Marketing to Mobile Users in an Attention Deficit World

For a long time the focus of brands with mobile apps has been on one goal: downloads. But what happens after that initial action? Recent data shows that 22% of apps are only used once, and more are only opened a handful of times. There are probably a million arguments as to why this is the case, but it’s most likely because as users we simply get bored with the same old apps. This statistic reveals the need for engagement strategies that not only intrigue users once, but also hook them into coming back again and again. The secret to the game is to know your users. The most effective strategies for doing so use analytics to target specific segments of customers and engage them with the tools that play directly into their interests.

Once you’ve considered how different kinds of people use their mobile devices and what repercussions that can have on your mobile brand and strategy, you can then begin to actively personalize the app experience for each of them. This personalization will in turn drive engagement, loyalty, and, most important, lifetime value. If each of these metrics is pointing upward, you’ve got yourself a successful app.

While each user is unique in his mobile habits, all users can still be split into four mobile use cases:

News junkie

Although many have heralded the end of the newspaper as we know it, it isn’t going away just yet. We’re just consuming our news a little differently. The news junkie is the prime example of this. Rather than pouring over a website or a hard copy of a paper for hours, the news junkie is more likely to “snack” on mobile news in frequent, short bursts, and then share that information with her friends. Users now typically launch their news apps 25 times a month, up from 18 last year.

As app marketers, we need to track events and use screen-flow analysis within users’ apps to identify the signature features, screens, and content they visit—and then draw users to your app by making those features most prominent to capture their short attention spans. Another effective tool is push messaging. Through media-rich and personalized push messaging you can alert the news junkie to breaking news or new content. If done effectively these strategies can increase the engagement and attention span of the news junkie, leading her to come back more often for longer sessions.

Second screener

The second screener is the mobile user who is the consummate multitasker when it comes to their electronics. For example, throughout his favorite episode of Breaking Bad, this person might be tweeting along with fellow fans and friends while keeping one eye on the action. Although they’re likely to juggle a few things at once, second screeners present unique opportunities for marketers. Using insights from data analytics, marketers can create more targeted and personalized multichannel marketing campaigns based on second screeners’ in-app behaviors. Using these analytics marketers can build email campaigns to target second screeners based, for example, on their TV show preference. These multimedia campaigns play into the multitasking nature of the second screener, helping to increase engagement and loyalty.

Social butterfly

Everyone knows the mobile social butterfly. She’s the one who’s always tied to a mobile device, connecting with friends across the world via Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and countless other social applications. While each of these social platforms is still used by many people on desktops, their rampant growth has been predominantly powered by mobile users. A dominant 60% of Twitter users currently access the service via mobile. The best way to market to this type of user is to include social and community building events into your app to keep customers sharing and coming back. By looping friends into what was once a solo experience, the social butterfly is more likely to keep returning to connect with her friends.


The couponer is the mobile persona who’s likely to stroll around a store looking at items while actually intending to purchase them online. While this can understandably be frustrating for employees behind the cash register, for app marketers it provides many engagement options. This mobile persona is typically motivated by a strong desire to save money and can therefore be enticed to use an app to do just that by offering mobile coupons or earned loyalty points. Additionally, with constantly improving location-aware and geo-fencing technologies, apps can now be trigged to deliver coupons when a customer is near a participating location. By catching the attention of a couponer at the exact moment of location or intent, you can personalize their experience and convince them to take a closer look at what you’re offering.

While mobile users are unique in their actions, there are trends that can be analyzed to provide powerful insights into groups of different users. The news junkie, second screener, social butterfly, and couponer each provide unique opportunities to hone your marketing strategies to maintain high levels of engagement and lifetime value. With shorter attention spans for apps becoming the norm, these strategies could be the key to a successful mobile app.

Bernd Leger is vice president of marketing at Localytics

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