Mobile User Engagement: Crossing the New Chasm

3 min read

What we can learn from a quarter century old book about increasing mobile user engagement TODAY.

Over 25 years ago a book came out that changed the way we market new and disruptive technology. It identified different technology adoption personas, their distribution across the market, and a blueprint for how to market to each to help break into the mainstream market. That book was: Crossing the Chasm: Marketing and Selling High-Tech Products to Mainstream Customers.

Since then the market has evolved. We’ve seen the explosion of mobile and freemium that make getting initial traction in the mainstream market more attainable than ever. However, a new problem has emerged:

Your app users are leaving and they aren’t coming back!

Working with teams over the last 3 years, we’ve explored, dissected, analyzed and experimented to understand why users leave and how to make them stay. Out of these efforts emerged a new way to map mobile users and their engagement propensity that looks something like this:

Look familiar? It should, because like the Technology Adoption Distribution, the Propensity-to-Engage Distribution follows a bell curve across a user base.

How Do We Use This Information?

The Propensity-to-Engage curve tells us that, when left to their own devices, less than 20% of users will achieve Power or Engaged User status. The remaining 80% (Mainstream, Reluctant, or Aloof) will fall below the ideal engagement level and most will leave all together.

Technology Adoption Lifecycle taught us that in order to sell to the 80% of the market who who aren’t early adopters, we need to personalize messaging to each type of buyer. Similarly, Propensity-to-Engage teaches us that, in order to help the 80% of our user base, we must personalize the product experience to each type of Behavioral Persona.

AI Technology: The Best Way Manage Mobile User Engagement

The model above provides a great thinking tool and a framework for understanding engagement. However, in reality the behavioral personas are much more complex. There are two major components you must nail in order to execute an effective, sustainable mobile user engagement program: Behavioral Personas and Moment Orchestration.

Behavioral Personas

Behavioral Personas describe buckets of similar users that fall along the Propensity-to-Engage distribution. They change over time and how we treat individuals within them varies. Why? Behavioral Personas are established by a complex amount of data that is fuzed in real-time to determine how best to engage with that individual user… in that individual moment.

While a user’s Propensity-to-Engage remains fairly stable, their Behavioral Persona is changing and dynamic.

Example of the data that goes into a Behavioral Persona:

  • Current and historical behavioral data
  • Anonymous user data (paying/not-paying, age of account, etc.)
  • Real-time context (in-app, environmental, etc.)

AI and Machine learning allow us to fuze all that data so we can understand and manage users by their current Behavioral Persona. It allows us to experiment, predict, identify patterns and develop new personas over time. AI does in a moment, what human eyes on dashboards or spreadsheets would take weeks to do. With Behavioral Personas, speed is essential because we can’t take weeks analyzing data that changes in minutes.

Once the data is handled, the next step is figuring out what to do with it. How do you use this data to improve mobile user engagement? Which brings us to…

Moment Orchestration

When it’s time to take the shot and engage with the user, we call that Moment Orchestration.

Think of Moment Orchestration like scoring in a soccer (or football) game:

  1. The field (Real-Time Context) reveals a potential scoring opportunity (Habit Formation).
  2. Your teammate (the AI) sees the open goal and takes the shot (the Moment).
  3. Your teammate knows they only have a split second to take the shot before the other team (Real-Time Context Changes/Distractions) closes the window and it’s gone.

AI is essential for Moment Orchestration because of it’s unique ability to analyze and act on complex data in the best possible way, in an instant.

Moment Orchestration requires more than just the Behavioral Persona to be effective.  It requires a Behavioral Design model on which to base it’s prediction for when and how to engage a user. We arm our AI with tools from the Behavioral Design Toolbox  which outlines the different applications of Behavioral Design. Boundless AI is built for optimized Reinforcement Learning. Reinforcement Learning is the most powerful Behavioral Design tool for mobile user engagement and has proven time and again to deliver big, sustainable increases.

The First Step to Helping Users Cross the Engagement Chasm

While the above may seem complex, there’s a first step that all teams can take to help their users increase engagement regardless of their Propensity-to-Engage.

In order to help users become more engaged, help them open your app more often.

That statement may seem obvious, but optimizing the ongoing app open experience is not usually a product priority. We see teams spending a lot of time working on the first app experience, such as tooltips or a walk-through, and working painstakingly on key actions further down the user journey, like upgrade, purchase etc.  Later on they are frustrated and confused finding that users aren’t making it to those features, aren’t having the “ah-hah” moment, and aren’t coming back when they close the app.

App open is your first impression with the user, but not just the first open, every time they open the app.

Opening the app is the first and most critical action new and existing users take, and it’s your first, and maybe only chance, to grab their attention and build a habit.  Reinforcement Learning is the perfect tool to optimize the app open experience. It’s a way to give your user a digital high five, when they need it most.  With 30% more app opens (and MAUs), you will have more stable revenue and more data/users to continue experimenting and growing your product with.


Introducing SESAME, by Boundless Mind

Sesame keeps user’s coming back by showing them the right animation at the right time, tailored to their individual needs.

For teams wanting to boost mobile user engagement and retention, we’ve created an out-of-the-box reinforcement tool called Sesame.  Sesame is being released for a FREE Early Access program in just a few weeks. The first release is exclusive to iOS Native Apps and space is limited.  To learn more and get on the waitlist to get Sesame first, sign up on Product Hunt.


Lindsey Meredith