Brands are going to confront a huge challenge as their consumers become more and more mobile.
In the past, I have written about the massive chasm that is developing between consumers and brands, as our consumers become more mobile and smartphone enabled. Please read: Mobile Breaks Search… And Your Brand (from March 2016). Yes, brands will continue to struggle with a mobile web experience vs./plus a native mobile application for iOS and Android. Which is the better venture (or both) are tough, expensive and timely decisions that should have been made a few years back, but are being battled over in the boardrooms and budgets today. There is no choice, but to move forward as mobile has evolved from another channel to the primary way that consumers interact with information, one another and, of course, your brand. Search is a problem because discoverability of these mobile applications is a real chore for brands. The user experience is not like the desktop web experience of search and click. Consumers now have to go to the app store, and look for your brand. In short, discoverability, serendipity and more is all but lost for most brands today.
Let’s say a consumer did find your app… are they sticking with you?
It turns out that discoverability, getting a consumer to download your app and use it isn’t even half of the challenge. Churn is going to be the bane of a brand’s existence for the next long while. In fact, the assumption would be, that as consumers get more adept at mobile, the easier this hill would be to climb. That would be wrong. When it comes to apps, the data is frightening. Back in September 2015, MarketingCharts reported on something many of us marketing professionals knew: smartphone users spend the bulk of their time with a few of their favourite apps (Smartphone App Users Spend Half of Their Total App Time With Their Favorite One). From the article…
“Exactly half of all time spent on smartphone applications occurs on an adult’s single most-used app, says comScore in a new report that contains a host of intriguing data points about mobile app reach and engagement. The study shows that app time is even more concentrated on tablets: fully 87% of tablet app time is spent with users’ top 3 apps. This demonstrates that app discovery isn’t the only challenge faced by marketers… As is well known by now, time spent with mobile apps is growing quickly, up 90% between June 2013 and June 2015. As previously noted, this growth isn’t coming at the expense of web access, as mobile browser use is up 53% over the same timeframe, and desktop use is up 16%. Still, smartphone (65%) and tablet (12%) apps have combined to contribute almost 80% of the growth in total digital time spent over that 2-year period.”
Guess which apps?
By pure data, we know that it is probably mostly happening on Facebook/a Facebook owned app as well. This should be sobering to brands today. Now, let’s assume that you were so good as to overcome all of this. You got them. You got the consumer to find you, download your app and engage. Have you kept them? Back to the churn problem. Two days ago, MarketingCharts published another important article titled, Uh Oh. Mobile App User Retention Rates May Be Worsening. From the article…
“…preventing churn is a whole new ball game. And it’s not getting easier… In fact, fully 63% of app users will become inactive within 30 days after downloading an app… That churn rate is up from 58% in last year’s analysis… the figures are also slightly down from Q4 2015 rates, so it may well be that retention is indeed becoming more difficult to achieve. Perhaps these high churn rates are to be expected, given comScore research showing that half of smartphone users’ app time is spent with their single favorite app. (Which could well be a Facebook property.) Nevertheless, what Localytics has called a ‘Mobile Engagement Crisis’ seems to be getting worse, rather than better, over time. By the third month post-download, 80% of users have abandoned an app, per this latest research, up from 75% in the earlier analysis.”
The solutions may be more challenging than the problem.
How does a brand overcome this discoverability and churn problem? A simple platitude like, “be awesome” or “provide utility” may not be enough. The MarketingCharts article suggests in-app messaging, creating more things that hook users in earlier in the process, and great deals as possible solutions. Candidly, this may not be enough. What we do know is this: mobile, apps and this space were not created as a media platform for a brand play. This is not like television that was created with advertising in mind. In fact, looking at mobile experiences and usage, it would be fair to say that we have never seen a media platform so anti-brand and advertising before. Finding the solution in an article like this would be amazing. Realistically, brands need to think about their mobile planning now in two (very large) perspectives:
- What are we doing to get consumers? What is the app/mobile experience really going to bring to them in terms of value, utility, information, entertainment, etc… that will help them embrace it?
- What are we going to do to keep them? What will the app/mobile experience have that will always make it relevant/important for them to have over a lifecycle?
No solution. Just two very tough questions that all brands should be working on.