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App User Engagement: Expert Advice (Part 2)

Matt Anderson
Matt Anderson

    In Part 1, we spoke with 3 product experts about tactics for engaging app users past the first year.

    We continue that conversation with two more experts below.

    Check out their advice and examples of best practices. You can also check out the rest of the interviews:

    1. Roger L. Cauvin


    Principal Product Strategist | @rcauvin


    What’s an example of a mobile app that keeps you engaged?

    Hopper occasionally gives me system notifications of noteworthy changes in airfares. These notifications don’t annoy me because they are the whole reason I use the app in the first place.



    Photo credit: Hopper

    How should a mobile app notify users of a new feature?

    “Inline” the feature notification.

    For example, I tap a hamburger menu with an item for accessing the new feature, and it is highlighted with something to the effect of “new . . . learn more”. This sort of inlining somewhat prominently notifies me, but is not very disruptive to my current task.

    How should a mobile app deal with a credit card expiring or an email address bouncing the app’s emails?

    Pre-emptive notifications are helpful for credit card expirations and email bounces.

    They help users fix or update the problem in advance (and when they choose), instead of being interrupted and confronted with the issue when they’re in the middle of an important task.

    2. Andre Piazza


    LinkedIn | @AndreAtDell


    What are the best ways to tell users about new features?

    1. Traction channels

    Develop a comprehensive list of traction channels where feature updates are communicated.

    Typically, this includes release notes on OS, support documentation online, support blog post online. A nice way to do this upfront (and also in a casual way) is when a new version of the app is run for the first time, show the user the key updates that shipped in the latest version. Be concise, and add a button at the bottom saying “Brilliant” or “Let’s get started!”

    If the new feature requires action on the user’s part, provide them onboarding upfront and specific links to perform the action. Example: updating password policies (from 6 characters to 8 characters), device portability, new app user, new app version.

    Smooth user onboarding is a UX must these days. Always consider the following: what education do I need to provide the user for them to be able to achieve the minimum requirements / their goals / achieve loyalty?

    Never shy away from this question.

    1. Communication strategy

    Don’t message “new features”. Message value, benefits, pains removed, gains to the user.

    An efficient way to do that is to frame the conversation by benefit (or pain removed) in a specific use-case, examples: “Faster checkout when paying with Bitcoins” or “Safer connections when adding a new credit card by applying 128-bits encryption”.

    How should an app handle a user who’s forgotten a password, allowed a credit card to expire, or had an email address bounce in the app’s emails?

    These are all very important elements of UX that impact revenue, usage, retention, loyalty and ultimately growth. For each of these cases, let’s explore some of the best practices seen in the mobile industry:

    (A) Forgotten password: Handle that via app (don’t push the user to web). Implement security checks (email validation is standard; consider 2-factor if data is highly critical). Also, simplify user authentication: do you need a username and an email? Or can you use just one of them? That will simplify login, usage and ultimately forgotten password routine.


    Photo credit: Mile IQ

    (B) Expired credit cards: For most SaaS or subscription-based businesses, this the core of revenue streams. You must handle this pro-actively.

    Detect cards that will be expiring in the next 60 days, and message customers at 30/15 days before expiration, with call to actions at T-15 and T. Message them via app or online(upon login) and via email. These T-minus timeframes will coincide with the communications that user is receiving from the credit card company, so it wouldn’t surprise them.

    When messaging, include deep links to update credit card number so it’s actionable (vs. simply a warning). If credit cards are anything more than 20% of your subscription sources, handle the credit card update via app (vs. pushing user to web).

    (C) Email address: Email is a key security construct for authentication and communications.

    Detecting bounced emails is a nice trick to run on the backend, especially for high-stake communications.

    As a proactive measure, the user flows we described for forgotten passwords help maintain a current database. As a reactive measure, consider pushing in-app or OS notifications to users when their email bounces. Of course, this applies to a minority of users. Nonetheless, if your app is dependent on email for revenue or experience, this becomes a must.

    Do you have other tips and tricks for keeping users engaged with an app after year 1?

    1. Usage / Engagement:

    Continuously identify the most relevant and new use-cases for your users.

    Study best practices (thought leaders, forums, influencers, power users) and ways to improve that and load those in your roadmap (development).

    Match usage / consumption patterns with payment patterns. If users upsell for particular reasons, make it actionable. If users pay on a monthly / annual subscription, give them reasons and reminders to use your app on that basis. This could range from email campaigns to OS notifications (“Haven’t seen you in a while! we added a couple of interesting features”).

    1. Loyalty / Promotion

    This is the hardest, and also the most relevant because it will not only get you MAUs (monthly active users) but also ones that promote your app in places where your message can’t reach (world of mouth, influencers, niches, communities, friends and families, etc).

    A few tips for making that happen:

    • Embed “Feedback” functionality on the app. Make it simple / clickable (like star rating) and optional space for comments. Review those periodically.
    • Add “Share this app” functionality on the app. Make sure they can send a simple text with links to download in all platforms / OSes (Android, iOS, Windows, Desktop, etc). From your data-driven approach (reports, forms, ratings), identify the most loved and hated use-cases. Match that with your requirements document (current) and roadmap (future). What are you doing about it? Match that with the long-term vision (analysts, influencers, competitors) — what are they doing about it? Focus on those use-cases in removing friction and simplifying first, then adding functionality. This way you’re building a solid basis for loyalty and long-term growth.

    Next Steps

    For more useful web, mobile, and UX best practices, check out the free e-book UX Design Trends 2016.


    Matt Anderson

    by Matt Anderson

    Matt Anderson is a mobile product manager for a quickly growing software company in Salt Lake City. Follow him on Twitter or connect with him on Linkedin

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