Every time I download a new app to my smartphone, it bombards me with requests for personal details like my contacts, my location, my email, and my photos – followed by a request, “Name of App would like to send you push notifications.” After it’s asked for all those details, I almost always choose “Don’t Allow.”
And I’m not alone. Forrester’s Q2 2014 US 3D Panel Online Survey shows that US smartphone owners are also selective when it comes to the apps they choose to allow push notifications; about six in 10 only accept push notifications from a select number of apps, while 17% don’t accept them from any app at all. Why are consumers so discriminating? Because more often than not, people find these unsolicited app notifications are irrelevant, too frequent, and, most of all, annoying. If I were to allow push notifications from every app I use each month, there wouldn’t be a quiet hour in my day. How can companies create a better experience and use push notifications to deliver added value to their consumers?
According to App Annie, messenger service Snapchat is among the top 10 most downloaded apps in the US right now. Competitor WhatsApp lags behind in number of downloads, bouncing between the top 20 and top 30. But just because users are downloading an app does not mean that they are using it. In fact, Forrester’s US Consumer Technographics® Behavioral Study shows that each user’s top five most used apps represent 84% of the total time spent using apps*. Just a handful of apps command a large majority of users’ attention. So number of downloads only tell part of the story.
When it comes to actual user engagement, how does Snapchat compare to WhatsApp?
The two are, in fact, neck and neck when evaluated using Forrester’s App Engagement Index, a framework that measures engagement success for apps across four user metrics: popularity, commitment, frequency, and time spend. Interestingly, their overall scores are comparable, but their performance on each of the metrics is different: While Snapchat attracts a larger audience, WhatsApp users actually spend more time using the app.
What is the secret recipe for creating an app that users open day after day? We used our Technographics® 360 methodology, which combines data sourced from the same group of individuals via behavioral tracking, online surveys, and our market research online community to answer this frequently asked question.
What did we do?
First, we asked participants questions about a randomly selected app they use, including how they discovered the app and how strongly they agreed with statements regarding specific app attributes, such as whether it was easy to navigate. Next, we took the responses for each participant and merged them with their behavior on that particular app. Finally, we engaged our participants in a qualitative project to expose the reasons behind our results.
This powerful approach allowed us to align a single participant’s behavior, personal characteristics, and attitudes to uncover the key attributes that lead to increased app usage. Perhaps not surprisingly, we found that apps generate varying levels of engagement simply due to the type of app they are: Consumers access gaming apps more frequently than they access travel apps, for example. So we quantified and removed the effects of app type and other static characteristics that influence usage. This allowed us to isolate the relationship between users’ opinions of app features and their engagement with that app.
Do you measure the success of your app? And if so, how do you define success?
App success depends on both the type of app and the purpose of an app; in general, we can't measure success just by counting the number of downloads or looking at the time spent with the app. But for certain apps, such as communication, dating, games, movies, music, news/media, social networking, and sports, it's easier to define success: The more engaged a user is, the better.
To help marketing leaders and app providers evaluate and benchmark these apps as consumers embrace the mobile mind shift, Forrester has created the App Engagement Index. We use actual smartphone behavior collected from more than 3,000 US and UK smartphone owners who have agreed to supply their data — permitting precise usage analysis at a detailed level.* The Index analyzes every app used by more than 2% of the panelists and rates its user engagement and relative performance across four metrics:
The Index combines these metrics, scores each app from zero (not engaging at all) to 1,000 (the maximum possible engagement), and places it on a spectrum of four segments: addicting, engaging, enticing, and intriguing.
Behavior tracking data is the new black. It is a type of big data that can help you better understand your target consumers — everything from the amount of time they spend on each social media outlet to their most popular time of day to visit shopping websites. Compared with other data sources, it allows you to capture actions at a very detailed level with precision, eliminating measurement errors by analyzing usage of what consumers do, not what they say they do.
In our recent publication, Mobile Behavioral Data: UK, we analyzed Forrester's UK Consumer Technographics® Behavioral Study, November 2013 to March 2014, and found that:
WhatsAppkeeps UK smartphone owners engaged the longest. Forty-one percent of UK adults use the app for just over 8 hours per month (or about 2 hours per week). That is longer user engagement than for any of the other top 10 most popular apps that UK consumers use on their smartphone; this includes Facebook, the most popular app, which keeps smartphone users engaged for a little over 90 minutes per week.
Young UK smartphone owners are most likely to use finance/banking apps. More than half of 18- to 24-year-old UK smartphone owners use finance/banking apps, like the Lloyds Bank app and the NatWest app. These youngsters show the highest adoption of finance/banking apps in the UK, and rates decline with age; about 40% of 25- to 44-year-olds and 34% of 45- to 54-year-olds use finance/banking apps.
Want to track how many calories you burned on your lunch run? There’s an app for that. Want to turn your face into an Emoji? There’s an app for that. Want to kill time by making patterns out of different colors of candy? There’s an app for that, and it’s quite popular, in fact. Candy Crush Saga, the most popular gaming app in the United States, according to Forrester’s Consumer Technographics® Behavioral Study, attracts close to 14% (about 1 out of every 7) of US online smartphone owners. On average, users access the app almost every other day, and when they do, they spend more than a half an hour per day using it. That’s more time than users spend on any social networking app, even Facebook.
Spending this much time using a gaming app is not unique to Candy Crush. Gaming apps frequently make it to the top of the list when sorting by time spent per day. Juice Cubes, another gaming app, keeps users engaged for an average of 37 minutes per day, 3 days per week. Who are these gamers, and where do they get the time?
I recently “overheard” a member of our market research online community (MROC) say, “I treat my smartphone like my child and carry it everywhere I go.” It’s official: Smartphones have replaced children. Not really, but the statement speaks to the way that consumers have changed their thinking and behavior because of mobile devices. The rapid adoption and dominant presence of mobile devices speaks to their importance in consumers' daily lives.
As part of our effort to develop forward-thinking research using innovative approaches, Forrester is collecting behavioral data by tracking consumers' activities on smartphones and tablets. By using a passive tracking technology, we now have a detailed, inside look into what consumers are doing on their smartphones and tablets and when they're doing it. Preliminary results have shown some surprising (and not so surprising) data insights.