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Why people aren't downloading your app

02 Jul 2014

This post is adapted from an email response to one of our sales partners who had sent us a link to a book on "gamification," the idea that people get more engaged if they receive some reward in exchange for overcoming some challenge, much the way video games capture our attention.

While we don't necessarily need to embrace gamification in its entirety, the idea behind it and the way it works get at the heart of how we as digital marketers and creatives need to think about the services we provide to our clients. Obviously our clients need to see value in what we're providing in order for them to drop the appropriate amount of money on the right solutions, but sometimes the way in which that value is realized is non-obvious. By that I mean that the value isn't delivered in something that is directly valuable to our client, but in value delivered to their customers, followers, etc. that builds a 'tribe' (Seth Godin's book Tribes is a great reference on the subject) and subsequently provides a wealth of followers who have given our client their permission to be communicated to.

To tie this in with the app space, I ask myself a few questions (based on information provided by or requested from the client) in the planning and proposal stages of the app process. Assuming we've already answered the three questions to ask before you get a mobile app, there are two questions (for now) that I think are critical:

  1. Why are people going to download the app in the first place? What value does it provide them? Does it allow them to do something they couldn't do somewhere else? This includes things like accessing location-based features, integrating with other apps (social networks, calendars, and reminders, for instance) on a user's phone, high-performance visualizations (videos, 3D models, games), getting free stuff (this one is always a winner).
  2. Why will people keep the app on their phone? How will the app continue to deliver value even after the initial interaction? Ultimately, this falls into the permission marketing category: the user is giving our client permission to be on their phone, get some limited amount of information about them (location's a big one), and send communication to them when it makes sense. For marketing, this is (in my opinion) the more important of the two questions, because this is the biggest differentiator between mobile apps and web sites.
    I would venture that the average app is 'closed' or 'in the background' very close to 99% of the time. If it were a web site, that 99% of the time would be totally unavailable to us. We can't do anything to get a user back to the web site, short of sending SMS, email, etc., all of which require that the user give us some contact information (in addition to permission). With an app, that 99% is available for us to send push notifications, set local notifications, reminders, and location-based alerts and increase retention and re-engagement -- as long as it delivers value to the user -- and all it requires is permission.

These questions aren't necessarily unique to mobile apps, either. Anything that has a subscription model -- SMS marketing campaigns, email newsletters, magazines, newspapers -- faces the same challenge. It's not enough to simply deliver value once. The hardest part of designing an ongoing offering is determining how to continually deliver value, renewing the challenge and refreshing the reward. You can see some of the ways we've done this with our clients on our portfolio page, but we're also interested to see your thoughts on the subject. Please share in the comments.