This article is by Jeffrey K. Rohrs, VP of marketing insights for Salesforce and author of AUDIENCE: Marketing in the Age of Subscribers, Fans, and Followers. This post originally appeared on Forbes.
Our mobile attention is in demand. I know so because this holiday season, you couldn’t go anywhere without seeing ad after ad for the latest mobile games. Game developers clearly want us to boom, crush, and clash on their apps, and so they stepped up their display, Facebook, Twitter, and other digital ads to get our attention and transform that into downloads of their games.
It got so bad that ads for mobile games even inundated “traditional” media outlets. You couldn’t turn on the television without seeing cheeky skeleton warriors fighting, actor Craig Robinson yodeling, and model Kate Upton galloping around in slow motion. Yes indeed, the competition for me, you, and every mobile user was hot and played out across all forms of paid media.
And that’s why CMOs need to pay attention.
According to our new 2015 State of Marketing Survey, 34% of marketers worldwide plan to launch a mobile app this year. That’s on top of an already crowded mobile marketplace with millions of available apps on both the Apple and Google app stores. There is no “build it and they will come” in today’s mobile app landscape; you must have a plan not only to drive downloads but also increase app engagement over time.
The good news is that mobile games are a sort of canary in the coal mine for every brand seeking to launch or boost an app’s engagement. The companies behind those games are often wholly depending on them for revenue; thus, they’re pushing the marketing envelope every chance they get. After examining the owned media, paid media, in-app messaging, and external communication strategies of the most visible mobile game developers, I’ve gleaned these insights that are applicable to any brand launching a mobile app in 2015:
- Mine your existing audiences. You spent the time building website visitors, email subscribers, Facebook fans, Twitter followers, and all manner of other proprietary audiences. Now’s the time—with the launch of your app—to unleash them. These audiences should not only drive your first wave of downloads and usage but also social media amplification. Don’t just encourage users to share your app—create incentives that make it a no brainer. Taco Bell is doing just that right now — giving a free Doritos Locos taco to customers who download and order food using their new app.
- Leverage your existing spaces. Walk a day in your prospective app user’s shoes. Do they interact with you on a face-to-face basis? If so, turn those brick-and-mortar locations to promote the benefits of your mobile app. And don’t just rely on signage; train your reps to share your app’s value as they interact with customers. One of the reasons I purchased my current car is that the salesperson showed me how its app could start my engine on cold, winter days. That’s the most expensive app I’ve purchased to this day.
- Prioritize digital and social advertising. If you’re serious about mobile-app success, then you will have to embrace a paid media strategy that delivers downloads and usage. Social-media advertising is a logical place to start as you can target individuals by geography, behavior, and interest areas. App install ads have become extremely popular for mobile app companies and businesses with mobile apps and our research shows that the average cost per install worldwide through our social advertising platform Social.com is $4.29. Paid search makes sense where you app lends itself to established, cost-effective keywords, and banner ads may even make sense where you can reach desired audiences. Exhaust your digital advertising channels because they’re the ones where users are just a click away from conversion.
- Get permission to communicate. To foster ongoing app usage, you need to the ability to communicate with your users when the app is closed. Push messaging, email, and text messaging all provide means of communication external to your app; however, each also requires explicit permission from the user. Seek this permission upon initial download and have a communications plan in place that boosts engagement through meaningful content sent at a frequency considered reasonable by your users.
- Boost engagement with rewards. Some of those communications should be used to reward your mobile app users in ways that increase usage over time. Gaming apps do this by throwing free chips/coins/game currency to their players. 7-Eleven is creating engagement with its Go For 2 campaign where mobile app users can scan two purchased items for a chance to win tickets to “The Big Game” and more. GetGo, a regional full-service gas station, just did this by pushing a free drink coupon my way. Each of these programs keep their apps front of mind through ongoing promotions that give a little to boost app usage and loyalty—a key effort if your app is going to stand out from the 1.5 million apps competition for attention today.
- Take users on a journey. The best app experiences take customers on a personalized journey, not just take up space on a phone or tablet. For example, in customer service, when a customer support case is closed in the app, it can trigger a request for the customer to rate the service experience. If the consumer rates the customer experience above a certain score, it can prompt them to leave a review on the company’s website or on Yelp, where they then earn more loyalty points or other rewards for leaving the review.
Mobile-app development within the enterprise isn’t going to slow anytime soon. As a result, CMOs have a unique opportunity to be the partner that drives not only downloads but also ongoing usage — and that’s a game every mobile marketer would be wise to master.
For more research on mobile marketing and a holistic look at marketing in 2015, download our latest research, the 2015 State of Marketing.