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2020 Mobile App Engagement Benchmark Report

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Mobile Marketing

Context Marketing Is The New Content Marketing

Alex Walz  //  March 6, 2015  //  10 min read

“Content is where I expect much of the real money will be made on the Internet, just as it was in broadcasting.” – Bill Gates, January 3, 1996

Bill Gates 1983

If this photo screams ‘dated’ to you, perhaps it’s also time to re-evaluate the 90s-era adage: Content Is King.

When Microsoft chief Bill Gates published his now-famous essay, “Content Is King,” in 1996, only 15 percent of U.S. households had a cell phone. And while this old adage may have held true nineteen years ago, content is on the verge of being dethroned as we enter into the mobile-first era.

In a time of wearables, connected devices, and the Internet of Things, today’s marketers have unprecedented access to customer data. With this, comes more opportunity than ever to break past the screen and dive into every point along the customer journey to message, engage, and delight our strongest assets – our customers.

We as marketers have a golden opportunity to forge genuine and reciprocal relationships with our customers by creating a truly personalized, omni-channel experience.

But with this new opportunity comes new hurdles to traditional marketing. It’s no longer enough to just have great content; you now need to know how, when, where, and to whom, you should deliver it.

In other words, you need context marketing.

Imagine these two scenarios:

Customer A just launched his favorite app, and is immediately asked to leave an app store rating. In the rare event that he chooses to tough it out rather than closing out of the app then and there, he proceeds to the daily deals section where he’s prompted again. This time, with a gift: A 30%-off promo code for his next purchase. Customer A takes advantage and proceeds to make a purchase. Customer love achieved, right?

Now imagine Customer B launches the same app and navigates to the daily deals section, where she’s presented not with a ratings prompt but with a personalized message welcoming her back. She takes her time navigating the app and upon opening the catalog portion, she is shown recommendations for new purchases based on her browsing history – again, offering the 30%-off coupon. Customer B proceeds to select one of the recommended items and checks out using the discount code. Following check out, she is asked to evaluate her shopping experience. As she proclaims her satisfaction, she is then asked to leave a rating.

Which customer had the better experience?

From which experience did the company receive more value?

Both customers walked away with a killer deal. But only customer B was surprised and delighted. She saved time and money, and was able to complete the task she originally opened the app for rather than being interrupted with requests for feedback or ratings before she had even completed her intended course of action.

Customer A may have left a rating or review. But the chances are slim. From what we’ve seen working with hundreds of enterprise apps, he’s just as likely to exit out of the app then and there than he is to leave to a review.

Customer B is much more likely to have left a rating or review – and a more positive one at that. If for any reason she wasn’t satisfied with her experience, the company could have used piping and context marketing as a result of first gauging her overall experience to present her with an opportunity to provide something even more valuable: feedback.

Both customers were engaged with using the same general message, the same content. The only difference is how they were messaged.

“Our job as marketers is, simply, to listen.”

Today’s mobile-first companies have access to a treasure chest of customer insights and data. When it comes to mobile, there’s no reason the savvy app publisher can’t or shouldn’t have each step of the customer journey mapped out for every user. They should be able to know exactly how and when customers are engaging with their apps, and how they want to be messaged. This informed view of the customer provides publishers with remarkable opportunities to surprise and delight customers to provide a remarkable experience that will result build loyalty, evangelists, and ARPU (average revenue per user).

On the other end of the screen, customers should be able to expect that companies and mobile publishers won’t engage them at inopportune times throughout the mobile journey – such as asking them to rate the app during their first time using the app, or asking them to take a survey while they’re in the middle of checkout or defending their clan against an onslaught of rage-­filled barbarians with glorious mustaches and pyromaniac wizards. (And yes, that was a Clash of Clans reference.)

Customers no longer have to be mysteries. They’re constantly sending signals of who they are, and how they want to be engaged within the app. Every time they dismiss a dialog prompt, bypass the customer service call line for in-app chat, or exit an app once shown a survey provides all the clues we need to create a personalized messaging strategy – one that engages them on their terms, and enhances – rather than interrupts – their experience.

Our job as marketers is, simply, to listen.

Context Marketing definition

Understanding the Levers of Context Marketing

Context marketing is about delivering the right message, to the right person, via the right medium, at the right place and at the right time.

We can break this definition of context marketing into five key levers:

  • What you message;
  • Whom you message;
  • How you message;
  • Where you message; and,
  • When you message.

When it comes to context marketing within mobile apps, we have prepared a few tips for how app publishers can best understand and manipulate each lever to create a personalized customer experience:

Delivering the Right Message

Returning to the realm of content marketing, what message do you want to send to your customers? Are you making an ask, setting up a conversation, promoting a sale, announcing an available upgrade, or just saying ‘welcome back’?

Regardless of the message, it’s important to cater it to your intended audience and test the performance of different messages.

Wanderlust ratings promptFor example, we’ve found that starting with a simple qualifying question before asking for an app store rating makes a big difference in performance. At Apptentive, we ask “Do You Love This App?” before we ask for a rating to (a) further segment our audience for delivering context-dependent content (only those who declare love for the app will be asked to leave a rating), and (b) gauge customer satisfaction in a manner that only takes a second and sees virtually no opt-out, as opposed to jumping straight into the more time-consuming process of leaving a rating or review. In working with hundreds of large enterprise apps, we’ve seen that starting a conversation about whether or not the customer is happy with their experience is 5 to 10 times more effective than just asking them to rate the app.

Likewise, we’ve tested asking for a rating against asking for a five-star rating. The result? Asking specifically for five-star ratings can be seen as presumptuous and actually lead to fewer ratings, and a lower average rating. In fact, rating prompts perceived as irritating or presumptuous have even led to rating boycotts.

This may seem like a matter of semantics, but the way your frame your message can dramatically change how your customers perceive it – and the way your customers spread that message and talk about your app.

Your content needs to be carefully designed with your audience in mind and tested for little nuances that can make a big difference.

…To the Right Person

In the process of crafting your message, you should have begun to think about a use case and target audience persona: Is your message specific to what version of the app the customer is using? Should Android users be messaged differently than iOS users? Is your message aimed at your loyal customers, first-time users, customers who have just made a purchase, or users returning to the app after a prolonged absence?

With the power of modern analytics, marketers can define their intended audience as narrowly as desired to deliver that perfect message to the perfect person. For example, if our intended audience consists of English-speaking mobile customers in the United States using an Android device upgraded to 5.0 Lollipop who have opened the current version of the app three times and have not been shown a survey prompt in the last 30 days, we can create audience segmentation rules in a matter of seconds, as seen below in the Apptentive dashboard:

Audience targeting in the Apptentive dashboard makes context marketing easy

…Via the Right Medium

Next, ask yourself what medium would be most effective at delivering your message. Is your message something that can be enhanced with two-way communication, in the form of chat, a feedback form, or a survey? Or is your message more of a news blast or alert that your customers can see and either dismiss or click a link to learn more?

Your choice of medium dictates the extent to which customers can engage with your content, and should be tied directly to your messaging strategy – is your content a vehicle for collecting customer insights and sparking a conversation, or are you looking to deliver a quick alert that customers can read and immediately get back to their task at hand?

…At the Right Place

Now that you have your message crafted, your audience identified, and your medium chosen, the next step is defining where, within the app, to deliver the message. Do you want to communicate with your customers as soon as they launch the app, prompt a how-to message at the start of the first time they’ve entered a new area of the app, or request their feedback after they’ve just completed a task (say successfully booking a reservation at a restaurant, as in the example below) within the app?

Context Marketing in Wanderlust

Tie content to context by identifying key moments of engagement within your app.

While the ‘right place’ is dependent on the message, it’s a good start to look for key moments of engagement within the app or suspected customer pain points. Moments of engagement are milestone steps in the customer’s journey that can often be enhanced with simple messages – welcoming a customer back after a prolonged absence, thanking a customer for leaving feedback, or prompting a two-way message center once the customer has opened a Help menu or canceled a purchase halfway through checkout. On the other hand, pain points can be leveraged to improve the customer journey – by soliciting feedback around those shortcomings in the app and using those customer insights to create a frictionless experience.

As a few rules of thumb, we recommend:

  • Not asking for feedback or soliciting a rating/review at the moment of launch. Your customer launched the app for a specific purpose – let them achieve their goal before making an ask. Not only is it bad etiquette, but delivering your ratings prompt upon launch results in 50% more app exits than asking for ratings at any other point along the customer’s journey.
  • Delivering messages at the beginning or end of a customer journey, rather than in the middle. For example, don’t interrupt or distract the customer from whatever he or she is doing. Even if you’re offering them that 30% off promo code, wait until after they’ve finished watching that video, playing a skirmish match, or whatever it is they’re currently doing.
  • Tying the content to the context. This one should be a no-brainer by this point, but ensure that your message makes sense at the time it is prompted. The customers you message should be at a place in their experience with your app that they can understand both your message and why your message is relevant to them. If you want to collect feedback on your newly launched microtransaction shop, wait until after your customer has completed a purchase or closed out of the shop to survey their experience. This will ensure that your data collection isn’t muddled with responses from those who do not fit your target criteria (e.g., those who are unfamiliar with your microtransaction offerings, and therefore cannot provide useful feedback).

…And At the Right Time.

Lastly, when and how often do you want to deliver your message? Is your message something that customers need to see multiple times, or will once suffice? Should you deliver that ratings prompt for each version of the app the customer experiences, at consistent time intervals, or just once throughout the customer lifecycle?

As a matter of best practices, we’d suggest delivering messages or rating prompts once per customer so as to avoid unnecessary interruptions or soliciting a rating from someone who has already rated your app. The exception, however, is requesting customer insights in the form of open-ended feedback forms or in-app surveys. In these scenarios, it is important to prompt the same requests for feedback more than once to capture the effect of incremental data-driven changes to the app over time. Ideally, you’ll see the same customers giving more positive feedback with each survey – revealing the effectiveness of your investments in improving the customer experience.

Using the Apptentive dashboard, setting this time and frequency criteria is a simple matter. App publishers can effortlessly identify not only what events trigger the dialog, but also how many times each customer will be prompted and how that varies by version number and time since lost prompted:

Frequency targeting in the Apptentive dashboard

Once you’ve mastered these five levers of context marketing, you’re well on your way to creating a personalized customer experience. Mobile marketers have a remarkable opportunity at hand to personally connect with customers by connecting analytics, customer insights, and content.

And finally, remember that everything can be improved upon. Retention can always be higher, and customers can always feel a little more loved. As you design your mobile marketing strategy, it’s important to continually iterate, test, and optimize your message to create content that resonates with each customer and adds value to their journey.

If you’re looking to take your context marketing to the next level, give Apptentive a try or check out our other resources for increasing your app’s success.

About Alex Walz

Apptentive's resident wordsmith, Alex can frequently be found cranking away at eBooks or scrawling down ideas late into the night from a local coffee shop. He's an avid traveler, coffee connoisseur, and tech enthusiast, and he shares his thoughts on each over Twitter.
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