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How Email Can Help Increase Mobile App Engagement

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by: Loren McDonald (@LorenMcDonald)
13 August 2014

A mobile app is like a gym membership. You might be all gung ho about it when you sign up, but you need extra motivation to keep using it day after day until it becomes a regular part of your life.

Look at your own phone. How many of your "OMG I gotta get it" apps have you ever used more than once or twice? How many others did you delete to make room for the newest, coolest apps?

While retention and re-use among downloaded mobile apps is beginning to rise, app abandonment is still a major problem.

Having a well-designed, functional and value-based app is essential, but it's not enough by itself. Email — yes, the original killer app – can drive mobile app downloads, activations and activity.

In turn, your mobile app can boost your email opt-ins, offer another forum for promoting your email content, and provide data you can use to enhance your email program.

Let’s look at three steps you can take to reap the benefits of employing a digital marketing strategy that stresses cross-channel integration.

1. Make email a part of your mobile app strategy.

a. Persuade users to download, install and launch your app. 

Devote one email in your regular broadcast program to promote your mobile app. You can talk about the cool things the app can do, but always keep the focus on the benefits: what your app will do for your subscribers.

Link directly to the download page. Be specific about technical requirements (which platforms it requires, how much space it takes up, etc.).

Once you get the word out in a dedicated broadcast email, add benefit-focused reminders to your other broadcast messages and transactional and triggered emails.

Also, consider adding your dedicated email to your onboarding program to acquaint new subscribers with your app.

b. Tell users why they should click "Yes" on push notifications.

Push notifications – the ding, chime, buzz or silent pop-up number – bring your users back to the app, but they can get annoying fast. So, many users opt not to accept them. Email can help you push past this objection.

Add content to your dedicated email promo that tells users what benefits they'll get and how often you expect to send notifications. On your end, push notifications can extend your triggered email messages into the app. (Keep reading to find examples.)

c. Use email to drive increased usage based on a user’s app activity.

Create follow-up programs, similar to an email reactivation or win-back program, for email subscribers who:

  • Click the link to download the app but don’t complete the download
  • Download but don’t activate or show activity within a certain number of days
  • Download, activate and use apps but don't use key features that increase value and stickiness
  • Go into hibernation after a period of regular use

This email can repeat your reminders to download and activate the app and restate the benefits of accepting push notifications. Add a troubleshooting FAQ, or even link to a help desk in case your user ran into problems installing or launching the app.

2. Use your app to promote your email program, sign up new subscribers and add another venue for ecommerce notifications.

Customers who enter your community through your mobile app might not have an email connection to your company. Add email content to your mobile app to bring in these people, expand your email database and strengthen integration among email, mobile and ecommerce.

a. Add a prominent subscribe button. Users tap a button that opens a simplified opt-in page and launches an onboarding program.

b. Add a "View Email" button. This opens a mobile-friendly version with active links.

c. Send a push notification whenever you publish fresh email content. With this, mobile users who aren't subscribers can see your email content, which can drive more subscriptions. (Another reason to try to get more push notifications, BTW.)

d. Send ecommerce notifications to mobile users who have their email addresses linked to their apps. Yes, you're likely sending that message to their email addresses, but you can also pull their data into your mobile app and push a cart reminder or other remarketing message to the app. Your user will see that message the next time she opens your app.

3. Create a single identity for each customer across all your marketing channels.

Seth Lytle, Silverpop senior integration business analyst, urges marketers to build toward achieving a single identity for each customer across all marketing channels instead of having one identity in email, another for a mobile app, a third in SMS, and so on.

"Using the Silverpop Mobile Connector, for example, you can send emails to your contacts featuring rich call-to-action images that, when touched, will send them straight into your company’s app through a mobile deep link," Seth says.  "Within that deep link, Silverpop can automatically pass the unique identifier of the contact record into the app. As the app is opened, it can turn the anonymous app user into a ‘known’ user by linking them back to their single contact identity within Silverpop." 

Related Resources:

1) Blog: “Mobile Apps, Meet Marketing Automation

2) Video: “iBeacon and the Next Generation of Location-Based Marketing

3) White Paper: “2014 Email Marketing Metrics Benchmark Study


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