User decay is an unfortunate—but inevitable—reality of app marketing. Assuming there are no major changes to the mobile ecosystem, virtually every app experiences some level of declining engagement as time passes, for a litany of reasons. However, when shakeups do occur, such as the release of a new device or operating system, the rate at which users are lost can accelerate—drastically.
As users acquire new devices (say, the record-breaking numbers that purchased the iPhone 6) or adopt new operating systems, many view it as an opportunity to “clean house.” When you consider that the average number of apps that consumers use each month is a paltry twelve, it’s easy to see why so many apps fail to make the jump to the new OS.
But this year is different. Huge leaps forward in app marketing technology—specifically the increased viability and reach of retargeting—are helping app marketers more successfully excite and reconnect with their once-loyal users.
The arrival of retargeting
Sophisticated retargeting can be attributed to the industry-wide acceptance of Advertising Identifiers (aka IDFAs) across the mobile ecosystem, along with Facebook and Twitter’s rise to prominence in the app marketing industry.
In the last year, the app marketing industry coalesced around IDFAs as the primary means of tracking performance on iOS, with advertisers, publishers, and other players all eagerly putting the industry’s fragmented tracking and attribution processes behind them. IDFA’s maturation, coupled with advancements in programmatic media buying like real-time bidding (RTB), now makes it possible to display advertising to users who could potentially abandon an app.
On top of this, because of the incredible popularity of their mobile products, Facebook and Twitter are able to identify massive amounts of app users, regardless of what device they’re currently using, by tracking persistent logins. This makes retargeting possible even after users have upgraded to a new operating system or new device.
Before the change
At its highest level, retargeting is about avoiding the loss of once-loyal users. To do so, app marketers encourage specific actions, such as making an in-app purchase or completing a registration page. For example, a user who hasn’t made a purchase in a long time might receive a 10 percent discount on an in-game upgrade. These retargeting tactics can help drive monetization events and should be a part of every app marketer’s arsenal.
But beyond the everyday, changes to the mobile marketing landscape can be extraordinarily beneficial to app marketers well versed on retargeting strategies.
In anticipation of a new OS or device (let’s say the new iPads) app marketers should consider re-engaging as many dormant users as possible before their users upgrade. Campaigns on Facebook, Twitter, and RTB networks can all be targeted at lapsed users.
Effective retargeting messages include:
- new features or content that former users may be unaware of
- reminders of the reasons users downloaded your app originally
- explaining how your app will improve with update, if possible
After the change
We’ve already noted that change accelerates user decay. However, and seemingly contradictory, these periods can also promote app downloads, as users look to fill their newly updated (or just plain new) device.
For example, in the month following the release of iOS 7, Fiksu identified a 33 percent increase in the number of apps downloaded. As a result, retargeting can also be used to great effect following the immediate release of a new OS or device to rebuild connections with loyal users.
Beyond app users
We’ve discussed retargeting’s benefits in retaining and engaging with current app users, but it can also help attract customers from the Web to build or grow a user base.
In study after study, mobile is becoming the dominant way users access the Internet, while laptop and desktop usage falls behind. But despite this seemingly permanent shift in consumer preferences, many brands are unable to capitalize, often failing to meaningfully engage with their existing desktop users on mobile.One of the most staggering statistics published in a Google study on cross-platform consumer behavior is that 76 percent of online transactions begin on smartphones or tablets and then continue on other devices. It appears that consumers are using smartphones for browsing and comparison shopping before purchasing on a desktop. Google’s findings prove that brands must appeal to mobile users.
There are two major approaches to cross-device targeting: pixel tracking and targeting on cross-platform media sources. In a nutshell, pixel tracking involves placing a tracking pixel on a desktop website to collect visitor information, then using that data to serve those same visitors an ad on their mobile device. Cross-platform media sources, on the other hand, leverage social networks to make direct connections between desktop and mobile users.
Retargeting is the future
Regardless of whether you’re trying to retain your loyal, high-spending customers through each device and OS iteration, or help a brand cross the Web-to-mobile divide, advancements in retargeting are making it possible.
Rico heads up the global expansion efforts in the Asia Pacific region for Fiksu, the mobile app marketing experts. Rico’s roots run deep in the mobile space as an entrepreneur and angel investor in mobile apps, m-commerce and mobile marketing ventures including Cassiber, Foodpanda, and tenCube (acquired by McAfee). Rico graduated from the University of St. Gallen in Switzerland and is based in Singapore.