Launching a Mobile App Part 2
By Amy Larsen, Client Success Consultant
Congratulations, you’ve created an app! Your team spent months planning and developing your product, you’ve probably engaged some key stakeholders to get feedback on your beta version, and now you’re ready to launch. We previously talked about what it takes to successfully plan a public sector app, but even if you create the world’s most useful app, getting it the attention it deserves is hard work. You have to compete with over a million other apps available on the digital market, and with limited space on each user’s device, people may have to be more selective when it comes to what they download and ultimately which apps they decide to keep. To ensure your app falls into the latter group, we’ve got some helpful ideas to get you started on the path to a highly successful launch.
1) Don’t go it alone
Your organization may have been able to build the app in house, but you can’t rely solely on internal team members only when you’re looking to make sure your app is adopted in your target market. You will need the help of the press, bloggers, local leaders and strong advocates in your target community of users to make sure the word gets out on your app. If possible, try to time your app’s launch around a significant or related event that might make it easier to write a compelling story that will help you get more traction with the launch. For instance, launching a transit app around peak annual ridership times, or launching a parks app around the re-opening of a State Park may make more compelling stories for your target audience who may then go and download your app. Word of mouth will be a powerful tool, but you can’t simply rely on conversations for your app to make a splash when it’s released.
2) Don’t stop developing
Your app will not be perfect in its first version. It may not be perfect by your tenth version. As your audience grows, you may find additional value you could provide, or you may discover some key pieces of functionality are missing that would ensure a smoother user experience. As bugs and enhancement requests make their way back to you (hopefully you’ve included a way to report issues with the app) you’ll need to prioritize the requests to keep the app on track to solve the problems you originally set out to address. And you’ll likely have far more requests come in than you have the ability to accommodate. You’ll also need to make sure you have the security and back end infrastructure in place to support the app as it becomes more popular – if you suddenly had 10x more users than you did yesterday, would you be prepared to handle the traffic?
3) Integrate with other apps
Many of the top downloaded apps on the market today may owe some of their popularity to the fact that they make it simple for users to leverage existing application profiles to get settings and login data (think, “login with Twitter”). The last thing I want from an app is to have it ask me to create a new password using at least 2 roman numerals, 4 hieroglyphics and a nearly impossible to decipher CAPTCHA image to access it. While there are certainly cases where user security requires complex passwords and unique login info, those use cases are likely not applicable for most apps on the market today – so make sure your login information requests are within reason for the information you’re providing. By allowing users to sign up using Facebook or Twitter credentials, you could go a long way in making access to your app easier.
Allowing your users to share their successes with your app on social media may also attract more attention through the reach of each user’s network connections. Choosing which apps to integrate with should be decided by the type of content that the app may produce – be sure to familiarize yourself with popular apps where your content could be shared and leverage integrations with the appropriate channels. For example, if your app collects photos, integrating with Flickr might be a good option for sharing content to a larger group. If your app is focused on information sharing, like when severe weather might hit your community, you may want people to be able to ingrate with Facebook and Twitter to allow users to post updates to their networks when news is available. Making an easy login process, along with a few simple social sharing options that integrate with other popular apps, could help you continue to grow your audience and streamline each user’s experience.
4) Connect with users outside the app
Government agencies should try to avoid making the mistake of getting someone to download an app and then allowing the app to sit unused due to lack of proactive, relevant communication that can add value. Some apps ask users if they want to enable push notifications, or notifications generated by your agency through the app that show up on a device, either as a message or perhaps a red number next to the app icon. When a user may not be actively using the app, a push notification may encourage them to revisit the application to get the latest updates or simply reconnect with you as you’re able to provide some additional value for that user. You also have a powerful tool with email updates, as you’ve successfully collected your users’ credentials when they signed up. With email, you have a way to connect with users when they’re not using your app or when they disable your push notifications. You can also invite your app users to subscribe to your other content through email, and in doing so expand the reach of your core communications to your stakeholders that aren’t encompassed in your app offering. You may even consider utilizing SMS messages to invite users to download your new app.
5) Don’t lose track of the goal
You should be getting a return on your investment in your app – whether that means measurably more stakeholder satisfaction with your core services, more people visiting state or national parks, or lower wait times when stakeholders contact your helpline. Whatever you set out to achieve, make sure you’re measuring the impact of your app along the way and strive to understand the difference it has made for your key audience. Demonstrating that your app is making a proven impact is also a great way to drive continued adoption from people who are hesitant to download and try out a new app.
Getting the initial launch, or even the re-launch right will be key components to your app’s long term viability. If you’re doing great work to get your subscribers more mobile options, helping them better utilize your services, don’t let it go unnoticed by underestimating the power of a great launch strategy. Maintaining a successful app is an ongoing process, and you will always have room to improve to best meet your mission goals and serve the needs of your stakeholders.