Ad4Screen on App Engagement – Keeping Users Coming Back For More


A graduate of HEC International Business School, Patrick Mareuil co-founded Directinet (France’s leading email marketing company) in 2000 and headed Product Innovation & Studies. In 2010, Patrick co-founded Ad4Screen, the French leader in performance-based mobile marketing, now also operating in the UK and internationally with a range of app advertising and marketing solutions. We had a chance to hear him talk at this year’s App Promotion Summit in London.  Now, we are able to share audio recordings of his talk as well as a transcription.

We have a high quality podcast of his talk, titled “APP ENGAGEMENT: KEEPING USERS COMING BACK FOR MORE” below:

His presentation “APP ENGAGEMENT: KEEPING USERS COMING BACK FOR MORE” can be found on slideshare:

‘App engagement’ – Keeping users coming back for more – Patrick Mareuil – #APS2013 from App Promotion Summit Conference

The full text of the presentation is available below:

Patrick Mareuil: Thank you very much, and hello to everyone. My name is Patrick Mareuil, so I know it’s going to be very hard to pronounce for a lot of you because I’m French. What can I do? So we’re going to be speaking about App engagement. I know that we’re at the App Promotion Summit, but it’s something that is also very interesting if you’re into the App business. So, let’s get started. So, just a few seconds of who are we, who is Ad4Screen? Ad4Screen is a leading mobile marketing and technology group. We’re based in Paris with offices in London. Basically our goal is to make you make more money on mobile business. So, we’re really nice guys! And we don’t care whether it’s through acquisition, whether it’s helping you acquire new users that are top-quality, or if it’s by engaging your existing users, because that’s where the business is. So that’s our main originality is that we span from user acquisition to user engagement in terms of mobile marketing, and we’re very technology-driven because we develop our own technologies that help you acquire and optimize. That’s Ad4Perf, which is our mobile acquisition platform, and also retain, convert, and engage your users, and that’s Ad4Push. That’s our mobile CRM technology. But the cool thing is that it’s only one SDK to manage acquisition and CRM.

So, let’s get started. And let’s talk about retaining and building loyalty with your users. So, I have a warning for everyone: everything you’ve learned today might be useless. It’s not about you; it’s my way of catching your attention, because it’s nearly 4:30, so you might be a bit sleepy, so beware. Why would everything be useless? Because if you don’t have a proper mobile engagement strategy, then all your user acquisition efforts are going to be like pouring oil into a colander. So, I’m pretty sure you know what this is, but I didn’t know the English word, so that’s why I wrote colanders, so I could say it out loud. So indeed, people are not loyal to apps. Overall, only 3 out of 10 users will open your apps more than 10 times. That’s nothing! All the effort that you’re putting into user acquisition can be ruined if you don’t build a strategy for retention and engagement of your users. We’ve also found out that 70% of the top 300 apps do not activate or do not use push notifications. And maybe that’s one of the reasons why we have such low engagement rates.

So, the last part is, I want you to have your cake and eat it at the same time, because we’re going to be speaking about retention, but retention also has beneficial impacts for your user acquisition side. Why? Because when you have a higher frequency of usage, you have a lot more viral effect, whether you stimulate it or it’s natural, and you also have access to cross-selling. If your users are loyal to your apps, if you build new apps, you’re going to be able to advertise those new apps to your users. And I love this cheesy picture. Also, something that is very specific to mobile marketing is that loyalty criteria do have an impact on your Google Play rankings, and perhaps also on the App Store. As you may know, Google Play rankings are very influenced by net installs, so regular installs and uninstalls, and also by the frequency of usage over 30 days of your app. So, if you’re not trying to engage your users after you’ve acquired them, then it’s suicidal, because you’re just throwing money out of the window. And we also know that there was a tweak in the App Store ranking, an algorithm in April 2011, so we also may think that loyalty has an impact on the Apple algorithm.

So just a question: Who has been using push notifications here, OK. So not that much, actually. So, I’m sure you know what this is. A push notification is a message that is sent to an app user through the mobile internet and through Apple or Google servers, with no SMS cost. So, it’s really the cost of an email, but with the impact of an SMS. And it appears on the device homescreen and notification center, even if the app isn’t running, so that’s the beauty of it. And when you click on it, it triggers the running of your app, and it can also pass some data to it. And also the cool thing about it is that it is subject to user permission. And I come from the email marketing industry, so I’ve seen this whole industry collapse because of a lot of abuse that was made, and this cannot be done because the permission is handled by the OS. So, it’s really a tool that is crucial for app loyalty, and it’s ideal to reactivate your users. And you will experience very strong response rates.

So, you know about push notifications, but I don’t know if you know about the push notification effect. You may have sensed it, but maybe not quantified it. And actually, we have had with Price Minister, which is one of the subsidiaries of Rakutan, one of the Japanese e-commerce leaders. And we’ve looked at people who have been receiving push notifications against people who haven’t been receiving push notifications, so we have a control sample. And what we’ve found out is that Android push recipients are 1.7 times more active toward the apps than the people who were not receiving push notifications. And, in terms of iOS, it’s 2.2 times more active. So, this has a huge impact on your usage and your frequency, and hence on your revenues. And we can actually also measure the revenues, because we were able to track the purchases of users that had been exposed to push notifications. And the thing that was very interesting is that we were able to see that, even the fact that you were exposed to a push notification, even if you hadn’t clicked on it, it already had a 33% increase over your purchase rate. And of course, if you had clicked on the push notification, then you were actually 4 times more able to purchase. So that’s a really crucial, crucial tool for your app engagement strategy.

So what does proper retention strategy mean? Well, what it means is that you should aim for a higher frequency of usage, higher active rates, and so on. But, it all translates into this one sentence that you’ve heard maybe a hundred times, so sorry, you’re going to hear it another time. The right dialogue, with the right user, at the right time, in the right context, and by the right channel. So, this sentence has been here for a long time, but it’s still very true. And, if we dig into all these different words, we’re going to see how it translates into mobile marketing. So, the right dialogue, first, it can be the right format. I’m sure you use a bit of push notifications, but have you been beyond classic push notifications? We can use [emoticons] in your push notifications so that your message will be more noticeable. So this one is a bit flashy, I must say, but it gets noticed, that’s for sure, compared to other push notifications. Also, we see a lot of push notifications that just bring you to the home page of the app. Well, in fact, you can really direct the user to the right place and the right content. And that’s very easy, just using deep links or parameters. So if you’ve clicked on the notification, you arrive in the right place.

But also, you can go further. Push notifications are standardly text, but we can go further. We can use rich push notifications, which is a way for you to enrich your communication to people who have reacted to your push. So, for instance, here on the Android, what we were able to build is an overlay, like a pop-up overlay. If the using is browsing on the device, and he receives the push notification, he will have a pop-up, which states a message on top of whatever he is doing. So, it’s a bit like iOS 4, at the time. So when the person clicks, he arrives inside the app, but at this time there is an overlay, which is HTML, HTML5, or video, GIFs, or whatever, in order to enrich the dialogue that you have with the user. And this will only be seen by the people that have clicked on your push notification.

And, also there’s something very important to know, it’s that Apple lets you talk with your users inside the app. You’re allowed to talk to your users. And this is called in-app messages. A lot of people actually do not use them, and that, I think, is very sad. Because, it’s a very good tool to accompany your users inside their browsing, and to let them discover new features, for instance, of your apps. So they take various designs, they can be banners, they can be intersticials, they can be pop-ups, or alerts. The only thing that is different from the regular advertising format is that this is not for advertising. This is for relational purposes. You can actually speak about yourself, and you will get a strong response rate. And the difference with push notifications is that these messages can only be seen inside the app, so when the app is running. And also, what is very interesting is that you have the same targeting capacities as push notifications. So, you can talk to individual users, you can talk to very specific segments of your population.

Direct dialogue is also the right message. How can we know which is a good message, the right message? Well, how do we do it on the web? We test it! We do that the whole time. We do A-B testing. It’s also possible to do that in the push notifications. So, basically we’re going to take two different samples, and give a shout, and try the two messages, and see which one is the winner. There’s actually a fun case study with an app called Netclick. At the time of the Paris against Barcelona game, just to give you the context, there were no tickets since the first day, and people were all talking about it. So an app sent a message saying, oh, there are some tickets for Piage against Barca to win. Actually no, they were all sold out. And this was during April Fools. And of course, because they were a bit afraid of the reactions, we tested another message to see which one would get the better test results. And in fact, it’s very interesting, because we got a 25% increase with the first message, and we’ve optimized that in just 5 minutes, because push notifications and very, very reactive. So this is a way of enhancing your messages very easily.

Also, the right dialogue with the right user: this is relevancy. So, customization for that is really key. For instance, for Nestle Baby, which is an app, we’ve created a mobile push notification program, which is completely automated, but it is completely based on the baby. On the age of the baby, on the first name of the baby, and this creates very targeted and relevant messages. And overall, what you get — I’m sorry if it’s in French — is that you get 4 times higher response rates than regular push notifications. And this can actually overcome, or overpass 30% in terms of responses. So that’s huge.

Then you want the right user. And to get the right user, you have to analyze and target. And if you want to target, which is mandatory — let’s not forget that people that get message that they don’t like, they can erase your app very easily. So we have to be very cautious about the type of message that we send them. This means that we have to have some data in order to target them. So, it’s important to gather all the necessary data about the user profile, about their preferences, about the types of messages they like, about your external CRN data — you have to link it so that you can have more data to target — about app behavioral data, campaign data, and so on. And then you have to analyze it, so you have many tools in order to do that. And once you’ve analyzed, you need to combine the data, and create the target. And actually, it’s interesting to use it because we have a lot of clients who say, oh, we’re going to gather this data, we’re going to collect it, okay, okay, but once they want to send the message, they say, ah, I’ll just send it to everyone. Here’s an example of a user preference-based message. That’s very easy. You let the user choose the type of message that the user wants. And then you get very high response rates. So we do that for V’on Primer[SP], which is a leading e-commerce app in France. So the user chooses the sales that they want to receive notifications on. They receive the appropriate sale alert, and then they click, and they arrive inside the app. And this has response rates above 10%, which is twice better than regular sale pushes. And, of course you can do that also in the media by letting people choose the type of information they want to get by push notification.

But you can also do that inside the apps. For instance, RunSanity[SP] is a game with in-app purchases, and they send some messages when they have sales on items. But you’re not going to display that to everyone. Some people are sometimes reluctant to make purchases, so what you want to do is target some purchases, but maybe low- or mid-range purchases, so that the discount can trigger an actual purchase. So this is an example of an alert that then directs the person to the shop.

EasyFlirt[SP], I’ll go very quickly, it’s targeting people that do not have accounts, and encouraging them to create one. Now that’s a very important thing, it’s the right time. More than anywhere else, time is money for mobile because push notifications are extremely time-sensitive. What we see is that 75% of reactions occur over the 5 minutes that follow the sending, and it’s 90% following 15 minutes. So, you had better test the right time to push your messages, because if you don’t, you’re going to lose a lot of your reactions. And, we’ve run some tests with an e-commerce client, we’ve sent the same message on various dates and times, and we were able to share the data. And what you can see, is that if you compare the low-range to the high-range, you have a times 2 ratio. So, you can really, by not choosing the right time, lose a lot of reactions and a lot of user engagement.

Also, it’s important to know, when is a good time for your client? You can see the client value over time, so first it’s the welcome part. You can automate that and send them specific messages. Then you have the sweet spot, where you’re starting to win a bit of money, and you can send them push notifications regarding what they’re interested by. And then you have the not-so-nice part, is when you’re trying to get them to come back to your app. And this can also be automated based on the last data of opening, for instance.

Last is the right context. We know this works a lot on the web. The same thing can happen in the apps. You can do some abandoned basket use-case. So, for LaughaDoo[SP], which is one of the biggest mail-order firms in France, when the mobile users were putting products to their basket, but not actually doing the purchase, they would receive an automated message in order to encourage them to come back to the app. And that actually has extremely high response rates, and also a lot of value, which is improved by that. Of course, there’s also the right context based on the user notification. So, this is a very obvious type of message that you can do.

And the last thing that I wanted to share is the right channel. It’s very important to try to multiply your touch points. There’s a company called App-gratis[SP] that you all know, I guess, and they were cut out from their push notification one day. So, it’s very important to always keep this in mind, and always try to collect other touch points. And one interesting touch point is, of course, Facebook, because with Facebook if you get a lot of likes, you can then send posts, and if you get Facebook connect, you can also send Facebook notifications. That’s also a channel that you can use in order to send interesting messages.

Last thing is, it’s very interesting to link your data with your external CRM system, so that you can gather some interesting data and run some multichannel campaigns. The last thing I wanted to say with you, because I know you’re very interested in app promotion, is, I just want to say again and stress this point: when you engage with the existing users, it can bring you more users. Why? Because you can make them become ambassadors. And you can do that in very different ways. So, I’m pretty sure you know AP Writer, this software that you can put inside your app, and after a few visits you can say, oh, rate my app. But sometimes, with the app, you don’t want your users to rate them. So, with these types of alerts, you can choose when to trigger the message, you can change the message remotely, you don’t have to resubmit your app, and this has a very interesting impact on stars and ratings. With Nestle, before we had a 3.7 average rate, and now we have a 4.4 just by targeting the right users and changing the messages.

So, remember the virtuous circle: collect data and provision, analyze, test targeting, test format, test messages, create automated scenarios, that’s the nice thing, because you think, you create, and then it’s just a machine doing the work. And more testing, more analysis, and don’t worry, be happy, and make money! The study I wanted to share is a very scientific study, and absolutely non-subjective, so an internal study, which has shown that people using Ad4Push have a happier life, and a more successful career. And, you can ask these guys. I’m sorry, I had to do that, or otherwise I could not see my family, and I could not see my home again. Thank you very much.

Thanks to Patrick and Ad4Screen for giving such a great presentation and you can find more coverage of App Promotion Summit here