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Guide

7 Steps to Product Roadmap Success

Learn how to fight feature creep, deliver the right value, and translate vision into action. Let us help you revitalize your product roadmap today, and help make 2021 your year.

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Request a Demo

We tailor each demo to your specific business needs. See it for yourself and contact us today!

Thanks for reaching out! While you wait for confirmation from an Apptentive team member, you may find these free resources to be of interest:

Guide

View resource

Guide

7 Steps to Product Roadmap Success

Learn how to fight feature creep, deliver the right value, and translate vision into action. Let us help you revitalize your product roadmap today, and help make 2021 your year.

Download Now

Product Management

Watch: The State of Mobile Consumer Engagement 2021 Webinar

Madeleine Wilson  //  March 18, 2021  //  33 min read

Apptentive’s annual Mobile App Engagement Report serves as a baseline to help app publishers across categories understand their app’s engagement strengths and areas for improvement. The report is meant to serve as a yardstick for companies seeking to understand how their customer feedback and engagement metrics stack up against the market, and includes mobile benchmarks across 10 main categories and 20 subcategories.

While we encourage you to download the full guide and dive into the data, we also hosted a webinar revealing some of the key takeaways from the report if you prefer to digest information in video format. In this recent webinar (which you can watch on-demand here), Christy Culp, Apptentive’s Chief Customer Officer, shared 2021 macro mobile app trends and category-specific benchmarks to help quantify your app’s success.

Some of the key takeaways from our 2021 report:

  • Companies who proactively engage with consumers at the right time and place see their 90-day retention results double the industry average, which is between 20-30%.
  • Brands shifted focus to improving long-term retention. 63% of consumers who were proactively engaged in Q1 were still seen later in the year (Q3-Q4).
  • There was a 50% year-over-year increase in the number of surveys sent, with an average response rate of 16% (industry average for survey response rates is 1%).
  • Simply giving customers the choice to opt into or out of surveys resulted in survey response rates of 60%.
    13% of consumers shifted their emotions to move between Fan and Risk audience segments. Brands only lost an average of 4% of consumers in this group thanks to precise segmenting and proactive, personalized outreach.
  • Almost all apps experienced significant change in their DAU due to COVID-19. Three main trends took place: massive drops, huge spikes, and higher frequency of app usage.

Transcript

Christy Culp (she/her), Chief Customer Officer at Apptentive: Hello and welcome, everybody. I am Christy Culp. I am the Chief Customer Officer here at Apptentive. And today I am super excited to share some of the key insights from our 2021 Mobile App Engagement Benchmark Report.

If you know me well, you know there is an emphasis on the super excited bit. So bear with my enthusiasm. This is going to be a fantastic presentation for both product managers, mobile marketers alike.

And before we get started, at Apptentive, we are really close with our customer base. We spend a lot of time with them. So I’ve been watching the participant list as people come in, and I just want to take a minute to say hello and welcome, and I’m so happy to see you here. And for those of you who are not yet Apptentive customers, we are super happy that you’re here. And I’m excited to share some information with you as well.

So we have kind of a lot of data to go through today because if you have seen the report, it is packed full of so many interesting findings. So I’m going to say, pretty high-level today on most of the topics. And I’ll move through findings really quickly.

There are some great ways for you to learn more if you’re interested in a particular topic. The first and the best way right now is, if you look at the bottom of your screen right now, you’ll see the Q&A area. If you can just submit any questions you have to that Q&A area, that would be much appreciated.

There is a chance because we do have so much data, that we may not have a ton of time for Q&A at the end. However, if we run out of time, please be sure to leave your name with your question, and we will follow up with you directly with any answers that we have to your questions. And we’ll also be posting a blog post soon to share some of the summaries from the webinar, so we can always answer questions there as well.

*Editor’s note: If you are reading this transcript or watching the recording, please do not hesitate to reach out to us with questions. You can reach us here or message us on social media @Apptentive.

And then the second way to learn more about a particular topic is, read the report. You’ll hear me say this a few times. But it goes into so much greater depth than we can talk about in an hour. So make sure you do that.

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Before I get started, also there are some housekeeping items. During the webinar, you can engage with Team Apptentive by chatting along, I hope you do that. And also if you want to, by following along with our @Apptentive account for live tweets.

I just heard Lola make noise. You will definitely be able to engage remotely with my really tiny dog who has a very loud voice. So I am going to apologize ahead of time for my dog Lola. She is the star of every show, and so she will likely bark during this.

And then finally, we’ll be sharing all of the links. So you’ll see some links throughout the presentation. We’ll be sharing all of that as well as the deck today after the webinar, and a recording of this. So if you want to go back and circle back on anything, just note that that’s going to be coming to you.

And so, it is Saint Patrick’s Day. And I live in Chicago. So we’re actually going to start with a few Saint Patrick’s Day trivia questions, just to get people talking in the chat room. And I’ll also be popping a few other chat questions and quizzes throughout the presentation. And they’re going to give you a fun chance to win some prizes.

So the first person to answer through the Zoom chat in each one wins. The team will let you know if you are the winner, and we’ll connect with you to get your information so we can send you a prize. So let’s jump right in.

So the first question is, the first-ever Saint Patrick’s Day parade in 1601 did not take place in Ireland, as you might have thought. Where did it take place? And I will look at the chat for a second.

OK, so there are a couple of answers here, I’ll let the team decide. The answer is the United States. And the answer actually is St. Augustine.

And Melissa Matthews, you either super know your history, or you Googled that really quickly, I’m proud of you either way. But yeah it happened in St. Augustine, Florida in the United States. So I’ll let the team decide who the winners are there, and they will message you.

And then the next one we have. Again, I live in Chicago, and they surprise-dyed the river this weekend, meaning they dyed it without telling us they were going to do so. So how many pounds of green vegetable dye are used to turn the river green every year?

All right, we’re seeing some answers here. Let me tell you, if you have answered in the thousands, you are way too high. Ooh, getting closer.

Lots of answers coming in. All right, again, somebody may have Googled this, but the answer is 40 pounds. So if you are the person that answered 40 pounds, we will get to you, and that is our answer.

OK, so that’s how those questions are going to work. Please feel free to keep answering them throughout the presentation as they come up. It’s fun for me that to know that there are people on the other side, so let’s keep that going.

So with that, let’s jump right into the report. So why do we use benchmarks? Without benchmarks, you don’t understand how you’re performing in regards to your competitors, in regards to previous years. And in the case of these benchmarks, you don’t understand how you’re comparing in your customers’ eyes, in comparison to your competitors.

So some of the benchmarks we’re going to go through today are Apptentive-specific benchmarks, some of the things that our customers utilize, and some of the terminology that we use. And then some of the benchmarks are going to be benchmarks that are measured across the entire industry. So I hope you find both interesting, but we are definitely going to go through both.

And then what does the report tell us? So at a really high level, people turned en masse to mobile apps in 2020. And the signs show going into 2021 that some of the trends are here to stay. Now is a great time to act on that, to really enhance our mobile strategy, and to win market share, because it is a prime time to do that.

So a little bit of methodology. There we go. So for this report, we evaluated over 1,000 apps. Each of the apps that we included in this did have over 5,000 active users. That equated to information from over 1 billion installs, so quite a big data set here.

All of the apps included for this report are companies that work with Apptentive, so they are Apptentive data. So that means that the data set is going to be skewed to reflect the kinds of companies that we normally work with, as well as companies that are generally adhering to our best practices, that we recommend when people are communicating with customers. So do you want to be clear, things are skewed to people we work with. But we do think that it is a pretty indicative list of apps across a lot of different categories, and does show a lot of trends for the mobile space in general.

The data runs through all of 2020. And while this was our sixth year conducting the research, this is the first year that we’ve actually offered so many categories and subcategories. There are 10 categories, 20 subcategories in this. Because 2020 was such a bananas year, with the COVID lockdowns and mass changes in app usage, we wanted this year to be as granular as possible when providing data that would be relevant to your business.

So we didn’t want to compare you to something that the App Store might loop you in with that really isn’t relevant to what you saw in 2020. So that’s why you’ll see a lot of those categories and subcategories. And again, I highly encourage you to download a copy of the report and take a look at the subcategory that’s most relevant to your company, because you’re going to be able to find a lot of really granular information in that.

OK, so looking at 2020 and the mobile landscape as a whole, it was quite robust and dynamic. There were a record 218 billion app downloads, and $143 billion in mobile App Store spend. So at the height of the pandemic, mobile usage skyrocketed. I think we all know that in March and April and things like that, we were using our devices pretty much all day, every day. And that actually accelerated the mobile adoption by almost two to three years in just a few months.

So nearly every industry, whether they were positively or negatively impacted by COVID, did make a sharp pivot toward mobile as a means by which to do business and communicate with their customers. And because of this shift in behavior, executives actually said coming out of 2020 that funding for digital initiatives increased really sharply in comparison with funding in other areas.

And at the beginning of the COVID lockdowns, a lot of different industries, a lot of different brands saw huge boons inside of their apps. And that spiked demand was generally related to apps that could bring in goods and services and real-world activities into people’s homes. But as the economic recovery progressed, and as the lockdowns started to lift, a lot of companies actually saw those downloads fall back to pretty normal levels, although demand at the end of the year was still quite high. So for instance, in grocery apps, they are up 15% year over year in-app usage after initially skyrocketing to over 300% growth.

Some categories, however, did see lasting change, specifically categories of news and messaging. They’ve maintained far more of their COVID-19 acceleration or of their 2020 acceleration, as we’ll call it, nearly every day through the end of December, mostly due to continued restrictions, particularly in travel. And then with the news category, obviously we know that last year, a lot of days during the year through the end of the year were breaking news days. So those apps did see a lot of that retained level of use.

So really quickly, here is our first quiz for you to learn how they look. How many billions of app downloads were there in 2020? Go ahead and just put the letter that you think.

All right, that was quick. A lot of people answered. Great. Thank you for paying attention, everybody.

Everybody is getting it pretty right, so thank you very much. There were 218 billion app downloads in 2020. So let’s get into hard data.

So I’m first going to talk about mobile customer sentiment. That’s something really near and dear to Apptentive’s heart, and something we talk about with our customers all the time. And gauging sentiment starts with understanding emotion.

And Apptentive customers measure customer emotion through a tool called the Love Dialog. It starts with a simple question that’s just yes or no to the question of do you love the company? And from there, brands can choose how to further engage with customers, depending on how the person is feeling. If they’re feeling positive or negative, they can choose to take different actions.

Customers who are not loving their experience with the company at that time are immediately asked to give feedback, so that feedback goes directly to the company, and helps them to uncover customer issues, product issues, service gaps, and helps them to plan future roadmaps. So when we talk about customer sentiment, we’re pretty much talking about this Love Dialog and how it applies to customers.

So in 2020, as in previous years, the Love Dialog has a simply incredible response rate. In 2020, 93% of all consumers who were prompted by the Love Dialog responded either yes or no to it, rather than closing out of the prompt or backing out of the prompt. So really high number there. On iOS, the number was even higher at 97%, compared with 84% on Android. And

The Dialog garners such a high response rate because it’s really simple. So asking people in the right place and the right time to answer a short question about how they’re feeling, people are really willing and able to give that quick proactive feedback, as long as they’re asked at the right moment in time. And we’ll talk a little bit about the right moment in time going through it. But really high response rates here.

And what comes from this is, people are actually able to gauge from that something called the Love Percentage. And this is Apptentive’s key metric in gauging customer sentiment, and the metric that we really hope coming away from this, especially if you’re a customer, that you care the most about in 2021. So it really just looks at the percentage of customers who said yes to the Love Dialog.

And in 2020, quite similar to previous years, 65% of consumers prompted responded that yes, they love the brand. And these quick positive responses are a great way for brands that take a regular emotional pulse from customers without asking them to leave the app to give feedback, without asking them to take another step away from their intended use of the app. It’s also a much better indicator of happiness and potential value than a lagging metric like NPS, because it’s happening in the moment, and it’s really quick.

So for 2020, one of the really interesting things we looked at was comparing retention for people who responded yes to the Love Dialog, or the people who are considered a brand’s fans on the slide, and those who answered no, who are the brand’s risk. So while compiling the data, we really expected to see that people who said that they love the app stuck around longer and had better retention. But if we look at retention for people who saw the Love Dialog, regardless of which bucket they were in, they actually have really comparable retention.

And for me, this is probably the most striking and most surprising and exciting finding for the entire year, because it means that by giving both happy and unhappy customers a voice to express their emotions directly to you within the app, you’re creating a path to keep those customers around for longer. So as soon as somebody says they’re unhappy, if they’re able to share why they’re feeling that way directly to the company, they really feel heard and empowered.

And the insight that you’re getting there right away, in that moment can help you, again, to make better product decisions, to connect further with customers when you know what their issues are, to understand their concerns, and ultimately, to keep them around longer. So like I said, this is the most exciting metric for me of the entire report. And then a little later, so these retention numbers are really strong, but I’ll touch on how they compare to other mobile app averages a little later in the webinar.

So that’s what we learned about customer sentiment and our Love Dialog. What I’ll talk about next is expressed sentiment. So from the Love Dialog, we’re actually able to bucket people into six groups based on their expressed emotion. And those six groups are new fans and new risks. Those are people who are answering yes or no to the Love Dialog for the first time ever, respectively.

Repeat fans and repeat risks, who are those people who have answered yes or no to the Love Dialog consistently at least two times. And then reclaimed fans are those people who previously answered no, and have changed their answer to yes in the most recent prompt. And lost fans, the people who answered yes previously to the Love Dialog, but sadly, have changed their answer to no.

We call this grouping of buckets Fan Signals, and they allow your brand to measure expressed sentiment across time and touchpoints. And this data can be used to build out first-party profiles of your customers, and help you to offer a more personalized digital experience, and can help you to identify when sentiment shifts and why.

So what we saw with regards to these in 2021 is the majority of customers, as we said before, 65% did identify as fans throughout the year. The most important thing, though, is not necessarily which bucket they fall into, but how you treat each bucket based upon their self-identified emotions. You do need to look at each of these separately. So if somebody is in a risk category, you want to stop them from churning however you can. But mitigating that churn looks really different depending on the segment.

So somebody who just shifted from risk, or a lost fan on this slide, likely would benefit from some kind of an immediate response from a company to mitigate the issue, or to give them an incentive to continue as a customer. Something shifted in their experience, and it really is critical that you get back to them right away to make sure you don’t lose them.

On the other hand, somebody who’s a new risk, so still in that risk category, but somebody who’s identified for the first time, they may just want to see an enhanced feature or something like that to really enhance their experience. And they want to see that communicated to them over time. So again, you want to treat those buckets differently.

Simultaneously, you should not ignore people in the fans group that have a good experience. You should continue to understand how they feel, and tailor their experiences and your interactions with them depending on how they answered to more deeply engage them in your business. So a new fan might be willing to evangelize for you externally or complete a survey that helps you to understand better what their wants and needs are. And a repeat fan might be a really good candidate for something like a beta group.

So the takeaway here is, there were more fans in 2020 overall than there were people who were at risk. But listening to and acting on people from all segments is the key to harnessing the power of customer emotion.

And one key takeaway from 2020 is that most people did not actually shift their emotions. So while 50% of consumers who answered the Love Dialog were doing so not for the first time, so it was at least the second time they had seen it, only 13% of consumers actually shifted their emotions. So on average, brands last about 4% of that 13 total percent of customers that shifted their emotions.

So the reality is that sometimes companies will lose customers, and people are not going to be happy all the time. But if you are tapping into that segment and understanding who those people are, treating them differently, understanding what you can fix, you are going to put yourself at an advantage over brands that can’t quantify that customer experience, and don’t understand when that emotion has shifted.

Another key takeaway from this Love Dialog and expressed sentiment data is that winning brands have moved away from using passive and lagging indicators to measure customer satisfaction. So as we said, a lot of customers, at least 50% were seeing a Love Dialog more than once, or it was not the first time that they were seeing it from a particular brand. So companies are now instead focusing on fluid and comprehensive metrics like a Love Dialog, and Love Percentage, and Expressed Sentiment to wholly understand the voice of the customer.

And by keeping a constant pulse on customer emotion and regularly checking in with them instead of checking in once a year, they’re focused on really understanding the customer. They’re not focused on an internal vanity metric, but really making sure that customers are happy, proactively asking for feedback. And these brands are able to keep their customers engaged, and are able to keep retention up over time. And obviously, if somebody stays around longer, this leads to longer lifetime value, and ultimately more revenue for the company.

All right, moving onto retention. I mentioned I’d touch on this a little more. In a year when very little was normal, brands got really creative when talking about mobile engagement strategies. And it became really clear as time went on that people were focused on retention. I know we did this as a brand.

People were focused a lot on retention and making sure that they didn’t lose the dollars that they had, and not as much on the acquisition of new customers. Retaining customers tends to be less expensive than acquiring new ones, and offers additional benefits such as increased lifetime value, really understanding and getting to know those customers. And it can also be a great trust signal around how well your brand knows customers.

However, retention doesn’t look very good in the mobile space overall. So according to research that was put out last year by AppsFlyer and Mixpanel, the average 90-day retention for mobile apps across categories is somewhere between 20% and 30%. So 90-day retention, basically you’re seeing one-fifth to about one-third of people. So it’s not great.

We actually saw some pretty different numbers from our data set in 2020. There we are. And that is that brands who proactively engage with customers instead of leaving retention to chance actually saw incredibly high retention. So in 2020, the teams that did engage with people saw the 90-day retention double the industry average of 20% to 30%. So as you can see here, it was closer to 50%, 55% for those brands.

And while short-term retention is really critical, and that’s what you’re going to see a lot in the mobile space, the fact of it is, you’re really looking at long-term retention, you’re really looking at lifetime value. People who stay around longer are going to provide more value to your company. So in 2020, our data showed that across brands, annual retention was around 35%.

So we’re probably one of the only places you’re going to see this annual retention number. But it is really important to Apptentive that we’re not looking at just short-term gains, but that long-term relationship with the customer inside of the mobile space. So the takeaway from this is again, double the industry average for companies that were included in the study from that of the overall app space, and a 35% annual retention for companies as well.

And as astounding as these retention rates were, we wanted to understand what was beneath that. We really wanted to understand why companies were seeing such great numbers. And the answer really is proactive communication. Customers who saw intelligently timed interactions like surveys or in-app notes, the Love Dialog saw a much higher correlation with long-term retention. And that far surpassed even the great numbers that we saw in the 90-day retention in the previous slide.

So simply by meeting customers where they are inside of your mobile app in 2020, and listening to them and acting on feedback, and just creating that communication loop provides a path for your customers to engage emotionally with your brand. And that was really important in a year like 2020 when first of all, we were looking for ways to emotionally engage with anything we could since we were stuck home alone. But we were primarily doing so through digital channels. So if you’re able to connect with your customers and let them know, especially in a mobile app, that there are humans on the other side of that app, and that you care about them and their experience with your brand, not just as a number, but as an actual person who has ears and listens, you’re going to put yourself in a much better place to retain customers and to keep them working with your brand.

So moving on to interaction and response rates. Again, this data is going to be from Apptentive interactions. The pandemic had a very major impact on mobile interaction and response rates. As lockdowns began, and people started to shift digitally, like I said, really early on, we saw a lot of spikes in MAU, particularly March through June, across industries, regardless of how the industry was impacted by COVID.

Mobile teams that we work with did a really great job of shifting and getting in front of customers during the beginning stages of the pandemic. And companies used the app to engage with their customers more regularly as it became the primary, if not the only way for people to communicate. So in response, customers interacted and responded really well with brands throughout the year. So at the end of the year, interaction rates remained steady, remained high. And we saw about a 2% increase from 24% to 26% of people that were interacted with by brands in 2020.

So when you think of 2%, it may not seem like that big of a number. But if you have a data set of over a billion installs, that equates to a ton of different touchpoints, a ton of different interactions with customers.

And then looking at response rates, while we saw those interaction rates high while we saw brands being more willing to talk to people inside of the mobile app, it was not at the expense of people responding. So the overall response rate to in-app interactions through Apptentive was a shocking 92%, which means the overwhelming majority of customers who were interacted with through surveys, notes, and that Love Dialog, an overwhelming number of them actually responded in some way back to those brands.

So that is our information on interactions. And now I’m going to take another little break because I am talking kind of fast. And I’m going to do another quiz.

So the question is, who said this? And the quote is, “If you make customers unhappy in the physical world, they might each tell six friends. If you make customers unhappy on the internet, they can each tell 6,000 friends.” So who said this? We’re getting some answers, getting some big tech giant answers.

All right, we have the correct answer in there. Thank you everyone for participating. The answer is Jeff Bezos. So saying that, I’m going to take a quick drink for water.

So moving on from interactions and things like that. One of the things that is important to Apptentive and that we do enable is ratings and reviews. So we really want companies to focus on interacting with individuals one to one inside of the mobile app. We really want you to get that actionable feedback directly from customers in a private space where you can learn how to make things better.

But it is no question that your ratings and reviews do matter, and they are something that is a key indicator if somebody will download your app. So that’s where the Bezos quote comes in; if you’re not doing well, they’re probably going to mention it to about 6,000 people externally.

Ratings and reviews have real consequences in conversion rates and in brand reputation. So when we ask customers what the level is that they were willing to download an app, what the value of a star was, they said that there’s a huge cost in moving down in the number of stars that you have in the App Store. So for instance, moving a three-star app to four stars can lead to an 89% increase in conversion into the app. So it’s a really important metric, and we saw some interesting things on it in 2020.

So across the apps included in the study, the average star rating was actually 4.31, which is split between iOS and Android. Similar to previous years, if you’ve been through any of these reports before, if you’re an Apptentive customer and have had a business review, you know that generally, iOS ratings are higher than Android. However, in 2020, Android actually narrowed the gap between iOS and Android. And this is likely due to the change in the rating system that Google employed in late 2019, where they started to weigh newer ratings higher than older ones. So we actually saw that gap narrowing.

And on average, apps had about 89,000-star ratings and an average of about 1,400 reviews. This has actually always been higher on Google. And because of the way that they implemented their in-app prompt, this has remained true for 2020.

So while looking at this data is really interesting. It doesn’t really at an aggregate level help you to understand really if you’re doing well or not. So in just a few slides, I’m actually going to break this down by category, which I think is a little bit more telling, and more robust of a story for you, in terms of how you’re doing in comparison to some of your peers and some of your competition.

Before I get into any of that, I will talk about surveys. Surveys are a huge part of the Apptentive offering. They’re a huge part. Hopefully your mobile strategy, your product team strategy, they are a super powerful way for people to understand sentiment, and for people to understand feelings, for people to understand what is going well and what’s not. But only if they’re shown at the right place and the right time within the app, and only if they’re shown to the right segment.

So in 2020, we actually saw a 50% increase in the number of surveys that were sent from Apptentive from those numbers in 2019. COVID restrictions catapulted engagement in general, and were a strong driver in the increase as teams got more comfortable talking to consumers about their feelings about coming back into stores, their feelings about what was going on in their space. So we did see a huge increase as people shifted and talked to their customers in mobile, making up for some of that face-to-face interaction that wasn’t possible.

And now I have another little quiz. I’ll give you a second just to look at this slide really closely. And the question is, true or false? On average, 25% of consumers in our study saw a survey blended between Android and iOS in 2020? Whoo, that went quick!

All right. We have a winner there. So the answer is true. Yeah, 25% of all customers, the billion or so that we saw in there actually saw surveys in 2020.

And lastly, in macro trends, I want to look at response rates. So an important distinction is that on average, when you look across industries, when you look across different channels, so email and mobile and web and things like that, brands only hear generally from 1% of the customers that they survey. However, the response range for Apptentive customers last year was about 16% between iOS and Android. So although they were actually lower, we actually saw a drop between 2019 and 2020 from 18% to 16% response rates. They’re off the charts in comparison with the responses that you’d see in the other forms, through email, and things like that.

And the main factor behind that slight drop was whom brands presented surveys to. So many companies actually broadened their survey audience. Many people wanted to talk about, as I mentioned, things that they wouldn’t normally in the mobile app, such as engaging with brands in person. And because of that, because they lowered the barrier to seeing a survey, particularly in Q2, and they were less targeted in who saw the survey, response rates fell.

While generally, we’d say we want higher response rates, it’s not always a bad thing to have a drop of a few percentage points if it means that you’re getting in front of more of your customers and giving more of them a voice. So this is something that if you’re an Apptentive customer, we love to talk about. We love to understand for this particular survey you’re putting out, who the audience is and what your expected retention rate is. But overall, last year saw about a 16% response rate for surveys.

That said, not all surveys are delivered the same way, even within the mobile space. And if customers are given a response to opt-out before seeing a survey, responses soar. So companies who linked an Apptentive in-app note with a survey actually saw over 60% response rate. So basically giving them the choice whether or not they want to opt into a survey, and then putting that survey in front of them really helps to boost that response rate, and really helps that customer to feel like they’re in control of that communication with you.

OK, so that was a whole lot in not a lot of time about the high-level macro trends that we saw across different categories. I’m going to spend just a few minutes talking about some of the differences between categories. And then we’ll get into some Q&A with the last few minutes we have here.

So as I mentioned, in 2020, we opted to break the report into a large number of categories and subcategories, larger than we have done in previous years. So here’s a list of the categories that are included in the report. And I’ll give you a second to digest that.

Of note, we’re going to be hosting some breakout webinars for some of the categories in the coming months. So I won’t be able to talk about all of the category-specific things here. But if there’s a particular category you’re interested in, we’d love to hear from you which webinars you love to see on that.

So one of the biggest differences that we see between apps, and one of the most useful things to understand between categories is rating differences. Particularly in certain categories, consumer behavior can be really strange when it comes to ratings and reviews. So comparing your app to apps in your industry yields a more accurate picture of how you’re doing.

So you’ll notice that we have some clear winners. This is the iOS data in areas like food and travel. And some categories that really struggled with five-star ratings and things like that, particularly media and entertainment. And on Android, it was pretty similar.

Again, you’ll notice that media and entertainment here had a particularly rough year. Quite a few one-star ratings, not a lot of five-star ratings. And a major reason for some of these differences is actually related to what is being rated in the App Store.

For high-performing categories, like shopping that we see here, people are often rating features and functionality within the app. So whether or not you have the ability to order ahead with food and beverage, whether or not you have the ability to use a certain payment type within a shopping app, that’s actually a lot of what is being considered in the App Store. Whereas in something like media and entertainment, and particularly in 2020 news apps, rating was based upon content, was based upon the types of news stories that they were putting in.

So while you can’t mitigate every negative rating or comment, having a place for people to directly leave negative feedback for you within the app so they don’t go to the Store to do it can help you to outperform others in your categories. And again, if you’re in a category who didn’t perform as well in 2020, take some time to look at your peers in that category, because chances are, in a public place, they are also going through the same experience where some of the things that are being rated have not a lot to do with your app functionality.

And then as far as interactions per category, we saw really highly variable behavior between brands, and between categories in 2020. So some brands increased their mobile engagement, while others talked to relatively few customers. And a lot of this had to do with the experience that those industries were having during COVID.

So for instance, things like personal services and finance, those kinds of companies were learning to communicate with their customers inside of digital channels, often for the first time. So they were making a shift like in finance to move people into mobile banking, to move people out of having to come in person. And a lot of those companies did a great job of communicating things like operational changes, so times that businesses were going to be open, what they could expect through Apptentive in-app notes. So we saw a lot of spikes in interactions due to that.

And then other categories like health care chose to pull back on non-essential communication last year. And that makes sense, because a lot of customers started to come to those apps for more critical or timely tasks. And companies really wanted to make sure that they were cognizant of every single thing that they were putting in front of customers if it wasn’t mission-critical for the year.

And even within app categories, we actually saw a really varied difference in interaction levels. So here for instance, we’re looking at the media category, where the average interaction rate was 29%. Music has a particularly low engagement number, which is actually not a change from 2020. It’s something that we often see within music. And generally, those music apps tend to have few really good places to engage with customers, because people are coming in to listen to music.

And one of the key tenets with Apptentive is we don’t want to interrupt somebody from accomplishing whatever it is that they’re trying to do in the app. So we don’t want to stop somebody from listening to their music inside of music apps. So for these reasons, brands in the category wisely decide to pull back on frequency, and focus more on really impactful, well-timed communications with their customers.

So the main takeaway to this interaction data is, whatever your category and subcategory, it’s important that you understand your audience, the percentage you’re interacting with over time. And then you compare it to other apps specifically in your category that might face some of the similar challenges or opportunities. So if you’re a news app, you might want to consider if there are some things related to content that are going to make it better or worse to interact with people. If you’re an app that doesn’t have a lot of good places to talk to people, compare yourself with others in your category to understand if you’re really hitting the mark when it comes to customers.

And next, I’m going to look just a little at retention by category, as with the other things that I’ve mentioned in the cross-category comparisons. Retention varied very dramatically. And this was true for both the 90-day retention and annual retention, give or take a few spots, obviously, in either of those.

Education apps actually saw the worst 90-day retention rates in the marketplace. And media apps, who I mentioned had really low ratings, actually saw the best. Here I do want to also point out that travel saw lower retention numbers in 2020, which is not surprising, given the fact that at the beginning of the year, we were traveling like normal. And then the industry reduced so much that throughout the year, obviously, they would have seen reduced retention.

Contrarily, shopping was really shaken up in 2020 due to stores closing and lockdowns and things like that. But shopping set a really good example of embracing mobile shifts, and creating features within their apps, creating things like curbside pickup, and finding ways to engage inside the mobile app. And they were actually able to maintain a pretty healthy 90 day, particularly retention rate, overall retention rate, despite having periods when they were shut down. So they really shifted into that mobile experience well and didn’t see the kind of hit on retention that other categories that were impacted by COVID saw.

And like I mentioned on the last slide, I do want to call out one specific thing. And that is media apps had the best retention in 2020. Not only did they enjoy the highest 90-day retention in any category, but they actually saw a 58% increase year over year from the same stats from 2019. So we look back into our 2019 report and saw that they had a huge jump, 58% year over year in retention.

So again, from the rating slides, media saw the lowest ratings in 2020, but had the highest retention, which just illustrates that star ratings are helpful in bringing new customers into the app, but they’re not necessarily what is going to be indicative of customer happiness, or likelihood to continue engaging with you, continue buying with you, continue being your customer. So low App Store ratings do not necessarily equate to low retention. And depending on the category, they may not be reflective of how satisfied your customers are with you or with your app’s performance. That could be tied to another factor like your news content.

And lastly, I will talk about Love Percentage by category. This is something that we do measure year over year. Again, if you’re a customer, you’ve seen this in business reviews. And again here, there’s a lot of difference between categories.

So the main takeaway from this slide is, understand what your customer sentiment score is, understand what you are Love Percentage is, and then compare yourself with other apps in your category. We always tend to see a little lower happiness on food and drink and business services apps. We always tend to see some higher ones in some of the categories like shopping and things like that. So it’s just really important that you don’t look at just the macro average, you understand how you’re comparing to other apps in your area.

All right, and with that, I will leave you with some takeaways. So the first is that you really want to focus on retention and not acquisition. When consumers are not willing to go out and necessarily download things, when you’re fighting for funds, you can save a lot of marketing costs by interacting with customers where they are, in this case, inside your app.

And in that way, you have the power to influence their retention. If you’re talking to people, if you’re giving them a voice, if you’re interacting with them, you’re going to improve your retention. And that means you’re going to have a higher lifetime value, which makes your marketing dollars go further.

And next, turn your app into listening channels. Take hold of the lasting changes that took place in 2020. If you’re not taking the time to understand and then act upon customer emotion, other brands are beating you inside of mobile if you’re not listening in that space.

And then the last takeaway from this is, go all-in on personalization. This doesn’t just mean personalizing what people are seeing in terms of colors and offers and things like that. That really means, understand your customer’s feelings throughout their journey, and tailor your interaction with them.

Tailor when and how you’re talking to them and what you’re saying, based upon that journey. Don’t treat each customer journey the same. Pay attention to their emotion when deciding how to talk to people.

So with that, steps you can take now. Last time, I will say this I promise– download and read your industry’s section of the report. Really look to understand how your doing in comparison with others of your peers, not across industries that aren’t as relevant to you. Compare your app’s performance, like I said, with people that you’re seeing there. And understand if you have any particular benchmarks that you are performing well, underperforming, or really just meeting the benchmark for 2021.

And then implement some of the tips that we just shared to turn up the dial on customer engagement. If you’re an Apptentive customer, doing these webinars, I always welcome you to please reach out to your customer success manager. We’d love to talk about any of these benchmarks more in-depth, or to create a plan for better customer engagement with you. If you’re not a customer, there is a link here where you can talk to one of our team members. We’re happy to give one-on-one consultative tips.

So with that, we got through a whole lot of slides. And I’m going to take just a few minutes for some questions. And Madeleine, I’ll ask you to stop sharing so they can see my face. Thank you. Cool.

OK, so we have quite a few questions that have come in. I’m looking for these for the first time. And we actually have a couple that came in during the registration. So I’ll try to answer some of both. The first one that I’ll answer is, can you speak to emerging office at home trends pertaining to mobile app facilitation as a workplace shifts from long-term remote and more flexible working environments.

So what I think you’re asking there is, what have you seen in terms of, people are working from home. Are there hits, are there good things that are happening to companies in those categories? And from a consumer perspective, in the business services category in this industry, we saw really strong retention and engagement rates in 2020. So people really embraced the shift not only to working from home, but also to supplement their desktop tools with their mobile tools. So saw great retention rates, great interaction rates from consumers.

And then from brands, we actually saw a little bit of the opposite, which is brands struggled mid-year to understand the proper cadence for talking to customers. So as these shifts were taking place, they didn’t really understand when or how they should talk to customers. So we did see a dip about midyear of brands being willing to talk to people inside of the app. Thankfully, those numbers picked up close to the end of 2020, and really steadied out at the end of the year. But more about that can be found in the business services category of the report.

Next question, and I’m reading these aloud. So it might take me a second to think. But do you find the difference in response rates on the love between customer-focused apps and business, work, and enterprise-focused apps? We noticed a large number of comments that we were getting that people will never love an app– OK, I get where this is going– where people will never love an app they used for work or something, they weren’t able to choose.

That’s a great question. As you can see from the last slide I presented in the categories area, there’s not much correlation between the Love Percentage for companies that are more B2B versus B2C or are more work-related versus non-work related. There’s not a huge correlation there.

What I will say is, we do set different recommendations for customers about the wording of their Love Dialog, depending on the company. We love the word love, because it’s an emotional stop word. So basically somebody, if they’re saying they like you, they like pizza. They’re not really saying that they are emotionally tied to you. So we do love the word love.

But there are times when if we’re starting to see that response a lot, or we’re learning more about your brand, we may choose some different wording that is more predictive of what will work for your brand. Some of the answers are, you might choose to change your love dial onto something like, are you enjoying your experience and having the answer be yes, I’m loving it. But in general, we don’t see a huge difference between different categories there. If you have specific questions, please reach out to your CSM, they can make recommendations.

So this one says, question on that last stat. I’m not sure exactly what it is, but the question is, why do we think customers engaged more last year in surveys, et cetera? So brands engaged more in surveys last year. The rise of 50% in surveys was actually the number of surveys displayed. And we think just because companies had to get comfortable really quickly losing some of the other avenues they had for talking to customers, they chose the place where customers were.

They chose that mobile space to actually go and talk to customers. We did see a slight drop in response percentage. And again, that’s due to just a widening number of people that we were talking to inside of mobile. So I’m not too concerned about that drop there. But really big kudos to brands who were willing to engage more with their customers where they were in the mobile space.

OK, let’s see. So this says, you spend a lot of time talking about love and sentiment, which is understandable. I get it, it’s valuable. What about other key metrics? You mentioned churn. What are a couple of key metrics to benchmark outside of sentiment?

That is a great question, thank you. We do focus on that, because that is what we do really well as a brand. Generally, when we talk to companies about what’s important to them, it’s acquisition insurance. So it’s understanding where they are ranking in the App Store, understanding how they’re looking externally, which again, is only going to bring people in. And then they’re wanting to see how long people are staying around.

They’re also looking at things like lifetime spend in the app. We generally don’t always have that data, don’t always want that data, because it’s proprietary to those companies. But it’s not something we would understand here. But that is something as a brand I would recommend you’re definitely looking at is, the average spend that people are making inside of apps. If you’re not an app where they are buying things, the average number of sessions and retention are some of the biggest ones that we see.

Let me see. Another one that came in during registration is, why are so many apps still developed for only iOS users, and do we expect that to shift in the near term with more high-end Android phones available on the market? I actually talked to the engineering team about this last night, because it came in during registration. And they wanted me to remind everybody that there have always been or have been for years high-end Android phones on the market.

But this is actually a really interesting question. So there are a couple of reasons for this. One is iOS has a better ecosystem of integrated platforms. So if you build something for an iPhone, it integrates really well with iPad and Apple Watch and Mac. So once you’ve bought into the platform, the momentum carries on really well to other parts of that platform, whereas Android, because it has so many places that it could be, just doesn’t integrate as well.

Another really big reason there is largely due to demographics. So iOS users are more likely to pay for things rather than Android users. So if you sell an app in the App Store, or if you have an app that’s free, but it’s based on advertisements and things, the ROI in those apps is generally better. So companies tend to invest in working in those spaces first, or working in those spaces primarily because it’s better ROI for the company.

And lastly, I’ll note that this phenomenon of the iOS development is pretty much a US-based, sometimes a Western country-based phenomena and that in other places, you actually don’t see that trend as much. Things are developed a lot more frequently in Android. But in the past few years, the trends have actually been strengthening for iPhone. So we don’t actually expect that trend to go away anytime soon.

All right, now to one more question. Let me just read this. How should we think about rank in the App Store? It seems to change frequently. What’s a good way to set a goal around rank? That’s a really good question.

Again, to some extent, App Store ratings are a little bit of a vanity metric, but they actually do, like I said, change conversion rates. I wouldn’t recommend worrying so much about individual rank moving up one or two places so much as your star rating. If you’re keeping a healthy star rating, that’s going to be more indicative of whether somebody downloads you or not. It is something we pay attention to with customers, where they are, and if they’re moving up or down in ranking. But what’s really important is that you keep your ratings high throughout the year.

And now both iOS and Android are giving weight to more recent ratings. So it’s really important as a company, regardless of how you’re doing a rating prompt, if you are asking for ratings, you’re making sure to keep that consistent throughout the year. So we know that there is a limited number of times each year that you can ask for a rating.

So asking your full customer base at the beginning of the year is going to really cause your ratings to suffer later in the year, because you’re not going to have that volume. So just make sure whatever you’re doing, you are trying to keep the frequency of asking people to rate consistent throughout the year, and you’re focused on keeping that number up.

All right. And with that, we are out of time. Thank you all so much for the awesome questions. Thank you so much for listening, paying attention, spending your day with me. If we didn’t get to your questions, I know that there are a few we didn’t answer.

But if you’ve included your name, we’ll be sure to follow up with you directly. And if you find that more questions arise, please reach out to us directly. Please email me directly. My email’s just christy@apptentive.com. I would love to talk to you. And I hope you have a great day.

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About Madeleine Wilson

Madeleine Wilson is the Content Marketing Manager for Apptentive. No stranger to B2B tech, Madeleine enjoys translating complex concepts into easy-to-digest pieces of content.
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