It’s a beautiful trap.
A couple of weeks ago I wrote about this problem apps have.
I said apps need to adopt empathy and treat their users better.
I said they need to build a relationship with their users before trying to ask them for favors like sharing or rating their app.
I said they need to start thinking of them as people first, and only then users and metrics
But really, it’s not all the apps’ fault. In a way, they’re even the victim here.
I’m here to make the case that the app engagement industry is the one who has let app owners down.
Most apps know they need to get personal to get results. The problem is doing it at scale while holding onto their sanity.
Sure, I’ve had the dubious pleasure of speaking with some app owners who really didn’t care, and told me point blank that they prefer blasting their users with spammy broadcast messages if even some of those convert (that logic is flawed if you’re playing the long game, of course, because your customer loyalty will diminish and users will switch right over when an alternative that respects them comes around).
But I believe most app owners want to engage their users more meaningfully, they want to build a relationship with their users and earn their loyalty. They just don’t know exactly how to go about this.
And when they start looking for solutions, this is the kind of promises they see (modified slightly to respect the claim-makers’ anonymity):
“Publish in minutes, no coding required.”
“Simple and fun for everyone”
“Set up in minutes”
“As easy as drag & drop”
Sound too good to be true? That’s because it is.
Above the fold, mobile engagement tools promise that transforming your app’s metrics up and to the right is going to be a breeze.
Scroll down a bit on their websites, though, and you’ll discover the same caveat, without fail:
App owners are still responsible for ALL the heavy lifting. Defining a campaign and its goals. Understanding what kind of messages fit that campaign. Coming up with the right copy for these messages. Setting up split testing. Analyzing the results and optimizing based on what you’ve learned (where optimization actually means to go back and do it all over again). The app owner isn’t spared any one of these steps, even if using the engagement platforms with the grandest claims to simplicity, complete with animal illustrations (even a child could use it! Not).
Analyze & Optimize? Ain’t nobody got time for that.
Which makes you wonder, what do these app engagement platforms even do?! Sure, they give you the technical access to all the analytics and actions you could possibly want, but you still have to make the connection between them. You have to tell these tools exactly what to do every step of the way – which means you better know what you’re doing, cause they sure as heck have no idea.
It’s like someone looking to get from LA to New York, and the solution they’re given is the cockpit of an airplane – “Here you go, we’ve given you access to all the features you’ll need to get where you want to go, and then some! You’re welcome.” Unless you’re trying to start your own airline, this is a huge waste of your money, time, and energy – you should be able to kick back and read a book or catch some Z’s while the company you paid takes care of flying the damn plane.
The biggest lie in the industry.
It’s kind of genius, really. In what is probably the shrewdest marketing ploy of the last decade, these companies have convinced apps that the more they, as app owners, need to A/B test, set up triggers, segment users, analyze data, and optimize, optimize, optimize – the better the engagement platform must be. In reality, these are not only the places where marketers spend (read: waste) the most time, but they are also highly prone to human error. And somehow we keep sustaining this belief that the more complex the system is, the better.
What ends up happening is one of 3 things:
- The app owner grits her teeth and forces herself to learn how to do use these complicated platforms, thereby wasting time that could have been devoted to the app and the business
- The app owner uses only a fraction of the functionality offered because she just cannot spare the resources to take advantage of this whole complicated spaceship of a system.
- The app owner moves on without adopting the app engagement system for the same reasons as #2.
And all of those are really a shame since they leave app owners exactly where they were before, only with less trust in the app engagement industry.
If you build it (ugly), they will (still) come.
Isn’t it ironic, that the very tools that were supposed to help the app owner create a better experience for their users, are the ones that are the most complicated to use?
When we just started Wombat, I was personally thrown by how overwhelming and downright ugly everything on the market was. Even systems that were considered fluid, intuitive, and down-to-earth seemed way more difficult than someone who has an app to take care of should want to be bothered with. It’s sad, but the standards are quite low.
When we built out one of the first versions of our platform, we took as many UX designers out for coffee as we could. They all gave us great advice that helped shape our product, but one piece of feedback kept surfacing: “You know, if you’re building this for marketers, it really doesn’t need to look nice or be intuitive. You can use as many sub-sub-sub-menus as you like. They’re used to it.” We’re so happy we ignored that, and made something beautiful we can be proud of.
But it isn’t just the UX/UI that most of the mobile engagement industry is skimping on. It’s the whole concept of making it easy. And I mean, really easy. As easy as those wild promises above the fold of their landing pages.
In 2017, app owners (and app marketers) should demand way more of this industry. When you Google something, you expect the search engine to give you the most relevant results first, to autocomplete your text, to read your mind and guess what you are looking for. You don’t expect to get a table with all the possible entries and then have to sift through them. Why can’t engagement platforms be as helpful? Why do app owners end up working overtime for their engagement platforms, instead of the other way around?
We’re starting to see the beginning of this revolution, with 80% of marketing leaders predicting that artificial intelligence is going to revolutionize marketing within the next four years. We’re happy to be part of this revolution, and we know this is just the start. Our goal is to have a meaningful share in it so that we can give apps the boost they need, while giving app owners the peace of mind they want.
We’d love to hear your thoughts about this topic, so feel free to continue the conversation here or on the various social media outlets. You can also drop us a line if you prefer to keep it more private.