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Loyalty & Retention

How To Turn High-Value Customers Into Brand Evangelists

Guest Blogger  //  December 16, 2015  //  7 min read

With retention currently a pressing issue for most app developers, there is increasing focus on engaging customers so they become higher value and more profitable. The easiest way to increase your app’s retention is to increase the lifetime value (LTV) of your customers, making them more loyal, sticky, and profitable. The aim is to nurture all your customers so that as many as possible convert into “power users.”

Your ‘power users’ are your perfect customers. They complete the actions that are important to you, open your app frequently, and spend a lot of time (and/or money) once they’re inside your mobile app experience.

So, once you’ve done the hard lifting and have a group of high LTV users, how can you leverage them to attract more people like them?

It might seem tough, but there is a way to turn a group of highly valued customers into a brand evangelists. Developers are missing out on a significant revenue opportunity if they aren’t using their existing customers as an acquisition channel. After “general browsing” on the app store, recommendations from friends and family are the most common way people discover and download new apps.

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In this post, we explore five effective strategies to take your high-value customers to the next level: brand evangelists who will spread word of mouth about your product (free, organic marketing—the best kind!).

1. Loyalty programs/rewards (i.e. “incentives”)

Showing your high-value customers you appreciate them is one of the simplest ways to get a good recommendation. It operates on a psychological trigger called “the rule of reciprocity.”

Studies show that if you offer customers something for free, they are inclined to return the favour. In apps, this could manifest itself either immediately through a good review or a share on social media, or as deeper brand engagement and relationships of trust, which will reap rewards in the long-term.

As far as what your loyalty program could look like, this will really depend on your target market’s needs and what you already know they respond well to. Ecommerce apps, for example, can reward users with point-based rewards, similar to a loyalty card. This could include offers like free shipping on their next order, a $20 voucher/discount, or their next purchase for free.

One app that does this well is Audible, the digital audiobooks provider. Audible uses a monthly subscription service, so engagement is one of their most important KPIs. Audible perpetuates loyalty by offering customers a credit each month to spend on any book they like. This is a consistent stream of added value to the customer just for sticking around and using the app regularly.

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Audible also complements the monthly credits with other special offers and referral schemes for their customers. This gets customers who love audible to spread the word.

However, if you don’t have an eCommerce app, don’t rule this one out too soon. You can still offer rewards that are relevant to your brand in any form you think customers would find valuable.

For example:

  • Access to locked features or in-app credits customers would normally have to pay for
  • A free trial of the premium account
  • Access to exclusive content or going in the draw to win a prize—you also get their email with this tactic, if you haven’t got it already!
  • Award custom badges or points

2. Incentivized sharing and referrals

Incentivized marketing schemes are a powerful way of encouraging virality in an app, which increases customer engagement and adoption in a constant viral loop. Incentivized sharing and referrals are becoming an increasingly popular customer acquisition strategy, largely because marketers now recognize that personal endorsements are typically more effective than traditional onboarding methods.

Best practices for referral marketing

The first step to crafting your referral scheme is identifying what kind of reward would prompt a customer to refer a friend. Incentives that give equal benefit to the referrer and invitee seem to work best. Billion dollar companies including Dropbox, Uber, and Airbnb have all had enormous success with equal benefit referral programs.

This ensures your existing users are engaged as well as delighting your new users—win-win!

The results of Dropbox’s referral program are legendary. Their “refer-a-friend” feature offers 250mg of free space to referrer and new invite. It permanently increased signups by 60%, with users sending 2.8 million direct referral invites by April 2010. Still today, 35% of daily signups come via Dropbox’s referral program!

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Best practices for encouraging sharing

Timing is everything when you’re asking customers for a favour. Prompt customers to share at the “happy moment,” or when they have achieved one of your app’s goals. Monitoring your app analytics and customer journey will be instrumental in finding this happy moment. Where in the typical session or funnel will get higher conversions?

Additionally, you shouldn’t interrupt a customer’s experience in any way. Mobile games have seen success with prompting users to share their achievements for unlocking new levels, beating a personal best or climbing the leaderboard. They prompt customers at natural pause points in the game (after a user has completed a level or “game over,” for example) to be minimally disruptive.

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You can also apply this kind of competitive, award-based sharing to any app vertical, as FitBit does below with their custom badges.

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As with everything, you should A/B test different copy and send prompts at different times to see which combinations have higher conversion rates.

3. User-generated content

Encouraging your customers to promote the content they are creating within your app is a fantastic way to grab the attention of their friends. Depending on where your customers hang out online, you can use a range of channels to facilitate the creation and sharing of user-generated content. It all comes down to knowing your customer—their preferences, where they are most active, and where their networks are.

If social media is a big part of your acquisition strategy, asking users to tag you in their Instagram or Facebook posts would have a greater viral effect than through another channel they aren’t active on. If you get a lot of organic traffic through search engines, however, a landing page on your website may be a more effective place to showcase your customer’s creations. You can then optimise this page to push people to your app store page. Other apps for whom in-app communication is fundamental may see more success with showcasing content in the app itself, perhaps through a newsfeed.

Many apps offer a range of sharing options to give their customers greater flexibility in choosing where they showcase their content, as Dubsmash does.

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You can even run reward programs or competitions to encourage customers to create their own content and share it with friends. For example, Urban Outfitters offers its customers points when they use its app to upload photos of their merchandise, which syncs with the users’ social media networks. That’s a great way to widen your reach and network of customers.

But before you begin, make sure your app’s branding is consistent enough to translate across all channels. This way, when potential new customers see their friend’s content they will know where they can get a piece of the action!

4. Customer service

By 2020, customer experience will overtake price and product as the most important brand differentiator. At the end of the day, people talk about brands for their personality, their service, and because their values resonate with their own. This emotional, human connection is why you should use all the channels you have available to you to not only offer customer support when a problem arises, but to interact with your customers for deeper relationships.

Explicitly state your customer service expectations (such as responding to all queries within 24 hours), and ensure you have the processes and systems in place to match these expectations at all costs.

You can use the following avenues to respond quickly to customer needs:

  • Social media accounts
  • Your app store page (actually respond to your reviews, both good and bad!)
  • Online knowledge base/FAQ centre
  • In-app links to email and phone support
  • A help desk or virtual assistant on your website

5. Easter eggs

Easter eggs are hidden goodies within your app. Often they’re just for fun, but they can also contain useful extra features or content. They’re a bit quirky and serve to pique interest in your app. As well as being an opportunity to re-engage lapsed users who might be getting bored of your content, it also gets people talking about your app because they want to share that they found them.

Promote the fact that there are a few Easter Eggs in your app by progressively sending clues through in-app or push messages and your supporting online channels (social media, your website, etc). You can also incentivise the Easter Eggs by offering a reward for customers who find all of them.

The more immersive your Easter Egg strategy is, the more engaged your customers will be and the higher the likelihood that they will talk about it with friends.

Wrapping it up

There you have it! These are just a few tried and tested methods to encourage online sharing, word of mouth and referrals from your high value users.

Ultimately, you can be as creative as you like in your strategies! It all comes down to knowing your customers’ preferences.

Let me know in the comments if you have any other tactics which have worked for you!

Author bio: Logan Merrick is the co-founder and strategic director of Buzinga App Development, helping emerging tech businesses and innovative enterprises build world class apps. He writes regularly on the subjects of startups, marketing, mobile technology and all stages of the app development process. Connect with him on LinkedIn or Twitter.

About Guest Blogger

This article was written by one of our awesome guest bloggers. We're lucky to have these community members to share their knowledge with our mobile community.
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