While enjoying the sights and sounds of Las Vegas and attending Mobile Apps Unlocked 2016 this past week, I was immersed in all things mobile. Everywhere I turned I heard attendees and speakers all discussing the same issues and ideas. Everyone seemed to be talking about and searching for answers to the following kinds of questions:
How are we going to tell people about this new app we’ve created? How can new users of our app tell their friends about how great the app is? How do we get users who aren’t in the app to come back to the app? How do we tell our app users about a great new feature that we created? How do we know what our users like about the app and what they don’t? In this new and very tech-reliant world, how do we tackle the challenges we face in growing our app?
It all seemed very new and very modern. But really, weren’t we all talking about the same thing? And aren’t these challenges the same types of challenges we’ve been discussing since the dawn of commerce? What we’re talking about, and what we’ll still be talking about at a conference in 2026, is communication.
From Gutenberg’s metal movable type, allowing for the mass-production of flyers and brochures in 1450, to the first recorded use of television advertising in 1941, we have been searching for new and better ways to communicate to potential buyers and customers. Now in 2016, when there are a million apps in the app store and we’re faced with an overwhelming amount of content, we’re still searching for new and better ways to communicate with and gain customers.
But it’s all communication. Regardless of the medium or method, it might be helpful to remember that it’s all about communication.
We need to communicate the value of what we are selling. We need to use communication to keep the customers that we win and we need to hone our communication to keep gaining new customers. So how do we focus on these simple communication challenges instead of getting overwhelmed by the vast forest of tools, fads and strategies? Let’s break it down.
Challenge #1: We need to communicate the value of what we are selling to gain customers.
Whether we are selling a physical product, knowledge, a tool, or connections to other people, we’re all in the business of selling something. The difficulty of this first challenge is that it’s so easy to get caught up in all of the options for delivering the communication rather than focusing first on the content of the communication itself.
Coming back to our playing field — mobile apps — communicating value in the app store isn’t nearly enough. Once you’ve been successful in getting a new customer to download your app, the challenge of clear and compelling communication begins again from the very first screen your new user experiences.
The onboarding experience is so important because, as we learned during the conference last week from Uber’s Andrew Chen, “Losing 80% of mobile users is normal”. If you would prefer to be on the more positive side of that statistic, you’re going to need to communicate to new users why your app is valuable, what it will do for them, and how. If you can clearly convey these things, then the chances of that first time user becoming a repeat visitor and paying customer are exponentially greater.
Challenge #2: We need to use communication to keep the customers we gain.
If you are selling airline tickets, you need to let your airline passengers know that you appreciate their business, are listening to their concerns and suggestions, and are innovating to be sure that they are always going to get the best experience if they stay with you. This stream of ongoing communication with users who have already become paying customers is the key to ensuring that they remain your paying customer.
Again, in the world of mobile, a valuable tool for this ongoing communication is push notifications. These notifications have the potential for delivering highly custom information to your customers at just the right time. These pushes not only deliver content that is highly personalized, they also deliver the content in a most intimate way — the moment they look at their phone. You have the opportunity to show your customers, in this way, that you are focused on them and available to them.
A customer or app user who gives you permission to communicate with them in what has become the most valuable digital real estate — the lock screen of their mobile device — is a customer you have the opportunity of keeping engaged and coming back.
Challenge #3: We need to use what we’ve learned to hone our communication and continue gaining customers.
Once you have perfected the art of communication to attract your initial customers and worked hard to turn those initial customers into loyal fans, you need to keep attracting new customers if your business is to grow. As you’ve already been through the user acquisition cycle once, you might have picked up some insights into the ways your particular customers like to be communicated with. It could be a very expensive mistake to either ignore these lessons learned and go forward with business as usual or to throw out what worked initially in exchange for untested methods and content.
This is where, in the app world, A/B testing is your best friend. A/B testing the content of your communication with both initial and loyal customers will allow you to continually hone this vital art.
Testing your onboarding process and screens can help you to more consistently turn one-time users into customers who adopt your app as one of their daily rituals. You have the power, in repeatedly testing, to know with certainty whether a change you make will drive user behaviour in the way you want it to — or might disengage your users. Either way, the fate of your current customers and that of those you need to attract can lie in the balance of one line of copy or one new feature. Wouldn’t you rather test and be sure of the impact your communication will have instead of just giving it a try and hoping for the best? We would too.
When it comes to communication via push notifications, A/B testing isn’t just a nice tool to have, it is an absolute necessity. Imagine you have just one line of text, only about 100 characters or so, with which to communicate all the value of your app/product. Now imagine that you have to choose a specific time of day or action that will trigger this precious cargo of characters to be delivered to your users. And you get one shot.
I know, I know, that was just cruel. Once you’ve taken a deep breath, you will have to face the reality that this is the challenge that often stands between an uninstall and a raving fan. If you had the ability to rigorously test not only the content, but the timing and context of this most important message, wouldn’t you test, and test, and test again? Of course, you would, because communication is the thing that will build your business and keep it growing for some time to come.
I don’t want to oversimplify an entire industry or the challenges it faces, but I think it’s helpful to remember what we’re all really trying to do: We are trying to attract customers, gain the trust and business of those customers and retain the loyalty of those customers. We want to be able to repeat this pattern with increasing efficiency. We’re all just trying to find better and better ways to communicate and what better way to learn than to test communication, learn from the results and test again?
I can’t wait to sit in a conference ten years from now and see what amazing things the world of mobile apps produces and how it changes the world we live in. I also can’t wait to sit with a smile on my face as I realize that regardless of how different it all is on the surface, we’re still talking about communication.
Taplytics is a fully integrated mobile A/B testing, push notification, and analytics platform providing the tools you need to optimize your mobile app.