Eli Mandelbaum
Eli Mandelbaum 6 January 2015
Categories Mobile, Social Media

Three Secrets of App Engagement

The best thing you can do is turn your app into a habit, getting people to use it for a second and third time.

The best thing you can do is turn your app into a habit. It’s not enough to get users to download the app or to use it for a first time; you need to get them to use it for a second and third time. As Marc Parrish, Advisor at Appboy, has pointed out: Fifty percent of all the people who download your app are going to leave it within the first month, and half of those people are only going to fire it up once.

So how do you make sure that your users are not distracted by the various “chirps” we are alerted with each day and do truly engage with your app?

PluggedIn brought together various founders, CEOs, and executives to answer this very important question. Below are their tips for what you can do to keep your users engaged.


Here are the three secrets of app engagement:

1. Engagement doesn’t have to be a long-term relationship.

Traditionally, engagement is about a sense of loyalty to a brand and product. However, this isn’t quite the case when it comes to apps. Jay Shapiro, co-founder ofInfinite Monkeys, reminded us that users tend to gravitate toward apps that will help them accomplish a task. Therefore, app engagement is more about helping a user accomplish a task and feel a sense of pride and ownership after having done so. A great example of this is Yelp. With the app, you get in, you get what you want, and you get out.

Zack Dugow, CEO of Insticator, stressed the importance of asking this question: Have you allowed your users to accomplish what they want to do with your app? Your number one focus should be solving a specific problem right now. If you do a delightful job of doing that one thing, then continual use will simply be a byproduct. In the case of the IMDB app, for instance, users download it because they have a question that they need right this very second (e.g. What other movies has this actress been in?). But they come back to the app because it did such a great job of answering that question the first time. Or as Kushal Choksi, CEO of Hubbl, said: “Engagement is just a validation of your concept and if what you’ve built is doing what it’s supposed to do.”

Of course, when you look at apps like Yelp or IMDB, you realize that they have content that is also easily accessible through a browser. To prevent app clutter on their phone, many users prefer not to download an app and simply browse that information instead. So in order to drive users to engage with your app (and actually download it), the app needs to be much better than the browser experience and fulfill a truly unique need.

2. People are not looking for apps; apps need to go to people.

Discoverability is a huge hurdle of app engagement. You can’t assume that just because you’re building something of value that people will automatically flock to it. Generally, users have a specific need and so they go to the App Store to download something that will solve that need. So yes, optimization can have a significant effect on app discoverability, as is a decent advertising strategy. But perhaps more important is word-of-mouth.

And to this point: Don’t brand your app as an app. An app is something disposable, just one other thing people download. Your app should be an experience—something people want to talk about. Users discover apps when they come up in conversation with friends or when they see them being used over someone else’s shoulder. So the more people use your app, the more people will discover it. When it comes right down to it, app engagement actually is marketing.

3. Get inside your user’s head, but respect boundaries.

Consider building the psychology aspect into your app experience. Create that need for them to keep coming back—this can range from utility to gamification to fear of missing out (potentially the most powerful). In order to gain mindshare and attention, you need content that is truly personalized and relevant to your user—and delivered at the right time. The difference between desktop and mobile is that location matters. So consider the context, whether it’s killing time on the subway or connecting with friends while watching a program.

Thinking about the user experience is vital to engagement. You can’t stand in your user’s own way. The best apps are transparent. Think about it this way: When you look through a window, you want to see what’s on the other side and not the window itself. When the window is dirty and you actually notice it, you become annoyed. The same goes for an app. You don’t go to WhatsApp to see what the app itself looks like; you go to the app to communicate with your friends. Don’t hinder your user’s ability to complete the task at hand.

That’s the trouble with push notifications. Unless the notification is part of the task orientation (e.g. letting someone know when a flight is delayed), it can interrupt the user. Push notifications can be a great tool for pushing users past the threshold of minimal interactions which then create habitual use. But there’s a tipping point, so tread lightly. Develop a smart strategy of what, when, and how to push the notification. Use it to add value and not spam.

Above all, remember that this is your user’s device. It’s sacred personal space. There’s a real sense of intimacy with someone’s phone that simply doesn’t exist with other media. Don’t violate personal space.

Bonus Tips:

  • In the beginning, do things that do not scale. Focus on core functionality. Do one thing (maybe two or three things) and do it really, really well.
  • Remember that apps are a business that just happen to run on a small device. You need to understand the business side in order to increase your chance of creating a successful app.
  • Message your users personally. Get their feedback and create the first evangelists for your app.
  • Have a focused approach when you distribute. You don’t design an app to be for everyone, so don’t mass distribute it.
  • By using a freemium model, you can lure users to the app without having to purchase anything. Deny them a little bit to cause enough frustration to upgrade and drive revenue.

Roundtable Participants:

Keepy: Offir Gutelzon, CEO

Lovvvit: Max Gottlieb, CEO

Atmospheir: Matt Crumrine, CEO

Hubbl: Kushal Choksi, CEO

Infinite Monkeys: Jay Shapiro, Co-founder

Brainscape: Andrew Cohen, CEO

Insticator: Zack Dugow, CEO

Appboy: Marc Parrish, Advisor

Blue Label Labs: Bobby Gill, Founder


Original post here.

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