How Startups can Acquire and Engage Users in 2017

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24 Feb 2017
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12 min
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Nataliya Kh.
Copywriter

No matter what stage your startup is, you want it to grow, gain more users, and engage the existing ones. Do you remember Mark Zuckerberg's expression 'move fast and break things'? Well, this is what most of the startups go by when they develop their user acquisition strategy for apps and sites. However, is the idea of fast and aggressive, if you wish, onboarding really that effective? It's time to figure it out. 

3 Effective Steps for Startups to Acquire and Engage Users

User Acquisition and Engagement for startups

First of all, let's briefly look at the Customer Lifecycle Funnel. In marketing and sales spheres, the funnel is normally represented as a circle to show the consistency of the process. However, for the better visualization, here is a vertical representation.

customer lifecycle funnel explained

Customer Lifecycle Funnel with a brief description

The customer has to pass six stages to complete the full circle. Sadly enough, most of the visitors use your product at least once. The process of converting a visitor into an activating user is the User Acquisition definition. The series of actions aimed to turn users into the loyal customers are called User Engagement. These two pieces of a puzzle are crucial to your startup success. And, as we promised, here are 3 steps of user acquisition and engagement at the early stages.

Getting your product ready for user acquisition

User acquisition and, all the more, user engagement, isn't that predictable and linear. But it doesn't mean that thorough planning is unnecessary. Starting a business is a risky affair itself and many of things may go wrong and they actually do, as Paul Graham, a co-founder of Y Combinator, explains. Still, it's in your power to make a few things that will eliminate some risks.

Defining your target audience

The first and the most important thing is defining your audience. If you haven't done this yet, go for it asap.

Tip: Try to think of two audiences: your current audience, it's the one you can reach already, and your ideal audience, that you're eventually aiming at. Alexa, analytics tools, and social media can tell you about your current audience in no time. In order, to define the ideal one, your will have to do some research.

Keep in mind the power of the first impression

Though the first impression is only the impression, the importance of design shouldn't be underestimated. A potential customer sees your interface for the first time day by day. At this point, they already know whether they would launch your app or visit your website again. Sure, you may question the necessity of creating an outstanding UI at the first stages. However, by putting efforts into the UI, you build the basis for long-term advocacy, you are moving from 'acceptable' to 'respectable'.

Besides, it isn't so difficult to ride the wave of design trends in 2017. See for yourself. According to Behance design trends highlight, the trends of interfaces design will not change a lot from those of 2016, however with a few new influences. Let's see how you can engage users of your product with their help.

  • Landing Page

Landing pages won't lose their positions as an effective targeting instrument in your user engagement strategy. Quite the opposite, they will gain in popularity and obtain some new design features.

!

If you are interested in your mobile app advertising, we will tell you how to promote a mobile app with the help of a landing page in this article.

Irregular Grid. Do you remember those websites organized in columns? Well, those days are gone: 2017 is going to bring us new UI trends in terms of layout. One of them is a Creative Grid. There is no need to organize the content in the strict grid, let your imagination out.

irregular grid: the design trend of 2017

Irregular grid (Source: Dribbble)

Storytelling. The trend we saw in 2016 will remain this year as well. How to increase user engagement and keep them on your web page? Tell them a story. It's in your power to capture them with the story, rather than with a plain text. So go for it!

SEO. Seriously, what's the point in the beautiful design, creative details, and UX excellence if poor SEO will leave behind the discoverability of your web page?

  • Mobile browsing

Responsive web design remains crucial, as we saw a considerable rise in mobile browsing for the past few years. So if your website isn't focused on responsiveness, upgrade as soon as possible!

As for the latest UI trends that influence mobile browsing, think of, let's say, Split content. It's when users can see two or more important messages on a single page. Another thing to consider is a well-known Hidden Navigation, a hamburger menu I mean, which despite all the disputes, gains in popularity year by year.

split content: design trends of 2017

Split Content (Source: Dribbble)

Website performance is also trendy. So the design pattern called Lazy Loading, which delays the loading of unnecessary at the point content of the long web pages, will be of great use.

design trends 2017 - lazy loading

Lazy Loading pattern

  • Follow the latest UI design trends

In the long-lasting battle between Flat and Material design, there is some kind of a compromise found -- Semi Flat Design. What does it mean? Flat design is becoming more dimensional with some lights and shadows that are incidental to the Material design concept. The feature of depth is added to the Flat design trend, that's it.

Moreover, you are welcome to play with dimensions in your UI designs. It sometimes can have a hypnotic effect on the visitors.

design trends 2017 3D

3D elements

And of course, animate! Gifs and animations continue being trendy, but become more meaningful. Gifs can assist you to create showcases about why your app is helpful, and make more interactive UI design by showing how to use your app's tools. Animation will not just make users say 'Wow!', but can make the search process and navigation in your app more engaging and easy-to-see. Here is one cute example of the huge trend of this year -- animated logos:

design trends 2017: animated logo

Anamated logo (Source: <a href="https://dribbble.com/shots/1525046-Cub-Studio" target="_blank">Dribbble</a>)

  • Don't be afraid to use offbeat effects

In case you are tired of ordinary GIFs, you can add Cinemagraphs to the designs. Simple photos flavored with minor moving elements is the very effect that will attract users' attention.

cinemagraphs - design trends 2017

Cinemagraphs (Source: <a href="https://dribbble.com/shots/2632843-Landing-Page" target="_blank">Dribbble</a>)

Innovative scrolling & Parallax effect is one more catch that helps engage more users.

  • Encourage users!

This simple truth is unacceptable to be missed. If you want to convert users into customers, ask them. Full-screen forms is a hot trend of this year that will motivate users to fill in the subscription form or text you a few words. You know what to do next.

design trends 2017: full-screen forms

Full-screen contact form (Source: Cleveroad)

Not by design alone: Mobile technology trends in 2017

Whatever perfect design you create, it's nothing without a high-quality product. Here we face a problem: everything you can think of, already exists. When you are at the starting point of your business, you are low competitive. However, you can turn the situation to your own benefit following the most recent and the hottest website or application development trends.

  • Be set for innovations: Artificial Intelligence shapes the future of app development

The previous year was full of talks about AI. But honestly, humanity hasn't created pure AI products yet. For now, we have software and devices just with elements of AI. The process of AI software development has not evolved as much as we want to, because it requires very specific skills and knowledge, which are still at a premium. Nevertheless, in 2016, only $2.07 billion was invested in machine learning startups, and the financing of AI continues to grow.

artificial intelligence trends in mobile apps development

Spheres of Ai development

This year we will see a splash of development in the following AI spheres:

  • Robotics for personal usage and industrial equipment, like self-driven cars, vehicles, drones;
  • Industry-specific AI solutions for healthcare, financial sphere, real-estate, etc; Bots for e-commerce, CRM and as personal assistants; 
  • Data search, its structuring and management (markets' analysis and predictions). 
!

Do you want your own chatbot? We have some useful information for you. Read the article that tells how to build a chatbot.

You can expect the AI contribution to various industries and science, and there has been a lot of discussion about its impact on the labor market. AI solutions are not expected to replace people, but they can do the routine things better than humans and their usage is a great step forward. AI-based software development will penetrate deeper into all spheres of our lives. And one of the most evident examples of AI influence is retail and e-commerce with chatbots automation.

However, to create an outstanding bot, which is able to teach itself and keep the conversation as human-like as possible, speech recognition and machine learning must be used. So, platforms' usage for creating bots will not be enough. For this purpose, you will need a professional consultation and a team of developers.

  • Data safety is one of mobile app development trends

Personal information has become vulnerable like never before. In 2016, about 200 million Yahoo accounts, 360 million MySpace accounts and 177 million of LinkedIn accounts were hacked. And these examples are just a drop in the ocean compared to the scale of hack attacks and leaks over the last few years. Users become more attentive to what they install, what is the app's safety rating and read carefully what kind of info they give access to.

Two-factor user verification, which was used for banking apps mostly, now is becoming popular for other kinds of apps to make the level of safety higher. Touch ID is also being integrated into apps instead of using passwords, especially for payment services.

!

Get more information about authentication approaches and find out which ways they are reshaping the future of app safety.

Having access to any imaginable information today, we have to care of our personal data safety, too. Potential users of your product will appreciate your care about their data security, won't they?

This is not the full list of latest trends in mobile technology to be meaningful in 2017. You can read more in our articles devoted to:

How to start the user engagement strategy wisely

  • Help users to get started

You should be ready that every day new users will land on your website front page, landing page or app's first screen. So the 'greeting page' should do these three important jobs:

  1. Welcome users and describe how the product works
    2. Motivate them to get started 
    3. Show where to get help if they need it 
  • Gradually immerse users into your product functionality

It's not the best idea to load users with every feature your product has at once. Let users watch around and discover what they might find useful themselves. Sure, you can have a FAQ in order not to leave users in a tight corner.

Another way is to schedule the promotion of the product features and to expose them regularly. As for newly introduced features and updates, you can announce them ad hoc.

  • Talk to your users

Communicate proactively to your first adopters to gather their feedback and build the foundations for the improvement. Identify the right social media platforms and master them.

How to measure user engagement

Measurement reflects the strategy you've chosen to engage customers. Analyze and optimize -- that is the main principle the startups have to follow. Let's look at them separately.

What to analyze?

Start by identifying what your goal is and, therefore, what you need to monitor. At the stage of user acquisition and engagement, your goal is to build a customer funnel. On the way from one step to another in the funnel, try to monitor three core metrics at most. For example, when converting a visitor into a prospect using a landing page, measure the total number of visits, the percentage who subscribe to your emails (to receive the free trial, for instance) and open the welcome letter.

Tip: When you select metrics, make sure, they are directly tied to measuring user engagement. Otherwise, you don't need to waste time on them.

How to analyze?

The most tried and true way to analyze is to apply analytics tools like Google Analytics. Such tools help you track what is happening with your products: view traffic, sources, referrals, set up goals and events. Other tools, like WebVisor, provide visitor behavior analysis (mouse movement, clicks, text copying etc.).

To gain the deepest insight, you can use both. However, at the early stages, data based on numbers is normally enough.

Having received the conversion metrics, optimize

Never stop testing and trying variants of the UI on the landing page or app, increase the readability and call to action. There is no universal recipe of optimization, just best practices, so you should be testing and analyzing again and again.

There are many ways to acquire and engage customers, which can lead to the same result. The most important thing is to know your audience well and build the right funnel. Next goes the acquisition and engagement plan, which will be unique for your unique product. If you need our help or a free consultation, we are happy to share our knowledge and experience with you.

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