Merchants have historically taken a reactive approach to mobile app marketing, checking off boxes with each new mobile trend. When the smartphone market exploded, marketers raced to create mobile apps.
Then Apple and Google began updating their mobile operating systems, and companies scrambled to keep up with their own new app versions. After that, we saw the move toward integrating social networking links, then new analytics capabilities, and push notifications.
Each new trend has forced marketers to raise a new priority to the top of the mobile development list.
In 2014, however, the mobile app market has finally matured, and the result is that successful companies are making the transition from tactical to strategic app marketing.
First, here’s a look at the statistics. According to Yankee Group, consumers now spend 60% of their time on connected devices within mobile apps, and in the retail world, there is increasing recognition that mobile devices are an integral part of the shopping experience.
An IBM benchmark study found that more than 15% of online sales come directly from smartphones and tablets. Forrester has projected that nearly $1.5 billion in retail revenue will be transacted offline in 2014, but influenced by online sources. And e-commerce consulting firm the e-tail group has reported that three out of four retailers recognize the need to improve the mobile customer experience and plan to invest in that effort this year.
In order to match consumer behaviors and expectations, companies are beginning to restructure their app management policies to align with broader, more sophisticated marketing strategies. Marketers are growing savvier about how to use the tools available to them and have begun to implement technology platforms that support efforts to improve app effectiveness. In short, mobile app marketing is beginning to look a lot more like website marketing: proactive, personalized, and data-driven. Instead of reacting to trends, more companies are now driving their own agendas for mobile app marketing.
Push Messaging Is Only the Beginning
To take one example of a recent mobile app trend, consider the adoption of push notifications. Push messaging has been a boon to marketers because it provides a way to encourage further app engagement. You send a message to a user and hopefully it prompts them to open your app. In fact, IBM’s study found that push notifications increase the open rate for mobile apps between 1.5 and four times users’ normal response.
However, there’s only so much a push message can do in isolation. How do you know if your message is having a positive influence on your audience? Or what users are doing after they click on your notification? Or whether it’s possible to drive higher conversion rates – and ultimately app-influenced sales – by dynamically refining and targeting the push message?
Push messaging is powerful tool, but it becomes far more so when tied to rich user analytics, message testing capabilities, and the ability to make changes to an app in real time. Like any other app marketing feature, push messaging delivers the best results when it is used in concert with other marketing tools.
As mobile app marketing grows up, there is an emerging realization that tactical, point solutions for implementing new app features are limited in value. Companies instead have begun collectively to adopt Mobile Experience Management (MEM) platforms. An MEM platform addresses the entire lifecycle of an app marketing campaign – from audience segmentation and the creation of a targeted push notification, through to data-driven analysis of campaign results, message optimization, and dynamic adaptation of the user experience in an app.
The ability to automatically collect app usage data is at the heart of any MEM platform. However, beyond providing insight into user behavior, an MEM platform is valuable because it gives marketers the ability to act on that insight quickly, easily, and effectively. These solutions are built for non-technical users and are specifically designed to integrate tactics like sending a push notification into a well-informed, strategic app management process.
With an MEM platform, marketers can test different app variations, target content to the individual user, and update the app experience instantly. If you send a push message, for example, you can follow up with users who clicked on the link by changing the home screen the next time they open the app. Maybe you want to highlight a user-specific offer, or maybe just remind customers of items they’ve left in a shopping cart.
Much like with web management solutions, an MEM platform doesn’t aim to help you create a product once. Instead, the goal is to drive business results from your mobile app continuously over time.
Yankee Group Research Director Sheryl Kingstone commented recently on the MEM trend, “While many companies have not yet landed on successful strategies for optimizing app performance, we have found that the emergence of the MEM category has dramatically improved marketers’ ability to engage with users through mobile apps and generate strong, positive business returns.”
Marketers and retailers still have work to do to bring app marketing efforts up to the level of sophistication seen on the web, but the transition is in progress. Companies understand they need a more strategic approach, and many have already put the right platforms in place. Now the fun work of building and executing more effective app marketing campaigns can begin.
Bob Moul is CEO of Artisan Mobile.