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App Development
8 minutes read

What Is App Engagement?

By Robert Kazmi
A man happily using his mobile phone.
By Robert Kazmi
App Development
8 minutes read

For many companies, attaining App Engagement seems to be the ultimate goal. Any business with a mobile app is after this one objective, and yet, few really understand it in detail. To some, it is all about user retention. To others, it is about user engagement. This concept is sometimes confused with App Engagement, a much broader and complex idea.

What we’ve come to realize at Koombea is that App Engagement is a tricky concept that needs to be understood correctly. Otherwise, it can do more harm than good, not only to your mobile app but to your brand in general. Whether you already have an app or are planning to build one, understanding the relationship between engagement and app users is crucial. 

App users are not just essential to your mobile app. They are one of the most valuable stakeholders for your company. Your App Engagement philosophy will reflect what your relationship with them is like. In the long term, this apparently irrelevant issue matters a lot to your business.

In this post, we explain what App Engagement is, why it is important, and how to correctly approach it.

What Is App Engagement?

The overall engagement of your app is the result of various aspects that are closely related to one another. These aspects can be traced through different metrics. The performance of these metrics, as a whole, will have a significant impact on your app users and how they perceive your app. 

Ultimately, App Engagement refers to the relationship your users have with your app. It is often confused with user engagement, a concept that is important but different from App Engagement.

A common mistake when thinking about a mobile app’s engagement is to frame it exclusively in terms of the user engagement or the amount of time a user spends on your app. This might be useful for some apps, but it is an oversimplification of a much broader and complex relationship. Users and mobile apps come together in many different ways, not just in terms of the amount of time that they spend together.

As a result of this confusion, many companies end up focusing on the wrong metrics. This may lead to inefficient allocation of resources when trying to make your app desirable to users. Luckily, this situation can be avoided when the right App Engagement frame is used.

App Engagement and User Engagement

Let’s consider the following example to understand the difference between these two concepts and why it matters. 

A Retail company, that we will call A, has launched an eCommerce mobile app to make it easier for customers to purchase their products. As part of its strategy, company A decides to increase its app’s engagement. However, they focus on increasing their app’s engagement, understood as the time a user spends on the app. In other words, they focus on the narrow meaning of the word engagement. 

To do this, let’s assume they send lots of app messages like push notifications, and as a result, they end up annoying users. Despite all the resources invested, the app’s performance does not seem to go up, and even worse, their sales become stagnant and users get annoyed.

Now, consider the opposite case of company B. Contrary to company A, company B decides to focus its efforts on increasing App Engagement, but it doesn’t just focus on the time users spend on their mobile app. Instead, they decide to use an approach that considers elements like user retention, user conversions, the overall User Experience, and, yes, user engagement (the time a user spends on the app). 

As a result, company B will most likely be able to improve its performance thanks to how it frames its idea of engagement. 

The Importance of App Engagement

Measuring your app’s engagement correctly is extremely important for your business. It might help you understand what your app’s ROI is, as well as its impact on your business. If done incorrectly, you might end up going after the wrong goals, and this may affect your bottom line. Even worse, it might end up damaging how users perceive your brand.

A mobile app should be thought of as an extension of your brand. Thus, it is important that it clearly reflects your values. More importantly, your app needs to deliver a powerful User Experience, one that clearly communicates what your business is all about while fulfilling your users’ needs. Companies that focus exclusively on the time users spend on their mobile app will most likely end up chasing vanity metrics. 

Each company needs to do a thorough analysis of what the right engagement strategy should be for their mobile app. Sometimes, this will require monitoring engagement metrics like user retention, number of active users, new app users, number of deletions, app conversions, and also user engagement. Ideation exercises can help your company focus on the right metrics.

Keep in mind at all times that if your engagement strategy works, you will surely end up seeing how your app moves up in the app store. When you focus on App Engagement in the right way, your app will benefit from a virtuous cycle.

The Ethical Implications of App Engagement

Focusing on an app’s engagement exclusively in terms of time spent on the app has created some ethical problems. To many, it is questionable that an app seeks to nudge users to keep them in its loop. This is problematic for a couple of reasons. For a start, app users should be able to freely decide when to use an app, and apps that constantly send push notifications, for example, do the opposite.

Additionally, increasing time spent is also problematic because app users should be able to perform the tasks they want from your mobile app in an easy and frictionless manner. Having to spend additional time on your app means that their needs are never really met.

Contrary to popular belief, it is sometimes better for an app to reduce the time users spend on it. A short usage time, when seen in the broader context of other engagement metrics, can mean that users are rapidly fulfilling their needs. This can help increase your user retention and improve other metrics. However, cases may vary from one app to another.

How to Drive App Engagement

Driving the right type of App Engagement can be hard, but it is crucial for your business. Although each app is unique, there are some general aspects that every business should keep in mind. These are some of them:

  • Understand what your app users are looking for. Do they want to do something quickly, or do they want to intentionally spend some time on your app?
  • Who are your app users? Understand your target audience and make sure to align your app to their needs, but don’t forget to find the right balance between your business and your users.
  • What metrics should you prioritize? It is sometimes impossible to focus on each and every single metric, but this isn’t often the case. When in doubt, try to concentrate on the overall User Experience of your app.
  • Use app messages and push notifications in moderation. When used in excess, they may end up annoying users. Don’t be like the boy who cried wolf. Instead, contact your app users only when you really need to.
  • Avoid bugs and any other potential pain points that app users may experience through their journey. This will surely help increase your user retention.
  • Make sure to ask your mobile app development company to advise you on the right app analytic tools. Monitoring your metrics is as important as defining them.
  • Identify what drives user retention. What do users like from your app? What do they dislike? What can be improved?
  • Nudge your users towards their goals, not towards increased time on your mobile app. We live in rapid times. When time is scarce, don’t compete for it.
  • Map out your user journey and use deep linking when possible to save time. It is even better if you can customize your app based on each user’s profile.

Focusing on the right engagement metrics is one of the most important aspects of your app. Although this sounds like a lot of work, doing it right will definitely help you succeed.

App Engagement: Final Considerations

Getting your App Engagement strategy right is a challenge that your organization needs to address. It can be a hard task to understand what the right metrics are. However, when done correctly, the right engagement strategy will pay off. No matter what your conclusions are, remember that engaging your users is more than the time they spend on your app.

The best apps are able to merge their development with strategic aspects like how to monitor their engagement. Professional app development companies understand this, and they are always willing to help. Contact a company that can help you address both.

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