In-app capabilities and conversions - what is the benefit to businesses?

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The smartphone craze isn’t dying down, and people are still spending increasing amounts of time looking at the little screens in their hands. Paul Wright, Managing Director for UK, France & MENA at AppsFlyer, discusses how businesses can take advantage of this behaviour, as well as key trends around in-app capabilities. He discusses the industry’s biggest challenges, as well as what’s coming in the near future.

1. Consumers are spending more time than ever before on their smartphones; what is the opportunity for businesses?

It’s an exciting time in the world of mobile. Nearly 3 billion people used a mobile device to access the internet in 2018, according to eMarketer. What’s more, mobile recently surpassed TV as the channel where UK consumers spend the most time. Clearly, attention has shifted towards mobile and businesses today need to think carefully about how they can truly be mobile-first. Gone are the days that a mobile strategy can merely act as a bolt on.

With this increased attention being captured on smartphones, apps are becoming more sophisticated, adding greater functionalities to enrich the experience. According to research from Airship, mobile app audiences have risen 16.6 per cent year-on-year. What’s more, our own data predicts that global app install ad spend will climb by 65 per cent from 2018 to 2020, reaching over £50 billion. Businesses can seize the mobile opportunity by understanding the possibilities this provides, not only for revenue growth, but also as a communication channel for client relationship building and long-term brand loyalty.

Ultimately, the prominence of mobile makes it a crucial ingredient within the customer journey, as the glue between the multiple touchpoints – and that is still the largely untapped opportunity for businesses today.

2.            How can businesses harness these opportunities & get started in order to claim a stake of the growing market?

Businesses need to put mobile at the centre of their marketing strategy. Consumers carry their mobile devices with them at all times - at home, on the move, or in the gym. Mobile is fundamentally the glue that ties all channels together. And it is also an inherently measurable ecosystem.

Understanding what you’re looking to achieve and why you want to do it is critical for businesses looking to own a slice of the pie. Companies need to think carefully about where their audience is in order to establish how best to reap the rewards of the mobile ecosystem. This means, gaining a greater understanding of the user journey, allowing the ability to predict what they might do next at each milestone. In turn, these insights will allow for the opportunity to engage with audiences in a personalised and meaningful way.

Moreover, businesses must be clear on what is expected from the paid media they invest in, identifying the specific metrics they wish to measure against. By knowing the answers to these crucial questions, organisations can begin to make worthwhile investments in the mobile ad space, increasing the likelihood of greater ROI.

A shift to mobile may require businesses to rethink their marketing tech stack, and explore how previous disparate channels and silos can be broken down. However this will ultimately allow companies to piece together fragmented profiles to give them a view of each customer, across all channels and devices.

3.            What are the key trends you are seeing around how in-app capabilities are driving conversion for brands?

The key thing for businesses to understand when working out how to integrate mobile into their brand experience is that it can’t be treated as a bolt on. If a business just tries to squeeze their website into an app, the likelihood is that they will not only create an overcrowded and complex user experience, but they will also miss the opportunity to leverage the unique functionality set offered by mobile and apps. Consumers use different devices for different parts of their buying or customer service experience.

Take travel booking, for example. Mobile apps are often used for research in the time period leading up to booking. Skyscanner, for example, offers travellers the opportunity to research the cost of flights, hotels and car hire while sitting on the bus or killing a bit of time during their working day. While many users are increasingly comfortable following through on their research and completing their purchase in the app, Skyscanner also provides them with simple ways of linking their research to their online account, so they can choose to transact on either mobile or desktop depending on their preference. By leveraging push notifications to alert travellers on flight price changes in real time, they give potential customers the opportunity to save money and book immediately, either in the app or online. So, in this example, they use mobile to add value to the customer (saving money), but also to drive urgency and conversion.

Brands that aren’t traditionally mobile-first, but that have seen success in mobile, are those that have carefully thought through how apps can add value to the user experience, not just mimic existing experiences. Ikea, for example, and many other retailers, have used augmented reality in app to help customers visualise the product they are offering in their own home. By doing so, they overcome objections that they might have about purchasing physical goods online.

Businesses need to be thinking about how they can tie together the many different interactions their customers have across different devices, to build a cohesive customer journey. This will ultimately aid the buying process and increase conversions and will provide the opportunity to tailor messaging and personalise the user journey based on existing context - this is the key element driving the future of e-commerce.

4.            What are the key challenges?

Mobile advertising fraud is a booming industry and a growing threat for businesses. The fraud we’re seeing today has become increasingly sophisticated, as these bad actors have advanced their technology, often using bots to mimic the behaviour of how real people may interact with their mobile devices. As this engagement may look genuine, it has become hugely challenging for marketers to identify which activity is real, and which is fake. These bogus clicks and activities are interfering with metrics, revenue figures and costing businesses billions of pounds.

As an industry, we must tackle this. Implementing multi-layer security to spot and counteract this activity will help us to move in the right direction, however above all, we need to instil a culture of vigilance.

5.            What’s coming next in this space?

The future of the mobile ecosystem is going to be even more competitive than what we’re seeing already. Businesses, therefore, need to be more reliant on data and resulting insights in order to achieve an edge over the competition. However, as they continue to reap the benefits of effective in-app strategies, fraudsters will continue to vie for a piece of the action. Ongoing protection will therefore continue to be a key priority.

Going forward, relative success in digital transformation will determine the winners and losers across many verticals. As the app ecosystem has grown in recent years, many brands have done a reasonable job of getting to grips with mobile, launching new mobile services and learning how to generate engagement and revenue in mobile. However, economic conditions are a challenge in many markets, and the mobile and digital ecosystem is only getting more competitive and more complex, with lots of new channels and services coming online all the time. Unless brands truly commit to digital transformation and integrate it deeply in their culture they will struggle to maintain any traction and will ultimately suffer, possibly existentially. Consumers are mobile-first and businesses need to match their expectations and meet them where they are.

Paul Wright, Managing Director for UK, France & MENA, AppsFlyer