Invoking the App: Four Steps to Successful App Engagement

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Attrition rates for app users are staggering – but do they have to be? Steve Peretz, Group Director (Health Experience and Product Strategy) at Appnovation, shares four engagement and retention strategies.

Abandoned shopping carts, neglected Netflix series, quick decisions on Tinder. There is plenty of evidence that audiences in the digital age have low attention spans and rely heavily on first impressions.

It’s no different with apps. The average app loses 77% of its daily users within three days of being installed. In 30 days, it’s 90%. Three months later, 95%.

Often, this quick disengagement is the result of something simple, like a mistake in app design or a frustrating experience. But that negative first impression invariably has detrimental business consequences for the brand or company behind the app.

Dubbed the “halo effect,” app users can base their entire perception of a business on this initial interaction. They express their dissatisfaction by taking their purchasing power elsewhere.

Fortunately, the halo effect can also work in reverse. Get a great first impression and customers will stay longer. Follow up with a great customer experience, and they’re likely to spend more, stay loyal, and increase the frequency of impulse purchases.

Here are four first-impression strategies to help brands secure a match and ensure initial interactions lead to successful engagement:

1. First contact: convey the benefits simply and succinctly

Users judge apps by their descriptions. App descriptions and reviews are a big reason people consider a download, so stay focused. Use relevant keywords. Explain the app’s value proposition concisely. App users don’t want to scroll endlessly to understand a product’s purpose, so craft a message that gets through.

The Challenger Monzo bank app couldn’t be clearer about what it does: “Banking Made Easy”. Similarly, Deliveroo entices app users by telling them, “Food: we get it.” We all have our favorites. With Deliveroo, get your favorite local restaurants and takeaways delivered right to your door.

If the initial post easily answers questions about why someone should engage with a digital solution, the brand has hit the nail on the head.

2. First experience: try before you buy

Sharing a flavor of the app experience makes sense before customers commit to downloading. If possible, offer the app for free – at least upfront (levels may come later). Share content that conveys an experience without forcing consumers to submit personal data. Avoid blitzing people with ads, which will create frustration, not engagement.

The Headspace wellness app tells potential customers it will help them “be happy”. Stress less. Sleep soundly.’ It then supports app users from the first point of engagement with free educational resources on managing stress, improving sleep, and learning to meditate. Users have ample opportunity to build trust in the brand before purchasing the app with confidence.

Consider offering a preview video, which increases app conversions by over 20%. A well-crafted video makes a compelling first impression, creates immediate engagement, and shows how the app works. For example, podcast and audiobook service Audible differentiates itself with an overview that doubles as a mini-tutorial and a short promo.

3. Integration: use progressive disclosure

After downloading an application, users want to use it immediately. They get frustrated if they can’t commit to an experience quickly. Avoid complex registration processes and complicated tutorials.

Instead, brands should use progressive disclosure techniques to educate and inform customers about the app in small chunks. The goal is to tell the audience what they need to know when they need to know it, not to overload them.

This can take the form of streamlined content previews, “accordion” elements, mega menus, sliders, or animated tips. Start with the basics, then disclose the more complex aspects of the solution once the customer needs it.

Shopify is particularly adept at progressive disclosure, incorporating the method right from the signup page via a non-intrusive popup that explains the domain. Registration processes should be user-friendly and well-tested.

4. Retention: fast action with instant reward

So far, all the brand has done is bring its customer to the starting line. But the main battle begins once the customer is on board. Work to maintain their early enthusiasm by immediately rewarding their efforts and providing instant gratification.

New users should realize that brand interactions will lead directly to personalized rewards. Caffe Nero’s app immediately offers users the chance to rack up stamps for free coffee, drawing them into an app experience that positions them against competitors through positive reviews on the App Store from Apple.

Elsewhere, health group The Mighty invites new members into the community by inviting them to introduce themselves. Right away they feel like part of the group, having found a home online.

Beware of turning off new users with a deluge of push notifications. It’s a delicate balance, especially for digital health solutions that require regular input (for example, to monitor chronic disease). When in doubt, err on the side of caution and limit communication to relevant and useful messages.

Some user churn is inevitable, no matter how good the solution. But a strong first impression undoubtedly contributes to engaged customer engagement. First impression strategies can help create impactful and useful apps with a long lifespan.


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