By: Jordan Edelson, Appetizer Mobile

As businesses and brands begin to consider whether or not a mobile app would be the best solution for their product, it’s important to understand how mobile engagement continues to grow revenue, serve as an advertising outlet, a conduit for communication with clients and customers, and a veritable vehicle to grow brand sentiment. Ranging from food products and restaurants to productivity tools, entertainment, games, and sports apps, there a number of avenues and strategies that can help an app increase engagement, and form a lasting relationship with their customers.

It’s key to note that engagement varies depending on the apps overall function; a language-learning app, game, to-do app, or productivity app will generally have users logging in frequently to update progress, while other apps may have fantastic engagement, but only serve a certain function one to two times per month. Below, we look at reasons for building a true engagement strategy, and some tips to improve engagement on the whole.

Significance: Developing Personas and CRM Through User Behavior

One key function of having great user engagement is the ability to target users who are deeper in the funnel, or have a higher potential of returning as a customer. By engaging more users across apps, it becomes easier to understand more about the target customer. Said brilliantly by Michael King in this piece on Moz, targeting everyone often means targeting no one at all. Instead, it’s vital for apps to function as a portal into the lives that they touch. While mobile apps can be disruptive in flow, businesses need to adapt to the noise and hurried interaction through mobile devices. The continued presence of mobile apps in our daily lives enables developers and companies to understand more about how, when, and where their target clientele are using their products, and as a result, can help inform some pretty telling decisions. From location services to time used, screens visited, buttons touched, and more, there is a considerable amount of data that can be acquired to ascertain the user’s involvement with the app, and how different scenarios impact different user needs.

The first time a user has the chance to experience an app is the most crucial. It’s this experience that will set the tone for how often a user returns, so an app needs to be well-designed. Each step, touch, motion, and function must be clearly demonstrated for a user to better understand the nuances of the mobile application. Many apps initiate users by including a tutorial screen with every download or forced update. This can be a great interaction to inject some personality into the brand, and also educate a new user about new navigation menus, additional features, or any increased functionality to preserve the best UX possible.

Strategies to Increase Engagement: Gamification, Communication, and Commitment

Once an app is designed and the UX is mapped out, three strategies to help a user commit to using the app are gamification, communication, and commitment.

Gamification is where the user is given the incentive of some sort of point system for using the app. This helps build community around your brand and product, and capitalizes on competition by allowing users to team up or compete against one another. Similarly, offering gamified elements to learning games or points for participating with the mobile application provides a platform for an incentive to users to keep coming back. Brands could try to gamify recipe apps by offering a simple incentive such as a complimentary download of a cookbook, or the opportunity to submit their own recipe after reaching a certain points total. This goes hand in hand with increasing user experience, as points could be awarded for anything from reviewing the app or setting up a complete user profile, all the way down to commenting on other users posts.

As seen in gamification, community is a critical part of building an app’s audience and engagement. Rather than just relying on bigger social networks to become a part of the app’s social space, giving the app it’s own community helps nurture the goals that the app is designed to achieve, and connects users to others who are like-minded. This can help build loyalty and camaraderie within the app itself. One example is Lift, a mobile app designed to help people achieve goals or habits. Users can join a mini-community, and then receive props or words of encouragement from other users starting the same habits. Coupled with push notifications, this encourages you to return to the app and keep a user on target.

Communication and push notifications are a third and final tactic to improve user engagement. Using Push notifications to remind users about timely events, updates, or features, or even just periodic emails to the user to help remind them about the benefits of the app can be a transformative way to ensure that the first visit isn’t the last. When redesigns, updates, or additions to the app happen, ensure you update the user, via push notification, email, social network, or some combination of all three. Let the user see you as an entity that is always striving to improve, communicate, and reward, and you can guarantee a satisfied user and increased engagement.