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How app developers are failing in user engagement

Marketing & Promotion 19,974 views
Posted Thursday, May 18, 2017 by PAUL BRODY, Chief Product Officer at CleverTap

How app developers are failing in user engagement
Editors note: Paul Brody is the Chief Product Officer at CleverTap

In the app world, do or die comes down to how well you engage your users, and if abysmal click-throughs and open rates are any indication, most apps aren't doing that very well. But it's not the fault of the product developers, nor is it an issue with the marketing department. It's how the two work, or too frequently don't work, together with an unhealthy mix of outdated organizational structures and too little focus on what users' really need.
 
Traditionally, apps and services are built after product people go out and talk with prospects, define what the market need is and then decide what the product will be. They work with designers to boil down the user experience, and pass the screenflows to the engineers who then make it a reality. After the product is made and shipped, the baton gets passed to the marketing team, who runs with it to drive customer usage and adoption.
 
In this old-school model, each team generally reports up, answering to different executives throughout their organizations. The product guys spend their days optimizing the onboarding flow. The product marketing team focuses on sending messages with crossed fingers, hoping their users engage. We end up with ineffective promotions and useless display ads that are vestiges of a bygone era, and when users drop off, there's always some other functional group to blame.
 
As the mobile landscape has changed, so too has the relationship between app and user, and that necessitates a change in how we think about engagement. It's no longer about imbuing your app with appointment-to-use status in hopes of achieving long dwell times. Instead, it's about stimulating short-order usage during micro-moments. We can't assume users will follow an orderly onboarding flow, we need to plan around the likelihood they'll wandering off our ideal path and figure out how to "extend" the product experience outside the core app to draw them back in. 
 
We need a better approach. How about one where the customer is at the center, and every touch point with them, whether in app or outside, is engineered as a feature of the product?
 
Take push notifications. Whether one comes in the form of an update from your en-route Uber driver or a reminder that the jacket you have been considering is now on sale, smartphone notifications, when deployed precisely and respectfully, these messages provoke the user engagement every app is looking for. They are also part of the experience of the apps themselves more than they are marketing.  Ergo, they are features.
 
To execute on this notion that stimulating user engagement is a feature and that everything should be done with the user's best interest in mind, what's needed is an end-to-end approach to product design that plans for the users' many app experiences up front. Once you know what you want the user to do, you can work backward, figuring out what is needed to make those interactions happen.
 
To pull this off requires tighter integration, both within your organization and between the tools your organization uses. Instead of giving the product guys an analytics product and marketing team an automation suite, everything should be unified, with a common set of goals and measurement.
 
With a unified product-and-marketing team, user communication would not be a post-shipping afterthought; it would be an intrinsic part of customer's journey. The team can storyboard every key moment in that journey - not just buttons pressed and actions produced, but every piece of outreach that is required to elicit the maximum user delight and the optimum user outcome. In other words, marketing gets done the product way.
 
Organizing your team without the product manager/marketer wall will better set it up to delight users, and it doesn't need to be a demotion for either department. On the contrary, it gives everyone equal standing and the ability to have real input into shaping both the outgoing product and the results it achieves.
 
That is a feature everyone can get on board with.




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