7 Ways to Boost App Usage (and Improve ROI)

7 minute read

Team Localytics

7 data pinsThe first big hurdle on the way to mobile app success is gaining users. We all want more prospects, customers, clients and fans to download and run our apps, but what about what comes after that? Apps aren’t built for a set-it-and-forget it mentality – they need to be optimized, marketed and utilized to be successful.

Boosting usage is essential to retaining users and keeping your app top of mind. But even that is not enough. Usage is also the key to realizing conversions and making your app profitable, ensuring that you see a return on your investment. There are a number of ways to increase app usage, but here, we’ve outlined seven best practices that are proven to engage users.

1. Eliminate Bottlenecks and Improve UI

Launching an app is a huge feat, but no matter how diligently you research and prepare to create the best experience possible, there is always going to be room for improvement. Natural bottlenecks that surface in the UI inhibit users from fully experiencing your app, and can often lead to early drop offs. Much like with web design, using analytics to understand sticking points will allow you to create a much more fluid, engaging process, boosting usage and key metrics like session length and time in app.

Tips and tricks:

  • Use your app analytics to identify where users get stuck in the screen flow – that’s where your bottlenecks are!
  • Run an NPS survey to learn what users find frustrating about your app usage
  • Compare session length metrics before and after major redesigns or changes

2. Improve Ad Spend

While organic users are highly valuable, most apps rely heavily on ad campaigns to increase downloads, gain new users, and create awareness. More users means more usage, but only if you move past empty metrics like downloads and identify how engaged those users are over time. Use acquisition management to track the users from paid ads via different sources, and determine the paid channels with the best ROI so that you can concentrate your acquisition efforts on those areas.

Tips and tricks:

  • Measure the lifetime value (LTV) of users from various sources, not just downloads per campaign. LTV will give you a better sense of which campaign sources are worth investing in for long-term gains
  • Tie total revenue back to individual sources so you can calculate the ROI of each channel
  • Segment acquired users by different behavior attributes to learn more about usage patterns by source

3. Optimize App Funnels

Your funnels are what lead users to conversions, effectively assigning a value (or even profit) to their usage. Screen flow analytics track exits by screen, flow between screens, and total occurrences of visits to screens, visualizing the typical visitor interactions in your app. You can use these two in tandem by analyzing the screen flow of your defined funnels to see when, where and why users are dropping out of a certain funnel.

With this information in hand, it’s easier to see which funnels could use improvement to lead to better conversions, and what processes users are naturally following in your app. Optimizing to create better funnels and prevent drop offs will increase usage over time and improve conversion rate.

Tips and tricks:

  • Create more efficient processes by comparing the length of time it takes for a user to complete a flow with the average session length – you can then see if there is a discrepancy and correct to make that flow more efficient
  • Test if requiring fewer screens between steps improves usage and conversion rates
  • Identify where users are dropping off in certain funnels and implement in-app messages to remind them of incomplete actions

4. Run Targeted Marketing

Your brand should be actively running marketing to gain new users and expand reach, but what about marketing to current users? Improving app usage is similar to boosting web usage: you should use marketing tactics to keep your audience engaged. App marketing uses communication based on behavior to drive loyalty and retention. In running app marketing campaigns like in-app messaging, push notifications, and A/B testing, you can retain that engagement crucial to usage. Within your analytics, you can use audience segmentation to determine audience attributes and create targeted, personalized campaigns that those users will be most interested in.

Tips and tricks:

  • Run push messaging campaigns to re-engage users who have fallen out of a desired funnel, remind those who haven’t opened your app in a while, or notify of important updates
  • Run in-app messaging campaigns to direct users to desired events or provide personalized offers
  • A/B test your marketing campaigns for offer, content, frequency, timing, and audience for ongoing improvements (bonus tip: use a mobile marketing platform that allows you to conduct A/B testing without resubmitting to the App Store)

5. Offer Mobile-Only Rewards

All users want to feel valued by the brands they buy from and interact with. Offering rewards programs, customized offers, and mobile coupons specific to app users shows that you recognize and appreciate their loyalty, and want to encourage their app usage by providing targeted incentives. These offers can be run using in-app and push messaging, and can be tested for offer and content across different segments to see which ones are most successful.

Tips and tricks:

  • Give mobile users early access to a big sale if they purchase an item in-app
  • Take a page from Starbucks: create a loyalty program that’s accessible via your app and allows users to pay in-store, store money, or retain credit
  • If a user has reached a certain level in your game app, reward him or her with bonus credits, coins, or other game-specific compensation

6. Encourage Social Sharing

Positive sentiment shouldn’t be undervalued; engaged users are going to talk about your app on social media, share great experiences, and help your digital word-of-mouth. They are also more apt to share screens from within your app. Social sharing is particularly important for media apps, which rely on user interaction with content, reach and subscriptions – the more content is shared, the more eyes it will attract. Social isn’t just a channel for marketing your app, it’s a piece of the engagement process that should support increased usage.

Tips and tricks:

  • Integrate sharing buttons into your app so users can easily promote pages, content and products
  • Build your social presence by prompting mobile users to follow you with in-app messages
  • Boost your social media marketing by targeting friends of followers to drive new users and organic usage

7. Expand Cross-Channel Capabilities

Ninety one percent of consumers say access to content any way they want is important (Forrester). Users don’t exist within a bubble – they like to research and interact with brands across mobile, web, email, social, and other channels, most notably before converting. Engaging your app users on every channel is a great way to drive traffic back to the app. The more engaged your users, prospects, and customers are in general, the more apt they are to interact with you, especially through a convenient, easy-to-use and personalized app.

Tips and tricks:

  • Send dedicated emails to app users addressing mobile-specific interests, options, and questions
  • Optimize your website to work hand-in-hand with your app. Each should meet different needs, but exist together to create a seamless experience
  • Track key app user characteristics with profile tags (soon to be available in the Localytics platform!) and use those to inform personalization on other channels

Why You Should Start… Well, Right Now

Some apps get all the buzz. The rest of us have to test, measure, and learn what works with our users, and users are as fickle as ever. Now, 22% of users only ever open an app once, so it’s your job to keep them interested. Starting today means that you can stay ahead of the curve and engage the users that your competitors are already losing.

By improving you app’s usage, you’re improving your return – it’s as simple as that!

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