And it is about time, right? You have invested a ton of resources and, of course, budget so you could roll out these compelling mobile experiences. But chances are, despite all of the blood, sweat, and (maybe) tears, you still have not seen a meaningful return on that sky-high app investment.
Know This: You Are Not Alone
More than three million apps are available for Androids, iPhones, and iPads, but less than one percent will be “financially successful,” says Gartner. Even the money-making paid apps are not kicking up that much cash — 90 percent make $1,250 or less per day. Why? Because, of course, the only way those apps can be successful is if people purchase them; but, writes IBT, “people simply aren’t.” But that is only the first step. Eighty to ninety percent of apps are downloaded, used once, and never opened again. Two in three are downloaded and never used.
But it should not be that way. Mobile is one of the only platforms that truly blurs the line between marketing and customer experiences — and that is a very powerful space to occupy, especially now. Effectively, through your apps, you have a 24/7 marketing touchpoint that is inches from your audience at all times — even when they are asleep! Mobile devices know where he is and what he is doing, and they have a keen lens in to each individual user’s motivations and behaviors in real time. There is nothing else quite like mobile — and nothing else that can so readily feed in to the conversion and spot-on relevance conversation.
So, step one: start thinking about your apps as part of the customer experience, not simply a product, and then build the rest — the conversion KPIs (key performance indicators), the optimization, the personalization, and the overarching plan — from there.
Mobile and CRO (Conversion-Rate Optimization)
For starters, it is important to remember that “converting” in 2016 looks a lot different from what it did even a few months ago, and a big reason is because of mobile and apps. Today, users are moving through the desktop funnel, the mobile funnel, and often, both — or, even, both at the very same time. The touchpoints and actual conversions we are putting through the CRO lens, then, are not what they once were. While an app download is a conversion for sure, it can no longer be a be all and end all. It simply cannot stop there. If that user is never going to open your app again — and remember, the majority will not — is it really a conversion?
At the end of the day, that is the root of the mobile-monetization (or, more appropriately, lack thereof). Chances are that you know how to drive your audience to download your app, but then what? This is the year we need to take it all to the next level: getting users to want to open that app regularly and use it. Maybe the app helps them to be productive and meet their goals. Maybe there is a real, tangible value tied to its use that just cannot be ignored. Maybe it is just fun and convenient — still a powerful combo! — and they cannot put it down. It really does not matter. What does matter, though, is that they download it and come back for more.
Getting to true conversions takes two things: changing the way you and your organization think about conversion, and second, being wholly data driven — so data driven that you can effectively and efficiently tear down the silos that separate mobile moments from the rest of your brand experience. Data helps tear down barriers by ensuring brands treat consumers like the individual, cross-platform players they are. By letting data inform decisions and journeys, you will avoid bucketing desktop and mobile separately; most consumers today simply are not. Instead, you will be allowing users to exist in an area in between, an area ripe for momentum that enables consumers to jet from one experience to the next across platforms, channels, and targeted brand extensions.
Not only will this approach help you tee up the best possible experiences for your customers, but at the same time, it will make the conversion path more relevant, more valuable, and more of-the-moment. No more calling a dud download a conversion and then waiting for that (non) user to make a move. No more delivering a solo app experience and then, maybe, picking the user back up on your website but ignoring what could have been — a rich, meaningful, multi-channel relationship with greater conversion potential. That is where monetization lives, and that is where ongoing, long-term app success is born.
And Then, There Is Personalization
Personalization is another critical piece of the mobile-app and mobile-optimization evolution. Why? For starters are the reasons you would expect — consumers crave relevant content, experiences, touchpoints, etc., etc. — but there is also the added consideration that innately comes with any mobile journey — AKA context.
Sure, personalization inherently relies on context — specifically how, when, and where users are consuming your brand experiences — but those pieces are factored in even more when you talk about mobile and mobile apps. It is a small screen. The consumer might be on-the-go. He is likely doing something else — or consuming other media — while he is engaging with your brand. She has limited time, a limited attention span, and a limited tolerance for content and touchpoints that miss the mark.
Context is, hands down, one of the most essential considerations when it comes to making the most of your mobile apps. It is central to optimization, and it is central to delivering an overall, topnotch experience. Get context right, and you are closer to CRO success. Look at HBO NOW; you no longer have to pay for HBO on your cable box to access its quality content. Two million people have jumped in, downloading the app and taking an even more meaningful conversion step — they have signed up for the free month, and many have even become full-fledged paying customers. The content is well organized for mobile and offers easy, unlimited access anytime, anyplace. A serious win.
But this is not just for apps with subscription models. Looking again at the numbers tied to app abandonment, it is clear that — no matter how you monetize yours — it is essential to engage and re-engage with relevant content. If yours is free with in-app purchases, those content- and experience-driven conversions are what will take yours from just a button on a home screen to a daily must. If you have a paid app or subscription model, it is that content curation and delivery that equals value in users’ minds.
Above All, Have a PLAN
It all sounds simple enough, right? It is … and it is not. All too often, a brand rolls out a mobile app because it feels like it has to. It happened in the social space — the boom in brand-monitored Facebook pages, Twitter feeds, Instagram accounts, and the like — with no real customer-focused value or strategy. It even happened way back when the Internet first popped in to our collective consciousness. How many companies had to have a website back then just because?
While there is something to be said for keeping up with the digital Joneses, it is important to funnel those have-to-have urges into something productive, well aligned, and high value. Like I said in my earlier post, apps for apps’ sake is a little like Field of Dreams — brands deep in development, assuming that if they build it, the consumers will come. That attitude got us in this current state of clutter with millions and millions of apps taking up space on our devices but not in our day-to-day lives. It is a recipe for disaster or — at best — apathy.
That is not to say that your brand should not invest in apps or mobile experiences in general. I am advocating, though, that to ensure you are effectively and efficiently harnessing the power of this optimization moment in time, you drill down on the specific business goal tied to your app first and foremost. Understand the end goals from consumer and brand perspectives. Know which KPIs matter, which do not, and — taking it a step further — the broader way your organization defines success from a customer-experience perspective.
Be sure stakeholders and marketers are in step. Get everyone crystal clear on how these experiences play into your overarching brand universe as well as your current marketing mix. Then, pull out those high-value touchpoints and see how you can transition them from simple, consumer-focused moments in time to meaningful monetization. It is going to take a sharp focus on optimization and the delivery of relevant mobile experiences at scale, but I am confident we are just about there — and more importantly, that once we settle in, we will start seeing results.
Beyond that, though, let us not forget that this is not just an app conversation; there is even more value to be gained from the conversion conversation. Sure, your mobile experience and your website have some similarities and some differences, but make no mistake that your app plays a big role in converting today’s always-on, always-addressable consumer. That is going to not only continue, but also get even bigger and more critical in 2016 — mobile-app usage was up 58 percent in 2015 with personalization and productivity apps leading the pack in terms of growth. Definitely something to think about.
We are at a pivotal intersection in the app conversation, and I am incredibly confident this is the year the tides turn. Collectively, we have invested too much time to have it any other way. This is the year the legwork pays off, and that, in many ways, will be fueled by CRO and personalization — and vice versa. By thinking about your app as a critical piece in the customer journey, and not as a standalone product, you are well on your way to turning a corner during this vital moment in time. Once you recognize the power that you have — because you can get directly in the palms of consumers’ hands — you can start thinking differently about personalization, optimization, and being data driven. From this vantage point, it is easier to see what “conversion” really means in 2016 as well as how context feeds into whether you hit those conversion goals. And from there, you can make a plan — a real, tactical, actionable plan — that helps you deliver more relevance more often. That is what is going to inspire more-meaningful consumer experiences — that, in turn, will drive ongoing usage and adoption — and catapult your monetization efforts across mobile and even beyond!