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2020 Mobile App Engagement Benchmark Report

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Loyalty & Retention

7 Deadly Sins of Mobile Customer Loyalty Programs

Alex Walz  //  February 18, 2016  //  10 min read

Mobile customer loyalty comic

With over 1,000 apps added to the App Store each and every day, establishing loyalty is no easy matter. Fortunately, acting on the seven tips below will keep your app top-of-mind with customers and keep them coming back for more.

We live in a world where brands are increasingly honing into the wants and needs of their customers to create a superior experience. It’s something we’ve predicted for years, and it’s something we’re proud to help advance one customer at a time. Offline, online, and in-app, companies like Starbucks, IHG, and Kohl’s are prioritizing customers, collecting actionable insights, and earning loyalty.

Yet, as loyalty programs become mainstream, especially in the mobile arena, we’ve also seen an increasing number of loyalty faux pas pop up to hinder their effectiveness or even diminish loyalty. To help separate the loyalty-winners from the loyalty-losers, we’ve compiled a list of seven of the most common, yet egregious errors we’ve seen, the Seven Deadly Sins of Mobile Customer Loyalty, and provided a few tips on overcoming each misstep.

Read on to atone for any of your own customer loyalty sins and pave the way for a better customer experience:

 

1. Ignoring customer complaints

This one may sound like a no-brainer, but it’s one that an overwhelming majority of companies continue to strike out on. According to a Sprout Social study, as many as 80% of brand-addressed complaints made by customers over social media never see a response. Of the 20% that do, the same study revealed that customers were kept waiting for an average 11.3 hours before receiving a 140-character response.

Responding to, or even reading, a complaint is never easy. But it does pay. A Lee Resources study, for example, found that if you are able to resolve a complaint in the customer’s favor, that customer will do business with you again 70% of the time.

When it comes to the app stores, your customer complaints and one-star reviews are just as deserving of a follow-up. Engaging in two-way dialog, whether it’s over positive or negative feedback, is a great way to earn customer loyalty and delight an audience so used to seeing brand communication as a one-way street.

Make the most out of that next complaint by seeing it not as criticism but as an opportunity for a meaningful conversation. For tips on breaking down the app store walls and engaging your reviewers, check out our 10 Tips for Handling Negative App Reviews for advice on effectively managing customer complaints and winning back your customers.

 

2. Being retroactive with customer communication

This next sin goes hand-in-hand with the last.

The longer you wait for an issue to arrive, the costlier that issue becomes. By the time a customer brings an issue to your attention, many more customers will already be out the door, and there may be no room in your product roadmap to schedule in an immediate fix.

If instead, you implement a process of proactively soliciting and collecting customer feedback, you can take quality assurance into your hands and identify any issues at the onset to swoop in with an immediate solution–one that builds value and earns loyalty.

Proactive communication can take many forms. At Apptentive, we’ve found mobile-first surveys and well-timed feedback forms to be among the most effective channels. Regardless of what channel you choose, the most important thing is to be available for your customers. Customers don’t want to invest the time to undergo the six-step process of leaving an App Store review; but often, it’s their only choice. The more choices they have, the more you control the flow of feedback and the more insights you can collect.

By setting up such proactive channels, you can not only squash those bugs, but you can earn your customer’s love as well. Our research has shown that customers want to be engaged and messaged, as long as it’s in a respectful and relevant manner. Out of the millions of interactions we’ve analyzed, we’ve found that customers who are proactively engaged are 4x likelier to stick around three months after registration than those who see no brand engagement.

In other words, communication pays.

Mobile app retention based on proactive engagement

Apps that proactively communicate with their customers see retention 400% greater than those that take a retroactive approach.

To become proactive about customer communication, see our three-part guide on getting started with mobile research.

 

3. Neglecting past customers

For many marketers, there are two ultimate mobile marketing metrics: acquisition and retention. App marketers work tirelessly to bring customers to their apps and tirelessly again keep them coming back, day after day.

But what about those customers that slip through the cracks and don’t come back?

This significant population, consisting of 60% of last month’s registrations and 96% of last year’s registrations, is simply written off. We hear such morbid terms as the “customer lifecycle” to explain the termination of a customer relationship. The churned customer becomes history, and the goal of marketing becomes to acquire new customers to fill that gap.

Yet, marketing doesn’t have to be a vicious cycle of wash, rinse, and repeat with an endless stream of customers coming and going. In truth, few opportunities are ever closed, and those “churned” customers will be more than happy to return to your app–once you give them a reason to.

Between acquisition and retention is re-engagement, a golden opportunity for marketers to grow their app business and earn loyalty. Re-engagement can take many forms, but it is essentially any strategy that targets inactive customers with the goal of an app launch. Prominent re-engagement strategies include:

  • App indexing: The process of making Android or iOS app content searchable and linkable from a Google search. App indexing is a powerful tactic for both customer acquisition and customer retention. When used for acquisition, prospective customers who see your search result can click on the link and be taken to your app store landing page. When used for retention or re-engagement, current customers who see your search result can click the link and be taken directly to your content within the app they have previously installed.

The best part of re-engaging customers? Returned customers can provide a wealth of knowledge on why customers are leaving your app and what you can do to better retain them. Consider surveying re-engaged customers once they have returned to regularly using your app to collect their feedback and understand customer pain points from those who can speak to them best.

 

4. Siloing mobile customer loyalty

An effective loyalty program isn’t the responsibility of a single team. It’s the responsibility of the entire company.

Customer centricity comic

Customer experience fragmentation is often the first victim of an omni-channel world. Source: Business 2 Community

To come off as genuine, your loyalty initiatives and customer-first mentality must be echoed by all facets of your business, from the way engineers incorporate customer journey mapping and human-centered design (HCD) principles when building the app to the way marketing first messages the app in its app store product page.

Particularly necessary is securing executive commitment and buy-in for your loyalty program. If the executive team is concerned with the same metrics around engagement, your loyalty program will feature prominently into the direction of the company, its product roadmap, and its greater messaging strategy. Customer-first executives further set an example for the rest of the company about why the business exists in the first place and reinforces the importance of happy customers to a company’s bottom line.

For more on breaking down silos, check out our free eBook: The People-First Approach to Enterprise App Development.

 

5. Viewing your customers as one unit

If 90% of your reviews are above four stars or if the only feedback you have is from those customers who either love or loathe your app, it’s easy to jump to conclusions and believe all customers have a similar attitude toward your app.

In reality, each customer is different. Each customer has a particular communication style they prefer, each has a different use case for your app, and each has different pain points. Simply put, each customer has different expectations–and only when you meet these expectations can you earn their loyalty.

To understand your customers, look beyond aggregate measures like the star rating and engage them on a human level. Unsure of how customers prefer to be engaged? Ask them. Unsure if a short session length means they achieved what they launched the app to do or if it means they left dissatisfied? Send them a quick survey on their next launch and use the results to inform your product roadmap.

Once you’ve collected such insights, you can begin to tailor your brand communication and loyalty program to your customer’s individual needs; thereby increasing both app usage and customer sentiment.

 

6. Engaging at the wrong time or place

Our next deadly sin is the failure to hone into and honor your customers’ communication preferences. Not only is each customer unique; each customer has a particular communication style that they prefer.

For many publishers, push is the go-to vehicle for brand communication. It’s a quick and simple way to immediately prominently display your message on your customers’ devices, no matter where they are or when they last used your app. It’s easy to see why publishers love push notifications, but the customers who receive those messages aren’t as sold.

In fact, an Appiterate study found that push notifications may be doing more harm than good, with 71% of respondents citing annoying notifications as a primary driver of app uninstalls.

Annoying push notifications are the top driver of app uninstalls

So what separates an ‘annoying notification’ from a well-received, loyalty-boosting message? Often, it’s a simple matter of when and where you engage your customers.

Keeping tabs on your customers’ behavioral analytics can provide insights into their unique communication styles; but in lieu of a comprehensive data set, we’ve discovered a few tips to help your messaging stand out as respectful and relevant:

  • Make all notifications and messaging to easy to opt out of to allow customers to own their brand communication channels;
  • Keep tabs on statistics around message dismissals to optimize your content and delivery times;
  • Refrain from sending an in-app message upon log-in, as customers tend to be most receptive toward the end of the customer journey–once they have accomplished what they launched the app to do;
  • Segment your customers by interests to ensure that the communication they see is relevant and value-adding; and,
  • Limit the number of push notifications and in-app messages you send, especially if you begin to see a lower response rate or a higher app exit rate.

For more on contextually relevant messaging, download our free eBook: The Five Pillars of Contextual Marketing.

 

7. Making loyalty an afterthought

When it comes to loyalty programs, the earlier you’re able to start–and the more you prioritize around loyalty–the more effective your program will be.

In the world of apps, we often see a segregated delivery funnel. In this development environment, the app will be relayed through multiple teams, each of which will work on the app for a short period of time before handing it off to a subsequent team. Typically, the first half of this roadmap is dominated by engineering teams: product management, development, quality assurance. The second half by commercial teams: marketing, sales, customer experience, customer service. The result looks a little something like this:

The segmented mobile app product delivery funnel

But while this model has become standard, it impedes the effectiveness of any mobile customer loyalty program right out of the gate. The teams most responsible for customer loyalty sit at the bottom of the funnel and often play no role in the app’s production until development has been completed. As a result, the loyalty program doesn’t take root until the app has been launched and is often stitched in as little more than an overlay to the app’s original design.

Instead, effective loyalty programs require an unsegmented development cycle, in which all teams are brought in at the onset and given a voice to influence the app’s direction. This new cycle looks less like a funnel and more like a chain, where each team iterates on and improves upon the work of the others’ in a concurrent fashion:

The optimal delivery chain for customer-first mobile app development

For an effective loyalty program, it’s critical that commercial teams are able to influence the app’s direction from the onset and embed loyalty into the very framework of the product.

When this happens, your mobile customer loyalty program takes flight with an all-around better customer experience and a product that:

  • Encourages continued usage with fresh, in-app content;
  • Pairs customer-first messaging with customer-first design; and,
  • Incentivizes loyalty with achievements, gamification, personalized rewards, and other draws dictated by app analytics and a personalized experience.

Of course, it’s never too late to start a mobile customer loyalty program; but the greater extent to which all teams are focused on that golden metric, the easier it will be to earn your customer’s loyalty.

 

And there you have it: the Seven Deadly Sins of Customer Loyalty Programs.

Run into any hurdles you’re struggling to overcome in your pursuit of a superior customer experience? Let us know in the comments below and we’ll do our best to offer a helping hand. Know of any other loyalty sins that make you wince every time you see them and have tips on avoiding them? We’re all ears.

And as always, we encourage you to subscribe to the Being Apptentive newsletter for the latest tips, tricks, and best practices in mobile customer loyalty.

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.
View all posts by Alex Walz >

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