Keeping Your Customers Engaged with APIs
I was reading the recent Vision Mobile Developer Economics Survey. Besides wondering why BlueVia sponsored this instead of AT&T, I found it interesting how developers claimed their biggest challenge was keeping their users engaged. With the rapid changes in technology I thought it might be more technically related, but this makes sense—so the question is what should developers do?
There are probably many ideas in terms of application design or updates (like build a good app), but I will focus on APIs. First is (and perhaps obvious to some) what are you doing to make sure it is easy for users to recommend your app to other users? When we have done research on this in the past (most recently last year) up to 50% of app downloads came as a result of recommendations from friends or family. Devs can use either social APIs (like Facebook or Twitter) or some combination of APIs. An example of this would be to combine a contact API with some form of push messaging to send a request to their SMS mailbox with a link to download the app that might more likely spur action.
Taking this farther, you need to see what you can do to keep customers engaged while they are using an app. This can take many forms. For example, with any sort of news or sports apps, are you utilizing contextual APIs and information? This can greatly enhance the user experience and make your app stickier. Most can see how Foursquare does this. APIs like geolocation can provide many interesting use cases across apps as it can relate to personalization. Other users want to make sure they can easily share information from an app into their social graph (e.g., Facebook’s Open Graph API or Google’s Social Graph API). I can do without knowing my third cousin achieved the tenth level of some game—but maybe I am the minority. Photo sharing it popular as well (any one heard of Instagram?). These APIs are not difficult to add and users are getting accustomed to them.
Devs should also see what they can do to facilitate communication with other users. As a minimum it is nice when games have some IM or messaging functionality to communicate with friends or opponents. Call management APIs can take communication that one additional step and the rise of webRTC is going to open up many interesting communication options.
There are other easy tasks you can do. Add audio for example. A past study from NPR showed that those streaming continually had more page views (there are lots of audio APIs). Or if you want to see what users are saying about your app, you could use an API like Attensity. Other APIs make it easy to add leaderboards or achievements so that users can see how they compare to others. There are several ways APIs can help you keep your customers engaged—with more APIs coming daily.
I’ll put APIs aside now and close on a personal note with my annual NFL football predictions. Based on my past predictions, I would read these as suggestions and do something different. NFC West: 49ers. NFC East: Eagles, NFC North: Bears, NFC South: Saints, Wildcards: Seahawks and Packers, NFC Division Winner: Bears. AFC West: Broncos, AFC East: Patriots, AFC North: Bengals, AFC South: Texans, Wildcards: Ravens and Titans, NFC Division Winner: Patriots. Super Bowl Winner: Bears. Pro Bowl winner: Who cares?