The Missing Mobile Metric

In my last column, we discussed the conundrum of achieving–and maintaining–optimal visibility in mobile app stores. It’s a delicate balance of driving downloads and cultivating engagement and lucky for us, these things can be measured.

Download numbers are the simplest aspect of the equation, piped daily into your iTunes Connect or Google Play account.

Engagement is a less straightforward metric; the number of times an app is used in a specific time period, actions performed, shares to social networks, are all great top level criteria for measuring the success of your content.

How you actually go about tracking and measuring each is somewhat more complex than simple downloads. You’ll need to do a fair amount of tagging, tracking, and analyzing to get an accurate picture — much heavier lifting than simply checking your daily downloads and app rank. But it can be done.

The Most Valuable Metric Of All

Unfortunately, there’s one thing you can’t easily decipher, and that’s where your app sits on a user’s desktop. And that might just be the most valuable metric of all.

In previous posts, we’ve discussed the concept of personal real estate – those first two or three screens of a user’s smartphone or tablet desktop.

This is where we store the apps most important to our daily lives and these are the screens we see upwards of 30 times day as we glance at our devices to check the time, view text messages, check voice mail, open apps, and surf the web.

Having your brand identity situated on one of these screens is is clearly of high value yet, to the best of my knowledge, no one has ever calculated its true worth, perhaps for the simple reason that there’s no clear way to do so. No API or cookie can enable you to track where an end user chooses to relegate your app — it’s the missing metric in the app ecosystem.

Short of polling your users individually (tedious but not such a bad idea…) there’s just no way to know. So here’s where I recommend relying on the “case study of one” method. Take a step back, look at the apps that live on the first and second screens of your device, and think about why they’ve earned that spot.

Making It Onto The Home Screen

Based on personal and professional experience, I have a few ideas on how an app actually achieves this kind of premium placement. I hate to fall back on the “case study of one” approach but I do think looking at a single, highly mobile user can be a valuable thing. While I may not be Nielsen or comScore, I am willing to share my iPhone desktop and some personal details with you, so take it for what it’s worth.

For those of you who don’t know me personally, I am:

  • a married mom of two pre-schoolers
  • a city worker and suburban dweller
  • a household decision maker
  • an advertising industry executive
  • an avid cook
  • a book lover
  • an amateur photographer
  • a frequent business traveler
  • a jogger and Pilates enthusiast

This is a small and fragmented portrait of who I am, but compare these high level demo, pyscho and techno-graphics I’ve shared to the items on the first few screens of my smartphone desktop.

Utility, Inspiration And Entertainment Win Out

You’ll note that the precious inches of my homescreen are relegated to apps that support the main quadrants of my life and see weekly if not daily use.

Twitter and Facebook, my main personal social networks, are opened multiple times a day — having them on anything other than the home screen would cost me precious seconds in swiping and searching that I can’t afford to lose when I’m in the mobile context.

Waterlogged and Nike Running, on the other hand, have earned their premium position not because I use them daily (I don’t) but because I’m trying to shame myself into doing so.

Citibank and BofA, my main financial institutions, stay on the home screen since I use them multiple times throughout the week to juggle household bills and expenses.

Kraft’s iFood and FreshDirect on the other hand, help support my daily duties as my family’s personal chef.

Linkedin and Evernote are there to help me manage my professional life on a regular basis — both are opened multiple times in a single day.

And Kindle and NPR are there to help me unwind and unplug on my daily commute.

As you can see, the apps that occupy my primary personal real estate are those that support my needs and personal well being as a working mom, a commuter, and a busy professional.

For your branded app to earn one of these spaces, it will need to feed into one of these aspects of my identity in a fundamental way. Moreover, it will need to do so better than one of my current apps in order to earn one of these premium spots.

Let’s take  a look at screen 2:

Once again, you’ll see that the apps here are tightly aligned with my identity as a household manager and decision maker (shopping and cooking), a professional (business travel apps) and a mom (kids apps).

A scant two apps have made it on to this second screen due solely to entertainment value — most have a very practical purpose in my life. Each of these are opened at least once a week and some many more times than that. And I usually see their logos on my second home screen on an almost daily basis, whether I open them or not.

Standing Out And Winning That Coveted Spot

The lesson here? I’m just one working mom but I think it’s safe to safe to say I’m a microcosm of what’s out there. As a professional, a parent, and a household decision maker, if you have something to sell, you’re trying to sell it to someone very much like me.

So what’s the value of having your logo on my home screen or second screen, where I’m likely to see it multiple times a day? Well, it’s difficult to give you an ROI equation for something we can’t actually track. But I think that this small example illustrates a few aspects of what it takes to get there. Namely:

  • Know your audience: focus on giving them the tools and content that will support some aspect of their personal or professional life in some fundamental way. Keep the analogy of mobile-device-as-a-remote-control-for-your-life top of mind. Your app should help the user manage/achieve/enjoy in some indispensable way.
  • Promote frequency of use: if I’m not using your app once a day — or at least once a week, it’s not making it onto one of my first two screens. Out of sight equals out of mind so give me content and functionality that encourages frequent use and don’t be afraid to tap me on the shoulder now and then with push alerts.
  • Do it better than the other guy: the app ecosystem is ridiculously crowded. Chances are there are 1000+ other apps that do what you app does. So look at your competition and understand what the table stakes are in terms of content and features, then focus on doing a few key things just a little better than they do. Make your app a little easier to use, shoot for higher quality of content and relevance to your target demographic and, above all, make it easier to find both within the app stores and outside them.

In conclusion, there’s nothing that will guarantee you a premium spot on the user’s mobile desktop — that’s always going to be a complex balance of who that user is and his or her unique blend of needs and interests.

Nonetheless, it should be your goal for any app you create. There may not be a clear way to measure it, but focus on content relevance and usability for your target market and you’ll be more than halfway there.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land.

Related Topics: Channel: Mobile Marketing | Mobile Marketing | Mobile Marketing Column


About The Author: joined iCrossing in 2005 to develop the agency's mobile group and her expertise in this rapidly evolving ecosystem has helped many of our clients bridge the gap between online and offline and connect successfully with their audiences. An industry veteran, she has over 12 years of experience with clients such as Toyota, Kia, Bermuda Department of Tourism, RitzCarlton, Marie Claire and Good Housekeeping to name but a few, spanning a wide range of services from mobile app development to near field communications.

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