We live in an age of a demanding, and fickle, consumer. This generation of mobile consumers are impatient, know what they want, and, most problematically sometimes, are quick to shout when things go wrong. Fortunately, they also shout when things go right (think Facebook Likes).
To give you a sense of how impatient and demanding they are, I’d like to tell you about one of my apps I released to the App Store. It was a game developed in Unity3d. Because I used the free/community edition of Unity3d, I get the default Unity Splash screen while the app loads. Well, one of the reviews left on the app store was a 1 star review. You’d think my game must have been terrible…but no, this is what the reviewer wrote “Great game but the splash screen has nothing to do with the app and it takes too long to load”. Ouch…great game but I got 1 star for a slow splash screen. I have somewhat digressed from the headline of this article, but I wanted to make the point that anything can cause a user to leave your app, and getting users to remain engaged with your app is more challenging than ever. With users now having more than 41 apps installed on average (Nielsen), it is imperative that you gain mind share of your app with your users. So, let’s look at five tips for increasing mobile app engagement.
Tip 1: Sexy is where it’s at
What is that expression about you only having one chance to make a first impression? Well, this clearly goes for apps. See my sob story above about my splash screen. Here is the reality: Your app may be the best thing since sliced bread but if you don’t capture them from opening to closing, you risk losing your users. Even if your app invented perpetual motion, if it doesn’t look good, people won’t use it. Forget about your coding prowess for a minute, and think about your look and feel. Invest in graphics and graphic designers. Heck, I’ll go as far as to say that sometimes bad apps succeed because they look good. Yes, there are exceptions. I can almost hear you screaming “What about Flappy Bird?”. Ok, you have me there…but do you really want to roll the dice? Come on, spend a bit of money and make your app look like a thousand dollars.
Tip 2: Push, baby, Push
Hey, I’m with you. As a developer I keep thinking I don’t want to bombard my users with Push messages. And you’re right, don’t bombard them. However, there is a ton of value in delivering push messages for the right events. One of the apps we created was a voting app, where users vote between one item or another. Adoption was meager. We had the downloads, but people did not use it on a continual basis…something known as “app decay”. Then we added push messaging to let people know when important things happened. “Congratulations, someone just voted on your item”, or “A new vote was just created in a category you are interested in. Click here to check it out”. What happened? Our adoption more than quadrupled. That simple little push reminded users that your app is still there and something worthwhile happened to warrants another look. Push is a great way to get mindshare of your app. That is, if you can figure out the Apple push mechanism 😉
Tip 3: I have a 5 second attention span
Not you…you’re a developer. You wrote a great mobile app. You clearly have an attention span. I’m talking about the average app user. They have the attention span of a door knob. Don’t drop them into an app where its going to take more than a few seconds to understand what’s going on. If your app is a little complex, add a guided walk through experience for the first time user. Yes, it’s a pain to implement but can easily be the difference between using your app versus browsing to the next one in the app store. Similarly if you have a long running operation…put a spinning icon there at a minimum, or better, try add some interactivity. Remember, they’re door knobs I tell ya. Amuse them constantly.
Tip 4: Your app is more than an app
Your app is great, I’m sure. However, make sure you create a webpage for your app. This can be as simple as creating a Facebook page. Create a nice banner, and KEEP the page updated by posting on the page. Now, here comes the deviously tricky part. In your App, drive people to the Facebook page. For example, pop-up a random message in your app like “Get a free life using an unlock code. Visit facebook.com/mycoolgame for the code”. So now the user goes to the FB page and what do they see there…a community of activity around your game. Cheats, tips, tricks and yes…a special unlock code. “Like us to receive the Unlock code” … so now you slowly build a community around your game and then you can market V2 of your game or your new game to an existing user base. Don’t think mobile app only.
Tip 5: It’s a connected world, Mikey.
Playing games on your mobile can be boring if you don’t have a sense of social connection. No, your game doesn’t need to be multiplayer. But even a solo game should have a leaderboard where high scores are kept (or lowest times or whatever). This can be a great incentive to keep your users playing your game. And don’t just list the top 10 … some users may never get there and may get frustrated. Display encouraging messages “You’re not on the top 10 list yet but you’re getting there quickly! Based on this last game, you’re in the 70th percentile and improving all the time. We’re confident you’re going to get there!”. And cross post to your Web page (see Tip 4) “John has the new high score. Can you beat him?”.
Look, I know implementing these are not trivial. As developers, we like to focus on the core of our app…not on this “periphery”. But trust me when I say these 5 tips can make the difference between an ok app and a killer app. Be sure to search for 3rd party toolkits and libraries that implement much of this functionality for you. You may be pleasantly surprised at how easily you can implement these ideas. Please use the comments section below to share your tips or your knowledge of 3rd party frameworks you’ve used or heard about to implement these tips.
Happy app developing and app marketing!