Lesson 6

Improve Engagement Within Your App

Finding ways to improve engagement with your app will begin on the very first day you launch and it will continue without stop. Luckily, there are many ways to take action and drive deeper, more loyal user engagement with your app.

As you now know, many first-time users won’t return to your app after initial download. But there are many strategies to re-inspire these lapsed users and to prevent them from leaving.

You can use internal factors to reach them such as adding a new feature or re-configuring the process of introducing users to your app. You may also find valuable insights by listening to feedback from early users. We’ll also look at outward-facing forms of communication, including email, social media and push notifications.

Let’s start by looking inward for inspiration.

Add or Update App Features

What’s the core problem that your app is solving for users? What else might they be seeking? What do other apps in your vertical offer that you don’t? Return to the foundation you established in your first app strategy sessions to help guide development of your next app features as you look to increase engagement.

One way to encourage users to interact with your app is to add a new feature or significantly improve an existing one — you’ll earn bonus points if you add a feature that drives press mentions or improves on common features in the competitive landscape. Regular app updates help keep the experience fresh and inviting and give you good reason to contact users directly.

To find other areas in need of improvement, look at your event tracking and find places where users are dropping off. Is it between download and installation? Between specific screens of your app, like between a login page and the homepage? If your app is a game, do players consistently lose interest at a certain level?

These pain points are indications that there’s a speed bump in your app that is disrupting user experience. They show where you need to take action.

Netflix recognized that many viewers, particularly in developing countries, don’t always have reliable or affordable mobile access. In response it added a download feature that allows users to watch offline, allowing significantly more users to engage with their content anytime, anywhere.

Optimize the User Experience

User experience (UX) and design will impact your users’ behavior, and their behaviors should in turn affect how you make design changes to the product. To better understand user engagement, you’ll need to analyze a user’s entire experience, from their initial introduction to your app to the moment they fall in love with it to turning them into loyal long-term users.

Creating a Long-Lasting Relationship

Power users will definitely have a strong relationship with your app, as will your core users. That kind of successful, long-term connection between your app and users is the goal of any app creator.

This journey will move through three broad phases:

  • Core Value Discovery: How long does it take the user to reach the “ah-ha” moment and discover your app’s core value?
  • Exploration: By moving through your app, can users easily deepen their appreciation of that core value and discover additional reasons to believe in what you offer?
  • Habit Formation: How can you make that core value habit-forming so that your users return to the app again and again?

Only by executing on all three of those phases — moving a new user from Discovery to Habit Formation as quickly and smoothly as possible — can you build a highly valuable user base. (And, it’s worth remembering, this all comes back to developing a core value offering that will resonate with your audience. It can take a few rounds of trial and error to find the right combination of core value and ideal user.)

Let’s dive even deeper into the UX thought process.

Guide Your User Through the Journey

When you’ve introduced a new user to your app, how easy is it to achieve the primary goal they arrived with? As an app developer and marketer, your goal should be to create a journey from point A (initial meeting) to point B or C (long-term loyalty that generates revenue) with as little drop-off and uncertainty as possible.

Your user’s experience with your app starts with onboarding, which is the flow of initial screens that introduce a new user to your app and its core value. This process should be as smooth, seamless and short as possible.

Facebook found that new users who followed more than 10 other users were far more likely to stick around, so it focused on connecting new users to their existing contacts immediately in the onboarding process.

Often, friction points in the initial user flow will become apparent during a beta or soft launch. That initial user flow can make all the difference in subsequent engagement rates, so it is essential to optimize a user’s first interactions with your app.

Beyond the initial experience, is a user’s movement through the app’s screens and functions logical, intuitive and smooth? How can you address any questions or uncertainty at every step of that journey?

Define Your App’s ‘Engagement Context’

Unlike on desktop, the mobile space means your user could interact with your app in many different environments, each with a potentially different outcome.

To fully understand your user’s overall experience, it’s essential to walk through several possible scenarios. Is a user consulting your app while looking through the sale rack at a store? Or when sitting, bored, in the back seat of a car? How might a different environment affect how users engage with the app?

By going through this exercise of imagining all the contexts within which a user might engage with your app, you’ll likely discover new reasons that will drive them to it. A retail app, for example, may offer a coupon as soon as a user steps into a physical store. A subscription video streaming app may time alerts about new shows to correspond with popular times its viewers start searching for viewing options. Tuesday nights after work, for example.

Thinking through every aspect of a user’s persona — including favorite in-app activities, physical environments and motivations — will help you create a more targeted (and compelling) app experience.

Tinder saw that there was a surge in use around New Year’s Eve in 2016 and sent out a push notification alerting users that they were currently more likely to find a match. Taking advantage of that real world context led to the highest level of engagement in a single day in the app's history:

“The most fascinating thing about this type of notification is that, by notifying users when those peak moments are happening, it increases the overall success rate for our users. It has a compounding effect and produces even more activity.” - Tinder CEO Sean Rad, TechCrunch interview.

Making User Feedback & App Reviews Work for You

Once users start engaging with your app, you can expect some to tell you exactly what they think in their ratings and app reviews in the stores and through customer support channels. While user feedback may not always be positive (and, yes, sometimes it can be difficult to see), it will give you a direct line into the psyche of core users.

Here’s how to take advantage of user feedback as a source for product improvements and retention ideas.

The Value of Responding to User Reviews

User reviews are very valuable as a direct source of information about what is and isn’t working with your app. As soon as you see any ratings or reviews appear, take action.

  1. Explore reviews for insights that can improve the customer experience; if a user offers a suggestion, consider making it! Even if it’s not an idea you would take action on, see if you can find a way to respond to the feedback. Directly addressing users will increase the odds of keeping them involved and coming back for more.
  2. Uncover high-quality keywords for app store optimization (ASO). As we covered in Acquire, user reviews will contain a wealth of powerful keywords that can help your app appear higher in search results.
  3. Look for new features and enhancements based on user suggestions; if one user wants a faster way to save pictures to their phone’s photo stream, it could be rolled out as part of a feature update.
  4. Identify bugs and performance issues you may not be aware of; this proves especially valuable in uncovering issues in certain devices or regional markets that you may not have considered in the QA process.
  5. Respond to users directly through listening and acting on their issues. Directly addressing suggestions helps build a more loyal user base. Doing so makes users feel connected and valued.

In Instagram’s recent reviews, there are multiple requests from users to switch from an alphabetical to a chronological display for follow requests. Whether Instagram ultimately decides to translate this feedback into an update or not, it’s immensely valuable insight into their users’ preferences and needs.

Empower Customer Support to Solve Problems

We've all been there, spending too much time on the phone with a customer support team member who didn't know how to solve a problem. While impeccable customer support can be a challenge for any company, it’s still ideal to provide timely and personalized help as much as possible.

In fact, creating a customer support environment that makes users feel respected and heard can be a very powerful driver of engagement. Here are a few best practices:

  • Be proactive, not just reactive. Stay on top of user ratings, reviews and other user issues, and use that direct feedback to identify bugs that you can address in feature updates and owned content channels (such as a blog).
  • Provide users with a medium to provide feedback directly, rather than just through the app stores. This can prevent 1-star reviews and perhaps encourage 5-star reviews.
  • Give users a way to find solutions. Many users will look for a searchable FAQ and other problem-solving documents, so make sure to have those resources in place. Keep the relationship between customer support and your users open and supportive, and they’ll come back for more. A human touch can go a long way toward establishing long-term engagement.


Keep Learning

Read on to learn more about outreach options for your app.

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