% and yielding 3x greater click-through rates in 24 hours than their counterparts. And while app engagement varies across different vertical industries, this individualized approach to in-app messaging still managed to fare well across the board:
As we move into 2017, this notion of individualized messaging will become even more important for app user engagement and retention.
While we found new and creative ways to combat app churn in 2016, it’s clear from the data that we still have a long way to go. Part of this is due to the fact that these new individualization tactics have not yet been widely adopted by app marketers. But a larger part is due to the fact that many apps haven’t put enough emphasis on their mobile engagement strategy.
Losing 80% of your app users is pretty scary stuff. Especially when you think of all the money you spend trying to acquire them. Once they’ve churned, it’s very difficult to get them re-engaged. But the fact that apps are losing more users should come as little surprise to those of us in the app marketing world, as a small percentage of apps continues to dominate a majority of the time spent in apps.
If you get a bit more granular with the data and break it out based on industry, you see Media & Travel apps have stronger retention than the rest:
Media apps are the clear frontrunner in terms of app retention, with 40% of their users returning to the app after one month. So what can other app verticals learn from this? That the shift towards mobile-first content consumption has forced media and entertainment apps to put a strong emphasis on ensuring their app functionality and experience is captivating, and as a result, they performed better than other verticals.
If there is a silver lining amidst the mobile engagement crisis, it’s that some apps have led the charge towards improving the app user experience, and as a result we’re seeing a slight uptick in retention. During 2016, we saw the number of users who returned to an app 11 or more times increase 4% from 2015 to 38%.
Digging a bit deeper, we saw that this improvement was mainly thanks to iOS apps, where user retention improved to 36% during 2016:
Clearly, the emphasis iOS devices put on the user experience is having an impact. From allowing notifications in chronological order to multitasking and split screen, Apple has prioritized improvements to the way that users interact with apps on their devices. As we move into 2017, it will be interesting to see the impact iOS 10 has on retention.
Looking beyond devices, our data team also measured retention based on app size, and found that mid-market growth (medium sized) apps fared best. More specifically, apps that had between 15,000 and 50,000 MAUs saw the strongest year-over-year improvement when it came to retention:
Why the lift for medium sized apps? Most likely, this is due to a stronger emphasis on user engagement. While smaller apps are still figuring out their strategy and larger apps have made it to the big league, mid-sized apps are primed for growth.
If you think about where mid-sized apps are in their lifecycle, they have broken through the App Store clutter and have established themselves enough to not only survive, but prosper. Now their main focus is on strong user engagement and that comes from effective app marketing (onboarding, push notifications, in-app messaging, remarketing, etc.) to help them continue to expand their base and grow into a large app.
September of 2016 was a busy time of year for the mobile industry. Not only were we dealing with Samsung Galaxy Note 7 fires, but we were also amidst another successful iPhone and iOS launch. As of November 30th 2016, iOS10 adoption rates soared to 65%:
And while iOS10 has a lot of great new features sure to captivate the hearts of mobile enthusiasts everywhere, the most important one for mobile marketers is rich push notifications, which are messages that include media (e.g. an image, video or GIF):
This is the moment mobile marketers everywhere have been waiting for. While rich push has been available on Android devices for quite some time now, the wait to reach the highly engaged Apple device users with compelling media is finally over.
Rich push for iOS10 is important for many reasons. For starters, iOS users have been viewed as more valuable ever since Forbes published an article with data suggesting they were seven times more engaged than their Android counterparts. While more recent research suggests that this engagement gap is closing between the two, the fact of the matter is, it’s still there.
Rich push now being available on all mobile devices speaks volumes to how significant mobile apps have become. Just a few short years ago, push notifications were viewed as annoying. Now? They’re beneficial and to some, even essential. From breaking news to reminders and even traffic alerts, push notifications help us stay on top of our day. Rich push notifications will do an even better job at this, providing users with more detailed information and allowing them to take action outside of the app.
But with great power comes great responsibility, and it’s essential that mobile marketers get rich push right. This means tapping into user data to ensure every push it highly relevant to the end user, and following best practices (I go into detail about these in Takeaway 5). Now, the true test on what we’ve learned about mobile engagement over the past year comes to a head.
Data is only useful if it’s actionable. So now that you have all of the necessary insights, about mobile app users, where do you go from here? Read on to discover five key takeaways that you can start incorporating into your mobile marketing strategy today.
We’ve touched on user segmentation a lot in this eBook, and that’s because it’s one of the most important app marketing optimization strategies to implement in 2017. And while the notion of app user segmentation isn’t new (in fact, we’ve been talking about it since 2012), the influx of data readily available to mobile marketers is. Thanks to an increased popularity of apps combined with advancements in mobile technology (think geofencing and omni-channel), we now have the ability to truly tailor our messaging to the end user.
Interested in learning more about user segmentation? Check out our blog post.
Marketers are always looking to optimize their strategies. We A/B test everything from email subject lines to landing pages, so why wouldn’t we also A/B test our app messaging?
Click-through rates are a vanity metric. They’re not telling the whole story. Think about how many push notifications you get throughout the day. It’s possible that a user reads your message, but didn’t have time to click-through.
That’s why it’s essential to look beyond click-through rates and measure the downstream impact of your messages on KPIs that matter like engagement, revenue, and conversion frequency:
But how do you know if this messaging is truly what’s driving the user to action? Queue control groups. Control groups give mobile marketers the ability to see if their messaging is truly effective by leaving a small group of users out of the send. By having control groups in your A/B testing, you’re able to clearly see if the message you sent was beneficial or detrimental to KPIs:
Bad messaging isn’t the only thing driving your app users away. A bad app interaction can also cause users to abandon your app. But being so close to the product, it’s often hard to identify where user pain points are or where users are getting tripped up.
Do you have a bug? Is messaging unclear? It’s hard to tell unless you’re able to identify exactly in which part of your app users are churning. That’s why tools like Uninstall Tracking are so important because they allow you to address the following pain points:
Improving app retention will come from not only creating a more individualized user experience, but a better app in general.
Now that iOS10 adoption rates have climbed to 65%, it’s time to start investing in Rich Push. Consider the following:
Our prediction is that we will see app engagement increase in a big way for those apps who utilize rich push and do it right.
What does right look like in terms of a rich push?
Want to learn more about how to do rich push right? Check out our blog.
Apps are meant to simplify life and rich push takes this ability to the next level by allowing users to complete tasks from their home screen. Expect big things from rich push in 2017. It’s changing the very way we engage with apps; and that’s ok. Innovation is a good thing.
If you haven’t noticed, the underlying message of our 2017 App Marketing Guide has been this idea of individualization. That’s because all signs in our 2016 data point to individualization being the antidote to the mobile engagement crisis. There’s a substantial difference in success rate for messages that take advantage of user segmentation and personalization versus those that don’t:
This shouldn’t come as much of a surprise since we have ourselves to thank for this shift in consumer expectation towards a personalized brand experience. After all, with the invention of apps came the ability to demand this level of personalization.
Apps have completely disrupted the world; and their respected industries. From Uber, to Stitch Fix, to RunKeeper, and Spotify; successful apps have proven their weight in gold and it’s all thanks to the individualized experience they provide. Because let’s face it, nobody likes being a face in the crowd. So if you’re looking to be successful in 2017; it’s time to optimize your strategy to ensure individualization is at the core of everything you do.