How do you improve user engagement? and why? App owners and marketers are grappling with a dilemma – app retention is slowly coming to a grinding halt even though there is an increase in app downloads. In other words, people are downloading apps, but people are also giving up on them very easily.

Apps are growing in popularity all over the world, and an increasing number of people are using apps as a primary means to gain information and interact with companies. However, this increase in usage brings with it a wave of new apps that compete for a user’s attention. So, when a user finds an app he/she likes, there won’t be any further research and discovery.

This makes it extremely crucial for app owners to focus on engaging and retaining their existing user base, while simultaneously looking for ways to acquire new users and customers.

But, how you engage your audience depends on a lot of factors – your target audience, your product, what does your app do, etc.

Here are 5 apps that use simple, yet brilliant, ways to boost user engagement. They’ve used push messaging, offers meant only for app users, personalization, and various creative campaigns to come up with a number of ways that keep their users loyal and deliver value.


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    What they did: Easy imports, interactivity, “hint”-completed trees

    The app focuses on families knowing their history and helping younger generations know what lineage they come from. The app is quite user friendly and surprisingly mobile-forward. When it comes to researching and building your family’s history, you are probably not wont to think of a mobile app. Family histories are huge and the platform is physically so small that this idea may seem silly to begin with. But, Ancestry has dissed all apprehensions by proving how even the largest projects can be completed and brought in an app by enabling auto-completion and providing users with helpful hints all along the way.

    While using the app, it is natural to get stuck after going back a few generations, especially if you have nothing except names to go on with. So, this app is able to generate hints (on being provided a few details) about specific members in your family tree. these hints are essentially photos and information available from legal records/reports, certificates, obituaries, ledgers, and various other documents that have been kept by the government that might relate you’re the family member you are looking for. You can either accept these details and add them to your tree, or reject them if they are incorrect or unnecessary.

    ​With the documents that Ancestry unearths, it can also look for that specific person’s parents, siblings, spouses, or any other relatives. You can use this information to build your family tree with people you would have otherwise been unaware of. It then becomes very easy to track down an individual’s family history and add it to your records without leaving the app.

    It supports Facebook imports, and automatically incorporates family members from your profile. The interaction between information on social sites and auto-imports, and the interactivity created by hints makes it easy for the user to navigate through the app and creates an engaging experience. Additionally, users get messages whenever they get new hints or comments, ensuring the experience is continuous.

    Simon Circles

    What they did: Surprised users which gained them more users (and made them seem a little notorious – which is different and great these days.)

    ​The tactic these people used could be purely by accident or it could be a marketing strategy – irrespective, it worked, and how!

    Simon Circles is a gaming app that claims to challenge your “dexterity and speed”. The simple premise of the app makes it attractive to users, while simultaneously making it tremendously difficult to gain any market share or be memorable. It is not a very well-known app. But, Reddit user Time_Wasted_Me received the following push notification, which was apparently from a developer at Simon Circles:

    developer-notification-simon-circles​So, the user, on finding the message hilarious and unconventional, posted it on the forum site and, needless to say, it has received a lot of attention.

    ​A Reddit thread, going by the name “Overly Competitive Game Developer”, has more than 500 comments, with people primarily debating whether it was actually a developer or a brilliant marketing team’s brainchild. Such was the popularity of this tactic that it was even covered by Business Insider.

    This is the perfect example of how thinking out-of-the-box (or maybe just a human error that did not cross any lines) can effectively attract attention of people and help acquiring new users.


    What they did: Social promotions, location-based offers, cross-channel capabilities

    Shopkick gives users “kicks” (or points) towards deals that are valid across a variety of shops and can be redeemed in-store. When people browse products in Shopkick or complete various in-app activities, they receive more kicks that can be used to buy things in stores like Neiman Marcus, Macy’s, Crate & Barrel, and various others. Walking into a store that is a participant in the app can get users kicks.

    The app’s multi-channel capability is quite complex, in that people can benefit from a brand in-store, in-app, and online. While this could get too much to handle, Shopkick does a stellar job of prioritizing and marketing its best features, which in this case translate to collecting kicks for buying things and visiting the stores nearby for immediate kicks.

    To begin with, the app publicizes a fall-themed Facebook contest to win 25,000 kicks in order to help new and returning users to accumulate more kicks faster and to increase their social following. This contest, christened “Fall Faves” has theme a lot like Pinterest, thereby making it fun to enter. This is a brilliant example of a cross-channel promotion that begins in-app.

    They are driving the app’s users to its Facebook page in order to boost loyalty and create awareness about their social media presence while offering humungous benefits to the users of the app – a superb tactic.

    ​Additionally, the app’s makers have made the most of push messaging by providing users with location-based offers. Each message informs the user of a specific place, the number of kicks they will receive on visiting it, and the nearest store. The makers know the importance of push messaging and how, if used improperly, can drive users away. So, they keep it simple, personalized and relevant – a method that is working beautifully for them.


    What they did: Attention to detail, timeliness, careful curation

    People are stumped when it comes to selecting a wine to drink with their meal or one that befits an occasion. Drync aims at solving this confusion by letting users view and order wines in-app, while sharing tasting notes, friend recommendations, and reviews. But this works only for a limited number of people. To tap into the demographic that does not know what it wants, the app has “collections” for users to browse and discover. Additionally, they have, very cleverly, made use of push notifications that are sent during peak buying hours to drive in-app purchases!

    For example, they made the best use of a typical Labour Day activity – people barbecuing in their backyards – and created a list (collection) of wines that go best with various barbecue recipes. They sent out push notifications well ahead of time to encourage people to order wines in-app. They also had a blog post on suggestions for pairing wines with barbecues.

    It is difficult to be a wine-selling app when there are liquor stores practically at every corner. Facing such stiff competition, Drync brings an edge to engage users – it acts as a companion app. They have created a whole brand image around being there for users as they embark on a discovery experience, gently guided by experts to help them find the best pairing.

    Target Cartwheel

    What they did: Rewards badges, scoreboards, privacy settings

    Providing users with special offers and discounts is a tried and tested strategy that bears fruit, and Target’s Cartwheel app makes most of this. This app regularly provides in-store coupons or offers that users can redeem, and has a barcode that is specific to every user. This barcode can be scanned whenever a user is checking out from a store. In a nutshell, it is like a central repository for all Target’s customers’ savings.

    But this idea is nothing new. Coupon-aggregator apps, that offer similar rewards for a number of stores, are aplenty. To distinguish themselves from the clutter, they adopted consumer engagement tactics like friend leaderboards for the number of offers scored. These scoreboards don’t take advantage of our competitive instinct. What they do is recommend – they show you how much money your friends have saved using the Cartwheel app at Target. When users see how much their friends have saved, they will want to avail of those savings too.

    Users also get badges when they reach certain levels of savings. While this sounds silly, rewards (however small or intangible) make people feel good. Cartwheel’s badges are not only something to work towards, but they also lead to more offer spots for more discounts.

    If a user does not want his/her friends to know the offers they have added, the app lets them make any (or all) of their purchases private. These offers are not shared with the friends of the user and are only between them and the cashier they go to.

    What can you do?

    You need to find that one factor that sets you apart in a crowd – it could be messaging campaign that can be created in a few minutes (or a couple of hours) or a new feature. The point of highlighting these examples is to tell you that you need to focus on engagement strategies and tactics that work for you.

    ​Don’t be afraid to try something new – even if it is shocking, or sounds completely odd. You could come up with completely original ideas that make your app zillion times better, or you could mix and match from the tactics used by various apps.

    Data and analytics from your app are your bible. Keep studying them to know exactly what your customers want, and then use this information as a foundation to create new, creative, and possibly unexpected ideas and strategies. Don’t shy away from experimenting, and see what works for you and what does not. Let your app grow to its full potential.


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