Even Better Strategies for Measuring Mobile App Success

by Arun Bhattacharya

posted on 01-30-2017

When Facebook first rolled out to the public back in September 2006, it was pretty green — in fact, we were all a little green. Yet, success was instantaneous, and the platform’s user base grew exponentially practically overnight. Analysts used the growing number of people active on the platform as a measure to guide strategy and future success.

But failing to properly align your strategy with the right insight — not using the right metrics, measures, and key performance indicators (KPIs) — can have a negative impact. Facebook quickly learned that, despite a staggering user base, misaligned metrics were demonstrating a false positive. Analysts knew how many people were using the platform, but they didn’t know the actual value of each user, which mattered — quite a bit, actually — as lack of insight at this level meant they were unable to monetize properly. Eventually, they discovered they were ineffectively targeting mobile, but no one knew it.

In the developing world, where many potential users only had connectivity via their mobile devices, the platform was earning a measly 32 cents per user in 2012. With an almost saturated market elsewhere, it was critical for Facebook to focus on this segment. When analysts learned that one of their KPIs was making money through mobile, they shifted focus, and the metrics started to make business sense. With this information, Facebook was able to begin optimizing to boost key mobile metrics and effectively quadrupled this segment’s value within a span of three years.

Four Strategies for Measuring Mobile App Success
Let’s assume that you’re not just doing mobile simply because everyone else is, but that you realize it’s a strategic business enabler. What now? It’s time to dig deep to develop your mobile app strategy, understand its place and value in reaching your business goals, and design KPIs that are aligned with those imperatives. Facebook’s ‘strategy conundrum’ isn’t rare, but it can be avoided. Here are four strategies for measuring mobile app success in relation to your business goals.

1. Think More Broadly About KPIs.
Every mobile app campaign is unique, and KPIs vary significantly not only by industry, but also by the stage of the customer journey in which you want to drive insight and action. Traditional metrics have their place, but it makes sense to think more broadly about KPIs in terms of how they roll into your overall marketing strategy or strategic imperative and then create more granular KPIs to reach those imperatives.

Decide which broad KPIs to target based on your business goals. For example, if your goal is to increase revenue, look at how your mobile app is driving net new revenue. What growth opportunities are available? Are there new markets or customer segments that could help drive that revenue growth? If brand building is the goal, think awareness or loyalty. Are the right audiences using your products?

Then, look at how these broad goals can be broken down into more specific and tangible KPIs to measure their success. Lifetime value is a KPI associated with the goal of obtaining new revenue growth. Intention as a KPI addresses brand loyalty. Other KPIs include average revenue per user, daily active users, and monthly active users, among others. The key is to think broadly — to understand the context of KPIs within the framework of strategic imperatives and then match specific KPIs accordingly.

But, be careful that you test to understand whether these KPIs are effectively giving you the insights you need. For instance, on your website, average time spent onsite could indicate deeper engagement and content relevancy; however, a longer average time spent on your mobile app could indicate that your user is stuck and, thus, frustrated. If your customers are consistently lingering on a specific app task, it may indicate a problem.

2. For Accurate Insights, Take Your Mobile App Strategy out of the Silo.
It’s important to track success across the entire mobile app lifecycle — acquisition, engagement, monetization, and retention. But, it’s just as important to understand, analyze, and drive insight from your customers’ end-to-end multichannel journeys. More than the mobile app lifecycle, your strategy needs to look at mobile in its entirety and within the context of a much larger, multichannel approach that includes traditional mobile web, desktop, and even the Internet of Things, when applicable. Take your mobile app strategy out of the silo and obtain a more reliable, big-picture view.

For example, without looking at a specific customer’s or segment’s entire journey with your brand, it may seem that an in-app message announcing a new item isn’t receiving engagement and, therefore, isn’t resonating with your audience to drive revenue. The reality may be that those same users have already received a similar promotional email and perhaps even purchased the product as a result. By looking at the entire customer journey across channels and devices, you can better measure what’s working and what’s not to drive revenue and achieve your business goals.

3. Create Custom Metrics to Better Serve Your Needs.
Mobile apps and their usage are extremely contextual, making it easy to create some pretty specific KPIs that align with business objectives. For example, it’s easy to determine whether an app was downloaded but never opened or if a cart was abandoned. But remember, KPIs are assessment tools to measure how well your mobile app is helping to progress your business goals. So, when developing KPIs, always start with your business goals and create your KPIs around them. Custom KPIs can be derived from or calculated by combining simple metrics into a unique, standalone formula.

In this process, there’s one important distinction to keep in mind: all KPIs are metrics, but not all metrics are KPIs. Metrics measure the health of your marketing activities, but KPIs are directly aligned to your business goals, informing you if you’re moving the ball in the right direction relative to your strategic imperatives. In Facebook’s case, their initial metric was number of users, but their business goal was to monetize their efforts, not to show how popular the platform was. So, the true indicator of success was not number of users, but rather, their metrics surrounding mobile, as this was where they could determine whether they were properly monetizing the platform. By tying their metrics to their business goals, they created KPIs that truly indicated whether the platform was successful from a business perspective.

With the right tools and capabilities, it’s possible to reach fairly granular levels of customization and segmentation that can provide even more insight into which metrics are true indicators of business success and how you can optimize your app to boost those numbers.

4. Focus on Your Customer to Build Long-Term Value.
Is it possible to measure how effectively your app is meeting customer expectations? Are you designing your app to deliver the best experience possible by reducing fields or making rewards easier to use? Take advantage of great mobile and omnichannel analytics solutions to help answer these questions. Simple, intuitive insights into customer touchpoints along the journey can help you measure customer experience and attribution. Understanding dissatisfaction, and then taking marketing action, places the focus on the customer, improving customer experience and building long-term value.

Here’s a great example. National Australia Bank is recognized as a leader in digital strategy with a robust, multichannel marketing group that includes mobile. Through customer-journey analysis, they noticed an abrupt drop-off at a certain stage for users who were trying to navigate the application process for loan approval. Once they identified where the fall-off was happening, they were able to attribute it to a small glitch in a smartphone platform. By placing the focus on the customer, they identified and fixed the problem, improving the customer journey, streamlining the loan-approval process, and increasing revenue potential via the mobile app channel by nearly 600%!

Final Thoughts
Driven by a misinformed, misaligned strategy, mobile app metrics can become nothing more than vanity, creating false positives and leading to inaccurate conclusions about where your strategy is headed. Establish thoughtful KPIs that are aligned to your business objectives and identify metrics that will best represent those KPIs. Take the time to better align your mobile app strategy with insight, think broadly, get out of the silo, and drive the end-to-end multichannel insight necessary to achieve your higher level corporate and strategic imperatives.

Topics: Digital Transformation