Move beyond downloads: learn how to engage, retain & convert your app users to increase loyalty & drive app ROI with this introductory guide to app marketing.
Move beyond downloads: learn how to engage, retain & convert your app users to increase loyalty & drive app ROI with this introductory guide to app marketing.
Congratulations! If you’re reading this, it means you have launched a mobile app into the market, which is a big accomplishment. It shows that you know the value of investing in mobile, a channel that continues to grow rapidly.
Increasingly more money is being spent by consumers in apps, with mobile becoming a formidable revenue channel. Apps have found that they can drive increasingly large amounts of revenue by way of in-app spending, many times while still offering their app for free.
The way for your brand to harness this revenue trend is to use app marketing in the same way you’ve used web marketing to improve engagement; that is, in the way web marketing has worked to improve pageviews and time on site, app marketing should track engagement through user sessions, session length and retention. Despite the prominence of mobile apps and the growth in mobile usage, app marketing is still underutilized by most marketers.
Marketers who don’t make use of mobile are missing out. With the right program, you can turn insights on app user behavior, demographics, and more into targeted mobile app marketing campaigns to boost usage, convert users, prevent churn, and increase mobile revenue.
In this guide, we’ll cover the new world of app marketing, detail app marketing strategies - including best practices and potential campaigns to try - and give you the resources you need to ensure success.
App marketing is the process apps use to acquire, engage, grow, and retain their users. App marketing campaigns are designed to find new users and guide them through funnels which will eventually lead to conversions and strong app loyalty.
Creating an app launch strategy is a crucial part of your overall marketing plan. When submitting to the app store, brands need to optimize their listing with product screenshots, matching keywords, and other proven app store optimization tactics. To spread the word, take to social, talk to users, and run awareness programs that highlight your app as the best in the biz.
These are all necessary steps, but where many businesses get stuck is in categorizing downloads as the primary success metric (we cover why downloads are an empty metric in A Beginner’s Guide to App Analytics).
In actuality, there’s a lot more that goes into creating successful, long-term app marketing than simply tallying downloads. Think of how much effort marketers have put into web marketing over the years – ongoing campaigns are now indispensable to the growth process.
When it comes to the future of mobile revenue, the fastest growing segments are those fueled by app marketing. By this, we don’t mean a marketing strategy that drives users to download an app, but rather, the marketing campaigns you run to acquire, engage, retain, and convert app users.
From paid acquisition to purchasing, these campaigns work to move your user through the desired funnel, delivering higher long-term value and promoting engagement over time. In this sense, app marketing is strikingly similar to web marketing: both serve to drive value and revenue over time.
If you have a clear vision for your app and are tracking the right metrics, you don’t want to miss the opportunity to steer users in the most profitable directions when they’re in your app.
While ultra-engaged users will explore your app independently and find the features and channels that are most valuable, some users may need that extra nudge.
There are two ways to foster better app engagement in your users: you can optimize the screen flow and layout of the app so users find elements easier, or you can shortcut the discovery process with timely, relevant marketing. While both methods are valuable, app marketing can get you to engagement goals faster.
Every organization has key questions to answer and core problems to solve. Without defined wins and proper measurement, it’s impossible to tell if your brand is on the right track, or headed for failure. Much like traditional marketing, mobile marketers need to set up specific, tangible success metrics that connect to KPIs and follow them closely.
One of the best ways to set up app marketing to meet your goals is to segment users and tailor the experience according to user behavior. The worst method is to blast the same offerings to all your users and never refine the experience.
Creating segments within your analytics ensures that you’ll be able to define your audiences clearly, and then use those defining characteristics to drive marketing strategy. In segments, you can track minute details like date range, action taken, gender, and other characteristics that give you deep insight into how your users think and act.
For all conversion-based goals, you’ll also want to set up funnels within your analytics. Similar to web funnels, app funnels are the process you want your user to follow in order to convert on a desired action. Having these in place will enable you to measure the most important actions prompted by your marketing campaigns.
Analytics is an essential component of a healthy app marketing plan, as tracking the way a user organically interacts with your app can inform the strategy of your campaigns. Using a combination of holistic observations and structured analytics will give you the insight you need to jump into impactful app marketing.
Acquiring users is the first step to app marketing success. Acquisitions are the number of users who download and install your app from a certain location, through organic search,
word-of-mouth, paid campaigns or in-app referrals.
Most brands primarily invest in and measure paid acquisition campaigns from channels like Facebook or ad networks.
Running paid acquisition campaigns requires identifying the right channels, targeting the right potential users, and analyzing the value of those users over time. This is a case in which closely tracking your analytics is essential to creating a profitable program.
It all comes down to ROI, and not just in terms of downloads per campaign. You should analyze the long-term value of acquired users against organic users, and segment audiences to A/B test or promote conversions through different app messaging campaigns.
For example, you can use behavioral analytics to determine if your paid-to-acquire users are becoming powerful influencers or super fans, demonstrating a better ROI and pinpointing worthwhile channels. If behavioral analytics show that certain users are under-utilizing your app, you can clearly identify which groups and campaign sources need revisiting, and test different paid channels, types of ads, and targeting techniques.
It’s easy to initially misjudge an acquisition campaign based on preliminary data. If you have a figure in mind, particularly a number of desired acquired users, you may end up writing off a channel that didn’t deliver based on your initial goals. But what these earliest metrics don’t reflect is the lifetime value (LTV) of a user.
LTV is a critical part of measuring ROI, as it allows you to track how much a user is worth over his or her lifetime, and isn’t clearly identified based on vanity metrics like downloads.
Use the information you gain from segmentation, retention analytics, and other metrics to determine the paid channels with the best ROI, and concentrate your acquisition efforts on those areas that have seen the greatest return. Much like with web marketing programs, deciding where to focus your efforts and budget is a give-and-take, and can vary based on testing and evaluation.
Marketers know that design and UX changes are crucial to improving app engagement and brand interaction with users. But there are better and easier ways to improve communication and encourage users to take specific paths, particularly, in using push and in-app messaging.
Driving healthy engagement through push, in-app messaging, and other techniques is essential, as users who aren’t engaged quickly drift away from your app.
Unfortunately, the vast majority of marketers are falling short, and as a result, we’re currently in a mobile engagement crisis. Apps are struggling to garner the attention of disengaged app users, leading to increased abandonment and churn.
The solution? Utilize targeting and personalization in your engagement campaigns to ensure that you’re always delivering thoughtful, relevant communication that solidifies your relationship with app users.
The onboarding process is a series of screens or instructions that a user is shown when they launch your app for the first time. Developing a strong onboarding process is often key to an app’s long-term success, as it shows new users how to get the most value out of the app and highlights key features.
A well-crafted onboarding campaign fosters engagement and builds a relationship with users, while a poorly developed onboarding process (or no onboarding at all) risks having users not understand your app and eventually abandon it.
Great onboarding campaigns emphasize the apps’ value proposition and explain the app’s key features with concise text and helpful illustrations or call outs.
Consider the most important need-to-know elements of your app and how that information can be incorporated into an onboarding campaign to help users get up and running quickly in your app with minimal confusion.
Push messaging allows you to deliver messages to the user’s home screen or while he or she is using a different app – they’re basically the app marketing form of a tap on the shoulder.
It’s natural to assume that a good app experience will always keep users coming back for more, but the truth is that user retention is always a challenge when there are about a thousand things competing for someone’s attention in a given day. By sending users push notifications, you open the door for re-engagement with your app.
Great for prompting immediate interaction and engaging users not currently active in your app, push messaging directs attention to a desired action. Users who opt-in for push notifications are a high-value demographic, as they tend to be more engaged with the app on a regular basis.
Push messaging often comes down to three key considerations:
No one wants to receive three push messages at 2am prompting them to buy some shoes. Sending too many messages, disregarding time zones, and aggressive product pushing are three ways to immediately ensure a failed campaign.
Failing to target properly is another common mistake, as sending the same generic push messages to your entire user base is often a bad idea. When a push message isn’t relevant to someone, they will view it as spam, and may turn off notifications from your app in their phone settings.
To avoid this situation, use your audience segments based on in-app behavior to send push messages centered around specific criteria.
When done right, push notifications can drive latent users back to your app and bring awareness to mobile campaigns. Because of the inherent nature of push messaging, there are certain types of push campaigns that tend to be the most successful:
Alarm, calendar, to-do list and other time sensitive apps use push messaging to relay reminders to the user. Because push notifications tend to be abrupt when not properly targeted, apps that have frequent need to send user-specified reminders are the best use cases.
Push messaging can also work well for other industry apps, even mCommerce apps when used correctly. Push notifications can be used to remind users of items left in their cart, upcoming sales, and even product re-stocks or availability.
Similarly, mCommerce apps can also use push messaging campaigns to promote special offers.
Using push in this situation is less common, given that users don’t typically want to be bombarded by coupons and notifications (think of where email has gone in the past few years).
However, if you’re running a mobile-specific offer, a push notification is a good way to notify your user segment of the deal. Often, time-sensitive offers like flash sales work particularly well for push message campaigns, and can be paired with in-app messages to further drive in-app purchases.
MCommerce apps also have the potential to provide a tailor-made experience for their users based on user behavior by alerting users of items or brand activity in-app that would be relevant.
For example, users who always flock to Nike brand products in your mCommerce app or have purchased a Nike product in the past would likely appreciate and engage with a push message about a new Nike product.
For media apps, push messaging can also be used to gain more subscribers. In this vertical, the most common challenge for apps is to convert passive users to active subscribers. Without the right incentive, those who casually view content on your app won’t pay to subscribe for access to your best features and articles.
Push notification offer a great way to convert free users into paying subscribers. By sending unsubscribed users a push message for 20% off a subscription for a limited time only, you can, at best, turn many passive users into active ones, or, at worst, re-engage some latent users who may have ignored your content in the past.
Much like reminders, informing users of critical information is best done in a push message.
Take a travel app, for example. Though most people look forward to reaching their destination, the journey is often stressful. Travel apps can limit many frustrations by providing critical trip information to users via push notifications.
Things like flight status updates, airport security alerts, destination weather advisories, and other notifications save users from plunging into internet research to find answers to personal travel questions.
While other app verticals run the risk of over-messaging, travel apps can usually skirt this risk by providing relevant information at important moments during a user’s trip. Don’t start messaging users about new taxi services in the area, but do keep users “in the know” about potential delays that will affect broader plans as soon as possible.
On its own, “We’ve Missed You!” isn’t a very interesting push campaign. But as you become more sophisticated in your analysis of your users through event tracking, retention analysis, and LTV reporting, you will see connections between particular features, repeat app usage, and revenue.
Once you discover these signature features, you will know which features you’ll want to draw attention to in order to bring latent users back into the app.
In-app messages are notifications displayed while the user is active within the app itself – also referred to as native app content – that create a structured nurturing process and prolong session time.
One major benefit of in-app messaging that makes it stand out from the pack of other mobile marketing tactics is how naturally the messages fit in with the user experience.
Whereas other tactics like ads or push notifications can sometimes feel like an interruption from the user’s perspective, in-app messages feel like they are simply part of the app.
In-app messages also allow for additional design stylization that can make the messages feel native and streamlined with the look and feel of your app. Mobile app publishers can play up the quality of these marketing campaigns even more when they focus on targeting the in-app messages to certain segments of users.
In-app messaging campaigns come in all shapes and sizes, depending on your brand’s goals and creativity, but there are a few popular ones that brands run regularly to improve engagement and prompt action.
Net Promoter Score (NPS) is a metric pioneered in the early 2000’s by Fred Reichheld that enables companies to gauge customer loyalty. The single-question survey asks customers to rate, on a scale of 1 to 10, how likely they are to recommend your company. With in-app messaging, you can set up an NPS campaign to collect survey responses and use this data to drive future marketing campaigns.
NPS is directly applicable to mobile as it empowers organizations to retarget NPS responders with a follow-up series of in-app messages that vary depending on the user’s relationship with your brand.
You can retarget “promoters” with an in-app message that encourages them to rate your app in the app store, providing happy customers with a place to publicly endorse your app.
This allows your to capitalize on the positive sentiment from your app advocates by increasing the number of positive reviews for your app listing, which in turn boosts app store ranking and increases new user acquisition.
Rather than send detractors (those who displayed negative app sentiment on the NPS survey) to the app store, brands can encourage dissatisfied users to share concerns in an internal feedback channel, still providing them with a place to voice concerns without jeopardizing your app store rating.
You’ve spent time developing new features and launching another version of your app, and that shouldn’t go to waste. In-app messaging can be used to drive attention to these new features, something users will most likely be interested in learning more about.
For example, finance apps typically have several layers of depth, though most users will just skim the surface of functionality. While optimizing feature layout and emphasizing certain tools will lead to more desired actions over time, in-app messaging can direct users to target behaviors more urgently.
An informative in-app message, highlighting new and helpful features, can drive users deeper into the experience and deliver more value for them and your brand.
In-app messages are also great for getting users to update to the newest version of your app. For optimal engagement, you want users on the latest version of your app to ensure that they are getting the best experience.
You can prompt users to upgrade to the latest version of your app with an in-app message campaign once the new version of your app has launched.
Localytics customer Swagg, for example, uses in-app messaging to prompt users to upgrade their app. They make the call to action even more enticing by drawing attention to a feature the user will be able to take advantage of in the new version.
Mobile users love great deals. In fact, according to Juniper Research, consumers are 10x more likely to redeem mobile coupons than print coupons.
And now, with the rise of in-store proximity payments and digital wallet services such as Apple Pay, consumers are regularly turning in mobile coupons and using app loyalty programs at brick-and-mortar establishments. When it comes to mCommerce apps, there are few things that trigger engagement and conversions more than mobile offers.
Because this kind of in-app campaign asks the user to actually spend money, it’s important that the messages be well targeted and directed towards the right audience.
Here’s where your user segmentation again comes into play: creating offers that are tailored based on past in-app purchasing behavior, product items viewed, or account history are more likely to succeed and, also important, less likely to turn a user off.
In the same vein as the previous suggestion, mobile consumers love ways to use their apps to save money and earn rewards.
To do this, users may need to complete a user profile or add loyalty card credentials. However, this requires the completion of several steps in the app that the user may forget, or decline, to complete – no matter how much they want to earn those rewards.
Track users who drop-off from registration funnels, segment them, and roll them into re-engagement campaigns that remind them of the value that awaits them once they complete registration.
Implementing an app inbox is another powerful way to nurture users with a personalized stream of content.
Push and in-app messages are vital for engaging with users, but they do have their limitations. For starters, once a user views the push or in-app message, it’s gone and cannot be revisited by the user for future reference. In addition, the message must be short and can only feature a small amount of content.
App inbox messages, on the other hand, can be stored and viewed by a user at any time. They also have no length limitations.
Some content you might consider promoting via an app inbox include:
App inbox messages are a powerful tool in the mobile marketer’s arsenal. The more subtle nature of inbox messages gives marketers a mobile channel that won’t annoy users. The fact that inbox messages are persistent also makes them the perfect way to share content that users might want to revisit in the future.
Additionally, the scrollable nature of inbox messages makes them the perfect way to send content that is too long to fit into a push notification or in-app message.
Combining app inbox notifications with push and in-app messaging creates a comprehensive mobile marketing machine that can engage users in a multitude of ways.
Personalization refers to targeting a specific group of people who exhibit the same behaviors and qualities, and then customizing messages so that they appeal to those unique groups.
The key to successful customer engagement is to think about personalization and context. Context is important: an in-app message or push message should be relevant to the user because the message should relate to what the user is doing now or has recently done in your app.
Within your app marketing, you should be personalizing based on factors like:
Personalizing your app experience based on elements like these ensures that your campaigns are reaching the right audience with relevant, enticing messages unique to that group. Using personalized messages and customization results in improved campaign performance, higher ROIs, and happier customers.
Personalized responses can be triggered by specific events that a user conducts in your app. When app users complete an event in-app, they provide additional information about themselves that can be used to power personalization in your campaigns.
For example, say you have a fitness app that allows users to track their workout routine. You could:
Retention is another important aspect of solid app marketing. Once you’ve gone through the effort to acquire and engage users, you want to keep them from abandoning your app.
Data has shown that 75% of app users churn within 90 days, which reflects a large amount of wasted acquisition spend and a lack of meaningful engagement with users.
User churn is a serious issue for apps across all industries, but it is defined differently for various apps. Churn occurs when a user does not complete a desired conversion action within a certain time period (usually 30 days). For some apps, that desired action is reading an article or listening to a song. For others, it’s making a purchase or simply launching the app.
Regardless of how churn is defined, by the time apps realize a user has churned, it’s often too late to win them back.
Predictive app marketing can be greatly beneficial for identifying users who are churn risks, allowing you to engage with them prior to churn and guide them towards retention.
Once a user has gone dark in your app, it is difficult to reignite interest. This is why retention is an essential focus for app marketers.
Predictive app marketing is a method of using historical and real-time data to predict actions a user will take in the future. For apps looking to optimize their marketing game, predictive is a must-have feature when considering various mobile engagement platforms.
Predicting user behavior allows you to shift from being reactive to proactive, and engage with customers on a more meaningful level with the right content, at the right time. In addition, predictive app marketing provides you with actionable insights necessary to amplify or alter future actions including the ability to:
Use profile and behavioral data to determine which of your users have a high likelihood of converting.
Apps can then send these primed users a promo code or discount to help incentivize a conversion. In addition, apps can examine which qualities these high-converting users share.
You may find that users acquired through Facebook ads convert more often than those from other channels, or that users who add an item to their wishlist within 7 days of their first app launch convert 10x more than those who do not.
Track which acquisition sources are driving users who go on to convert and have high LTVs.
This information can be used to boost the efficiency of your spend by investing in quality channels that are bringing in valuable users, while eliminating poor channels with unresponsive users.
Predictive app marketing can also reveal which users have the highest churn risk. Identifying these users early on allows you to engage and nurture these at-risk users, helping guide them away from churning.
In addition, app marketers can examine what qualities app abandoners share and investigate how they are similar or different from converting users. You may find that users from specific regions are more likely to churn, and thus need to adjust your engagement strategy to this user base to better drive engagement.
As marketers use predictive app marketing to understand the defining qualities of converters vs. churners, they can begin to develop reliable behavioral thresholds to steer users towards.
For example, if an app finds that users who watch a video within 7 days of their first session are 20% less likely to churn, apps can then consider using push, in-app messaging, or other engagement campaigns to guide users towards the action of watching a video, reducing churn as a result.
Remarketing is a powerful way to advertise to and retain existing app users by targeting them outside of the app, based on how they’ve engaged with your brand.
With app user acquisition costs continuing to increase, it is much more cost effective to retain and engage with existing app users through remarketing, rather than hunt down new ones.
Similar to how audience targeting can be used for push and in-app campaigns, advanced targeting for remarketing campaigns allows you to craft highly-relevant ads for different user segments. Remarketing ads can be used to target users based on past app actions - for example, remarketing might be used to show a user an ad for a product they viewed in your app earlier, but did not purchase.
These valuable remarketing campaigns can be implemented across a variety of channels, including Facebook, Twitter, and other apps. Remarketing also enables you to reach out to users even if they have disabled push notifications; with 50% of all app users disabling push, remarketing is an essential tool for engagement.
Combining remarketing with personalization creates powerful campaigns that help drive more conversions from existing customers as well as re-engage lapsed users.
Evaluate your remarketing campaign performance by tracking ROI and doubling down on the remarketing channels and ads that drive the most conversions.
App marketing isn’t a set it and forget it project, and often, you’ll find that the best campaigns come from previous, perhaps failed, efforts.
App marketing isn’t just an ongoing effort, but a multi-channel one, too, and should act as a piece of your overall brand marketing plan. Creating a holistic, thoughtful approach to messaging means better app usage analytics, more engaged users and higher mCommerce revenue. And, just as importantly, the user will feel that he or she is getting the best experience possible.
Personalization is a big part of evolving in-app and push messaging campaigns, but it really comes into play when A/B testing your marketing.
If you’re comfortable testing web pages, then A/B testing of app content will be the easiest marketing transition, with the most to gain in terms of functionality.
Testing mobile apps has historically been more complicated than testing a website or an email, but thanks to automated platforms, mobile app marketers now have the opportunity to run A/B tests quickly and easily with immediate, actionable insights.
For example, an eCommerce app can improve its checkout process by testing buttons, icons, colors, and screen layout to see which design funnels more users to a completed purchase, and ultimately which testing group has higher lifetime value. Every funnel has some minor or major bottleneck, and A/B testing can expedite the process of improving the user flow, driving results in real time.
While the web world focuses on alternating visual features to find more conversions, apps add the ability to test around events or actions users take on particular screens. Events provide more qualitative user information because users can be grouped by events, and tracked throughout other app interactions.
A/B testing also comes in handy when experimenting with push and in-app messaging campaigns. Determining what content, offer, and context works best within these campaigns by running A/B tests sets you up for success, giving you the ability to build effective marketing over time.
As we’ve covered, within campaigns, you can track key events, or actions, highlighting which triggered events are most important to your app. This could mean improving the number of articles read in your news app, or prompting users to purchase using an app-specific coupon code in your mCommerce app.
You can engage the right user at the right time by leveraging customized user segments to create personalized app messaging campaigns. And in using analytical insights and A/B testing, you’ll be able to see greater return on your app as a whole, creating loyalty and greater LTV.
Here are the three metrics you’ll want to track in any app marketing campaign:
Impressions are the number of eyes that hit your campaign prior to triggering the desired event. For example, impressions for a push message campaign would refer to the number of users who saw your push notification before either clicking it or swiping it away.
If you see low impressions, it means that you need to broaden the reach of your campaign. In particular:
Click-through rate is the percent of users who click through to your desired action upon seeing your message. For push messages, CTR would measure the number of users who click a push message and are then taken inside the app. For an in-app message, CTR might refer to the number of users who click your in-app offer for a promo code providing 20% off a user’s next purchase.
Having a high CTR sets your campaign in motion; it signals the interest a user shows in the offer and the action he or she takes to move forward in that funnel. CTRs are dependent on ad creative and copy, design, and displays on different devices and operating systems.
If your metrics indicate a low click through rate, consider the following:
A/B testing your copy and creative can drive more clicks, and subsequently, more conversions. Similar to other marketing channels like banner ads, landing pages and email, simple ad copy tests like comparing the effectiveness of “Buy Now” versus “Checkout” on conversion buttons can deliver major results.
Your conversion rate is the percentage of individuals in a given campaign who complete your desired goal. Different apps will define conversions differently - for mCommerce apps, a conversion is usually a product purchase, while media apps may define a conversion as watching a video or reading an article.
Conversion rate is a standard, across-the-board metric, but within app marketing campaigns you can customize what your conversion action is and measure multiple per campaign, including checkouts, downloads, and others. You can set up 3-4 conversions within a campaign, and analyze screenflow, drop off metrics, and completion rate to measure success.
Most of your app marketing efforts are going to come down to conversion rate, as it is the primary goal of any app campaign. It will help you decide which offer and messaging channel is most successful, and lend credibility to your A/B testing efforts.
Experimenting is half the fun when it comes to app marketing. While use cases we’ve outlined here are fantastic idea starters, the best concepts for your app marketing campaigns will come from your own data.
Analytics should drive your campaigns, whether you’re tracking what in-app features are popular among your users, or what segments of users are more engaged (or less engaged). By doing this, you’ll be able to deliver campaigns that help your users achieve their objectives with your app. This will help you hit your goals.
We’ve touched on this already, but now is the time to emphasize it: the best app marketing is judged based on ROI and user LTV over time. Jumping to immediate conclusions, disregarding audience segments, and giving up on certain campaigns because they don’t yield immediate results is a mistake.
While it’s easy to get caught up in user engagement data that tracks the occurrence of specific events in your app, LTV is arguably the definitive metric when it comes to getting a broad-level view of your app’s success and improvement over time. The more you see LTV increase, the more successful your app is.
Choosing a tool that gathers deep app analytics data to power winning mobile marketing campaigns is essential.
A strong mobile engagement platform will let you organize your app’s data and discover deep insights for creating app marketing campaigns optimized for high engagement, satisfaction, and retention.
Localytics’ mobile engagement platform lets you put your data into action, providing the ability to run in-app messaging, send push notifications, conduct A/B testing, and gather predictive insights easily and efficiently. With the Localytics platform, you’ll be able to close the loop on mobile analytics and marketing, ensuring that your programs are set up for success.
Make sure you’re tracking and analyzing the right metrics to inform your app marketing and gain insights into user behavior.
Get inspiration for killer app marketing campaigns from these incredible real-life examples!