How to maintain user engagement over time
With the explosion of popular apps like Flappy Birds, Candy Crush, Angry Birds and most recently, Pokémon Go — I’ve compiled a list of thoughts on why we stay engaged with a product and why we buy during the length of engagement.
What is user engagement?
• after land on a page from a PPC ad — engagement is any other click that’s not an exit
• after seeing a promoted post in Twitter or Facebook — any click on the post or sharing of the post
• after arriving at a site after a click on an organic search — any click that’s not an exit
• after being presented with a live chat window — any click that’s not “close"
On a surface level this seems pretty simple. User clicks on link. User stays on page, for awhile. Done. What more is there to know? But consider the underlying motivations involved in the action and it gets complicated fast.
What motivated the user to click on the link?
Why did they take action when they ignored it?
Where did their eye go to find the promoted post?
How do you get them to stay long enough to make purchases and to share to their network?
What was simple has now become a mish mash of marketing magic, human emotional drivers and behavioral psychology.
Disclaimer: And if I knew the answers to all of the above, I’d be on my way making viral apps bi-weekly. However, companies devote vast amount of manpower to collect metrics on consumers to find just a few insights to increase their ROI slightly, and then call it a good day. I did what I could with limited resources and a team of one.
1. Mobile > Web for Engagement Over Time
While I can revisit my beloved blogs over and over, like Pavlov’s dog when I hear the familiar startup hum of my laptop in the morning, mobile creates a space for engagement over time.
Engaged mobile users are more valuable than engaged web users due to the nature of the device itself.
Mobile fights in a space of limited minutes, the web fights in a space of limited hours. For consumers on the go, and far more removed from personal computers — mobile is king.
And of mobile websites? That’s the best of both worlds.
Mobile reaches into a space that is always connected, always present — right at your fingertips.
Whether you want to send a quick text message to a friend, call in sick to work, share a cool event you found, look for a flight/bus/rideshare, the convenience of mobile presents an opportunity to be intertwined into the flow of our lives.
And that’s staying power. Devices or products that require extra time, effort or energy to use need to deliver value that is worth that extra investment.
Otherwise, say goodbye to users who choose to exit because your onboarding strategy is complex or your services confuse the heck out of them. Simplicity allows for understandability, speed and convenience.
In a world on the go with limited time and resources, expect to see mobile reach new heights in the consumer space.
2. Emotions Rules Actions
Comfortable shoes, the American commercial camouflage uniform — khaki pants, olive polo shirt, no aftershave and good, thick, dun-colored socks.
The subject of study is the fortyish woman in the tan trench coat and blue skirt. She’s in the bath section. She’s touching towels. Mark this down — she’s petted one, two, three, four of them so far. She just checked the price tag on one. Mark that down, too. Careful, her head’s coming up — blend into the aisle. She’s picking up two towels from the tabletop display and is leaving the section with them. Get the time. Now, tail her into the aisle and on to her next stop.
— Paco Underhill, Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping
Marketing teams that study customers and the reasons they buy down to a science, have long understood that people buy for emotional reasons not logical ones.
Drivers such as a desire for safety (or wellbeing), success, thrill, freedom, belonging and security will impact purchasing decisions more and more visibility if you look for the underlying factors behind the success of many popular apps.
Pokemon Go — brand value and nostalgia
Monument Valley — beautiful visual design winning the masses. Beauty stirs an emotional response.
Flappy Birds — simple, thrilling and still challenging.
We want to feel belonging, whether that’s being a part of an active online community or sharing what we know and love or joining in the hype around a product/service.
There’s something about sharing a post for a thousands of retweets, likes or pats on the back (albeit digitally), that delivers an emotional high that leads to engagement over time.
3. Fans = Staying Power
Due to the nature of what mobile devices are used for (primarily social media related products), it has a higher potential to create fans.
A fan of your product it is a loyal advocate of what your brand delivers. He or she screen shares, engages with others as a positive evangelist.
Creating fans matters because he or she has a network of people to engage with and a relationship with them no company can ever replicate.
That is why testimonials, word of mouth advertising and reviews (such as those on Yelp) are so crucial. People will believe what their friends tell them, whether its for their own good or not rather than listening to a suggestion from a stranger in a suit, repeating a sales pitch from a handbook.
1. Have your mobile website work on par, if not better than the web experience.
2. Over deliver in terms of emotional experience.
3. Create fans to stay in business
Thanks for making it this far! Feel free to check out my design work. Learn how to improve your UX designer skill set with my new book.