Mar 8, 2018
The astonishing growth in smartphone adoption in the past few years has been matched only by the equally impressive growth of mobile apps. As of January 2017, the iOS App Store contained more than 2.2 million apps for Apple mobile devices. In the same time period, the Google Play Store saw a 5 -7 percent quarterly increase in the number of Android apps.
For businesses, lower barriers to entry for mobile development are a double-edged sword: On the one hand, vital new access to app markets enable you to turn your business vision into reality; on the other, new access has flooded the market with a barrage of low-quality apps. Strategies for app store optimization might help initially separate yourself from the pack, but these techniques can only get you so far.
If you want people to actually engage with your mobile app instead of downloading and abandoning it, you need to focus on engagement and retention. In the long run, there’s simply no substitute for a mobile app that gives users a valuable and fulfilling experience.
To keep users coming back to your mobile app again and again, your app needs to give your audience that invaluable “aha moment“: A singular instance of clarity in which users first understand how the app will benefit them.
The “aha moment” represents the intersection of retention and action. The Twitter app’s big moment, for example, first comes when new users start to use the app for real-time, instantaneous access to unfolding news and world events. The real Aha moment occurs when Twitter functions, not as the secondary reporting venue for these events, but the primary source medium through which events are initially announced. By providing the user with this high value experience right away, Twitter is able to prove their value quickly, enticing users to come back.
Not every app has an “aha moment,” and the ones that don’t are far more likely to get lost in the crowd. Half of smartphone owners only use between 6 and 10 apps every week. If you don’t provide a convincing experience for the value of your app, how can you hope that it will be one of them?
The top-performing apps understand the psychology of how to get users “hooked” and leave them wanting more. The basic idea is the concept of a variable reward: A positive result that may or may not occur when you take a certain action. From social media like Facebook to mobile games like Candy Crush, the most successful apps appeal to humans’ innate attraction to the excitement of unpredictable outcomes. All these apps provide notifications of new, yet concealed messages and updates, a strategy that incites and excites curiosity for unknown content.
Even without including a “hook” element, you can still boost retention numbers by influencing users to adopt daily habits in your app. Health and fitness apps like MyFitnessPal, for example, send gentle push notifications reminding users to log their activity every day. These apps gamify fitness into daily accounts of a user’s progress toward a personal fitness goal. They also keep track of “streaks” of daily usage, encouraging you to keep using the app (and making you feel a little guilty if you don’t).
With competition among mobile apps getting fiercer all the time, only the strong will survive. Three days after installing an app, 77 percent of people will never use it again. Whether it’s “casting hooks” or continuously delivering value, your app needs a compelling reason for users to use it habitually.
Building an excellent in-app experience is a delicate art. Arm yourself with the tools that you need to make informed decisions about your product, and push these proven features accordingly.
As a digital leader, you must understand your users in order to provide them with a high-quality experience. The best way to do this is by testing. Don’t just guess at what will increase engagement and retention. Instead, get some data by running experiments and make data-driven iterations to grow your product.
Use the information that you obtain from your experiments to create “aha moments” and habit-forming user experiences. By continually iterating and optimizing your app, you’ll find that it’s much easier to stand out among the crowd. If you don’t, your competitors who celebrate testing and experimentation will continue to grow and improve, while your app remains stagnant in a changing marketplace.
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