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Mobile Marketing 101: What Kind of Mobile App Do You Need?

Erin Azar
Erin Azar , Global Product Manager

This three-part series will explore how marketers can take advantage of arguably the fastest-growing digital channel: mobile. This piece offers a fresh perspective on how to use your mobile app to engage customers and grow your business.

The mobile explosion over the last decade has dramatically changed the way brands interact with consumers and the expectations consumers have of brands.

Quickening adoption (and ease of use) is bringing mobile marketing to the forefront for both experience creators and the shoppers they’re creating those experiences for. Reliance — or dare I say addiction — to our phones for almost every web-related task has created a blurred line between marketing, utility, and entertainment.

In this guide, we’ll outline the role of apps in different businesses, and how to use your app to its maximum potential.

What Does Your Mobile App Mean to You?

There are more than 4 billion mobile apps in the App Store and Google Play. Mobile app downloads are on pace to grow 45% from 2017 to 2022 (to 258 billion downloads).

The vast majority of time spent on mobile devices is also spent on an app:

Source: SearchForce

Here are a few other striking stats to keep in mind:

→ Total worldwide smartphone adoption sits around 37% of the population, today. This continues to rise and will reach 40% in 2021.

→ Smartphones have overtaken desktop devices in terms of retail site visits, with 61% of retail site visits worldwide.

→ Mobile shopping is the fifth most popular activity (just under entertainment, email, social media, and news) on connected mobile devices.

Pro Tip: Given these stats, the most progressive retail brands create easily accessible, user-friendly apps that ALSO entertain consumers, inform them of relevant (company) news, and connect (data) to their social/email channels for a completely unified experience.

“The most progressive #retail brands create an accessible, user-friendly #mobileapp that entertains, informs, & connects #customer #data”     CLICK TO TWEET

So, how are you applying this knowledge to your customers’ mobile brand experience? Do you need an app, already have a high-functioning one, or simply need to beef yours up a little?

Whether you’re mobile-first, mobile-only, or mobile-also, chances are that if you’re in the business of selling goods or services to the consumer market (B2C), you can benefit from an app.

B2C companies use apps for a multitude of interconnected reasons, and depending on their business model, these reasons may include:

Engaging customers. The app is likely ancillary to your main revenue-driving efforts but can also be used to drive action. Your app may include user-generated content communities, gamification, or information-based, interactive, or immersive experiences. Many retail companies fall into this category with a traditional mobile app containing embedded buying capabilities — customers are usually able to use the app to buy in addition to the website. These companies are mostly “mobile-also.” Many e-commerce brands and retailers start with moderate expectations of the app, then gradually grow the app user base and engagement until it becomes a primary revenue channel.

Enabling bookings and purchases. The app is the priority channel for engaging with your products or service.  The app is crucial to the success of the business and acts as the primary and most lucrative transactional vehicle. Companies will have advanced mobile segmentation. Mobile is a connected channel and plays an important part of the omnichannel mix. These “mobile-focused” brands leverage the strength and nuances of the mobile channel. Their focus is to optimize mobile marketing to drive engagement and purchases at opportune moments, through behavior and lifecycle-driven campaigns.

Everything. The app is central to the business. Without the app, the business simply would dissolve. These companies rely on the app experience as the bedrock of their existence. These “mobile-first,” and sometimes “mobile-only,” brands typically offer tiered app subscription programs. Focus is placed on moving customers from unknown app visitors to registered trial users to premium app members. Retention is also key, driving continuous engagement of premium users through personalized customer journeys.

Let’s explore these areas in greater detail.

How vital is your app to business growth?

There isn’t some magical formula to determine how lucrative your app will be for your growth. It all depends on where you are in your evolution, and whether your app is a significant revenue driver in the first place.

  • If contacts don’t have your app but you want them to, then downloads and signups will be your first mission.
  • If users have your app downloaded but don’t use it (but you want them to), then timely push notifications and cross-channel promotion of the app will be the focus to draw users into your app. While in the app, supplement the experience with intelligent in-app messaging to create a tailored app journey.
  • If a substantial portion of your database contains your app and uses it frequently, then getting them to use it more frequently with carefully created segmentation and in-app personalization (timely offers, notifications, and recommendations) would be a good area of focus.

What are your customers telling you?

Even a quick peek at your CRM data can reveal how your users prefer to engage with your app… when, where, how, and which kinds of things they’re engaging with — plus what they want and need. Use this data to gain insight into what your app means to you and how various pieces of data intertwine with other important metrics. For example, here are a few questions to ask:

► How do app downloads and use correspond with better buyers?

  • How do app downloads correspond with subscriptions/signups?
  • Does your bottom line go up as your app downloads go up?
  • How long does it typically take for app adopters to make a first purchase?
  • What is the purchase conversion rate on your app vs. your website?
  • How much more do app users spend (AOV, purchase frequency) than non-app users or first-time buyers?
  • How much more likely to buy are frequent app users versus only occasional app users?
  • What are the conversion rates of your multichannel customers vs. single channel customers?
  • Do your most engaged/loyal segments ALSO use your app the most?

How do app users prefer to engage? What mix of tactics make for the ultimate/optimized/best user journey?

  • How do your consumers respond to web-based notifications like overlays or subscription boxes? Are those customers engaged on mobile — and might they respond in the same way to similar in-app notifications?
  • What percentage of your business comes from your app? Is it trending upward? If so, will strategic app-based tactics boost growth?
  • What percentage of app users are also opted-in to receive SMS notifications?
    • How can SMS notifications support or augment app behavior?
    • How can push notifications or in-app messaging alter behavior?

These are only a few key points to consider. Often app users are the most engaged customers, and nurturing that relationship through thoughtful messaging engages and retains customers.

“Use existing #CRM #data to determine how to best use your #mobileapp – how do app DLs correspond w/ purchases, for example?”     CLICK TO TWEET

Stay tuned to our blog for a follow-up to this piece where we’ll explore the various ways you can integrate mobile strategies within the overall customer lifecycle.

Here’s an expanded understanding of the commercial mobile apps out there:

Examples: apps in action

Initially and in most cases, the goal is to get app signups (freemium program), collect data about users, provide great in-app experiences, and begin personalizing in-app notifications and sending push messages when it makes sense.

Pro Tip: 80% of smartphone users are more likely to purchase from companies whose mobile sites or apps help them easily find answers to their questions.

Mobile-first brand Runtastic begins the relationship from the outset. They also begin collecting data about users and helping them along the way:

Once you get downloads and signups, you want to move users along the path to purchase so they become customers. This requires personalizing the in-app experience AND creating trust and engagement among your audience with consistent delivery of push notifications — all based on customer behavior. This is a lengthier process and quickly becomes a key ingredient to your omnichannel approach.

Mobile-first brand Drizly uses cunning push notifications when, where, and how their audience wants to engage with them to drive real value:

These brands leverage their app not only to its highest potential as a critical component of their business model, but they also create an amazing customer experience with it. Whether creating personalized in-app content — like seasonal items, past purchase history, or local information — or sending timely push notifications, they use the app to drive the business forward.

Final Thoughts

It’s easier than ever to get an app created and up and running these days. For some beginner or niche brands, perhaps building a standalone app makes sense. But for any serious e-commerce or B2C brand, it’s crucial to create a high-performing app that’s also integrated with every other channel and where customers can be served personal experiences.

Creating a customer-centric, mobile-optimized, amazing mobile experience via an app isn’t simple. It’s a much more difficult (but also much more beneficial) endeavor to pursue than just sprouting up a quick app. Nevertheless, if you want to compete in a mobile-saturated marketing and cater to your customers’ every need, you need to be present and engage with them via their mobile devices — and a connected app is a universally great place to bring that vision to fruition. ◾

➤ Learn more about how mobile marketing can help you communicate more effectively with customers.

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About the Author


Erin Azar leads the mobile product lines globally for Emarsys. With over 15 years of experience in both Dubai and the US, Erin has led omnichannel marketing strategies, product development, business enablement and scaling, and digital transformation. Erin is passionate about using innovative technologies to transform companies and customer experiences. Erin lives in Indiana with her 3 children and husband, where she enjoys gardening, cooking, and competitive tennis.

She holds an MBA from The American University in Dubai and a technology Masters in Systems Analysis from Miami University.

Connect with Erin: LinkedInEmail

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