There’s an app for that, and that, and that. Even before mobile phones could connect to the Internet, they came with apps. Only back then they were “features,” like calendars, calculators, and contact lists. Today, apps have become an intrinsic part of daily life, tackling everything from healthcare and finances to shopping and dating. The average smartphone has 41 apps installed, a 21% increase from 2011.
In November 2012, Google announced Google Play had tied Apple’s App Store at 700,000 apps—and Apple recently reported that it has added about 75,000 new apps since. And that’s not even counting BlackBerry’s, Amazon’s, or Windows’ stores.
With such rapid growth of apps on consumers’ mobile devices, remaining relevant has become synonymous with push notifications for developers.
Over 1.5 trillion push notifications have been sent through iOS alone—but are those pushes truly keeping mobile users engaged with the apps? I would argue that they’re not, as message overload and irrelevance causes as many as 69% of consumers to abandon updates from brands sending pushes, SMS, or mobile email messages. While we don’t want to call it spam, consumers may see it that way.
So, if the ultimate goal is to drive engagement, then it’s necessary to do more than publish an app and start sending out a volley of pushes that haven’t been tested—or at least distributed in a way that can tell mobile marketers which messages resonate with consumers, or not.
Coming back to apps, depending on complexity, development can get expensive. Developers creating apps for Android have spent as little as $600 and as much as $150,000. For iOS, the cost can be as much as $4,000 for a simple app; $50,000 for native database apps; and even $250,000 for the most complex games.
Despite these costs, IT spending on mobile app development is projected to jump 50% this year. Investment in mobile app marketing is also expected to rise by 39%. And for companies who plan to market on those apps this means giving serious consideration to where to focus resources once they start their push notification campaigns.
That’s because customer acquisition is also expensive. The cost of attracting a new customer has gone “through the roof,” as Andrew Green, head of business development at game company TinyCo, recently told All Things Digital.
So, it’s clear that for mobile apps to make sense, the focus after acquisition needs to be on user retention. It’s critical for developers and brands to utilize every chance they have to bring users back to their apps. But with more than a quarter of app users only opening an app once after download, retention can seem like more of a challenge than developing the app in the first place.
It’s time for apps to start measuring the content in their push notifications and tailoring the message to suit the preferences of the user. Alternating tonality, calls-to-action, and word count in various tests can link particular message elements to specific user outcomes and goals, telling brands and developers what their users and customers really want.
And that’s the key to customer retention.
The base of potential app customers is set to boom in the coming years. Swedish telecom giant Ericsson is predicting that by 2018 there will be 9.3 billion mobile data plans in use. That’s 2.3 billion more than the whole world’s current population.
Today, users’ love affairs with individual apps can be brief. An app that’s retained by just 30% of those who downloaded it is considered to have “sticking power.” Making sure they know their customers’ preferences, and then tailoring pushes accordingly, will help brands marketing through apps to better engage and retain those customers—and help ensure their app doesn’t end up in a virtual trashcan.