Earlier this month, Swrve presented everything it knows about mobile engagement at the CX Unplugged Virtual event. In particular, we focused on what has changed and some of the counter themes we’re seeing in the mobile industry.

Here are Swrve’s five learnings for 2022 from the trillions of data points and billions of mobile engagements across the 100s of brands we power each year.

1. Be More Than a Pusher

There’s a myth that mobile engagement is just about push notifications. But the truth is that 96% of mobile users ignore notifications. In other words, push receives about 4% engagement. And, if you consistently send irrelevant notifications, 57% of users will eventually unsubscribe and essentially become unreachable.

While the measurable engagement rate of push is low, it’s important to note that many notifications prompt ‘glanced behavior’ as opposed to requiring the user to take action. Users can experience real value from the app without necessarily engaging with the message delivered to their screen. If the engagement metric were to include the number of users who read a notification and found it helpful, we would expect this figure to be a lot higher.

When you start communicating with users inside the app, you can instantly transform engagement. Even generic in-app messages can reach 20% engagement. If you add personalization, engagement increases to ~49%, and if you go further with contextualized in-app messaging, you can reach 74% engagement. When you trigger messages based on behavior inside the app, you’ll instantly get a  better mobile engagement experience.

So, don’t just be a pusher, don’t just rely on push notifications, and make in-app messaging a core part of your overall messaging channel mix.

2. Don’t Maximize Engagement

There is an understandable belief that the goal of mobile marketers is to maximize engagement. However, this can be counterintuitive for many apps, and it can actually be more beneficial to minimize mobile engagement. You may ask, how could this be?

There are just two types of apps when it boils down to it—time wasters and time savers. For time-wasters, the goal is to maximize user engagement. These are apps like Tik Tok, Instagram, and Facebook, where their business model is based on time-in-app, DAU, and MAU, so they can continue monetizing through paid advertising.

The goal of the time-saver, on the other hand, is to maximize user convenience. Take Revolut, for example. Their goal isn’t time-in-app or engagement. Rather, the goal is to enable users to complete specific tasks as conveniently as possible inside the app.

In mobile, your biggest challenge isn’t the competition—it is to wrestle time and attention from the time-wasters. Most brands are afforded mere seconds to engage or convert users. Therefore, optimizing and minimizing those efforts of engagement should be paramount.

So, don’t be a time-waster by trying to prolong engagement. Customers are gone in seconds, so the focus should be on speed, convenience, and efficiency. Deliver the exact information the user needs with a clear CTA to help them get the job done quickly.

In the below airline example, the user receives all the updates they need throughout the day for their flight. The app delivers all the relevant information the user needs without ever opening the app. We call this a zero engagement strategy.

Below, ChefsFeed effectively combines zero push-type notifications with geo using zero, light-touch engagement without requiring users to open an app or take action.

Are you a time-waster or a time saver? Your answer should help define your engagement strategy.

3. Don’t Treat Mobile as a Channel

There’s a common perception that mobile is just another channel. But it’s not. Here is our four-part framework of what mobile is today that you should consider when deploying it inside your marketing mix.

Mobile = Apps

Eight out of every ten digital minutes is spent on mobile, and nine out of every ten mobile minutes is spent in apps. It’s definitely the mobile age and unquestionably the app age.

Mobile = Continuous Stream of Customer Contextual and Behavioral Data

With 88% of users opting out of app tracking, first-party data is gold. Mobile is the primary source of this data, giving brands a direct path to communicating with customers.

Mobile uniquely provides a continuous stream of consumer behavior that is extremely valuable to brands. It offers contextual data such as location, weather, account balance, and frequency. And behavioral data—what the user is doing, page views, searches, events, how they’ve engaged with passed campaigns, etc.

By simply installing an SDK, you can track all the key events a user takes in the web, mobile, or TV app. Did they abandon a cart? What is in the cart? What was the name of the dress, etc. This is a very different data paradigm to email marketing, where you have no access to this data.

And when combined with data we already know about the user—their name, preferences, and segments—it can be used for gaining a solid understanding of users and real-time decisioning.

Mobile = All the Channels

When digital was first born, there were four main channels to reach customers—voice, website, email, and SMS. Mobile has completely exploded the number of channels you can use to reach customers. Now we have push, in-app, social messaging, and smart devices. Essentially mobile has forced companies to become omnichannel. You need to go wherever your customer is. Wherever they choose to interact with you, that's where your marketing needs to be. 

Mobile = Persistent, Instant Connection to Customers

Mobile has given us an instant, persistent connection to customers. The Ryanair example below is a perfect articulation of this.

When the flight lands and flight mode is turned off, passengers are served with a survey in the form of a notification in the app. Engaging at the right mobile moment led to a 70% completion rate. If you can be there when it matters to users in real-time, you get engagement like this.

4. Don’t Orchestrate as Usual

Companies tend to treat the orchestration of mobile engagement just like email. However, with mobile, you have the capability to be there and make decisions in the moment, and that’s a huge opportunity.

One of the challenges is that most marketers create idealized, structured customer journeys, i.e., the customer receives an email on day one, the customer receives a follow-up email on day three and converts. However, real-life customer journeys are much more chaotic and made up of mobile moments of need. This necessitates contextual engagement, which in real-time processes all these data streams, anticipates individual need or mobile moment, and responds with a personalized engagement.

For most orchestration systems that enterprises use, they are not present in real-time. They don’t understand that behavior or react to it in real-time. These linear orchestration journeys typically will send an email long after an event—the moment is gone, and conversion absolutely suffers.

So, don’t just rely on linear orchestrated journeys. Evolve and mature to these contextual customer experiences which trigger in the moment of customer need. Mobile uniquely can illuminate those moments of need and respond to them. 

5. Don’t Just Acquire Users to Grow

There is a myth in the mobile industry that you need to acquire more users to grow. However, the quickest way to succeed is to fix your onboarding. While it’s important, you shouldn’t fixate on the number of new users as a goal and metric to track. Instead, you should focus on improving the paths to activation and communication with customers. 

There are four ways we look to do this:

Define What an Activated New User Is

Instrument your app from an analytics perspective to understand the paths customers are taking or not taking. Then, identify the roadblocks and start optimizing for these.

Remove Friction From Activation

Below we see the number of steps it takes to open specific bank accounts. Revolut is 2-5 times easier and quicker to open an account with than most banking players, meaning they convert more users into Revolut customers. Every time you remove a unit of friction, your conversion rate improves by about 10%.

Optimize and Test Your First-Touch User Experience

First touch user experience usually takes the form of a tour that users are served before they get into the essence of the app. The reality is most people ignore these tours.

Instead, you should prioritize the communication path to the customer, so you can subsequently engage with them. However, never lead with the permissions system prompt as most users will not opt in. When prompting for permissions around notifications, location, camera, speaker, etc., limit these to areas where action is required and provide users with a clear explanation. Every time you say, “Hey, we need to get you opted in so you can receive important balance alerts,” your opt-in rates will be transformed.

Progressive Onboarding

Onboard users in a progressive and educational way. As they progress through your app, provide modals, tips, guidance, insights, hints, and nudges to contextually educate them throughout their behavior.

Final Thoughts

Don’t focus on the number of new users. Instead, focus on converting new users into activated ones. It is the cheapest and fastest path to growth. Once you’ve optimized this journey, then you can turn up paid acquisition because you know the more new users you get, you’re going to convert them into customers. 

Don’t be a pusher. Embracing in-app messaging is probably the most efficacious way to communicate with customers. Don’t seek to maximize engagement; seek to be hyper-efficient when you do engage with customers because time is your enemy.

Don’t just treat mobile as a channel. It isn’t just a channel. It’s all the channels. It’s your primary source for customer data that can be transferred into persistent instant connection so you can be there in mobile moments of need.

Don’t just orchestrate as usual. Focus on contextual engagement, and don't just acquire new users to grow. Focus on onboarding those new users and converting them into paying customers. 

Swrve does all this every day for global brands around the world. We have three billion users at the end of all our customer apps. Our goal is to help mobile businesses grow. We’ve been doing it for ten years and do it very successfully.

Watch the full session recording to learn more about engaging your mobile audience.