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. 

Ushered into the public consciousness with Google’s recent takeover of Nest, the Internet of Things (IoT) is a buzzword for a concept that’s been in existence for some time. IoT refers to instances in which the internet and connectivity help make gadgets and products more convenient and personalized for users. By leveraging wireless technology into everyday objects, more and more products and processes can be connected to and controlled by one device--your smartphone. With mobile application development becoming integrally interwoven into negotiating the user experience with a connected product, it’s a fantastic opportunity to look at how our app-enabled devices can help us to connect better with everyday tasks. Below, we look at three different avenues that are already being strengthened by IoT and mobile connectivity.

Google Now

With Google now intimately involved in the home--from computer, to mobile device, to home appliance--there will be an increased element of synchronicity and connectivity between Google developed platforms, like Android, and Google developed apps. With Google Now, the personal assistant designed to be the response to Apple’s Siri, Google now has a better, more thorough understanding of how a user’s day will pan out--from weather conditions to the location and commute, Google will automatically be able to detect the circumstances that govern your day, and coincidentally, will have the potential to connect with other devices in the home to respond accordingly. For instance, Slate speculates that Google’s involvement within the home could result in a scenario where you may be returning home from a cold day and the smart thermostat would ensure that the house was warm by the time you arrived. Similar apps may be developed to automate an activity based on a user’s location, the weather, and more. We expect to see these trends continue, as more and more items will be armed to intuitively understand the requests and the routine of the user.

Security Steps Up

Security is one area in which constant connectivity will always be a key component. Apps and appliances will continue to work alongside security and smart sensors to help users feel more protected within the home. Already, it’s not uncommon for home security systems to connect with your smartphone, but as technology has developed, smart sensors and basic home security devices are now designed with mobile connectivity in mind from the off. The mobile applications for many of these products are increasingly granular, allowing the user to monitor alerts, movement, and activity within the home, all the way down to specific room, complete with video. This allows users to decide whether or not the alarm system should call 911 or ignore the alert. DropCam and iSmartAlarm are just a few apps like this that are already on the marketplace.

That’s Entertainment!

Entertainment and convenience will always be driving factors to keeping you connected to what you use the most. From television to music and more, this is already a sector on the move--as Chromecast, Roku, and other devices have powers to stream video to any TV in the house, devices like SONOS and their app help manage and play your music. Sonos is an example of an intuitive product-app relationship, in which the user can acquire multiple devices, and play separate music in each and every room and the house. This will only continue to become more and more refined, with smartphones increasingly becoming the role remote control for other devices in our home.

Though IoT is already in use throughout the marketplace, this trend will only develop over the coming year. From refrigerators that alert the user when an item may be going bad, to kitchen devices that can be triggered to start preparing items from miles away, the smart home is already rapidly becoming integrated into our daily lives. It will be interesting to see the role in which app development will play within the connected home. 

Since the inception of mobile apps, one of the major sectors of the app market that has firmly set the tone and dominated in popularity has been entertainment and gaming. While a host of different games first entered the market that were specifically designed for a mobile device, the market now outpaces handheld games made by the likes of Nintendo and Sony. These old handheld devices used to be the answer to portable electronic gaming, but the attention has since switched to the phone, with native apps developed for platforms like Blackberry, Android, and iPhone. While traditional entertainment and gaming companies look for new avenues to capitalize on lost revenue from portable gaming, app developers have allowed this to usher in new opportunities. Even Matt Cutts, the head of webspam at Google, invests in a new startup Apportable, a company designed to appropriate native iOS apps to the Android marketing system:

However, the rate at which mobile acceleration has outpaced other entertainment sectors has certainly given life to new avenues for app developers. While native apps have been designed specifically to run on one type of mobile operating platform, mobile technology is now getting to a point where gaming can be done directly within the mobile browser, as programming gets more agile, lightweight, and responsive. Mobile apps and messaging are now so deeply ingrained into the browser itself, that users can navigate and enjoy mobile gaming without even having to download the app.

While this represents a pivotal shift in the way in which users may interface with mobile games on a smartphone, there are huge opportunities for gaming enthusiasts and app developers alike. The cons of downloading and playing a game straight within a browser are obvious: Connectivity issues will prevent the user from experiencing the game at full speed if they are outside of their normal WiFi area, and without downloading extra stages, add-ons, levels, and more, the user may not be able to experience the game to its full capacity. This represents a moment in app development where the app must critically be integrated within the website itself in order to ensure that in-browser mobile gaming meets its full potential.

What’s the Difference?

Native apps have the ability to use the device’s operating system to their advantage, and are often standalone products in App Stores like Google Play or Apple’s App Store. These native apps represent pieces of software that rely on a device’s operating system to function, and are often proprietary for a certain device or vendor. Web apps, on the other hand, require little more than a browser-rendered language, and a mobile phone to work at their best. Huge advances in code like HTML5 has made all the difference, ushering in more web apps to offer competition to their native counterparts. While architectural differences will still exist for native apps and browser-based apps, there are huge advancements that help keep these differences minimal, and offer a cutting-edge user-experience without the cumbersome download.

It’s All in the Download

Downloading helps make the difference. Though advocates for in-browser games and apps tend to advocate for apps that don’t require a download, apps that appear in Apple’s App Store and other mobile stores offer viable commercial opportunities for app developers and companies that browser apps don’t provide. However, with mobile advertising rates continuing to climb, opportunities exist for your mobile web apps to successfully monetize their product. At this point, many app developers rely primarily on native apps, as web apps still remain to be a fraction of the market.

Whether you’re looking for your next app to be something lightweight and in-browser, or a native mobile application that will run on a variety of different platforms, it’s crucial that you work with an app developer that can get you the best functionality and user experience that your app can offer. For more questions, contact us today.

As we close the first month of 2014, we thought that this might be the best time to take a look at mobile web applications and their place in the market over the coming year. With a growing number of apps developed to improve productivity, play games, connect with others, or help promote brands and services, apps are getting more agile and are posed to become an even bigger part of our lives as time continues. Based on some of the major industry topics over the past few months, we’ve culled together a list of important industry trends to watch out for in 2014.

Apps Come Into the Home

Google’s recent acquisition of Nest made headlines, and rightly so: It’s unusual to see a $3.2bn purchase of a comparatively small startup that does something so niche-specific. However, this merger signified two huge developments: First and foremost, the ability for apps to enter the home space and become turnkey portals into the way in which we live, helping to reduce energy and improve convenience, and second, the amount of data that is now available to the technological partners that bring these conveniences into the home. Privacy is a pretty common concern in this day and age, and the app-arrival into the home shows no sign of these concerns slowing down. As 2014 moves on, expect to see more and more pieces of technology enter the marketplace that dovetail with your smartphone.

Education Apps Stake a Further Claim in the Marketplace

While parents and kids alike make a push to get children more exposed to apps on iPhones, iPads, and other devices, a growing number of schools are trying to find strategies so that they keep the same pace. Educational app developers should now be turning their attention from a direct-to-consumer model and looking toward institutions and schools who can pre-load tablets and devices with apps designed specifically for the classroom. This will help empower kids to be more familiar with the applications of technology as they learn, but also help create custom curriculums and institution-specific learning platforms for schools, courses, or even individual teachers. In fact, some schools of thought even think that kids could begin learning the framework of coding and developing apps in the classroom to make projects and presentations more interactive and learning more intuitive. It’s an incredibly exciting prospect!

Enterprise Apps

While many businesses develop apps with a sole function of helping better market their product or service directly to a consumer, many mobile app developers are getting courted to produce apps for internal use only. Enterprise apps can be powerful ways to help a business increase productivity from the inside out, without disrupting the consumer experience that many of their clients or target clients are accustomed to using. Apps to increase internal communication, productivity within teams, or even connectivity outside the office will continue to increase for companies ready to make such a jump, and app developers need to be ready! From cloud-based software to messaging and more, these apps could help bolster inventory management, supply chain information, accounting, manufacturing, communication, and security.

Mobile Makes Its Introduction: Apps as Entry Points

2014 may be an important year for mobile engagement for your business, as more and more users continue to use the Internet more on their mobile device than on their desktop or laptop. It’s unsurprising to predict that some apps may begin to serve as the point of introduction for a brand, company, or service rather than the native desktop site. Apps will have to respond by being more agile, informative, and incorporate stronger calls to action to retain the engagement of the user, but with a good the user experience, an exciting product can come to life with a brilliantly designed mobile app.

For more information about how a mobile application can change the scope of your business in 2014, or to take your app idea off the ground, contact us today. We can provide you with the tools and resources you need to get a beautiful, agile, custom mobile app for your business.