Key Takeaways from MAU 2017: How Seemingly Small Things Drive Up Mobile App Revenue

All things mobile were on full display at Mobile Apps Unlocked 2017 in Las Vegas. Over 1,300 leaders, from more than 600 mobile brands, gathered at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino to share their stories, news, and engagement stats. With mobile continuing to grow as a revenue channel, there was a lot to talk about, but one common theme centered around making mobile apps and push notifications more user-friendly.

With so many mobile apps out there, any edge you can get over your competition could be the difference between leading the pack, and being trampled by it. Even the slightest edge can drive up revenue. Some companies have found that edge through deep linking, and small but important changes to push notification copy; together, these two tactics can expedite the customer path to purchase. Here’s how.

Give App Users a Shortcut to the Content They Want

The number of clicks it takes a customer to get to your point of purchase impacts your bottom line, because the harder it is for the customer to give you their money, the more likely it is that they will change their mind and abandon the process. In the past, some mobile apps had to vie against the web, you were often taken to a website and then had to search for the place you thought your item of interest might be. However, the same could be true of an app, forcing you to launch the app first and then search through its menus. This may not be a problem if the app only has three or four items for sale, but it quickly becomes more complicated if there are hundreds, or even thousands, of items.

Deep linking solved that problem, and made mobile apps more customer-friendly. Now, when a customer finds an item to buy, instead of having to launch the app and search for the content, a deep link takes them directly to a specific relevant location within the app. For the marketer, this means you can target your customers with appropriate content and be sure that the deep link will take them to the right spot.

Here’s how it worked before deep linking:

  1. You search for a term in Google.
  2. The SERP lists a particular company that has the content you’re looking for in its mobile app.
  3. You have to switch from your browser and launch the company’s app, downloading the app first if you don’t already have it.
  4. Then you have to search for the term or content again within the app.

Here’s how the deep link shortcut works:

  1. You search for a term in Google.
  2. The SERP shows a company that has the content you need in its mobile app.
  3. If you have the mobile app installed, you then pick the in-app search result from the SERP, and go directly to an in-app view of the content.

This may not seem like a big deal at first glance, but consider this: of all the reasons customers abandon the purchase process, 27% of the time it’s because they couldn’t easily get from a SERP or a home page to the actual product or service page they were looking for.

Not only does deep linking remove extra steps, it also serves the customer’s goals by delivering exactly what they want. This improved usability makes it more likely that they will take advantage of a discount, or consider purchasing another product. Without deep linking, a company could miss out on as much as 25% of potential sales from visitors who are specifically interested in your products.

Build a Better Notification Message

With an opt-in rate of 60% to 70%, push notifications are an increasingly reliable channel for reaching out to customers. Compared to email, which gets a 5% opt-in rate, pushes are 12 to 14 times more effective. Push notifications also have a click-through rate of 17% to 20%, seven times greater than email.

As recently as 2013, the up-front purchase of mobile apps constituted over 80% of revenue, but the channel has diminished since then and the number has fallen to 60%, while in-app revenue has exploded from 9% of revenue in 2011, to over 30% in 2015. Many predict that in-app purchases will represent the largest single proportion of total app revenue over the next year or two.

So, what do all these figures mean for today’s mobile-first marketers?

Customers who opt-in are 88% more engaged than those who disable notifications, and they’re three times more likely to keep using the app, while 80%-90% opt-out and abandon the app within 90 days. Clearly, customers appreciate push messages that alert them to promotions, sales, and personalized messages based on their activity or location, but compared to all the other mobile apps pushing out messages to customers, how do you assess the effectiveness of your notifications? If you make a sale catalyzed by a notification, then you know your approach works. But if nothing happens, no sale, no click through, how do you know what went wrong?

It turns out that 78% of users will opt-out of push notifications or uninstall the app entirely when they get messages they’re unhappy with. Discovering the reasons they’re unhappy is crucial for any brand to have a hope of competing in the mobile app realm.

Timing

You need to know when each individual customer is most likely to engage with your mobile app. If you send out a mass notification on Monday morning, the only people you’ll engage are the few who use the app at that time. For everyone else, these pushes are either meaningless or annoying, and some customers will opt-out and move on to another company who seems to connect with them more deeply.

What you need is a good Send Time Optimization (STO) program that will dig through all the customer data you have to ascertain the best times to contact each individual customer; trying to do it manually would take far too long for the insights to have any value. Companies who have implemented an STO solution found that email conversions rose by 34%, and push notification conversions by 38%.

Message Content

By now, it should be no surprise that the one-to-many approach falls woefully flat with most customers, but by using artificial intelligence technology to mine your customer data, you can automate your system to insert customer names, product preferences, targeted incentives, and other relevant personal data into the notifications you push out to your app. In return for the attention to detail, conversions can rise as much as 27.5%, proving that people are far more likely to buy from you when they’re treated as individuals.

In some cases, making small changes to the notification text increases the number of engaged users. For instance, a plain message that makes claims without citing any evidence will produce little interest or engagement. However, adding a few relevant and convincing data points can be the difference between a customer ignoring the notification in disgust or being enticed to take action. After making revisions like this, some companies have seen as much as a 31% revenue increase from their mobile apps.

Message Length

Where timing and personalization are the keys for some brands to engage customers, other companies have discovered that it’s actually the amount of text in their notifications that matters most. Even though push notifications are already brief by nature, messages up to 200 characters long perform poorly. For both Android and iOS devices, the sweet spot in terms of conversion appears to be around 25 characters, though for Android devices messages with 25-49 characters performed almost as well. This all means that messages with 50-100 characters return dismal purchase results. 

Test it to Know for Sure

Every insight you gain about what customers want from your brand has to be validated. From the wording and message format, to the color schemes and send time, testing is the only way to know for sure which messages work best. One study found that when a brand A/B tests campaign messaging, the winning message brings in 40% more conversions than the control group.

Final Thoughts

These are just a sample of the topics covered at MAU 2017, but it’s clear that mobile apps are still growing in use and bringing in larger amounts of revenue every year. Going forward, app developers must continue to let user experience shape the functionality they build into the apps. If you give them messages and features that serve no immediate purpose, customers will respond by leaving your app behind, but if you give them better-personalized information and make it easier for them to find content they want, in as few clicks necessary, customers will be more loyal and choose to shop with a company that understands who they are, what they want, and when they want it.

Interested in improving your mobile strategy? Download our eBook, “Are You Prepared for a Mobile First World?”.

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Tuesday, 16 May 2017