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Best Way to Keep App Users Engaged: Build a Good One

  
  
  

3599753183 1302fe00b4There has been a lot of talk lately about how to keep users engaged after they download your app. Although it might sound smarmy to say it, the best way to keep users coming back is to build a compelling app.

That's all well and good to say of course, but it's not always a simple proposition. A recent article on FierceDeveloper suggested using SMS as a good way to stay in touch with your users, but I'm not so sure.

It might not be bad if you have one or two apps doing it, but if you suddenly have a dozen apps or more, buzzing you with text messages, it begins to lose its impact as a marketing tool and moves into the area of annoyance bordering on harassment. David Meerman Scott, who wrote the groundbreaking book on new media marketing, The New Rules of Marketing and PR, wrote a blog post the other day suggesting that interrupt marketing is ineffective and irritates the recipient to the point of wanting to ignore whatever it is you are trying to sell.

As Scott wrote: "Intrusive, interruption-based marketing techniques frequently do much more harm than good. The creation of a "campaign" can piss people off so badly, that it can actually cause business to fall. It would have been better to do nothing."

If Scott's right and I think he is, then interrupting your users just because you have their phone number may not be the best way to draw attention to your app. It may in fact backfire on you and cause the person to delete the app to avoid the intrusion.

So what you should do? A better way is to build an app that compels people to come back because they enjoy using it. Game makers have a built-in reason to come back. The game is fun and you want to keep playing, but all apps want to build in reasons to return, even if they aren't a game.

Glen Gruber, AVP of of mobile solutions at Ness suggests that one way to do this is to build incentives inside the app that keep users coming back and upsell them when you have the chance. "There are ways to incentivize use, while at the same time providing opportunities for the company to drive desired behaviors and increase revenue and margins," Gruber explained.

He points to the Starbucks app as a prime example where the app is an extension of what the company is trying to accomplish in the store. "It’s a very nice app, but it gets used all the time because people go to Starbucks all the time. It’s used for payments often because they’ve made it easier than using a credit card and incentivizing by tying it to their rewards program…spurring even more usage." he said.

While every developer wants people to use the apps they develop -- why else develop one in the first place -- you have to be careful not to alienate the very people you are hoping to attract. As such, you need to build apps that are fun and useful, but also have built-in reasons to keep returning. What those elements are is up to you and the creativity of you and your development team to decide, but think about the apps you use most often and why -- and then think about how that applies to the app you're building. 

Photo by Ed Yourdon. Used under Creative Commons License.

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