So you’ve decided to take the plunge and design a mobile app for your small business. You’ve carefully planned out your mobile app design and functionality to provide real value to your customers. Now, you’ve run into a roadblock. How do you create a marketing strategy just for your app? How do you know which KPIs and mobile app metrics to measure? Getting users to download your mobile app is just half the battle. Twenty percent of apps installed on a smartphone are only opened once, reports Searchmetrics. Once you launch your app, you need a plan in place for engaging with users and strengthening mobile app retention, or all that hard work (and expense) designing the app is for naught.

The problem: digital audience growth does not equal engagement.

Digital audience growth is exploding. Mobile audiences have jumped by 41 percent in comparison to just a 1 percent desktop gain, reports ComScore. Mobile app usage is up by 90 percent over the last two years. Mobile apps now represent two out of every three digital media minutes spent across mobile and desktop devices. While mobile audience growth is indeed massive, don’t mistake this growth for mobile engagement. Smartphone users typically keep the same five apps on heavy rotation. Home screen space is scarce, and non-essential apps get relegated to folders on secondary pages. Half of all time spent on smartphones occurs in the individual’s single most used app. According to ComScore, four out of five smartphone app minutes are spent within a user’s top three apps.

The solution: have a smart mobile app strategy in place from day one.

Relying on download metrics to measure the success of your mobile app is shortsighted. Swrve reports, 19 percent of the apps used are only opened once. Worse, the average smartphone users have somewhere north of 100 apps installed on their phone.

“Just building an app and spending money on acquisition isn’t going to cut it,” argues the Swrve team. “You need to invest in the techniques and campaigns that turn new installs into successful long-term mobile relationships, and revenue as a result.”

Businesses pour a ton of money into acquisitions. But your mobile strategy is doomed to fail if acquisitions are your final metric for success. A smart mobile app strategy thinks beyond acquisition and focuses on engagement. Build your mobile app strategy around these three key metrics:

  1. Users. Don’t gloss over this important metric! To deepen engagement, you need to understand your user base so you can segment audiences. Who downloads your app? Who continues to use your app? Once you know your user base, you have a baseline established for engagement as well as deeper insights into monetization opportunities. This includes who makes an in-app purchase and who clicks through to ads. This data is valuable for identifying your most profitable user base and segmenting accordingly to increase engagement with this base.
  2. Time in app. This is where we start to really dig into user engagement. How long is the average user in your app? How frequently is the user in your app over a 24-hour period? Over a week? Is there a segment of your user base that consistently opens the app and engages with it for a longer period of time than anyone else? This data will help you hone in on these “power users”. Once you’ve identified power users, you can conduct additional research to better understand why they are so active with the app, what is motivating them to return over and over again, and how you can better maximize this engagement.
  3. Screen flow. Similar to a website heat map, screen flow tracks exits between screens. With screen flow, you can look at a user’s behavior between screens. How do users navigate your app? Is there a particular problem area that’s creating a bottleneck for users? Use screen flow to identify conversion bumps and drop off screens. Based on this feedback, you can fine-tune your app’s flow to maximize conversions.

Bottom line:

Measuring metrics is indeed important for understanding user behavioral patterns, your most engaged user segment, and conversion flow blockages/screen flow problems. Use the insights gleaned from these metrics to inform future redesigns, in-app purchase opportunities, and long-term engagement. It’s worth restating this important point Swrve makes. Metrics will give you the concrete data you need to know which techniques and campaigns are worth investing in– and ultimately turning new installs into successful long-term mobile relationships.

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