Six steps to increase your app conversion rate

app conversion rate

Kiki Schirr, {grow} Contributing Columnist

App marketing is a difficult job. Your goal is higher downloads and app conversion rate in a crowded space with strict marketplace rules. Often the people who build apps are from small teams with no formal training in marketing. And unlike marketing physical goods, advertising might not be your best friend — designing your product with a conversion rate in mind could be essential.

It can be a confusing process, so I’ve outlined six major steps to increase your app conversion rate.

1. Define your Key Performance Indicators

Finding the correct Key Performance Indicators, or KPIs, is vital to the success of any app. While they will vary from app to app, there are a few that most share, including: time in app, number of opens, and of course, conversion to being a paid customer. For more examples, read this Adweek Social Times article.

You’ll want to ask yourselves what your objectives are and what concrete numbers can contribute to measuring those objectives. One tool that can come in handy in defining your objectives is the Business Model Canvas, as outlined in the book Business Model Generation.

Further reading: Business Model Generation by Alexander Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur

2. Unpack your app conversion rate toolkit

I’d suggest starting to put your customer contact and data gathering tools in place as early as possible. There are a few reasons for this. First, the additional few days of data could prove useful. The second (and more pragmatic) reason is that most tools have a trial and error period.

For example Appboy, a tool to automatically ping your app users with messages, is a wonderful conversion rate tool, but set up is complicated and your developer might lose a few days in implementation.

And while Google Analytics doesn’t take long to set up, it does take a few days to decide which data are useful and pertinent to your app. If you’re new to using Analytics, I’d recommend downloading Google’s Primer app to help you along the way. It’s an overview of smart marketing guidelines, and will help you gradually learn about Analytics along the way.

Suggested tools:

3. Create hypotheses

It’s important to create hypotheses prior to beginning to collect information in order to narrow the focus of the data you are collecting and to set a standard for success or failure. Having a hypothesis keeps your efforts on track, but it shouldn’t be completely set in stone. As information begins rolling in, you might have to adjust or even abandon it.

A few good hypotheses for conversion rate could be:

  • Users who get contacted within their first visit are more likely to convert
  • Conversions are highest in the morning
  • If a user experiences a bug within the first week, they will not convert

In her book, Lean Customer Development, Cindy Alvarez describes a three-step process for creating testable hypotheses for your app. Roughly summarized, they are:

  1. Make a list of all the things you assume to be true about your market, customer, and app
  2. Create a testable hypothesis
  3. Define your app’s audience and their characteristics, adjusting your hypothesis as necessary

Once you’ve defined your hypothesis, you’re ready for the fourth step.

4. Gather data

After you know what you’re testing, you can begin to collect and track information. Remember: more data is not always better. It can be tempting to fall down a rabbit hole of A/B testing and funnels, so be sure to focus on the data pertinent to your hypothesis.

If you really feel the need to collect extra data on top of that, be sure to keep everything organized.

Further reading: Lean Analytics by Alastair Croll and Benjamin Yoskovitz

5. Talk to customers

Steve Blank’s most quoted advice is: “get out of the building.” One of the key pitfalls in being data-driven is that you might not think you have to seek the advice and opinions of customers directly. Don’t be timid –talk with your customers, and watch them using your product.

The most important data are often “sticky information,” that is, difficult to tease out and often tacit to the customer or to you. Careful observation and non-leading questions are two critical tools in discovering your app’s unique problems and strengths. You might even find that your customers are using your app to do things you never anticipated.

One suggestion I’ve heard often in startup circles is to accost coffee shop goers and ask them to try your app. This practice will not make you friends, nor will it be particularly useful — your testers should be your target customer and if possible, they should be in the environment in which they would normally use your app. Unless you’re working for Starbucks, a coffee shop is not the place to find testers.

Instead, invest time and money into user testing. Put an ad out on Craigslist Gigs seeking testers. You should specify that they will be paid, but only selected if they fill out a short survey that will qualify them as your ideal customer. Because some Craigslist users will try to game the survey, add one or two distracting questions, but do not make the survey longer than 8 questions.

Once you’ve gathered a few people, schedule interviews in a natural use setting if at all possible. Be sure to set the tester at ease by remaining casual but professional. It can be all too easy to taint the tester’s answers — don’t stress that you spent tons of time building the app and that it’s your baby, for example, as then the user will not criticize even the most egregious flaws.

I could go on about more strategies for longer than you’d likely care to scroll. Instead, I’ll recommend Steve Portigal’s book Interviewing Users. It’s an amazing in-depth guide to getting the most out of customer interviews, and if you only read one book on this list, Interviewing Users should be it.

Suggested tools:

  • Typeform – the best online survey tool I’ve ever used
  • Craigslist – the ‘Gigs’ section

6. Implement and measure

Once you’ve compared the notes from your user interviews with the use data collected automatically, you will likely have a natural conclusion to your hypothesis: true or false.

Take some time to evaluate your findings and to discuss how to implement them as a team. Then it’s back to the drawing board! Set yourself another set of conversion rate hypotheses or adjust your false hypothesis and begin testing once again.

Move quickly, and you’ll be able to outpace and outwit your competition. Want to move really fast? Try learning the lessons from Sprint: How to Solve Big Problems and Test New Ideas in Just Five Days by Jake Knapp, with John Zeratsky and Braden Kowitz.

Do you have other ideas to help your app conversion rate? Let me know in the comment section!

KikiSchirrKiki Schirr is a freelance marketer. She is also working on a lifestyle magazine for women in technology called Valley Girl — she would love for you to check it out! Kiki is also the author of Tech Doodles, and can be reached easily through Twitter.

Book references are affiliate links.

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