Optimizing Activations After Download

by Michael Lavoie

Last month we highlighted the Acquisition phase of the mobile app lifecycle and the importance of a clear, focused App Store Optimization (ASO) strategy. This month we’ll look at the next step: translating those downloads into engaged app customers who drive business impact for your brand.

The Activation phase is crucial for setting the foundation for the rest of the app lifecycle. Though Activation reflects all 30 days after download, the most important part of it actually occurs during the first hours. 

It’s important to remind ourselves that not everyone who downloads your app will go ahead and open it. In fact, according to Apptopia, 73% of all apps that are downloaded are never opened – and 36% of the customers who do open an app disengage after only one day. At an average cost of $5.28 to generate a download in North America ($1.03 in EMEA), a Statista finding, brands are under pressure to convert app downloaders into engaged app users.

To improve activation, let’s first think about the actions we want someone who just downloaded your app to take upon opening the app. Ideally, those who downloaded the app will be given the opportunity to Sign-In or Sign-Up if your app offers this functionality. That enables you to identify the user now as a customer and associate any existing and future information about them with their app experience. Additionally, you want the new app user to provide you with permissions to message them, certainly through push notifications. And maybe there are other core, device-level settings you want them to make as well, such as enabling “turn on” location services. Lastly, you may want to collect preference information from them so you can begin to personalize their app experience.

Don’t get ahead of your customer

But wait, your customer may not want to keep your app!

According to Apptopia, a full 36% of new app downloads won’t make it past their first open and 60% will be disengaged by Day 7. In the first interaction, instead of overemphasizing data collection, which is important to the brand, perhaps think from the perspective about what is important to the customer.

A new app user’s first priority is to determine the value proposition of your app, understand the utility and functionality of the app and validate that it will meet their needs. Sure, a multi-channel welcome series is a great way to orient a new user who’s already committed to your app. But if you have only a couple of seconds to convince someone that your app is worthy of the coveted space it will take up on their device, it’s critical to highlight what’s the most important thing to focus on.

Convey the value prop

Optimizing the crucial first few moments should focus on conveying the value proposition of your app.

  • As an exercise, ask yourself these questions about your Activation phase: Is the value proposition clear?
  • Does the value or utility of the app vary by type of customer? If so, is that clear to each segment?
  • If I could get a new app customer to take one action in their first 60 seconds on the app, what would that be? 
  • Whatever the action, is the choice clear to the customer?
  • Does my app require a tour to make sure the value and utility are clear to customers? If so, how long should the tour take? If I have a tour in place, how well is it working?

Test and modify

Lots of thought, effort and time has gone into designing your app to meet the needs of your target customer, but how often are you modifying and testing the first 60-second experience?

The Activation phase is about experimentation across the first 30 days of app download, but it’s best to think of it as 3 different phases in succession. 

  • Phase 1: Day 1 – 2. The first 2 days after opening the app are critical, particularly the first 60 seconds. The only way to know if you’ve optimized your layout, design, images, text and tours for a new app customer is to continually test them. 
  • Phase 2: Day 2 – 14. Now that the new app customer understands how they can benefit from the value proposition, functionality and utility of your app, they are in a better position to make informed decisions about sign-in/sign-up or settings. This will result in higher opt-in rates because the context and benefit to the customer are clear. Testing different copy, descriptions, images and tours for settings and opt-in/opt-out requests will allow you to optimize your response rates.
  • Phase 3: Day 14 – 30. An app customer who is familiar with the functionality and application of your app will be likely to provide additional information to enhance their usage and benefits from the app. Having some insight on how the customer has used the app enables you to prioritize the additional data you should collect. Preference centers are a simple and effective way to provide customers with the ability to provide and manage information that will enhance their app experience. 

Sure, variations and testing take time, but when maximizing a conversion funnel of new app customers, you need data to guide refinement decisions. Luckily, there are tools to help experiment, iterate and implement quickly. You’ll see some of them featured in this edition of Navigator. Don’t feel you have to work on this alone. We’re here to help and are only a phone call away!