The 5 Biggest Mistakes in Mobile App Marketing

Mobile has changed the landscape of consumerism in a few short years by becoming our favorite tool for reading the news, watching television, communicating, socializing, shopping, making decisions, navigating…for just about everything!

As a marketer, mobile is a very powerful place for you to connect with your audience.

However, with great power comes great responsibility. Since mobile is such a personal medium, it is the easiest place for marketers to make massive mistakes that will turn off a customer forever.

We’re here to help you avoid making those mistakes. Here’s what you should be looking out for and what you can learn from those who have come before you:

1. Treating the mobile experience like it’s the desktop

Too many mobile experiences are just smaller versions of the brand’s desktop, enabling the exact same functionality, and trying to shrink it down to the small screen. Yet, a mobile app is an entirely different vehicle for experiences, and it should be treated differently for the new opportunities it provides.

A mobile customer will quickly discard overwhelming designs that mimic desktop content page-for-page. It’s fairly common to assume that a customer will input as much information on the mobile device as they do on the desktop. But input is much more time consuming on mobile devices, and it’s important to design with that in mind. The reality is that the small screen can be a blessing, as it enables you to focus on what is truly important.

Beyond design, mobile provides uniquely powerful abilities. For example, mobile apps have the benefit of being able to know where we are all the time. It makes our lives easier when we can tap a button, be located on a map, and then be shown all gas stations, Vietnamese restaurants, Macy’s stores, or bus stops near us.

What you can do:

Simplify your customers’ lives by focusing their attention on the few things that truly matter. If you already have a desktop site or app, pare down the functionality to a few core tasks. Then learn from your customers about what they really miss from your desktop version. You might be surprised to find that they don’t notice anything is missing.

“The font game” mobile app is a great example of design that is mobile optimized. With its large buttons, visual appeal, and emphasis on just the core features on the main page, this app is truly fit for mobile.

Optimized mobile app design

Optimized mobile app design in “the font game”

2. Building an app without a plan for marketing it

At this point, we’ve all heard the amazing download numbers coming out of the app stores. But that aggregate number doesn’t mean your app will garner huge downloads just by publishing it in the app store. Companies with existing web presences and audiences can take advantage of their assets to properly market and promote a new app.

Even though your website landing page shouldn’t be an overwhelming advertisement for your mobile app, when your customers visit your website, they should know that there’s an optimized mobile app available as well.

Nordstrom has a mobile app, but you wouldn’t know it without reading through every single link at the bottom of their page.

Dont make it hard to find app

Don’t make it hard to find your mobile app

Sephora, on the other hand, does a better job of promoting its iOS app at the bottom of every page with the recognizable app store logo link to its download page.

Call to action for download

Clear call-to-action to download the app

You also should spend time getting familiar with the most common mobile app discovery paths. App stores are the primary method of app discovery, but still, too many app publishers completely neglect the importance of their app’s title, keywords, and descriptions.

In addition, it is important to encourage happy customers to leave reviews. Too often, only unhappy customers leave negative reviews while satisfied ones remain silent. Once someone finds your app in an app store, they look to reviews to see whether the app is worth downloading. If you’re not focused on getting your happy customers to leave reviews, you’re losing thousands of potential customers.

What you can do:

If you have an existing web presence, take the time to tune it for your mobile visitors. Use all of your channels for communication to let your customers know about your app. Bring existing assets like your Twitter account, email list, or Facebook page to your app’s marketing activities.

In addition, you should be proactively setting your app’s title, keywords, descriptions, and screenshots. There are some great tools for improving your App Store Optimization (ASO) that will help customers find your app in the app stores. Check out MobileDevHQ, SearchMan, or Appnique.

Finally, make sure your ratings and reviews reflect a positive image of your app. In order to market your app successfully, you need to have a proactive approach for getting happy customers to leave positive reviews in app stores. Consider in-app prompts that remind customers to leave reviews after completing a significant action like making a purchase, using a coupon, or accomplishing an achievement.

mobile app prompting for feedback in app

PaidPunch’s mobile app guiding happy customers to leave a review

3. Building a mobile website and trying to pass it off as an app

With over 750,000 apps in both the iTunes App Store and Google Play, the bar for an app is extremely high.

Publishing an app that is, essentially, a launcher for a mobile website communicates to your customers that you don’t really understand mobile. It will quickly lead them to search for an alternative app that is native.

This is because native apps are built for a world full of spotty internet connections and limited time. Sure, it’s great when you have 5 bars of LTE connection, but apps need to work in the subway, on the plane, and even in dead spots.

Building a mobile app can be a daunting task, and building a native app for multiple platforms can be overwhelming. It’s understandable that many companies attempt to build an app that is purely web-based in order to simplify their lives. This is the wrong approach, though. Consumers aren’t concerned with the complexity of your development process; they’re purely focused on their own experience.

What you can do:

Instead of attempting to support every platform out of the gate, focus on one platform. Use it as an opportunity to learn about what works and resonates with your customer base. If you absolutely must release on multiple platforms, employ a cross-platform programming language that assists in the delivery of native apps for multiple environments. Options in this space include Corona Labs, Appcelerator, PhoneGap, Xamarin, and Icenium.

4. Assuming that people will come back to your app “just because”

The number one problem in the mobile app ecosystem is retention. For most apps, 90% of the people who download your app are gone within 6 months. 90%!

Mobile App Retention Problem

An investment in a mobile app for your business requires an understanding of why people would return to use your app on a regular basis. Have you built a game that is easy to finish? Is your app’s utility more novelty-driven than recurring in nature? Have you assumed that you’d be placed on someone’s home screen after just one use? If so, you’re likely to fall into the large bucket of apps that struggle to retain customers for longer than a few days.

People return to your app because it has ongoing value for them, not because you’d like them to. It’s very important to accept this and focus on designing your app from the outset to answer the question: why would anyone use this more than 5 times?

What you can do:

Fortunately there is a lot you can do to address the retention issues. There are two key strategies you can employ:

  1. Design around a consistent and recurring use case. This requires that you truly understand what customers want from your mobile app, why they use it, how they use it, and when they use it. If you don’t know the answers to these questions, you need to invest in research with your customer base, either through focus groups or within the app using real-time in-app surveys.
  2. Create engagement mechanisms for your app to re-connect with consumers and remind them of your app’s presence on their device. You can generate reasons to engage, like exclusive content or benefits for your customers (discounts, rewards, content packs, etc.) available only through the mobile app.

Mobile Coupons

Exclusive mobile coupons through Walgreen’s mobile app

You also can use frequent updates to remind customers about your app and demonstrate that you’re continuing to improve it. Be sure to include the changes in the update description to highlight what customers can look forward to and encourage them to open the app.

Updates are reminders

Updates serve as reminders that catch your customers’ attention

5. Ignoring your app’s customer base

Mobile’s true power comes from its personal nature. When your app is installed on a consumer’s device, they have you in their pocket all day every day. This provides a perfect opportunity to listen to your customers and engage with them in a personal manner. You can delight them with your acknowledgement of their worth to you as a customer.

Too many companies are investing in mobile apps and then making it impossible to take the last step of connecting to the people who download the app. By creating two-way communication channels within your app, you can make each and every consumer feel special, at scale.

Customers will have issues, questions, and suggestions when using your mobile app. The reality is that consumers today have higher expectations than ever before when it comes to customer service and responsiveness. We all expect companies to be listening to us and serving our needs as a course of business. In the mobile app space, the main channels for communication are the ratings and reviews tabs in app stores. For the consumer, this is terribly frustrating as the app stores leave no room for dialogue, and remarks or feedback left cannot be given a response. This can make a company look like it isn’t listening or trying to address the customer’s commentary.

What you can do:

Consider building in-app communication tools to make it easy to submit feedback inside the app. Listen to customers before they’ve gotten frustrated enough to visit the app store. If you don’t have the time or resources to build these tools internally, look for services that provide in-app feedback or intelligent ratings prompts in order to solve your problems. You’re likely to find that the ROI on these services is significant because of the way in which it helps you grow retention, ratings, reviews, and research – the four R’s of the app business.

Urbanspoon In App Feedback

Urbanspoon’s in-app feedback

It is well worth a marketer’s time to make customers feel valued and create a way for communication to happen between the brand and mobile customer in-app. Mobile apps that engage their customers, listen to them, develop relationships, and iterate find themselves with a loyal audience of fans who tell others about the app and spend time giving feedback to make it better.

Mobile apps are an incredibly powerful way to connect with your customers and drive your entire company’s marketing efforts forward. In order to be successful, it’s important to spend time upfront planning your marketing efforts so that you can take advantage of the unique qualities of mobile devices. By avoiding these 5 common mistakes, you can improve your app’s chances of success and make a powerful marketing tool for your company.

About the Author: Robi Ganguly is the CEO of Apptentive, the easiest way for every company with an app to talk with their customers. When he’s not at the office, you can find him running, reading, cooking, spending time with friends, or hanging out on Twitter (@rganguly).

  1. Interesting. I’ve also been hearing a lot about App Store Optimization (ASO) in the app market place. Maybe you can extend this article into a series on that topic.

    • Lawyer, that’s a really good suggestion. If the KISSmetrics folks have me back, I’ll happily dig in some more on the ASO side of the things. As I mentioned above, there are some solid firms, like MobileDevHQ (www.mobiledevhq.com) really pushing the envelope here and delivering meaningful insights and tools for app publishers. It’s very important to be thinking about how your app surfaces for consumers, most of whom browse the app store in order to discover new apps for installation.

      Thanks for the comment!

  2. yawn… sounds like you just finished reading the iOS 4 brainwashing guide…

    seriously, if you have a good app that compliments your products, people will search for it. I use google search more than anything to find apps, not app stores (old tech – too crowded)

    • Hi Dawesi, thanks for your comment. I’m not sure what you mean by the brainwashing guide – I’ve found that Apple’s HIG (Human Interface Guide) is actually highly useful in thinking about the problems facing developers. You can find it here: http://developer.apple.com/library/ios/#documentation/UserExperience/Conceptual/MobileHIG/Introduction/Introduction.html

      As far as app discovery and search goes, while many people do use google search, the data is pretty overwhelming – most consumers in the mobile app space are browsing the app store. We’re still very very early in the adoption of mobile and it’s important to recognize that the channels for discovery for the majority of your potential audience are not necessarily the channels you use.

      Thanks for the comment!
      Robi

  3. Thank you Robi! These 5 mistakes that we should avoid could definitely help improve our app’s chance of being successful in the app store. I’ll bookmark this post for future reference.

    • You’re very welcome Patrick, glad I could help. Let me know if I can offer any other assistance, you can find me on Twitter (@rganguly) or email Robi @ my company’s domain name :)

  4. I agree, if you build a mobile phone app you need a marketing plan to get people to use it. You can’t just build it and then think you are done.

    if you need help doing that, here is a good free resource.
    http://www.profitworks.ca/free-marketing-plan-template

  5. Great article! I recently released an app which I think it great for parents and although a lot of people have downloaded the app, the app has not received any reviews. Having a popup reminder for users is a great idea that I’m definitely interested in trying out. Thank you!

    • Hi Saba, be careful with the popup reminder in early stages of the app when you still have a lot of bugs. It’s more likely that people will give you a bad review after a crash if you remind them and give them this possibility.

  6. Nice Post..I like it, but I would like to add into it like Pre launch Marketing & Post launch Marketing which I have discussed in my post @ http://creatiosoft.com/forum/forumdisplay.php?fid=11 … Would love to have your comments and feedback if any, to make my posts more interesting and useful!!

  7. Nice article!

    I especially enjoyed reading the information in section 2 about creating a mobile app and marketing it properly. One thing I have been coming across is that small businesses and large alike all seem to think that they must have a mobile app. But, the real question to ask them is why do they need it? What do they plan on using it for. Sometimes, it seems that we are replacing our wallets filled with loyalty cards and coupons with digital wallets. I think that businesses need to focus on other ways to create a mobile presence in order to interact with users. I know I have several pages of apps and don’t often use half of them. Businesses should start thinking about ways to consolidate them and come up with new solutions.

  8. Thank you for posting and this can be a guide for me in my mobile apps. The ideas cannot be ignored.

  9. Great post.
    Another way to boost app marketing is to use video.

  10. Planning to start an App Marketing agency in Bangladesh soon. This guide will definitely help us to move on!

  11. Matt Apperson Jan 15, 2014 at 12:07 pm

    This is a great article but I would have to say the biggest marketing mistake most mobile app owners make is not marketing at all. They believe all they have to do is build it and people will come. Read this article and find how it’s just not possible without a marketing plan. http://appersonlabs.com/2014/01/11/connecting-consumers-mobile-apps/#.UtbqZ2RDvVs

  12. Well according to my opinion App Store Optimization is one of the most important factor that mostly app publisher miss.

    Selecting right winning keyword for your app and optimizing them in your app store page play a very significant role in app store search.

    I would highly recommend to app publisher before optimizing their app must read these app store optimization guide lines

    https://blog.kissmetrics.com/app-store-optimization/

    and http://theappmedia.com/app-store-optimization-aso/

  13. Thank you so much! This article helps a lot! We are releasing a one way communication app for organisations and this made me think of some things I haven’t before.

  14. vey nice tips I have made an game app for android i just have 2 sales in 6 moths

  15. Nice article, very useful, thank you.

    also, i was searching the net a few months back and stumbled accross a mobile app building website, where youcan build an iphone, android or kindle app online using their cloud based app generator sofware, the site is buildmeanapp.co.uk I built a really good app using buildmeanapp.co.uk their online tool was very easy to use and only cost £5..I have since published 3 apps to the App Store and 1 to android market, they even let you charge for the sale of your app or make it free if you like. It’s a really good site I would recommend to all.

  16. App marketing is not so easy. Even it is too tough to develop an app with great user experience, without smart marketing, your new born baby can’t stand as one out of the huge crowd. We see numerous apps online. Out of them How many can attract targeted users?
    How many can get a value of $19,000,000,000 like whatsapp?
    How many can get a million reach?
    How many can have thousands of positive reviews?
    Answer is well know by all of us. Very few of them cam hold the pulse of crowd. Every one can’t be snapchat or whatsapp. So what should we at least do to increase our reach online?
    Spending lots of money for unnecessary advertisements won’t work as expected in real time. Marketing must be targeted perfectly. It has to explain your app visually. Simply we have to show what our baby can do Ina beautiful video. Didn’t get what mean?
    Nobody wants to go through the boring stuff, people hate reading about less popular things. They expect us to be different and more creative. If we can make an awesome animated explainer video describing your app adding some story telling touch and some humour to it really showed results.
    Experts say about 90% of the apps who use an explainer video has the chance of increasing their reach by 4-5 times.
    If you are smart enough, that 10% comes to your mind. It is really tough to market things which are less useful. I believe convincing people blindly is impossible.

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