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App Marketing
9 min

Mobile App Marketing Explained: How to Engage, Retain, and Grow Your Customers in 2021

In November 2020, Starbucks rolled out a campaign to introduce its holiday-themed, seasonal favorite drinks with a tagline that read something like this:

“Festive is a tap away; download the app today:”

Now, it doesn’t take a genius to understand that the campaign aims at encouraging people to use the Starbucks mobile app to order instead of lingering in the Starbucks outlets–the latter being an unwise choice since we are all in the thick of a global pandemic. In fact, the brand decided to give away a collectible red holiday cup to customers in the US to boost user engagement.

Bonus Material: Here’s an interesting case study on how OYO ran seamless user engagement campaigns across multiple channels. 

The Results?

A. Mobile orders rose from 18% (March) to 24% (September), thanks to improvements within the app and strategic advertising campaigns that drove consumer awareness about mobile ordering.

B. The Starbucks Rewards loyalty program also saw a sharp rise in its active members, with 3 million new users subscribing, totaling the number of members to 19.3 million.

C. According to Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson, “90% of sales volumes in Q3 flowed through the combination of drive-through and mobile order-and-pay.”

The Learning?

Mobile app marketing, when done, right produces impactful results.

In this blog, we will look at how you can leverage app marketing, particularly in times of a recession, to engage, retain, and grow your customers in 2021. Before we move onto the three stages of app marketing, let’s take a look at the top trends that will redefine app marketing in 2021.  

Top App Marketing Trends to Watch Out for in 2021

  • According to App Annie, “at-home” categories such as education, streaming, and shopping will witness a jump, leading to 1.3 trillion hours of consumption on Android apps in 2021.
  • Apps that offer video streaming and live events will dominate the app market as COVID-19 continues to reinforce stricter social distancing norms.
  • Audio marketing and podcasts will witness skyrocketing growth.
  • Mobile UI/UX will become a priority for marketers looking to engage better with users and drive customer loyalty.

Clearly, driving an app-first lifestyle will be on the cards for multiple businesses looking to leverage the already exploding smartphone user base.

To that end, let’s look at the top strategies that can take your app marketing to the next level. Let’s start at the very beginning by answering the elephant in the room:

What are the three stages of mobile app marketing?

Much like your traditional marketing funnel, mobile app marketing, too, comprises of the following three stages:

Stage 1: Awareness

The primary goal here is to attract new users to your app and create awareness about it in the right target groups. Here are some ways in which you can expand your reach and build awareness:

  • App store
  • App review websites
  • Paid advertising
  • QR codes
  • Social media

Before you start building a marketing campaign that targets users, it is critical that you zero in on your brand messaging and positioning. After all, users connect with brands on the latter’s values and purpose, not solely through product features. So, defining your brand positioning should take priority so that you can engage with users on a deeper level. Additionally, you should identify the right channels where your customers are.

If you are unsure about how to prioritize the channels, you can refer to the bullseye framework, which includes the following four steps:

  • Brainstorm: The idea is to brainstorm at least one strategy per channel to boost growth.
  • Rank and Prioritize: The next step involves ranking and prioritizing strategies brainstormed in the previous step. 
  • Test: Once your list is ready, you can start testing your target market to see which strategies are sticking (and which are not).
  • Focus: In the final step, once you’ve identified channels that are fueling growth, you need to keep focusing on them till you reach your end goal. 

If you are wondering what would actually motivate users to download your app from thousands of apps in the same vein, here are some tactics for you to try:

Top Strategies to Take Your Awareness Stage to the Next Level

1. Plan your app release date and work on your mobile app marketing strategy way in advance, taking into account any delays or setbacks that may come your way. You should plan to:

  • Understand who your ideal users are.
  • Why they should download your app.
  • How you can encourage them to download your app.

Did you know?

According to research by Google, apps are mostly discovered ‘outside’ the app store, with 52% of users getting to know about the apps through family, friends, and colleagues.

2. Make sure to conduct in-depth market research prior to developing your app. This includes looking at influential blogs, online forums, websites, and social media to understand who your customers are and what their pain points look like.

3. Build an accurate user persona that helps you understand your ideal target audience, what do they think about your app, and what their user journey with your app will look like. Make sure to include factors such as demographics, mobile preferences, interests, mobile operating system preferences, and challenges that shape up your target audience. Here’s an example of a mobile app persona that aims at selling a ‘social tool’ to a buyer who wants a modern app that can assist him in this mission for change:

4. Engage in in-depth competitor analysis that includes comparing your top-5 competitors. You could look at their current pricing model, app store ranking, user experience (UX), app reviews, etc., to understand how your app compares.

5. Prior to launch, make sure that your website, a video promo with the app’s key features, and a useful press release or blog post are ready. 

6. Build a clean, attractive, and user-friendly pre-launch mobile website or a landing page and include teaser video/app screenshots that can be used across app stores, social platforms, and paid ads. Also, focus on building an email list of your users so that you can keep them updated on new updates, features, and positive reviews to drive engagement. Here’s an example of an app landing page by Soundcloud, which ingeniously uses animated GIFs, short and crisp text, and a clear call-to-action to engage the reader.

soundcloud-animated-mobile-app-landing-page

7. Laser-focus on collaborating with authentic influencers, credible publications, and established bloggers to secure backlinks and dole out honest reviews. The better your reviews, the more people will be encouraged to hit the download button. An excellent example of this would be BuzzStream which partners with influencers to get feedback on features and include them in the launch. You can ask them to include a link to your landing page/press kit.

(Image Source – mention.com)

8. Go all out with promoting your app on social media platforms that are relevant to your target audience. You can create a specific hashtag and create social media posts to drive excitement about your app.

9. Brainstorm what your content marketing strategy will look like. You can write blogs on what your app development experience has been like. Make sure to promote your blog content through personalized email marketing and focus on building trust with users through honest and valuable content.

10. Focus on building a stellar presence on diversified platforms such as YouTube by demonstrating how users can use your app. You can also create online tutorials as well as blogs to keep the momentum going and address user queries proactively.

Pro Tip: Go for a burst campaign. In other words, aggressively market your app launch through paid media for 24-72 hours.

All these efforts will collectively help you customize your app, its branding, in-app content, features, etc., to your user’s needs and wants, making it an instant hit. Additionally, it allows you to:

  • Present your product in a logical step-by-step sequence
  • Monitor your app’s optimization in the app store
  • Segment your users 

Stage 2: Conversion/Acquisition

 In this stage, your goal is to encourage the user to take the necessary action that contributes monetarily to your business. The various ‘actions’ that your user can take include:

  • Downloading your app
  • Setting up an account
  • Making an in-app purchase
  • Using app constantly

Bonus Material: If you wish to boost your app monetization and engagement, read the guide.

Top Strategies To Ace The “Conversion/Acquisition” Stage 

1. Focus on enhancing your onboarding experience by creating step-by-step, instruction-led content. You can also include free demos to help users get familiar with the app instantly and effectively. Here’s an excellent onboarding example by Strava that boasts of a simple UI and presents users with relevant tasks:

2. Understand where downloads are originating from. In other words, get to know the ‘source’ of your downloads.

3. Create a seamless and effortless user experience.

4. Boost user engagement through mobile push notifications. Here’s an example of location-based push advertising:

Starbucks-push notification

 

Bonus Material: If you wish to understand how push notifications can boost engagement and subscription levels, check out this case study of the music app, Gaana.

5. Post the app launch, engage in paid advertising on social media platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, etc. You can also go for Google Search ads.  

6. Engage in app store optimization by focusing on the title of your app and by using structured and well-researched keywords. Also, include a brief description of the features and benefits users stand to gain from using the app in addition to using screenshots and videos. Here’s an example of Starbucks’ mobile app store listing:

7. Create a convincing pitch for Apple’s editorial team so that your app can get featured in the app store.

Pro Tip: Remember that the more your app gets downloads, the greater the chances of it ranking higher in the App Store search results.

Stage 3: Retention

In this stage, you will want to keep your customer base happy, engaged, and loyal. Granted that downloads peak after the first few weeks of the launch, the trick lies in keeping users engaged once the excitement dies down.

To improve mobile app engagement and customer retention, focus on the following elements of your mobile app marketing:

Top Strategies for Retention Stage

1. Segment your target audience and then roll out relevant in-app messaging about upcoming offers, new launches, warnings about app issues, payment failures, version upgrades, etc. Here’s an example of in-app messaging that encourages to sign up to the VIP program:

2. Roll out customer surveys and reward users for participating in the survey.

3. Drive push notifications to encourage engagement. You can send specialized content, coupons, special promotions, etc., to reel your users in.

4. Offers users a reward/bonus/benefit in exchange for them promoting your app online as Robinhood does:

5. Ask for user feedback by placing pop-ups strategically. Make sure to include your contact information wherever possible so that users can easily reach out to you. You can also ask your users to give their unfiltered opinion via forums on relevant sites and social media. 

6. Work on the negative reviews and focus on continuously improving your app:

At the end of the day, you want to drive as many organic app installs as possible. This is why creating a strategic and in-depth mobile app marketing plan should take center stage. Here’s a detailed framework for driving app adoption and growth:

 

Bonus Material: To understand whether you have a handle on measuring retention or not, take this interactive quiz.

Top 3 Mobile App Marketing Metrics To Keep An Eye Out For

The importance of setting goals and tracking the quality of your app store ratings over a period of time cannot be stated enough. Most marketers gauge the success (or failure) of their app by looking at the ‘monthly downloads’ number–a big mistake. The true measure of your app’s success lies in measuring the following three metrics:

1. Average Number of ‘Active’ Daily and Monthly Users: Instead of simply monitoring the daily/monthly users, you need to focus on the number of ‘active’ users that actually add true value to your business. 

2. App Session Length: This refers to the average time (in seconds) spent by your customer in using your app, from login to session close.

3. Acquisitions Segmented by Referral Source: It signifies the ‘sources’ of your conversions so that you can understand–and justify–your marketing spend.

Wrapping Up

“Around 68% of mobile app companies have a long-term, fully documented app marketing strategy.”

App marketing can strengthen your brand’s competitive advantage, especially in today’s digital age where everything is online or going remote. Digital marketing touchpoints such as apps can bolster customer engagement and meet your customer’s increasing need for convenience, safety, and familiarity–advantages that characterize every app’s positioning.  

There are over 2.87 million apps available for download on the Google Play Store and 1.96 million apps in the Apple app store. Clearly, your mobile app marketing plan is your best chance to stand out in a sea of sameness.

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