As 2015 comes to a close, it may seem like the year went by in a blink of an eye. However, if you take a look back on the substantial amount of growth that’s occurred within the mobile industry this year, it’s easy to see where the time went. Through advancements in marketing and analytics, the app world was able to engage with users in a highly personalized manner, and connect with them on multiple platforms to create seamless, omni-channel experiences. As a result, during 2015, apps became experiences.

So, what exactly does this mean for the future of apps? The eight biggest app trends of the year shed some light on the direction we’re headed as we look towards 2016:

1. It’s Getting Personal (and Cross-Functional)

During 2015, we saw a shift in the mobile app space from just needing an app, to needing an app that offers a highly personalized experience. We conducted a study this year that found that app users expect interactions to be tailored to them through customized content, preferences, and location. In addition, the app should fit seamlessly into their lives by connecting with all important aspects (home, work, travel).

We saw this notion of personalization come to life during the year, as app experiences became much more tailored to the user and transcended beyond the in-app experience. However, there’s still work to be done. Moving into 2016, marketers need to play some catch-up and ensure they’re meeting the expectations of users by prioritizing a highly personalized, omni-channel app experience.

Personalization done right: Evernote is a great example of a brand doing this right. Their note keeping application allows users to write, capture, and share ideas in an organized tool which users can access from many channels. Evernote’s seamless and collaborative experience is the driver behind their success.


2. App Retention Improved in the U.S.

The emphasis on personalization is paying off. Despite retention declines elsewhere, the United States enjoyed growth in this important metric during 2015, up 3% to 42% average retention (app retention being defined as the percentage of users who return to an app 11 or more times).

The reason for the uptick? U.S. marketers prioritized targeted app marketing campaigns as well as improved the overall user experience through new functionality and cross-channel capabilities. If other countries want to keep up, they should follow suit of the U.S. and strategize ways to better engage with their users.

3. App User Engagement is on the Rise 

Similarly to what we saw for app retention in the U.S., another statistic on the rise during 2015 was user engagement. As app analytics grew more advanced throughout the year, marketers used these data insights to connect with their audiences. As a result, apps are becoming more “sticky” in the eye of the user, and engagement increased.

Engagement done right: JetBlue does a great job at using its app to engage with users beyond in-flight. Travelers can check-in to their flight, access their boarding pass, and receive flight updates all from their smartphone. This not only creates a more seamless experience for travelers, it also boosts user engagement through personalization.


4. The Expansion of Appification Continues

Back in 2014, we introduced you to this notion of appification. Appification is an increasingly popular trend occurring across technology where all online experiences are becoming more interactive and task-oriented. This phenomenon spans well beyond the traditional idea of mobile applications, and has completely transformed the way we engage with brands. Translation? Digital experiences are becoming more app-like because that’s what consumers are demanding. This task-oriented, interactive experience that apps grant users has impacted other channels beyond mobile, and we’re seeing it as the defining model for new technology.

5. Moving Beyond Push Messaging to Remarketing

In 2015, we realized that the app world is a fickle space. For starters, almost 50% of app users opt out of push notifications, meaning you have no way to reach them outside of the app. Push messages are no longer enough to re-engage with lapsed users. So how do app marketers combat this problem? That’s where remarketing and email can come into play.

From research, we found out that 58% of users will churn within the first 30 days of using your app, while 75% will churn by 90 days. This is exactly why app remarketing emerged in a big way in 2015. Marketers can now use remarketing to target customers and app users based on how they’ve engaged with your brand on channels they frequent, like email and social media. In order to have a successful remarketing campaign, you need to have the right analytics tool in place to understand your target audience and capture your user’s interactions with your app. From there, you can work to implement paid remarketing campaigns.

Remarketing done right: Amazon knows me well, and I love them for it. Here is a perfect example of them using my previous interaction with them to reengage with me. Earlier in the month, I purchased a birthday present for my one-year-old nephew. Amazon used this data to target me with this remarketing ad for kids games. The deal was not only highly personalized for me, but also timely considering it appeared in my newsfeed a little over a week before Christmas.


6. The Emergence of the App User Lifecycle 

In the early stages of app adoption, marketers measured success based on vanity metrics, such as app downloads. This is just one piece of the puzzle, and not a clear indication of user engagement. As app analytics evolved in 2015, marketers began taking a much more holistic look at their users and the idea of the app user lifecycle was born. By looking at where users are in their journey with your app, marketers can now better understand their users and personalize campaigns.

7. Predictive Insights Give App Marketers the Ability to See into the Future…

As a fellow marketer, I can relate to having a desire to predict the future. After all, a big part of our jobs is to study marketplace trends and try to anticipate what our users’ next move will be. With the launch of predictive insights, I’m happy to say that we’re getting close to that point. Predictive marketing grants you the ability to use both historical and real-time data to get a holistic view of user trends. You’re able to see which groups of users are close to completing a key conversion event, and which are at risk of churning. From there, you can segment out and run impactful, highly personalized campaigns to not only acquire users, but grow and retain them.

As you can see, the app world evolved substantially over 2015. The idea of a personalized and seamless omni-channel experience became the underlying trend throughout the year, and we can only expect this to evolve even further as we move into next year. More importantly, if 2015 was any indication for what lies ahead, then buckle up, because 2016 is going to be a wild ride.