With consumers spending over 85% of their time on their smartphones using apps, it is no secret mobile devices are stealing the majority of consumers’ attention spans. Yet the majority of their time is being spent in just five apps and 23% of all apps downloaded are opened just once.

The mobile app opportunity is significant; however, many companies fail to build engaged audiences because of an over-supply of app inventory. Marketers need to seize consumer attention by providing a personalised, relatable experience that continually draws their customers back to the in-app experience.

For many marketers the answer to developing a large-scale, engaged audience is adding more content; however, it is essential to avoid simply recreating your desktop browsing experience, throwing every product, article or offering into your app.

It’s imperative for brands to leverage existing data and to understand how to influence consumer behaviour at key touch points, without overloading the app and overwhelming the customer. By combining best practices and personalised content, mobile marketers can create a compelling experience for customers which will keep them engaged and increase their likelihood of repeat spending.

The core loop

If you have a challenge with large volumes of in-app inventory, you most likely have a challenge with your mobile app strategy. Apps are about experience and efficiency. There’s a methodology used by the most successful apps that every mobile marketer needs to adopt as their mantra: the core loop.

This proven methodology for creating a compelling, engaging app is used widely within the gaming community and now for retail loyalty programmes. It’s all about creating a simple, but engaging app experience that provides reasons for customers to keep coming back.

The objective is to instil the target audience with a sense of urgency and keep them engaged by delivering personalised content – from rewards to incentives. For retailers, a core loop approach could include refreshing app content at a set time, with daily, limited availability offers that entice customers back onto the app every day or by announcing exclusive offers only through the loyalty-based app.

For example, Sephora provides its most loyal customers (Beauty Insiders) with exclusive in-app purchase opportunities, such as pre-sales for new makeup collections and special discounts throughout the year, and the more a customer spends, the better their deals become. Buyers continuously return to the app to track purchases, points and take advantage of new offers.

Experience challenge

If your app is designed to enable browsing and shopping just as a consumer might on your website, there’s no repeatable value being delivered. Brands suffering from this challenge are known for adding more and more inventory in the hopes that something will stick, but it’s not a content challenge, it’s an experience challenge that must be addressed.

Use the “crushing it” litmus test when evaluating your app. Candy Crush is one of the most successful mobile games in recent history. While lately eclipsed by Pokemon Go, the makers of Candy Crush have produced multiple, multi-million dollar games.

To apply the “crushing it” litmus test, evaluate your app based on its ability to drive urgency – is there a reason to come back every day? Are there benefits that are time bound? Are there benefits to advancing, or spending more time engaging? If you’re not “crushing it,” you need to find ways to incorporate these simple strategies into your app experience.

Effective personalisation

Retail marketers know the value of personalising content within email – from simple tactics such as using the customer’s name to more advanced ones, such as dynamic content recommendations based on behaviour across multiple channels, and even choosing the send time of the email based upon previous email open times.

Open rates, click through rates, purchase conversion and total revenue all increase when content is effectively personalised. The value of personalisation is also clear on a website, increasing all the short-term critical metrics from clicks to conversions, page views to revenue, as well as achieving a long term impact on customer lifetime value. Those marketers that link email and web to create a consistent, personalised customer experience based on individual customer behaviours gain significant increases on lift seen through single-channel personalisation.  

With total app revenues projected to grow from $45.37B in 2015 to $76.52B in 2017, the same methodologies need to be applied to mobile. Efficiency is critical to repeat app usage and personalisation is the means to that end. From the moment a customer downloads the app, brands must leverage data from email, web, mobile, social and offline channels to automate personalised product recommendations, develop predictions on a daily basis and to deliver contextual experiences at an individual, 1:1 level.

Connecting data

Product recommendations based on previous behaviour can be personalised on the home screen, product-level screens and add-to-basket interfaces, while in-app messaging, push notifications, banners and other forms of rich messaging can be used to ensure the app is continuously framed with relevant content, focusing on how the approach actually circumvents the challenge of too much in-app inventory.

Predictive analytics can be used to determine an individual’s likelihood to respond to a message type, the most efficacious frequency, and consumer’s risk of deleting. This is key given the ease with which customers can opt out of push notifications or delete an app. Retailers need to be incredibly careful to protect the quality of the relationship. From message frequency to timing, it’s important to test response at both the segment and individual level in order to continually refine the model and create the perfect in-app inventory balance.

Personalisation in mobile is not a nice to have. It’s a need to have. The brands that are not connecting their data sets from multiple channels to power mobile communications run the risk of the customer disengaging as consumers use mobile less as a channel and more so as connective tissue between multiple channels. For brands lacking the technology to bridge the mobile experience to other channels, take an approach similar to Under Armour, which uses a preference centre that launches on the first engagement with the app. This allows consumers to identify preferences for specific activities, personas and other details, which then results in a personalised experience when other data is not yet available.

Less is more

The key to designing a successful in-app experience is not simply to load the app with inventory, but rather to focus upon creating a personalised experience using content which drives the core loop methodology. This can be achieved by linking consumer behaviour across multiple touchpoints and feeding that into the in-app experience.

This customer insight can empower retailers to carefully manage and personalise the in-app inventory, providing customers with the information that is only relevant to them. In turn, this not only minimises in-app inventory and keeps the engagement focused on the individual, but also increases conversion and delivers long term gain to the business.