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10 WAYS TO BETTER
ENGAGE APP USERS
IN 10 SECONDS
Create An Easy Way To
Register An Account
Create & Market To
Make Sharing Easier
Use Deep Linking With
Push & In-App Messages
Launch A Mini-Orientation
For New Users
Allow Users To Opt-In For
(Or Out Of) Notifications
Garner User Feedback
Imagine a world in which going to the DMV meant instant service.
You walk up to the counter and are greeted by a friendly face
ready and willing to help - all in under ten seconds. Your trip is a
quick, but productive one, and you leave feeling accomplished,
with a strong positive sentiment… toward the DMV.
This guide won’t change your DMV experience.
This guide will tell you how to create that ideal experience for your
Your app represents the fastest, easiest, and most accessible way
for your brand followers to interact with you and, most importantly,
complete a task or engage with a service. Users are looking for an
app that meets their expectations, and today, those expectations
center on a streamlined and efficient experience.
Ten seconds is an eternity to an app user. It can mean the differ-
ence between a one-time user and a loyal customer. Today, there’s
a 60% chance that users who don’t return after seven days never
will, and 20% of users only open an app once. The window for en-
gagement is short.
So what can be done within a 10-second timespan to engage us-
ers? The great answer is, there’s a lot! Here, we cover ten tactics
and marketing techniques you can use to improve your app’s stick-
iness, delight users and turn discovery downloads into retainable
You’ve spent time, money and resources to develop the perfect
app. But if the first thing a user sees upon app open is an error,
all of your dedicated work can go unnoticed. Similarly, if your app
takes too long to load, your user could abandon it before even
viewing the home screen. If within the first ten seconds of their ex-
perience your user cannot interact with the app because of a time-
out or an issue, you’ve lost their trust.
That’s why bugs, outages and network latency issues are more
than just a nuisance -- they can cause permanent brand damage,
and lose you money. A new (or even returning) user who encoun-
ters a bottleneck might never return, so ensuring that your initial
app experience is error-free is critical.
Monitoring app performance allows you to immediately address,
prioritize and troubleshoot prominent app issues, ensuring that
those crucial first few seconds upon app open go smoothly. You
can use a tool like Crittercism to maintain 100% uptime, pinpoint
errors and continue perfect performance. It also allows you to track
app crashes, request volume, and network latency, covering all
aspects of potential performance bottlenecks. The best part? You
can catch issues before your users do, addressing the problems
proactively instead of retroactively.
Ensure Great Performance
When someone downloads a new or updated app, identifying the
key features and how to best use it can be confusing. A warm wel-
come can make the entire experience more enjoyable and less
frustrating for the user.
In many cases, the app features you think are most valuable go
undiscovered because new users spend little time initially explor-
ing your app - if it’s not apparent up front, why go searching for it?
While your app may be easy to navigate and self-explanatory to
you, not all users will give it the time necessary to figure it out on
It can be incredibly irritating when users can’t find essential com-
ponents and screens. So providing simple explanations about
these key features and how they work can keep your app from
being uninstalled, and engage your users for longer.
Take this example from the Yahoo! app: they created a short, three-
screen orientation for new users that highlights the whats, whens
and whys of the app. Not only does this act as an explanatory intro
for new users, it also highlights the value of the app, and why they
should use it. Plus, for those do-it-yourself users uninterested in a
walk-through, the first screen offers a “skip” option. A simple, mini-
mal-screen approach to new user orientation can go a long way in
Launch A Mini-Orientation
For New Users
ensuring key features are discovered, and shows that your priority
streamlining and simplifying the user’s experience.
What is it? The best pieces of news combined into a story
Where is it from? Around the web
When does it happen? Twice a day (8am and 6pm)
Why does it matter? It’s the most important, need-to-know news
Create An Easy Way To
Register An Account
While each app is different, many of the most successful ones are
service or profile-based, allowing users to save information, prefer-
ences and interests, and personalize their experience. Often, users
who do download your app have already interacted with you on
another channel and set up their profile elsewhere.
But what about new app users who haven’t created an account?
Or if you’re a mobile-first startup that has an app but no web pres-
ence? Many times, people on-the-go download the apps of brands
that they find interesting to do a “test drive.” In these situations,
you want to make it exceedingly simple for new users to register
for an account and experience the best of what your app has to
offer (plus, it allows you to save their data for additional insights
down the road).
When new users open your app, ask them whether they are an
existing customer or a casual explorer. Then, guide the casual
explorer through the cool features of your subscription and show-
case how your app can make their life easier. You want to provide
a tempting sneak peak and turn one-shot users into members of
your club. You get new subscribers and your mobile app serves
the dual function of helping current members while also marketing
your business to prospects.
Zipcar, for example, does this exceedingly well. Their app is de-
pendent on registration with the service. They proved a path for
non-users that provides a list of reasons to become a “Zipster,”
and also a step-by-step guide to what sign-up and car reserva-
tions look like. Additionally, Zipcar built an app-specific feature for
non-users, so there is at least something they can do upon open-
ing an app.
The flip side of this is to make sure that the sign-up process is
clear but not intrusive. If there are aspects of your app that can
be utilized without creating an account, it’s important not to block
those with repeat prompts to register. The key is to make registra-
tion a breeze, and to highlight the benefits, not to push every user
to create an account repeatedly.
Allow Users To Opt-In For
(Or Out of) Notifications
App messaging has become an increasingly important tactic in en-
gaging app users, to the point where 68% of people have enabled
push notifications and 70% of consumers find all types of push
notifications valuable. But while app users are ready and willing to
engage with push messages, they want to do it on their terms.
Presenting your users with the option to opt-in to receiving notifi-
cations right away, and making it simple to change that within their
settings over time, establishes an immediate sense of trust and
verifies your app’s credibility in under ten seconds. When your us-
ers know that their personal preferences take higher priority than
your marketing capabilities, they are more willing to fully interact
with your app.
Beyond that, it ensures that your users are receiving the messages
that they want to receive. Your app users are not a giant homoge-
nous group of people, and so not all push messages will be rele-
vant to everybody. Allowing for opt-ins ensures that your pro-push
audience is more likely to engage with the messaging and convert.
The Pact app uses personalized push messaging as a crucial part
of their app offering. Pact app users agree to this set up: they will
be charged money if they don’t complete a set amount of work-
outs per week. Pact will send users reminders throughout the
Starting off with a
friendly tone makes
the app experience
Using data specific to
the user, such as time
left for their goal,
week to stay on track with their goals, and notifications of when
they are about to be charged. Because these notifications are spe-
cific to the end user and integral to their individual app experience,
they are more likely to opt-in for notifications, and see the value.
Create & Market To
We like to say that user segments are the glue that tie your app
analytics and marketing together -- and it’s true! Segments are a
group of users who have completed at least one event (action)
in your app within a specific time period, but can include multi-
ple events and even events not completed by users. You can use
segments within your analytics in reference to ad acquisition cam-
paigns, marketing funnels (such as which segments of users com-
plete more in-app purchases), and gain a slew of other insights.
Not only do segments enhance your analytics and help you bet-
ter understand your app users, they are also the foundation for
running great app marketing, particularly through push and in-app
messaging. You can (and should) target your marketing campaigns
to specific user segments, using offers customized to that segment
to boost a particular event or conversion.
How does this further engage users in under ten seconds? Be-
cause when you know which users you’re targeting for messaging
campaigns, and choose your content accordingly, the chances
that they will immediately engage with those campaigns is higher.
When an offer or message is relevant to them, they will want to act
on it sooner, rather than later.
Say your user segment is “Second Screeners.” These are people
who are engaging with an app for a TV show or broadcast network
while the actual show is going on. They’re watching their favorite
show and they have their tablet or phone in front of them, discuss-
ing the show, or voting on who to kick out, or maybe just looking
up trivia about the show or actors.
You can determine this group by the time that they’re interacting
with the app or, in the case of network apps, the time that they’re
interacting with a particular piece of content. Once you’ve deter-
mined these users, you can send them push notifications to let
them know their favorite show is starting, or use in-app messages
to invite them to watch the next show based on their entertainment
Mcommerce apps often use segments in their marketing cam-
paigns to promote discounts or special offers and boost app rev-
enue. Flash sale site Rue La La, for example, segments users who
have store credit, and targets them with a reminder in-app mes-
sage (scheduled during the holiday shopping season) to encour-
age credit use and in-app purchases. This kind of highly-targeted
offer to the right audience segment immediately grabs the users’
attention and means higher initial engagement.
Combines the user
segment with the
for an even more
sent to a segment of
users that fall under
Offer Mobile-Specific Rewards
Fifty percent of people say the #1 reason they download apps are
to receive discounts and special offers. If you have a segment of
users who don’t use the app regularly, it could be a sign that they
aren’t engaging because they’re missing the mobile-only exclu-
sivity. Re-engaging them quickly can be as simple as creating a
rewards-based program, or even implementing a one-time, mo-
Here’s where app marketing again comes into play. You can use a
push messaging campaign to bring lost users back into your app
with specific discounts or membership perks. Or, the next time a
fairly inactive user opens your app, re-engage them immediately
with an offer just for mobile users. You can also create a purchas-
ing program or points system that users can engage with regularly
to receive great offers.
The important element here is to recognize unengaged users and
provide these offers the next chance you get. Timeliness is crucial,
as it could be your last chance to turn an uninterested user into a
There are other ways to make it all about the mobile reward. You
can go above and beyond and take a page out of Old Navy’s book,
and what they did in building their SnapAppy app. When Old Navy
Giving users the
ability to share
mobile rewards with
friends to garner
more mobile usage Providing users with
a reason to re-engage
with your app
customers download the app and sign up as users, they have the
ability to play a game in which whenever they snap a picture of an
Old Navy logo they win a chance for a mobile-specific discount or
offer. A wheel pops up in the app and spins to choose your new
offer. While not all brands are going to want to invest the resources
to build this kind of app, it is a good model to study in researching
and creating your own mobile-only offer or rewards program.
Make Sharing Easier
Social sharing isn’t just for news and media apps. Whether it’s “lik-
ing” an app on Facebook or tweeting your tracked run time, social
and email sharing the going-ons in your app experience have be-
come commonplace. Often, it can be a natural extension of your
app, going beyond the norm and making it a part of the overall app
For content-based apps, the easiest and most important way to
accomplish this is to ensure that all of your articles, news pieces,
stories or other assets have social sharing buttons that are clear,
blatant and clickable, to all of the major social networks and via
email. If one of your stories makes it big, it could bring an influx of
users to your app, which is not only great for ad revenue, it’s an ex-
cellent boost to your brand recognition. More importantly, it allows
users who are currently engaged with your content to share their
interests, with your app being their home base.
For lifestyle apps, social sharing enables your users to make public
to friends personal “wins,” such as their progress against workout
goals, travel plans, or even weight loss over time. This serves as a
way to keep on track, and even offers public endorsement, feed-
back and positivity.
By enabling cross-platform sharing, most notably the ability to
share with friends various activities or content your user enjoys,
your app becomes a more integral piece of their lives. When shar-
ing is made easy, this value is conveyed sooner, improving en-
gagement long-term and prompts immediate usage. Essentially,
when social promotion is available and easy to do, your app users
can more readily share what’s important to them, engaging them
with the app immediately and creating a more cohesive experi-
Again, in this scenario it’s important to keep in mind that while so-
cial sharing should be readily available, it should never interfere
with the app experience. Make sure your efforts aren’t intrusive,
but easily accessible for those who want it.
RunKeeper, one of the most popular fitness apps that tracks your
runs and workouts, has taken their social element and brought
it in-app. Not only does the RunKeeper app provide the ability to
share your run stats across channels, in its latest version it also
built an in-app social stream, where you can post to and track your
friend’s activities and photos. For them, the social sharing aspect
is actually an important component to the app experience. They’re
betting that users’ ability to view their friends’ activities will be a
sticking point, and will engage them instantly and often.
Social aspect isn’t
even serves as a
motivating factor for
users to workout
Using a competitive
friends to keep users
Users still have
quick access to the
app’s main function,
starting a workout
When users open your app, they’re going to complete a series of
actions, or “events,” in-app during their session. These events are
easily tracked in your analytics, and are representative of how your
user interacts with the app and which features they find most use-
ful or interesting. Events are individually defined by your goals, and
can include actions such as read an article or posted to a social
This gives you a level of specificity to supplement your screen flow
analysis, giving you insight into not only what screens your us-
ers view most, but also what they do while on those screens, and
where they convert.
With events, you can see how your app users progress through a
funnel (such as added a product to cart through completed check-
out), and you can also trigger in-app messages upon event com-
pletion to encourage further in-app activity, or provide additional
information. This form of marketing automation takes little time
and effort to set up, and is a way to quickly re-engage users after
they’ve completed an action, and are considering exiting your app.
In just a few seconds, you can re-gain their attention and direct it
toward a customized message, all without doing any manual work.
Say you’re a sports app with ticket-buying functionality, and you
want to become your users’ go-to source for game tickets. If a user
adds two tickets to next week’s Red Sox game to his cart, you can
enable a triggered in-app message alerting him to the Red Sox v.
Angels game that’s happening in two weeks. Not only is this infor-
mation personalized to his interests, it is also relevant to the in-app
action he just took, and thus has a higher chance of converting him
Use Deep Linking With
Push & In-App Messages
Deep linking is something that most brands employ today, regard-
less of whether or not they call it deep linking. It is the practice of
embedding links to pages deep within your website around the
internet – in email signatures, article syndications, social publish-
ing sites, forums, etc. With deep linking, instead of linking directly
to your homepage, you want to highlight the pages that work best
in that context.
When it comes to mobile, deep linking isn’t about SEO juice or
discovery possibilities, but rather, is about ensuring that the links
viewed on a mobile device directs your user to right place – a
screen within your app – and doesn’t just launch your app on the
Using deep linking, you can direct your user through a mobile ad,
push notification or in-app message to a corresponding screen
within your app.
Let’s go back to the sports app example. Say you’ve sent that
great push message out to Red Sox fans through a personalized,
highly-targeted campaign. Your deep linking here shouldn’t direct
the user to your app home screen; it should take him or her direct-
ly to the results screen.
Why is this important? It saves the user time searching for the rele-
vant screen, engaging them immediately with the subject matter at
hand and negating navigation confusion. Making their in-app path
clearer and easier to flow through not only meets difficult user ex-
pectations, but improves the quality and conversion opportunity of
your app marketing campaigns.
Garner User Feedback
Great apps are bi-directional, and rely on user data and feedback
to create a continually better experience. Running customer rela-
tionship surveys is a simple way to gather this information. In the
broadest sense, a customer relationship survey seeks to under-
stand how satisfied customers are with your business. One of the
most widely used survey types is the Net Promoter Score (NPS)
survey, which empowers you to identify users who would be will-
ing to recommend your app to a friend.
You can create a segment of users who have completed a certain
event and open your app at least X number of times, and send
them a survey. Because you’re executing these surveys in-app,
you already have the user’s attention, and are likely to receive rel-
evant, useful feedback that is top-of-mind.
Not only does this help you determine where your app needs to
improve (and which features are user favorites), but a survey also
lets your users know that their input is essential to the success of
your app. Much like with allowing for opt-ins, prompting survey
participation makes users feel valued as an integral part of grow-
ing your app.
It is also a quick and easy way to capture attention and direct it
toward an in-app action, one that keeps users engaged with the
app and draws attention to various app features, updates or other
Promoters can be
to rate app in app
store (detractors can
Evolving To Win In An
When it comes to the promise of mobile and web apps, we’ve only
scratched the surface of what they can do to attract, excite and
retain app users. What we do know is that by 2017 there will be 4.4
billion app users worldwide, and they are making it clear what they
want in an app experience. By implementing these ten tactics, you
can improve your app to meet (and even exceed) their expecta-
tions, garnering loyalty and just generating brand loveability.
As your app evolves, even more opportunities will appear to im-
prove your engagement strategy in under ten seconds, and in the
long-term. In the meantime, you have a set of stellar techniques to
start with - ones you can easily implement using your set of ana-
lytics and marketing tools. Get started today, and see where your
app users take you!
Want to learn more?
You’ll learn how to run app marketing
campaigns that increase engagement,
ROI and lifetime value.
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