Consumer dependency on mobile apps for information and entertainment has shot into the stratosphere. In the U.S. alone, audience measurement and research firm comScore reports that mobile now represents almost two out of three digital media minutes. As a result, comScore declares that mobile apps “have completely shifted the digital media landscape in favor of mobile,” with mobile apps accounting for a whopping 60% of total digital time spent.
Clearly, apps have become the new addiction. Consumers spend more time “in-app” than ever before. To address this opportunity, smart media companies and app marketers are evolving comprehensive strategies to connect with consumers in ways that enhance, not interrupt, the user experience.
At one level, it’s about new uses of push. Push is the first direct-to-consumer communication channel designed specifically for the smartphone, to message and engage consumers on their devices home screen. At the other level, it’s about in-app messaging. Unlike push, in-app messaging allows marketers to deliver contextually relevant conversation, not just campaigns.
Push is widely used and offers marketers a broad range of benefits, which stems from the fact that it’s a perfect format to direct attention to a desired action. In practice, push prompts users who have opted in to engage with content or a mobile campaign. But without context (and therefore a clear purpose) push notifications can quickly get “pushy.” Done the right way, push can drive users into your app. Get it wrong, and you can drive users out of your app altogether.
Marketers Get the Message
This is where in-app messaging comes in. Messaging allows marketers to insert themselves into the flow at that all-important “mobile moment” when users are deep in their journey and dependent on their app. But marketers can’t just use in-app messaging to target audience context. Marketing content, which can only be displayed while the user is active within the app, must have the “look and feel” of native. (And that’s a huge plus if we consider the survey data that underlines the growing appeal of native advertising and the massive increase in the use of ad blocking tech on mobile devices.)
Granted, both app messaging formats have abundant use cases. But it’s time for companies to look beyond marketing and begin to view mobile apps as what they really are: the vehicle of a new kind of customer communications and engagement paradigm. Success is all about maximizing mobile messaging capabilities, including push and in-app messaging, to enable ‘conversations’ with consumers. This will encourage engagement and help build trust through ongoing interaction.
Two-Way is the Right Way
We can already see an exciting proliferation of in-app marketing elements and types. Insert, a company that offers an automated in-app marketing platform, which provides provides marketers a broad set of customizable features – “inserts” – which can be launched into any live app without coding, picked up on this trend in The Giant Book of In-App Campaigns.
Examples range from “push with an insert” to send users to a specific piece of content or video, to “combo” approaches that allow marketers to tailor a “flow” to keep pace with user responses. All and all, Insert has collected 30 in-app campaign types. They offer insights into a brave new world of app communication approaches. And it should inspire marketers to use mobile for two-way conversations, not one-way campaigns.
Conversations are the real benefit of mobile. Unfortunately, we have somehow lost sight of this in the race for app installs and eyeballs. Over a decade ago, in the early days of permission-based text messaging and marketing, I advised companies to consider using SMS to ask consumers for their ideas and feedback on products and services. My view that the real power of mobile lay in its ability to spark “conversations” with valuable customers had its roots in the work of Eric von Hippel, an American economist and a professor at the MIT Sloan School of Management who wrote the milestone book, Democratizing Innovation.
Fueling Engagement with Feedback
Back then, von Hippel was focused on harnessing “lead users” — users who have a high incentive to solve a problem and the ability to innovate. He believed that their input could yield breakthrough and profitable products and services. His prediction that advances in computing and communications technologies could enable lead users to innovate and develop exactly what they want is now a reality thanks to smartphones and apps. Of course this is great for everyone since what lead users want is precisely what the rest of the market will demand.
Dustin Amrhein, Solutions Leader at Insert, tells me that campaigns that use in-app marketing to ask users for feedback is “one of the most popular user cases thus far, and where we see some amazing conversion rates.” But the boost in customer engagement – because users feel their opinion counts and will have an impact – is just one of the benefits.
The quality and appeal of their apps contribute to the ongoing success of media companies (and other app makers). Focusing in-app marketing and messaging on requesting user feedback allows companies to move the needle on their app, while saving much of the cost and wait associated with “trial and error.”
Peggy Anne Salz is the Content Marketing Strategist and Chief Analyst of Mobile Groove, a top 50 influential technology site providing custom research to the global mobile industry and consulting to tech startups. She is a frequent contributor to Forbes on the topic of mobile marketing, engagement and apps. Her work also regularly appears in a range of publications from Venture Beat to Harvard Business Review. Peggy is a top 30 Mobile Marketing influencer and a nine-time author based in Europe. Follow her @peggyanne.