KEY POINTS

  • Attracting users to a mobile app and keeping them engaged is more expensive than ever. App stores are increasingly crowded, making them harder to find. And users are spending more of their time in a smaller number of apps, heightening competition for mindshare.
  • A flood of new apps is making it even harder to stand out. In August 2010, there were 499 new app submissions, on average, to the iOS App Store each day. By August 2016, that had climbed to 1,823 apps per day. This has serious implications for discoverability.
  • Engagement is increasingly important as app business models change. Because more apps than ever before have no upfront cost, any app that users have to pay to download must have a truly exceptional value proposition to be viable. 
    • Twenty-three percent of consumers abandon an app after just one use, according to Localytics. 
    • US smartphone users spend half their time in just one app, 18% of their time in the second most-used app, and 10% in the third, comScore data shows. The decline to almost nothing is rapid after that.
  • Publishers have three main tools at their disposal as they try to overcome this engagement crisis. Given that each method of engaging users has its own strengths and weaknesses, an effective strategy will use more than one, if not all.
    • Push notifications were the first broadly implemented app-engagement tool and have become the most-widely used. 
    • In-app messages or notifications are alerts that are only served while the app in question is in use.
    • App message centers are sections of an app where messages sent to a consumer can be stored until read, and then either dismissed or archived. One prominent example of a message center is the Facebook app's list of pending friend requests.
  • Implementing two or all three of these tactics can lead to a higher lifetime value of consumers for app publishers, as well as better and longer retention. It can also reduce overreliance on push notifications, which can become bothersome to users.
  • Emerging engagement technologies promise to open new ways for app publishers to communicate with users. The mobile ecosystem is changing quickly as technology improves and consumers become more comfortable conducting more activities on mobile devices.

Introduction

To be successful, a mobile app must attract and retain users. Unfortunately for app makers, that has become more expensive [...]