More and more businesses are developing branded apps as part of their mobile marketing programs, integrating location-based technology with product reviews, deal information, and even gaming elements to reach consumers. The response to these branded apps is almost always favorable, with surveys showing that overall sentiment and purchase intent both increase when consumers use a brand’s mobile app.
Of course the only way to see these benefits is to build an app that people actually want to use. An app that fails to pique the interest of consumers is likely to be pushed aside and become one of the 80% of mobile apps with 1,000 or fewer downloads. Here are six tips from experts on what brands of all sizes should consider when building their own custom apps.
1. Make a great first impression. One big aspect of increasing engagement that is often overlooked is the “first use” scenario. An app that is well-designed — with tasteful instructions, placeholders, and other features to help people get up and running quickly — makes a great first impression on users. Each screen or element should be designed with the first-time user in mind, however brands can add tutorials to their apps in a pinch. (Allen Pike, Steam Clock Software)
2. Integrate community into the app’s foundation. Every piece of content in a mobile app should be social, which means it should be easy to share or “like” on networks like Facebook and Twitter. Allowing users to add their own voices and content to the app — forming a mobile community, of sorts — gives people a reason to keep coming back, and makes the app more interesting in general. (Michael Schneider, Mobile Roadie)
3. Providing genuine utility and lasting value. All good apps fall into one of two categories: genuine utility or entertainment. Businesses that use their mobile apps as a place to regurgitate the information already posted on their websites are doing themselves a disservice. At the same time, brands need to give customers a reason to keep coming back to their apps. At Aurnhammer, we use the mantra “keep it sticky,” and encourage clients to regularly update their apps to show they are just as engaged with the platform as their users are. (Bill Aurnhammer, Aurnhammer LLC)
4. Add a gamification element. People respond to “top 10″ lists and competitions. At Mobile Roadie, we always recommend building in a gamification layer, awarding users with points for certain activities—like opening up the app once a day, or sharing certain pieces of content on Facebook or Twitter. The result is users spending more time in your app and doing more with the app in an effort to get more points and become the No. 1 user. (Michael Schneider, Mobile Roadie)
5. Use push notifications to spur engagement. Marketers should send push notifications—which can include text, video, pictures, or external links that redirect to special landing pages—based on user segmentation and use of the mobile app. At Appscend, we also recommend that clients use local push notifications as a way to remind users who have not interacted with their applications in a pre-established number of days. (Sebastian Vaduva, Appscend)
6. Enhance the user experience in real-time. Retailers should do more with their mobile apps than simply giving customers the ability to purchase items or look at merchandise on their smartphones. One idea is for retailers to give their mobile users access to detailed product information when they scan QR codes on their product labels or packaging, since the information on packaging is often limited. Retailers can also show price comparisons and product reviews within their mobile apps, since consumers are going to look this information up anyway. (Bill Aurnhammer, Aurnhammer LLC)
7. Offer real-world rewards. By linking the points that users earn inside their apps to real world rewards (like coupons or gift cards), businesses can give their users more incentive to come back to their apps and spend time earning points. Two companies that are doing this in an interesting way right now are Kiip and Pocket Change. Offering real world rewards is one of the smartest ways a brand can increase user engagement. (Michael Schneider, Mobile Roadie)
Stephanie Miles is an associate editor at Street Fight.