By adaptive - June 27th, 2016

Mobile app growth rates are still rising but app developers are by and large finding greater growth from current users than from newcomers. Today’s apps must strike the right tone and balance in communicating with users to re-engage them if visits and/or spending begin to slip.

In the first instllament of this two-part series, Robert Gray explores how Europe’s leading brands are tackling the customer re-engagement challenge.

Mobile app growth rates are still rising but app developers are by and large finding greater growth from current users than from newcomers. There are a number of reasons for this: increased competition across categories, less real estate on cluttered smart device main screens, and getting users to quickly return and realize the app’s value proposition.

So these companies are finding it increasingly important to not only lure users to their apps, but to find ways to get them to spend even more time (and money!) while there. Even more importantly, the apps must strike the right tone and balance in communicating with users to re-engage them if visits and/or spending begin to slip.

If there are any questions why an app is indispensable from the initial use, the slippage begins quickly after an app is downloaded and there’s a precipitous drop off within a month, according to a study of more than 450 million installs of e-commerce, travel, and utility apps by Appsflyer. It looked at active users over time versus the total number of activations during the trial period and found usage dropped by 2/3 after just 24 hours and then plunged to just about three percent of users after a month.

In a preview of the upcoming Open Mobile Summit Europe (June 27-28th), executives from a number of the top mobile firms across the industry shared some secrets for turning early engagement with users into a long and happy marriage.

“Re-engagement is an important area for us,” asserts Shiva Rajaraman, vice president, product, for Spotify, before explaining the streaming music service’s strategy: “We specifically see recommendations as an opportunity to create ritual with listeners. We’ve launched Discovery Weekly, which every Monday has a personalized selection of new music for you. We’re exploring many ways to have users try Discovery Weekly and also testing how we can remind them to ‘tune-in every week.”

This is the Holy Grail in a sea of app options and other digital distractions, creating a virtual app-ointment to bring the user back on a regular and reliable basis. Of course, it’s not reserved just for so-called “super users”, because as Rajaraman points out, the music streaming service is still growing rapidly, recently crossing the 30 million subscriber level.

He says, “We actually have growth potential with new and current users. For both we are experimenting with new propositions such as podcasts and video and we continue to improve the experience for all users with new, personalized recommendations.”

Shazam made its name as a music discovery app before branching out to new services. Clement Haider, senior product manager with Shazam, says even though the company is one of the most downloaded apps of all time, “our emphasis on improving the retention of the current user base has become more and more important, especially in key markets.”

Haider notes the app has added features aimed at retention and re-engagement including email registration so a user’s account is instantly synchronized across devices as well as trying to better instruct newcomers on how to Shazam when they download the app “so they have a much better first impression. The focus is on how easy it is to use and to highlight our core value proposition.”

Daniel Richardson, director of technology, product research for JUST EAT also says re-engagement actually begins with the very first encounter and making it easy to use the app again: “Once {users} have had that great experience, then they’ll engage with other aspects of JUST EAT that we can follow up with—whether that’s a notification to review their order, personalizing offers, or information on great new food and takeaway in their area…with intelligent CRM, the app already installed, and previous orders quickly available, the JUST EAT app is an easy choice to return to.”

Super Users Power Greater Growth

Yahoo’s Flurry analytics arm finds that the growth rate for app “sessions” is slowing (58 percent in 2015 compared to 103 percent in 2013). Part of this is due to the law of big numbers but that is still “stunning” growth for the industry as the report calls it.

And while there’s still plenty of growth to go around, what is perhaps more stunning is that the lion’s share of new growth in 2015, as much as 58 percent, came from existing users and not new ones. That’s a huge jump from 10 percent in 2013.

It is these so-called super users that many mobile companies are focusing on with specific marketing, offers, and outreach.

“We believe it is important to look to our super users for ideas of how to improve the product,” says Spotify’s Rajaraman. “These users utilize Spotify almost everyday and they become emblematic of the value we want all users to realize from our service.

“But, we also spend a lot of time understanding what keeps all users from becoming super users. What do they struggle with? If they don’t have time to build their own playlists, can we create good ones for them? What control do they want and how can we simplify?”

Keeping the app simple and easy to use is key for keeping customers engaged on

WorldRemit, the international money transfer app. The service primarily caters to migrants sending money from the developed world back to their home countries in the developing world.

The company allows users to send money to 120 different countries, working with 30 different global mobile wallets including M-Pesa and Eco Cash.

WorldRemit claims it does about 400,000 money transfers each month and executives say they are creating super users with their services.

“Re-engagement is something we’re working towards and seeing in our user base,” says Alice Newton, head of product, for WorldRemit, adding, “We see customers who are habitual so our retention rates are extraordinary. Our customers like to send to people in the same way on a monthly or weekly basis.”

Newton says reducing friction for customers for in-app transactions is important for the company: “If you look in our app and you’re a customer who’s used us before, the first person will be the person you’ve sent to most recently. The settings will be prepopulated. That makes you think, ‘Would I go through all the processes when these guys will do it quickly and for a fair price.’”

Event discovery marketplace YPlan claims retention rates on a month-over-month basis are roughly double from a year ago. Davide Scalzo, product director for YPlan, says they are attracting new users from their website and that once they’re converted to the app, at an 85 percent to 90 percent clip, visitors are hooked.

Scalzo explains the content resonates with young professionals looking to go out in their city for unique, fun outings. “It turns users into a champion among their friends over time…the super user doesn’t love us because we give them access but because it allows them to be the champion in their circle of friends, because they are in the know and feel like a more interesting person.”

And while YPlan would like to crown more champions, it was a change in social sharing tactics that has really given the service a boost. Scalzo says they used to broadcast social shares and event plans but changed to a more precise approach, targeting specific groups on Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp.

He says, “After the change, traffic was up seven times or eight times over what it was before. The share function change was minimal but the content of the feature changed dramatically from broadcasting to sharing with a close group of friends. That’s a big difference.”

The company uses several methods of re-engagement including forcing attendees at an event to show the app to gain entrance in addition to the targeted texts, messages, or emails.

“We build our own CRM, send users push notifications and emails to make sure we can attract them in different stages,” Scalzo says. “If they’re inactive they’ll receive different content from someone who comes back to the site every week. We leverage this with the discovery element of our app, where you can discover the top 10 events for the next week in your city. It’s like Spotify’s Discover Weekly but with events.”

WorldRemit is also exploring ways to organically prompt more transfers by incorporating exchange rate push and reminder notifications.

Newton says WorldRemit’s idea of a super user is different than apps in other businesses: “Unlike social networking, we don’t want customers to come back when they don’t need our service, we want to be top of mind and make it easy for them to do it regularly but our revenue model isn’t driven by advertising so we don’t them in the app. But we do support frequent transfers (and) we have low fees for small send amounts.”

Part 2 will be posted in the next installment of the Open Mobile Media newsletter.

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