How to Drive App Installs Using Conversational SMS

Chances are, you’ve used an app today. In fact, you may have used several. You might have requested a ride on Uber, posted a photo on Instagram, ordered your lunch on Caviar, listened to music on iHeartRadio, or even checked your Facebook. The thing is, apps are an intrinsic part of your life, and they offer value to you and probably to almost everyone you know.

Source: Engaget

Mobile apps offer powerful tools to businesses who can use them to offer value to consumers. Despite that, pushing downloads can often be difficult, but it’s not impossible. After all, everyone uses apps. Take a minute and check out how many apps you have on your phone. For me, it’s 87!

Gartner shows that by the end of 2017, mobile apps will have been downloaded over 268 billion times, generating over $77 billion in revenue. Still, many apps go underutilized, because many marketers don’t have the tools to keep connecting with the consumer.

We know that the average smartphone user has over 100 apps on their phone. At the same time, they only use an average of 10–15 per month, and only retain about 25% of total downloads. Driving app downloads is necessary but finding loyal users can be expensive if you don’t have the right communication tools.

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For example, while low-cost incentivized downloads can cost as little as $1–2 per, about 75% of users will delete the app after they take advantage of the offer. But marketing apps is still necessary and important. The high cost of installation and the high percentage of deletion just means that as marketers, we have to do more to build a relationship with the customers who download our apps. And, you can achieve those relationships by starting conversations.

If you have a live chat function inside of your app, chat is a great opportunity to build relationships with the user and to ensure that they get value from the app. If you don’t have live chat in your app, SMS is a great alternative that allows you to reach your customers without being forgotten or missed in disappearing push notifications.

Using Best Buy as an example, we can look at how mobile apps actually benefit stores a great deal.

The Best Buy Example

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Best Buy jumped into the app game early on in 2011 when they switched their primary market focus away from baby boomers and towards millennials. They chose to target an audience including groups like soccer moms, tech geeks, and wealthy individuals such as business owners, lawyers, etc. Best Buy integrated these audiences into their app, and today they provide solutions in different categories for those groups. For example, the Geek Squad app targets parents who often own a lot of technology, but who don’t typically have the time to learn the technical expertise required to fix a computer on their own.

Most of Best Buy’s target audience has problems that are similar to their Geek Squad audience. They’re short on time, they want to learn about technology, and they want solutions to their technical problems. Best Buy ties apps into their needs to draw them into the online and offline store. The new Best Buy app makes it easy to research items on the app and then purchase them in-store with real time inventory filtering by store, a solution that many retailers have so far failed to tackle. They also make it easy to compare options to drive sales, help more tech savvy customers find solutions, and make all of their customers feel listened to through reviews. They also utilize beacons to send messages to app users to remind them to step into the store to get rewards, as well as other tactics designed to increase customer loyalty. As a result, Best Buy’s app gets high reviews and consistent ratings, compared to its competitor apps, which don’t. They’ve also driven more than 1 million customers to their stores via their mobile efforts.

Digging into the Real Cost Per Install..

What does Best Buy pay to get those downloads in the first place? The national average is about $1.64 to $1.91 depending on the platform, and the operating system. But loyal users, or those who keep the app and continue using it after it solves their problems, cost much more to gain and retain. I mentioned earlier that only about 25% of all downloads will keep your app, and this is where the real cost comes in. In fact, the average cost is typically between $2.78 and over $4 (as high as $5 for Google AdWords) according to the Fiksu App Store Competitive Index. That’s a big deal for a company that has generated hundreds of thousands of app downloads.

We’ve already discussed that SMS can be crucial to building relationships with consumers who download apps, and that’s relevant here as well. It’s also useful for building relationships from your first contact, rather than waiting until they download your app to connect. Best Buy integrates SMS alerts with their apps to build a relationship and to get consumers excited about special offers and events so that they keep using the app.

Importantly, SMS app marketing is also a tactic that you can use to promote your own apps, even without Best Buy’s $612 million advertising budget.

How to Drive App Downloads with SMS

So how can we use conversational SMS marketing to drive app installs? The important aspect of conversational SMS marketing is to build relationships to reduce the cost per install and the cost per loyal user.

With text messages, you can start a conversation with the target audience, link them your app at a relevant time, and push downloads from highly engaged users who are more likely to be loyal.

By ensuring that that your text is human driven and conversational, you can communicate with consumers, reply to their texts, and create welcome conversations to help solve problems. You’re probably thinking sure, but you need a big team to handle that right? No need. Using text messaging platforms that allow you to reply to thousands of text responses at once, you can handle tens of thousands of texts with just one person. As a result, you’ll get a much higher click through rate and sales rate.

1. Define a Target Audience

Best Buy has a great example. One Best Buy audience segment is ‘Soccer Moms’. Best Buy knows that if they are talking to someone in this segment, they’re talking to someone who is busy, short on time, and likely buying for multiple people in their household. So, Best Buy knows to pitch their fast customer service, easy comparison, real time inventory, or their repair services through Geek Squad.

You can use this for your marketing. Tailor your pitch, the language of your text, and even what you text based on your audience. Your target audience also allows you to ensure that you are texting people who want to hear from you and who can use your services and your app. You can’t build a relationship with someone you don’t know, so a target audience is crucial to building loyal app users.

2. Get the Timing Right

If you’ve ever gotten a text on Sunday morning when you were sleeping in, you know just how annoying it can be. No one wants to be texted when they can’t use that information. More importantly, you shouldn’t be sending texts when they aren’t welcome. You can use your target audience’s habits as well as your own product to make key decisions regarding the ideal time to get in touch. For example, for the busy soccer mom, late morning is ideal because most will have dropped their kids off at school and may even be out running errands and shopping. Figuring out the right timing is crucial for audience engagement, because it allows you to connect with the right message at the right time. You can tailor this to your specific app to increase click through. For example, you can text event related information at events, such as at a football game, you can text movie information at 3 PM on the weekend, etc. in order to drive more engagement. If you know when your audience needs your services, you can connect at the right time to solve their problems.

3. Play with Options

If you want to use more advanced options, you can also trigger SMS messages by geolocation. This means that you can target users with texts based on their location. For example, Best Buy sent messages to customers who were near their store, offering them an incentive to actually walk into the store. This kind of geolocational targeting allows you to connect with customers when they are most likely to be able to use your services or your app, and offers more value to local businesses.

4. Expect Results

From our experience, you should expect about a 20–30% CTR for audiences that already know you. This drops to just 4–6% if you’re texting people who aren’t familiar with your brand. Combined with an average of a 20% click to install drop off, and you will have to calculate in a 3.2–24% installation rate. When used with the right content and context, SMS is one of the most powerful drivers of app installations, beating Facebook by an average of 5% for audiences that already know you. SMS is also fast, with 95% of consumers opening and installing an app within 5 minutes of receiving a text.

SMS marketing allows you to take control of your app marketing by controlling who you talk to, how you do it, and when you send messages. By starting conversations, avoiding spam messages, and creating solutions, you can also generate real brand conversations that will drive value. This helps you to lower costs and improve results because you’re connecting with people not spending on robo clicks.