The Apple Watch may very well transform the wearable market. But apps that live on the Watch need to get over a huge hurdle — turning downloads into users.

There is no denying that the Apple Watch offers a great deal of potential for businesses looking to influence the way customers interact with their brands. However, for app marketers, coming up with a formula that offers a meaningful app experience for the user may take a little time. Here are the five most critical questions app marketers must answer when creating new Apple Watch app experiences:

1. Is my app glanceable and does it promote quick actions?

Avoiding abandonment in the age of wearables means innovating on both the physical and digital side of the product delivery process. Tinder is an innovative app that can confidently answer yes to this question. Tinder leverages the ‘Glances’ feature, which allows the wearer to see app information without actually opening the app, and mixes it with quick swipes. With Tinder, people can effectively manage their dating lives with a series of glances and movements — the ultimate digital and physical experience.

In fact, the ‘Glances’ feature works especially well for those apps we check all the time, like dating, weather, appointments, and entertainment apps. For example, if a media and entertainment app wanted to let Apple Watch users know their favorite show was about to air and available to watch on the companion iPad or iPhone app, they could send a simple call to action, like “Add to Watchlist” or create an action-specific button like “Remind me later” or “Dismiss.”

By tailoring these buttons, app marketers can add in a layer of control and analyze which forms of notifications are moving the needle on user engagement. Bottom line: Use these kinds of quick actions to learn if your engagement strategy is working – or if a user may be about to hit ‘delete.’

2. Am I serving the most personal experience I can to each and every user?

A more personal device requires a more personalized experience. Rather than blast generic and impersonal push messages, app marketers should adopt dynamic and contextual push messages to win the hearts of their Watch users.

For example, when I’m traveling, I’ll expect the travel app on my Watch to only send notifications that are relevant and useful to my specific location and plans, like updates on any changes to my gate or baggage carousels. In some research my firm did, we learned these types of targeted push messages have a three times higher conversion rate over standard messages.

Of course, creating personalized app experiences on the Watch will change significantly depending on what your app does and on the behavior of your users. E-commerce apps, for example, exhibit the highest push engagement lift at 278 percent above the norm – making them a powerful example of the potential for segmented push notifications.

3. Are my push notifications relevant?

List_EaseApp marketers should keep in mind that it is iOS that decides whether content surfaces on the iPhone or on the Watch, at least for the time being. Since app marketers don’t control this, your first question should be: will this push message make my user feel like they are wearing my app, or that my app is wearing them? While this is not necessarily a new question for marketers, it is intensified by the ultra-personalized nature of the Watch as a wearable device.

When the iPad came out it raised the bar for experiences far beyond what was happening on other tablets. Consumer expectations for an intuitive, clean experience began to permeate all online interactions.  In a similar way, I believe the Watch is going to raise the bar for messaging, increasing expectations for personalized push messages that seem to know what the user wants before he or she is even aware.

This trend is already in motion, but as the Watch gains traction, it will accelerate. And there’s good news already. Despite all the hype around push spam, app users seem to be open to receiving push messages. In our study of 100 million push notifications, we found that 52 percent of users opt-in to receive them. We’ve also seen that apps that enable push notifications show dramatically higher engagement and retention than those that don’t.

The key with push messages is to pay very close attention to user engagement. Don’t over-complicate matters. Use messages that offer a quick yes or other simple response. Ask too much of the user, and you risk pushing them away. This is because app users can be fickle about opening messages – even if they’re personalized and contextual.

According to our data, you can count on just 7 percent of users to open segmented push messages. That drops to a 3 percent open rate for generic, broadcast messages. One of the most irrelevant push notifications I’ve received lately on my Apple Watch was a reminder about a new feature added to one of my tablet apps. I felt like I was being spammed by a blast message that was not informed by my immediate context or behavior (by the way, had this been sent as an in-app message, it would have been more likely to get my attention).

4. Is my Watch app a proper companion to my mobile app?

Don’t forget that Watch apps are intended to be companions to the phone app, where different interactions occur. Take RunKeeper, for example. RunKeeper’s Watch app displays your fitness activity such as the miles you’ve logged on a bike ride or the pace at which you’re running. The experience is simple, glanceable and useful. However, to start tracking your activity, you need to access the mobile app to define the type of activity you are about to perform and your goals. This interaction is more complex, making it more suitable for the mobile app.

RunKeeper has a great strategy that addresses the concept of the companion app. Using analytics to collect the app usage data on both its mobile and Watch apps, it can thoroughly understand the cross-device — and even cross-channel — impact of wearables on its overall brand experience. Armed with this insight, it can continue to quickly adapt its marketing and drive more value from this new engagement channel.

5. How is my Watch app being used, and how useful are my push messages?

Finding a recipe for meaningful Watch experiences will inevitably require accurate feedback, and one of the great parts about wearables is the data they provide to marketers. With that data, app marketers can truly understand the impact of the Watch on their overall brand strategy by answering questions such as:

  • Can I see how long users are using my Watch app? Is my app launching at all? How often? Who are my most active users?
  • Are my personalized push messages surfacing on the user’s phone or the user’s Watch? Are they impacting the events I want my users to take? Do I see a lift in activity or a drop-off in users within the 24 hours after the push is delivered?
  • How do user interactions on the Watch compare to user interactions on smartphone and tablet? How can I use this knowledge to personalize my push notifications or change the user experience further?

By asking these initial questions and treading with care, app marketers can hone in on the least obtrusive and most impactful ways to serve relevant Watch content, learn what is working and quickly adapt, and offer interactions that matter to the user.

Most importantly, by considering these five key questions, marketers can avoid having their app permanently deleted from a user’s wrist.

Top image courtesy of BagoGames / CC BY