Does an app exist if it is never used?

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by Rohit Kumar

Apps are popular in APAC, but abandonment is high. Here are three tips to re-engage your users on apps.

Does an app exist if it is never used? This is a poignant question, especially in the Asia Pacific region where app publishers focus a bulk of their marketing budgets on acquiring app installs. And yet, how many of them are measuring the number of times the app is opened and used?

The often forgotten second half of the app battle is engagement, or perhaps more importantly, re-engagement. Remarkably, in 2015 25 percent of global users abandoned an app after just one session. This figure reached 37 percent in China, according to a report from Localytics.

app-localytics-global

*Reproduced courtesy Localytics 2015 App User Retention Study.

Here is the breakdown for China.

app-localytics-china-2

*Reproduced courtesy Localytics 2015 App User Retention Study.

From install to e-tail

When an app is used as a sales channel, an install is akin to a customer simply agreeing to check out a store eventually, without a guarantee for doing so. The customer only steps into the store when he or she opens the app. While store traffic is important, actual sales are what sustain businesses.

The cost of developing and marketing an app is significant and needs to be justified. However, an install is not worth much to brands if the user does not ultimately make a purchase that can be attributed to the app, whether the final purchase happens on desktop, mobile, or in-app.

Instead of investing in campaigns to gather more users outside the store, wouldn’t it make more sense for e-commerce apps to invite existing hoverers inside? Also, remember that idle users already have the app, which is half the battle won. That said, here are three commandments on app re-engagement:

1. Thou shalt not fear SDK integrations

Many app publishers, among them fashion brands, online travel agencies, and market places, understand the value of user activation. Yet, they end up rejecting viable marketing technologies because of a single reason: they are reluctant to do any software development kit-based (SDK) integrations.

Oftentimes, this reason is given because marketers have a misconception of what integration entails. App re-engagement should be important enough for marketers to challenge anyone who says that SDK integrations are not feasible. The singular focus should always be to deliver a great customer experience. If technology can achieve that and drive ROI, it should be pushed to be implemented.

Furthermore, let’s set the record straight once and for all: SDK integrations can be extremely straightforward and quick. Savvy advertisers in the region have already proven that such an integration can be swift – the fastest set-up we have seen today took just four hours.

The other two considerations marketers should have when it comes to choosing the right re-engagement partner is the effectiveness of in-app capabilities and the size of the SDK. A lightweight SDK will not affect app load time, hence protecting the customer app experience.

2. Thou shalt deep-link

Just like on desktop and mobile marketing, in-app marketing needs to be personalized in order to effectively engage individuals. The first step to personalization is to understand the customer. Analyzing users’ in-app activity is crucial. Combined with CRM data, it enables advertisers to find the user outside of the app and bring them back using personalized marketing technologies.

Once the user is identified, it is equally critical to show the user a personalized creative that deep-links back to a relevant page – for example, the last browsed category on the app instead of a generic homepage. Deep-linking displays the advertiser’s understanding of its customers’ needs, improves the app experience, and thereby increases the likelihood of conversion.

3. Thou shalt not obsess with installs

Measures of success for app install campaigns are commonly the number of installs and the cost-per-install (CPI). The number of installs paints a deceptively optimistic picture of app performance, as it includes cases when a user does not ever open the app after the download. These metrics may measure the success of the app install campaigns, but reveal nothing about how the app creates value for the business.

Instead, marketers should focus their attention on the number of active users as a measure of app success. This shift in metrics should naturally follow the shift in investments of campaigns from driving app installs to re-engaging app users.

Advertisers around the world are already investing in campaigns to engage users and bring them back to brand sites on desktop and mobile. Those campaigns tend to have the most efficient, cash-positive activity, and should be a permanent fixture in the modern day marketing plan. An app is simply an alternative point of entry through which users choose to access content.

Given all of the above, it would then be irrational to deny the importance of app re-engagement. Because if an app is never used, does it really exist?