Mobile growthJuly 29, 2015

Discovery as a tool for mobile retention

Learn how discovery leads to stronger mobile retention for users who want to browse and explore content long after initial download.

The initial reason I download the majority of the apps on my phone is for instant utility.

I search for flights on Kayak;  book my SoulCycle classes promptly at noon every Monday; pay with the Sweet Greens Rewards app to accrue points for rewards. These apps have successfully acquired me as a customer by providing a transactional event at the tip of my fingers.

However, when I reflect on the apps where I spend the most time — or use most often — I realize it usually has something to do with “Discovery,” rather than a simple transactional usage.

I open Airbnb and explore their collections and neighborhood listings to envision a trip. I start to understand the layout of the city and neighborhood vibes. I find myself browsing places nearby and feeling like a local rather than a tourist stuck in Times Square.

I use SoundCloud not just to listen to my favorite artists, but to listen to what my favorite artists are listening to. Seeing the artist’s “likes” and what they listen to is different from a curated produced playlist – The artist’s page is on the same level as the rest of the community so their interests are real-time and show you where the artist is finding inspiration.

My curiosity to browse and explore content is not always the first thing that draws me to an app; however, it is the thing that keeps the app on my phone and retains me as a customer.

In fact, there is a mental shift with the brand when “Discovery” is experienced within an app. I view the app not just as a utility, but also as a source of knowledge and expertise in that space. Discovery as a feature makes me think this brand is a thought leader in their domain. Discovery apps feel in touch with the broader zeitgeist of their users’ wants and needs.

Additionally, mobile is uniquely qualified for discovery features. Mobile is deeply personal;  it’s where you store your photos and preferences. It’s also built on gestures;  swiping, zooming and scrolling are natural and intuitive for encouraging investigation of content. Mobile is also a best fit for situational experiences;  I can have my tablet next to me at the counter while I cook so I can explore recipe variations.

Tinder is maybe the most notable of apps to capitalize on “Discovery” features, but it wouldn’t give users the same experience if not developed on mobile. The app is successful because of its lightweight interactions and a key gesture. Content is curated for the user based on pulled personal data in an interaction that feels instant and seamless. Tinder’s unique value prop of discovery as a behavior wins over search with an experience that can only be mobile.

Google’s research and insight publication “Think with Google” is also noticing the importance of discovery within their products. In their recently published “Cooking Trends Among Millennials: Welcome to the Digital Kitchen,” they posit that users are not just looking for recipes or how-to’s, but rather are exploring content for kitchen hacks and recipe ideas. “Our research shows that for a quarter of online millennials, the most important part of cooking is adding a personal touch to make a recipe unique.”  In short, users are exploring and creating YouTube videos for ideas, not just answers.

The product takeaway from these apps is to make “Discovery” a feature of your app so your users never leave.

Build it into your core utility by curating content like Airbnb, allowing your users to pick up on personal style. Grant your tastemakers tools in the community, like SoundCloud so they can share their inspiration automatically. Make it gestural, easy to engage and lightweight like Tinder so users explore and browse longer. Remember that users want to be creative, so help them find ways to make it their own as YouTube channels have done.

As my lease end looms this November in the competitive “30-day-notice New York City,” I’m now wondering where is the “swipe right, dream condo & coop building in photos”… so I can discover my new home.

AuthorAmy JohannigmanAmy Johannigman is Director of User Experience at mParticle.
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