It’s hard to resist the allure of the mobile shopping app. Once downloaded, an app provides an instant connection to your brand via a device that’s always within reach of your customer. Brands that take the time to develop an app can reap rich rewards for their efforts: According to a Forrester Research report, “The State of Mobile Apps for Retailers,” consumers who install a retailer’s app will use it to perform a wide range of tasks, including locating a store, storing credit card information for easy payment, adding a loyalty card to their mobile wallets, and even sharing or linking their personal information such as their email addresses to the app.

More to the point, consumers are beginning to rely on those apps to do a lot of online shopping. A March 2015 poll by Pixley found that half of respondents aged 18 to 24 (49%) and 25 to 34 (50%) report using a lot of apps when shopping.

Given this access, it’s no surprise that brands are developing mobile apps fast and furiously. And the amount they’re spending to reach consumers via mobile apps is skyrocketing. eMarketer reports that advertisers will spend some $20.79 billion to reach consumers via mobile apps in 2015, that’s over 2.5x more than they’ll spend on mobile browsers.

But make no mistake, it’s expensive to develop a mobile app and execute campaigns to gain app installs. And as numerous brands are learning, once installed, there’s no guarantee that consumers will actually use your app. Per Nielsen, smartphone users have downloaded an average of 41 apps – that’s a lot of competition for attention on the mobile device screen.

Customer loyalty

And this, in turn, begs a critical question: How do brands protect your investments (and build their businesses) by getting consumers to actually use your app on a regular basis? Or put another way, how do you translate an app install into customer loyalty?

Here’s some good news: mobile DSPs can actually help brands track and measure how consumers use their mobile apps, and provide insight for developing strategies to re-engage consumers who’ve installed their apps, but fail to use them. There are a few trends that make this possible.

First, mobile traffic continues to grow as devices get more convenient to use, and that means marketers have access to exponentially larger pools of in-app mobile inventory to target consumers. Second, new mobile formats, such as video and native, have proven track records in prompting user engagement.

How do marketers use these trends to their advantage? First, you can use DSP to track whenever a consumer downloads your app. Once it’s downloaded, you essentially have a 48-hour window to encourage a consumer to use it before they forget about it. This is a critical point. It’s very easy for consumers to download apps, and they do so freely and frequently. But you need them to use it immediately and see its value; otherwise, they won’t remember that it is on their mobile device. They may even download a similar app! In such cases you are facing tough challenges for mindshare.

DSPs also allow brands to reach current consumers with mobile strategies that encourage them to use their apps – mobile ads that users will see when they interact with a completely different app. Let’s say a consumer is using the Facebook app, and you want to remind them about your car service app he or she has installed the previously evening. Or, if shoppers have uninstalled an app, or haven’t used it in a long time, you can launch a brand campaign reminding of them of its convenience, or even offer an incentive to encourage re-engagement.

Using an SDK, which serves as a mobile tracker, brands can identify consumers who’ve installed their apps (e.g. Sally has downloaded my brand’s car service app) and target them on other mobile apps (e.g. when Sally posts a photo via Facebook mobile app). In this case, you can present Sally with a reminder of your car service with an ad that appears in her newsfeed. If she’s out and about, the ad serves as a timely reminder that she can get a ride home by simply clicking on your app.

There are numerous mobile trackers that allow marketers to track consumers as they go from mobile app to mobile app, including AppsFlyer, Mobile App Tracking and AD-x, Kochava, etc. And with the growing pool of in-app inventory, brands have a much greater chance of finding those consumers who’ve previously installed their apps, but haven’t used them yet.

Remember, getting consumers to install your app is only half the battle. You still need to encourage them to use it if you want to be one of their priority brands. Mobile apps don’t change the basic marketing fact that customer loyalty is an ongoing effort all brands must earn.