Posted by Mike Schneider
Users care most about apps that deliver value and functionality in simple, intuitive ways. They desire apps that make their lives easier, richer and less annoying so that they can focus on what they really want to do.
App developers must build dynamic user experiences that can respond to the user’s intent, adapt to the user’s location, change based on time of day, and tune to the user’s skill level. Implementing a dynamic user experience will ultimately result in better ratings and reviews to stand out in the app store, leading to an increase in total app downloads, lift in average session length, growth in daily active users and growth in sessions per day.
Great UX is important for user engagement but also critical for app monetization and revenue. App developers have quickly shifted their monetization strategy toward in-app purchases and in-app advertising. From 2012 to 2013 alone in-app advertising revenue increased by 56%. In-app purchase revenue increased by 211% according to a joint study by AppAnnie and the IDC.
For developers, growing mobile app revenue is not about how many people pay to download an app. It's about getting the app into as many hands as possible and getting those users addicted to the app. An engaged user base maximizes ad impressions and add-ons purchases of virtual currency and premium features. Apps are now more dependent than ever on having a great UX because keeping the user engaged with the app is not only about improving metrics, it’s also about increasing revenue.
Gathering real world context of a user’s life can drive global optimization of an app to suit the entire app audience better, and it can allow developers to personalize the app for each individual user. This vision is now becoming an attainable reality, as more data resources and analytical tools provide richer insights into user identities and interests. A “smart” app will recognize patterns in its users’ lives with location-based context to be able to deliver the experiences the user needs before they even realize they need them.Enter Appticipation
It’s not enough to present the information and functionality users want when they demand it. Companies and app developers need to better anticipate their users’ needs and satisfy them before they take action. Personalizing experiences based on context removes the friction from the user’s journey. Appticipation means helping users achieve higher goals and better performance that they hadn’t anticipated or didn’t know they needed. Proactive experiences change the way users relate to and engage with the app, closing the gap between problem and solution.
Implementing appticipation means giving users guidance and not just data. For example, location-based context gathered from geofencing and persona development enables a fitness app to understand where the user is exercising, their eating habits and their day to day behavior. The app can give the user guidance and tips on how to improve their daily exercise routine to achieve their goal more quickly, instead of just showing them where they are and what their caloric intake has been for the day. The app alerts users when it anticipates that they will fall short of their daily calorie burn and also provide personalized recommendations on how users can course-correct to get back on track.Enable In-Store Modes
Geofencing allows apps to become aware of where users are and when they are entering certain locations. This location-based context can enhance app UX and enable dynamic experiences with in-app modes to anticipate what users will need at a specific time and location. For example, the health and fitness app can enable “Gym Mode” to recognize when a user enters a geofenced gym and automatically preload the user’s workout routine, designated playlist, or trigger the beginning of a workout.
CardStar is a mobile app where users store all of their loyalty cards and receive targeted offers. The app uses Skyhook’s Infinite Geofencing to improve user experience and increase the relevance of offers by monitoring for nearby stores even when the app is backgrounded. CardStar’s UI brings loyalty cards from nearby stores straight to the home screen for easy accessibility, eliminating the time spent searching for cards. CardStar is able to preload offers so that they can be delivered to busy consumers in real time.
Cardstar’s implementation of Infinite Geofencing increases user engagement, resulting in a 2x lift in average session length, a 57% increase in daily active users and 79% growth in sessions per day. Now more users open the CardStar app more often and spend more time engaging with it.
“Mobile phones are central to the shopping process- and consumers expect to be able to find and access local opportunities at the touch of a button. This enhanced vision of CardStar gives users that experience with built-in shopping lists and location-aware services that serve up nearby shops and offers.” - Andy Miller, Chief Innovator Architect at Constant Contact.
Walmart is experimenting with appticipation via an in-store mode to give its users the experience they need when they need it. Right now, this means that a user gets in-store specials, new items and item rollbacks. Similar to Cardstar, Walmart is using geofences to track the location of their customers. When they are in the stores, the app switches modes to attempt to put the most relevant experience in their hands. As the user enters the store, the app provides features and information specific to the store they happen to be in.
"Almost every facet of our lives has been transformed by a smartphone," said Gibu Thomas, the senior VP of mobile and digital for Walmart Global eCommerce, in an article on CNET. "But when you walk into a store -- and that's where over 90 percent of retail happens -- it's like this place that is stuck in time. The possibility of mobile bringing the Web to the store is incredibly disruptive."
The app is enhancing customer’s shopping experience at Walmart. In-Store mode has increased app user loyalty and now users are making double the trips to Walmart and spending up to 40 percent more each month. Two weeks after Walmart launched "in-store mode" with its app, roughly 60 percent of its users opted to use it. Moreover, about 12 percent of Walmart's sales that come through its app are coming from customers who are inside a store and using "in-store mode."
Similarly, Lowe’s has updated its mobile app with targeted, in-store features that help consumers navigate the store. The Lowe’s app functions so that consumers can view the location of any in-stock item.
“The latest Lowe’s app update is a natural evolution in our efforts to deliver a compelling experience for our customers, regardless of channel,” said Sean Bartlett, Director of Mobile Platforms at Lowe’s, in an article on Mobile Commerce Daily. “Since our introduction of the Lowe’s mobile portfolio, we’ve enabled customers to easily access store information, real-time inventory, their MyLowe’s account, ratings and reviews and purchase history.”
Consumers can also make lists of products that are available at their store via the Quick List feature. Quick List then pulls all stored products that have in-store availability into a map that shows where the products are available in the store. Additionally, the map highlights other key areas of the store, such as customer service, product pick-up and store returns.
Hotel Tonight’s error screens are extremely user friendly and engaging, including using location to let you know when you're out of range of Hotel Tonight. Explaining why you're receiving the experience is crucial to users returning to the app. If they think it's supposed to work a certain way, it should. If it doesn't and you explain why, there's a better chance of them reengaging.
Snapchat recently added a collection of geo-filters to its popular app that allow users to add fun labels and drawings based on their location. All you need to do to activate them is swipe right from the preview screen after you take a photo, and you’ll receive a text or graphic sticker overlaid on your pic.
For example, if you're taking a photo at Disneyland, you'll be able to swipe right to see art related to the amusement park; if you're passing through a particular area of New York City such as the Flatiron District, you can add an overlay label to your picture based on that neighborhood.
These apps are a huge indicator that location is the next big data point to inform user experience design. Designing specifically for what a user will do in place-specific use cases means product visionaries need powerful insights into where users go and why they go to those places. Being able to analyze and categorize the frequency in which a user goes to a place or types of places allows designers and developers to vastly improve experiences. It's become about making experiences more relevant in all aspects of the app.
With contextual user data based on location, developers can differentiate in the marketplace with dynamic mobile experiences that anticipate users’ needs. Personalizing experiences entices the user to continue to engage with the app, increasing app revenue with more downloads and in-app purchases.