Mobile Apps

3 Tips to Help You Stand Out From the App Pack

For just about anything you're looking to accomplish these days -- be it ordering a ride, sending a quick message or finding a new love interest -- “There’s an app for that.” Apple recently announced that the iOS App Store has reached 1.2 million apps, and Google is estimated to have a similar selection of Android apps in its Google Play store. 

These applications occupy valuable real estate and memory on consumers’ devices, so a user naturally becomes selective about which ones get the privilege of staying. According to a study recently released by Nielsen, the average person uses only 26 apps in regular rotation.

This means businesses can’t just deliver “any old mobile experience." They have to provide contextual relevance derived from personal data. Google’s Larry Page explained his “toothbrush test” to assess the worth of a company:  Is this something you'll use once or twice a day, and does it make your life better? While this may seem a daunting task given the sheer number of apps in the market, here are three angles to make yours pop.

Related: You Can't Afford Any of These 4 Mobile App Design Mistakes

1. Who: Make it personal

Consumers don’t get as much value out of a one-size-fits-all experience. They increasingly expect apps to “get to know them” and provide insights and updates accordingly. For example, the Glow app, which recently secured $17 million in series B funding from VCs including Andreesen Horowitz, is leveraging big data to help women track their fertility cycles.

Amazon has mastered this personalization algorithm such that members within the same household receive tailored product recommendations. Netflix asks upon log-in, “Who’s watching?” before serving up suggested content. Nest learns about your preferred temperature settings.

Back in my Aislebuyer days, we told grocery shoppers which products they'd likely love at specific stores. Recommendations that really resonated resulted in reactions like, “You really get me!” and, “This is awesome.” However, if we were off the mark, customers felt that these recommendations were mere ploys to serve them advertising.

Nailing personalization goes a long way in conveying your sincerity to help as well.

2. What & How: Make it actionable

It’s not enough to provide a user with a ton of data. Without context or a recommended course of action, too much information can overwhelm. After you access a bunch of data, ask yourself, “So what?”

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Fitbit and Jawbone do a good job of suggesting ways to stay active, beyond the steps you’ve already taken; to hydrate, because you’re still gulps away from the recommended amount; and to improve sleep, because those erratic lines indicate restlessness.

The next logical question to pose would be, “And how?” Most people can surmise what they need to do -- they just need help taking the first step.

LinkedIn addresses this by guiding users to flesh out their profile to "completeness," thereby making someone more easily found and likely eligible and sought after for new opportunities. They also encourage users to endorse their connections, not only reinforcing bonds between people, but also adding new content about each person.

3. When: Make it timely

We’ve all heard the saying, “Timing is everything.” All the awesome info in the world can be translated into personalized insights and recommendations, but the right timing can be critical. Push notifications are a great way to help your app stay relevant and useful. Aberdeen Group found that mobile apps that leverage personalized push notifications increased their average conversion rate by 8.8 percent in 2014 (vs. 2013).

With that said, there’s a fine art to the push. Inundating users with updates of irrelevant content can lead your app down the path of deletion.

At Metromile, one of our most popular features is street sweeping alerts. Users who choose to receive our push notifications receive alerts when they're parked on a street that has scheduled sweeping. Drivers can use this information to determine if they’ll be ticketed and can then move their vehicles to avoid the costly citations.

Of course, users can modify their notification settings and opt out of such updates. However, those that clearly demonstrate value often get to stay active on the user’s device.

While there is no single silver bullet when it comes to maintaining relevance in the ever-evolving mobile app landscape, taking these three factors into consideration will go a long way in ensuring your spot in the top 26, and encouraging continued engagement with your users over the long haul.

Related: 7 Musts to Maximize Your Company's Mobile Strategy