How to build a mobile app: Actionable apps

Did you know that within the first three days of an app being downloaded, 77% of the users who downloaded it have already deleted it from their device?

It doesn’t get any better with time, either – after a month, 90% of users will have abandoned the app. There’s many reasons for this – ranging from the app taking up too much storage space, to unresolved bugs like crashes causing users frustration, enough of which leads to the users switching to another, more reliable app.

For a lot of app publishers however, the problem isn’t user acquisition – it’s user retention. Sometimes it’s for the reasons listed above, but unfortunately, it’s quite often due to the app not providing anything solid for its users to act upon.

Actions speak louder than words

There are many tools you can use to drive user engagement through action – too many to cover completely. And for a lot of apps, the pain points they solve are unique, and therefore use toolsets tailor-made to the particular problem they are designed to solve.

There are, however, general categories of CTAs you can use to drive your app’s user engagement:

  • Tools
  • Push notifications
  • Empowerment
  • Limited time offers and other classic CTAs

Actionable tools

Sometimes, the only thing you need to make an actionable app is a good idea. These can come in many forms – apps like Uber solve a particular pain point brilliantly, Instagram gives users the tools to make every photo look good, and games like long-gone Flappybird toe the line perfectly between simplistic, eye-catching, and just downright fun.

All of these apps listed above are million dollar ideas, or to be more accurate, multi-million (or even billion) dollar ideas. If you’ve come up with a truly ground breaking solution that effects a wide ranging audience before anyone else, or you solve a common pain point better than anyone else, your app fits into this category. After acquisition, you’ve got little to worry about – your app will drive it’s own user engagement.

Not every app built from a good idea will achieve this rockstar status, however – and shouldn’t be compared to giants like Uber. Taxis have been a widespread thing in even the smallest of towns for a long time – Uber just provided a smoother user experience. The whole ride share industry is booming due to its enormous demand – everyone needs some form of transportation, whether it’s a car, bike, or scooter.

Some good ideas focus on smaller market segments – and that’s not a bad thing. A smaller market segment means a close-knit tribe to engage with. Take, for example, Whystle. It’s an app that provides its users with alerts about product and safety recalls announced from government agencies like the FDA or FTC, and the industries they regulate.

While an app like that won’t appeal to as many people as an app like Instagram, Whystle solves a pain point facing many users – health and safety conscious consumers no longer have to scour a multitude of websites for news about recalls – they can just open up Whystle and scroll through a list in a matter of seconds.

Creating an inherently actionable app is the hardest type of actionable app to achieve; but the best way to go about this isn’t to search for a moment of inspiration – it’s all about doing market research, identifying a pain point that has yet to be solved by an app, and then figuring out how to make an app that provides the solution.

For more tips about app ideation, check out our blog on the topic.

On the other side of the coin, you can look at what apps are doing well, and then provide the same tools for a different segment of that market. Think of Uber vs. Lyft.

The equation behind any successful app that serves users as a tool is: pain point + solution + user experience + ASO = high user retention and acquisition.

Push notifications

Push notifications are a powerful CTA tool – they can increase user retention by up to 180%, and users that opt in to push notifications engage with apps 88% more than those who don’t.

The trick is to remember that a push notification will almost 100% of the time be seen as an interruption to your users – the only time it wouldn’t be is if the user is currently navigating to open up your app.

Due to their inherently disruptive nature, push notifications must always have at least one of the following traits (and optimally, both):

  • Provides an immediately tangible benefit
  • Is a personalized reminder or offer

Sending spammy or plain broadcasted push notifications to your users doesn’t have the same impact as personalized ones – broadcasted push notifications have an engagement rate of 15%, while personalized more than triple that with an engagement rate of 54%. Take the time to analyze your user data and craft personalized messages for push notifications – it will pay off.

Look at user metrics like the time of day they engage with your app, the countries they live in, the device they use, the products or content they click on, and then make messages specific to those interests. If you have a segment of users that live in Portugal, craft them messages in Portuguese. If they’ve looked at a specific product a few times and then left their session, send them a push notification with a 5% off code for that product.

The more personal the better. They can also be used to make the most out of a bad situation – for instance, if a user experiences a crash while using your app, send them a push notification apologizing for the issue, and that you’re working to fix it. This kind of personal engagement gives you a much better chance at retaining the user after a bad experience.

An easy way to keep track and make sense of personalized user data is with an analytics platform like Kumulos. Kumulos also gives you a platform to both send out and analyze the results of personalized push notifications.

Due to geofencing and location services, push notifications can now be more personalized and poignant than ever with proximity marketing. These can be used to engage users when they are near a physical location pertinent to your app; for example, if you ran an e-bike service, you could send a user a push notification when they are within two blocks from a bike station.

For more information about proximity marketing check out our guest blog on the topic by Kumulos Marketing Manager Caroline McClelland.

Empowerment

These are apps that somewhat fall into the tool category, but rather than providing a service or tool, give users encouragement to complete tasks. This can be achieved in many different ways; an exercise app can keep track of a users gains or times in order to demonstrate their accomplishments, or a sandwich shop can use an app to keep track of how many lunches a customer has had, and reward them for every tenth meal purchased.

Apps that empower their users like this will often see high engagement – they give users a goal to continuously strive towards – whether it’s losing weight or buying that tenth turkey club. In order to check their progress, users have to open up your app, which consequently leads to higher engagement.

Limited time offers and other classic CTAs

Most marketing and sales tactics are transferrable to apps, and the most common channel for these strategies is through push notifications. Let’s revisit that proximity marketing example – not only can you alert a user that your service is close to their current location, you can make the offer even more enticing by adding fear of loss into the mix: Hey, we noticed you’re close to one of our scooter stations, but there’s only 2 left! Hurry before they’re all gone!

These tactics don’t have to be applied to only push notifications, however. Other digital mediums like newsletters, social media, the app store, and any other channel you engage users through can be used to promote limited time offers.

Personalization and user benefit

Those two features are the bottom line to creating an actionable app. Create pertinent CTAs that provide users with an immediate benefit – whether it’s through the tools your app provides, push notifications, or encouraging the completion of goals. Remember to specifically tailor your CTAs to both your brand and the users you’re engaging with, and don’t be afraid to try new things, as long as you follow the golden rule of user engagement – engage users like friends, not like customers.

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