No One ‘Right’ Metric For Mobile Engagement

Finding out what metrics are key is what ultimately separates the signal from the noise in the app universe.

No One ‘Right’ Metric For Mobile Engagement

I am asked this question all the time: “What should I be measuring to gauge the success or shortcomings of my organization’s app?”

This is a tough question because there’s simply not one “right” metric; in fact, there aren’t five right metrics—or 10. It all depends on your organization, your goals, and other key performance indicators (KPIs). It’s all about asking yourself, “OK, what’s the most valuable thing that can happen in my app?” And, from there, you must determine who is crossing those thresholds and what attributes they possess. Who’s making in-app purchases, and how can you segment them? In other words, who’s consistently interacting with your app daily, and what qualities seem to connect those power users? Furthermore, where can I find and engage with more people like them?

Which Metrics Are Key—And Which Just Muddy The Waters?

Finding out what metrics are key is what ultimately separates the signal from the noise in the app universe. Your top Web metrics often look nothing like your top app metrics. Maybe people transact much less on mobile, and success means a social share or photo upload. Once you know that, you can build your efforts and refine your focus to get users to do more of that rather than push them through a purchase funnel they’re simply not interested in.

One of the greatest things about mobile and mobile apps is that the touchpoints are so unique to the platform. Brands can focus on personalization and the customer/brand relationship in ways that simply don’t exist when you’re talking about Web-based experiences. But sometimes, that doesn’t equate to instant revenue. It might equal something more long-term like retention or repeat usage. Your goal then becomes delivering relevant, valuable experiences—getting great content to customers faster, layering in geotargeting or integrating camera usage, let’s say—and keeping tabs on the data from there.

Which Are The Right Metrics For Your App?

That doesn’t mean your app has less value than your website—it just means we’re defining “value” a bit differently. For example, a bank may be focused on getting people to use its app for basic transactions and support. Each time customers do this, they reduce the man-hours needed—tellers, customer-support agents, call centers—and save money as a direct result. The bank doesn’t need customers to spend money or invest more heavily via its app—it just needs people to deposit their checks and move their money with a few quick, self-directed clicks. To that bank, that’s success.

Media and entertainment brands are often monetizing through ad networks, so page views and time spent matter in big ways. Apps that offer in-app purchases—gaming apps, for example—are trying to determine the number of steps each transaction takes as well as how they can build better experiences that incentivize users to buy quickly, as efficiently as possible—and as early in the relationship as possible. Every vertical has unique goals and KPIs in reference to mobile apps, and each thinks about these experiences very differently—because, again, there’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to mobile-app engagement.

Where Does The Iterative Process Of Identifying And Engaging Optimal Users Begin?

Once again, it comes down to metrics. Once you’ve determined the characteristics of your optimal user, you have a major next step ahead of you: Can you find more of these high-value users in your existing audience? If you can’t, it’s time to assess what’s lacking—in other words, do you have a product problem or a marketing problem? If it’s a product problem, your focus should be on building something—a new experience or add-on or some unique touchpoints—to graduate more existing users into this high-value state. If it’s a marketing problem, your goal should be to attract more of these particular users—lookalikes, essentially, who can often be drawn from targeted programmatic buying based on criteria you’ve isolated.

These, clearly, are very different paths to follow, which brings us back to the original question: What are the right metrics for mobile engagement? While we all talk about being data-driven marketers, it’s essential that we’re tapping into the right data to make the right marketing decisions every time. That means testing, optimizing, and gleaning those specific personas from the data. If you’ve identified and fleshed out the optimal user with this approach, you’re in good shape to take action. And, once those new, high-value users emerge, you’ll also be in a great spot to keep the process going—they begin your app experience, and you follow their journeys and determine their long-term impacts, continuously refining the product and marketing processes as you go.