Behind every seamless web and app experience is a product manager who knows how to succeed on multiple fronts.  Here’s how today’s best are mastering the art and science of generating cross-platform ROI.

Prioritize and predict

The indispensable relationship between mobile devices and apps now claims 90% of users’ mobile internet time and drove over $18 billion in consumer spending in Q2 2018, according to App Annie.  Across industries and categories, the competitiveness of the app space shows no signs of slowing.    

Explore the numbers in detail and you’ll find that cross-platform experiences have become a key contributor to mobile success.  For example, Branch’s Industry Report recently noted that cross-platform users spend an average of 2.2X more than their single platform counterparts.

Smart product managers are aware of user scenarios and build cross-platform functionality that accurately predicts users’ next moves.  By doing so, they establish relationships that generate high LTV (Long-Term Value) at low CAC (Customer Acquisition Cost). Here are four focus areas that play a big role in unlocking these results.  

1.  App and Web

Companies that cater to cross-platform users reap significant benefits.  Beyond the previously noted revenue advantages, Branch data also found that cross-platform users have a 10% higher retention rate than their single-platform counterparts.

For product managers, web and app investment decisions should center less on either/or and more on how much in each (and where?).  While the answer depends in part upon app category and target audience, an overarching goal should be seamless experiences that transport users across platforms while preserving intent.  Positioning web assets in service of an app is an important step. Here, techniques like deep linking and deferred deep linking can help accelerate time to revenue.       

Product managers who deploy deep linking and deferred deep linking technology help create opportunities to do more with less.  They leverage organic web traffic to land target audiences where they can continue their journey, all while learning more about what’s working (and not working).      

In addition, by deep linking users to specific content, offers, and products directly in their apps, brands multiply their retention rates. Industry data suggests that app audiences are 20x more engaged than mobile web audiences and convert 3x more in app than on the mobile web.  

Our advice to product managers: Think and not or and use deep links to drive the value-based results and insights you need.

2.  Organic and Paid

Though not all product managers have input into media purchase decisions, they are nonetheless on point for making the decisions work.  

As context, the average cost to acquire a new user via paid advertising is $4.08, while the average cost to acquire a user who completes an in-app purchase is $74.93.  Both of these numbers vary dramatically based upon app category and are frequently orders of magnitude higher than the cost of executing on a thoughtful, SEO-informed organic advertising strategy.  In addition, compared to paid ads, organic channels (such as email, smart banners, and referrals) are up to 4.4X more effective at driving purchases.

A core product management responsibility is giving every lead a great experience, regardless of whether they arrive via paid or organic sources.  Based on the economics of paid and organic advertising, special emphasis should be placed on ensuring digital properties provide friction-free handoffs from web to app (as well as app-to-app).  One way to do this is by using smart banners to support organic traffic.

Smart banners float above a mobile website and link users to the app content they were viewing on the web.  They’re fully customizable – from personalized offers to localized language – and have been proven to drive high in-app purchase rates.  Given that top brands drive 20-40% of app installs from the mobile web via organic marketing and that new users acquired via smart banners are 6x more likely to remain engaged with an app after 28 days post-install, there’s big upside to the combination of organic marketing + smart banners.  

3.  Onboarding

In a recent study, 57.4% of leading marketers referenced onboarding as a top tactic for triggering mobile conversions, trailing only UX/UI improvements and push notifications.  When considering that users view 285% more products, convert at a 120% higher rate, and spend 11% more per purchase in app than on mobile web, it’s hard to overestimate the impact of strategically sound onboarding.  

That said, onboarding is filled with tradeoffs relating to how much is enough and where it should take place.  Making the pivotal questions: 1.) How can product managers structure experiences that make best-in-class onboarding achievable?  and 2.) How much onboarding should be self-directed (i.e. DIY) versus fully programmed?

Regardless of entry point, each onboarding step should correspond with product-specific flows and help users get up and running fast, a phenomenon which tends to favor self-directed sequences.  Removing as many points of friction as possible is a great place to focus, in particular via transparent web-to-app and app-to-app handoffs made possible by deep linking.       

In addition, as users migrate across platforms, more personalized onboarding experiences are generally a better choice.  For example, Trip.com (formerly Gogobot) saw a 78% increase in sign-up conversions from simply adding the referrer’s photograph to the new user’s onboarding screen.

Like all interactions extending from one screen, platform, or user scenario to another, onboarding is a balancing act between show and tell (and ideally involves more of the former).   

4.  Personalization

As one of the primary themes of today’s post, personalization plays a massive role in helping connect products with audiences and drive long-term value.      

Companies that offer customized web-to-app experiences see 2X higher view-to-install rates than those that do not.  In addition, research conducted by Aberdeen shows that personalized email messages improved CTR by 14% and conversions by 10%.

Again, smart banners and deep linking can play a key role in onboarding, as well as in the ability to quickly A/B test by acquisition channel, page visited, and other variables. For example, personalized smart banners delivered via Branch’s Journeys product have been observed to increase view-to-install rates over static banners by 100%.  Branch data also shows that personalized referral links, which enable app users to share their favorite apps with friends and family, are over 1.5x more effective at driving installs from clicks than standard marketing links.        

Advice for product managers: Dispense with one-size-fits-all thinking and consider personalization throughout the onboarding process.  Few decisions have larger impact on ROI.

For engagement and conversions, deliver flexibility and control

Today’s users want access to everything, everywhere, all the time, and on their terms.  They want flawless connectivity that’s tailored and predictive, onboarding that saves time and taps, and full functionality on mobile web and in-app.  They want technology that’s personalized to their needs, ready when they are and securely running in the background when they’re offline. In short, they want it all and they want it now.  It’s up to product managers to give it to them.

To learn more about how to capitalize on key product management decisions and accelerate your cross-platform strategy, visit branch.io or contact the Branch sales team.  They’ll be happy to chat.

For additional details on the data points listed above, download a copy of Branch’s 2018 Mobile Growth Handbook and The Branch Industry Report.  

Branch is a mobile linking platform providing unified mobile experiences and measurement for more than 50,000 mobile apps, including Airbnb, Ticketmaster, Reddit, Tinder and Amazon. Branch’s linking platform can help you grow your mobile app through features like deep linking, sharing, referrals, mobile banners and interstitials, custom app onboarding, and unified attribution across platforms and channels. Learn more about Branch or request a demo today.
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