A recent Mobile Audience Insights Report showed that at the end of 2015, more than 65 percent of American adults owned a smartphone. In fact, the use of mobile devices has already surpassed that of desktops. This means that any business can collect a lot of revenue if they can successfully inspire, engage, and convert mobile audiences.
But mobile users are different. These savvy consumers demand experiences that are more engaging than those offered to PC consumers because they have limited time, screen size, and capabilities. To successfully reach mobile users, businesses must take these limitations into account and compensate for them with functionality that offers a compelling mobile environment that will engage users, convert them, and keep them coming back.
In other words, online marketing strategies must be specifically tailored for mobile customers with a focus on seamless experiences, speed, and the removal of obstacles that may cause frustration and abandonment.
You need to:
Help mobile users find what they are looking for in the fastest and easiest way possible
- Provide an experience that is compelling enough to make them come back
You should think of mobile users as your typical customer but with less time and patience. The combination of limited screen real estate and expectation of instant access to information means that mobile marketers must create features that streamline the user experience to not only capture their attention but also keep them engaged.
— FreeRange (@FreeRangeHQ) September 16, 2016
Generally, users turn to their mobile devices to fulfill needs that are different from those of using a website. Usually, a mobile user accesses the internet when walking down the street, queuing, buying, or when doing some other task and cannot access a computer. Whatever the case, these users don’t have much time to dedicated to the search, plus they can be easily distracted. So, things like slow performance, awkward keyboards, or other interruptions can frustrate them.
In order to keep mobile users engaged, there are numerous hurdles that you must overcome. You must invest in optimizing the experience for your users. So, is a responsive website or mobile app enough to engage mobile users?
Mobile Web versus Mobile App
Consumers use the web and apps for different purposes. They can use the mobile web to read an article on a news site, check soccer scores, find a recipe, or perform a Wikipedia search; and the app to chat/post/browse social media, stream music, navigate with maps, etc.
Typically, they rely on the web to perform quick, assorted tasks on a range of websites, but spend most of their time on specific apps. In fact, reports suggest that the vast majority of app usage comprises a small number of the most popular apps, including social media apps. Mobile sites, on the other hand, get higher distinct traffic. So, if the average smartphone owner uses 25 apps in one month, the same user visits 250 – 700 websites the same month.
When it comes to engaging mobile users, should you rather use a responsive web platform or a mobile app? Many marketers struggle to determine where to invest more of their time and money, but it would be a mistake to simply focus on one and neglect the other.
Engaging users with a mobile app
The essence of an app is to provide features that would otherwise be unavailable on the mobile site. With the increasing growth of mobile web technology, it is easy to assume that mobile apps are becoming irrelevant, but there is still a lot of value offered by apps (and not mobile web).
The popular apps easily integrate with, and access, vital aspects of your mobile device including notifications, contacts, speaker, the microphone, and other apps. Apps also continue to provide value and content even when you have no internet access. For instance, you can listen to music, read an ebook, or play games at 35,000 feet.
The most popular apps get the added advantage of superior visibility since they are usually on the home screen of the phone, which eliminates the hassle of accessing a competitor’s service via a browser. For instance, if you were searching for movies that featured your favorite actor, it would be easier to use an IMDb app that is already installed rather than conduct a search that will yield lots of results that you need to sift through. The alternative would take up more of your time, and possibly end up getting the information from a competitor website.
Apps allow business to deliver their brand’s content the way it is designed to. A good app should be optimized for the user’s device size and specs. Apps are generally made to rigorous standards, and must be approved by Google Play, iTunes, and other stores. This translates to a considerable investment of time and money, since the UX must be designed with consideration of the capabilities of each model/version of the device the app is availed to.
How to engage users with an app
Many studies and reports, including one issued by Moz, argue that the top 25 to 50 apps account for about 85 – 90 percent of user-time spent on apps. Furthermore, apps stores impose thorough submission and approval processes. So, not all businesses are well suited to the time and cost required for publishing an app.
That said, apps remain the most attractive and seamless way for businesses to engage with customers, if:
- You have one of the top apps in your industry – consider Weather Channel, IMDb, Google Maps
- You are targeting a dedicated group to download and install the app – when you have a specific goal that cannot be addressed via a website, like with Ikea Catalogue or Bandcamp
With apps, retention is usually the biggest challenge with most of them becoming redundant in less than 100 days. Consider this: when you first hear about a nice app, you download it immediately and start tinkering with it. But after some time, you forget to ever use and even consider deleting it to create more room on your home screen.
Here are some tips to help engage and retain mobile app users:
1 Ensure great performance
The performance of your app is a critical factor when it comes to establishing a relationship with your app users. Reports indicate that first-time app users who face issues never return. You should ensure that your app loads in less than 2 seconds, and that the experience is free of any errors or exceptions.
2 Create an easy onboarding process for first-time users
A considerable number of apps are usually used once, which is why it is critical that the first experience be worthwhile. For apps that require the user to create a login before they can use it, you should optimize the process of login and account creation to avoid losing new users. Many app developers integrate logins with email and different social media platforms to make account creation fast and seamless.
3 Put the user in control of notifications
The fact that apps deliver your message directly to your audience in a compelling and targeted way is great for marketers. In fact, reports indicate that about 68 percent of app users have no problem subscribing for app messages, while 70 percent of those find the messages worthwhile. While push messages are great, it is important to give users the flexibility to opt-in and out to avoid frustrating and disengaging them.
4 Customize segments when pushing content
No user likes to receive irrelevant information about something they are not interested in as it wastes their time. With mobile app audience segmentation, you can deliver targeted, personalized, rich content to app users depending on their in-app behaviors, preferences, demographics, context, or time. This will not only boost user engagement, but also the mobile user experience.
5 Offer rewards
Reports suggest that about 50 percent of users download apps just to access offers and special discounts. App rewards are enticing to first-time users. They help to increase downloads, brand loyalty, and user retention.
6 Integrate community to make sharing easy
It is critical that your app be “share friendly” to boost engagement. But even more important is that the app itself be social, such that it promotes itself when talked about and shared. All the content in the app should also be enabled for social sharing on platforms like Twitter, Facebook, etc. You can gain a lot of traction by simply allowing users to share in-app activities on social media.
Engaging users with a Mobile Website
Most businesses have a website, so they only need to ensure that it works well on mobile or design an optimized version. Since your content is already online, it is much easier to create a pleasant mobile web experience than it is to develop a good app.
Although mobile sites don’t offer notifications or offline access, marketers can still combine great UX and SEO with meaningful and valuable content to create a worthwhile mobile web experience. Reports suggest that small business sites receive about 20 percent of their traffic from mobile devices, but this number is likely to keep growing especially for local searches.
It is important to engage mobile web users because:
- Engagement promotes media contributions from users, since mobile web visitors have easy access to tools like cameras and galleries that make sharing media much easier.
- Adding to valuable content entices mobile readers to comment and share, which is easier with mobile phones since many blogs integrate multiple social media logins
- Promoting likes and social shares for truly interesting and engaging content, like when users link to the content in their status updates
Indeed, increasing engagement for mobile users can have a huge impact on your promotional efforts. Here are a few ideas to make your website mobile friendly and increase engagement!
1 Make the comments section accessible
When the comment section is placed far below the fold, it discourages users from scrolling all the way down just to leave a comment. To boost engagement, consider placing the comments section directly below the content, and then the ads and links to other webpages can follow.
2 Maximize on higher email open rates on mobile
Reports indicate that people are more likely to view their emails on mobile devices than on desktops, largely because incoming emails show up as notifications the instant they come in. Consider using opt-in forms and popup windows to entice visitors to offer their email address to receive valuable content such as offers, discounts, an ebook, etc.
3 Stay active on popular social media
Integrate your webpages with all the popular social networks and bookmarking websites, and keep your social media profiles active with timely updates, posts of shareworthy content, and consistent focus on growing your friends and followers list. You can consider holding promotions, raffles, giveaways, and sweepstakes on social networks to attract mobile engagement.
4 Design for different devices and environments
The devices that you choose to support will determine the elements of your mobile website design. Users can access your site from a range of platforms, so consider getting a responsive design that automatically detects the size of the display and adjusts the content appropriately.
5 Mirror your online storefront
Although the mobile website should be optimized for mobile devices, this does not mean that it should be different from your website’s general structure as this may interfere with cross-channel activity. If you make the mobile environment familiar to customers and implement a simple buying process, engagement will be higher.
When sharing the core structure of your site, use your analytics data to determine and include only the most popular categories or menu items to display on the home page, and make everything else searchable, to avoid overwhelming users with excess content.
When creating content for mobile users, whether in an app or mobile web, it is important to keep in mind that users are looking for speed and convenience. Help your visitors achieve their goals in as few steps as possible to increase their chances of conversion and coming back again. Where possible, include enhanced features such as automatic spelling correction, faceted navigation, search type-ahead, and “did you mean” prompts to reduce frustration as visitors deal with small screens and infamously awkward mobile keyboards.