People are accustomed to doing loads more with their mobile apps, regarding them as the collective “go-to” for everything necessary to organize, optimize and enjoy the daily routine. As a result, consumers are primed for deeper engagement “in-app” at precisely the same time that more marketers are looking beyond the app install to drive conversions deeper in the funnel. It’s a dynamic that pushes down the cost to acquire users who will convert and boosts the chances of many app categories – especially booking apps – to win big.
This is the chief takeaway of the 2017 Mobile App Engagement Index from performance app marketing and retargeting platform Liftoff. Drawing from internal data based on 120 billion ad impressions across 30 million app installs (from September 2016 through August 2017), the report shows that the cost-per-first-booking has dropped significantly compared to last year, indicating that “booking apps are in the sweet spot.” Put simply, apps that enable users to book a flight, dinner, hotel or car sharing service benefit from low acquisition costs and high engagement.
According to the Index, the peak cost to acquire a mobile user who went on to make a booking with the app was $36.95, nearly half of the cost the previous year ($61.09). The overall decline in CPAs coupled with conversion rates that show robust growth underline the key finding that booking on mobile is hitting critical mass adoption.
Whether consumers plan trips– or just a night out – they are reaching to their apps to do it. Interestingly, the data shows that the popularity of booking apps spans both platforms (iOS and Android) and gender – with some differences. If you aim to buy low and engage high, Liftoff’s data indicates that women are not a bargain. Overall, males are nearly 43% more likely to register and 45% more likely to make a reservation or booking.
Competition to remove the friction
Connect the dots in the data, and Liftoff declares that “the mobile takeover for travel booking is officially here.” Is that because people have become accustomed to making reservations with their mobile apps? Or is it because marketers have succeeded in delivering apps and experiences that make it easier and faster for users to input the data and details that allow them to book a restaurant or a ride in the first place? The data doesn’t give the answer. But it does provide solid proof users are warming to the idea of deep-funnel engagement activities.
Little wonder competition among companies to drive deep-funnel conversions through booking buttons and other shortcuts is likewise heating up.
It’s all about finding ways to remove the friction at the mobile moment of inspiration, when consumers are engrossed in content and eager to connect with more information or opportunities relevant to their experience.
In the desktop Internet it’s a no-brainer. Websites can link to other websites, allowing publishers to bridge the digital and physical worlds with a line of code. A prime example is Google, which introduced a new feature earlier this month that lets businesses add a “book online” button to their listings on Google Maps or Google Search. (The option is live in the U.S. and will be rolled out to other countries in the near future.)
In mobile and apps, it’s a different story. It’s tougher to bridge the gap – but well worth the effort since mobile consumers are in a need-state that demands instant results and gratification. It’s why Facebook Messenger makes it possible for users to book Uber rides and OpenTable reservations straight from chat. Not to be outdone Snap recently announced a new feature called Context Cards that lets users book Uber rides and make restaurant reservations by swiping from the Snapchat posts (a post where a restaurant is tagged, for example) to booking options. To date Snap’s partners on Context Cards include TripAdvisor, Foursquare, Michelin, Goop, OpenTable, Uber, Lyft – and more are in the pipeline.
Finding intent where it exists already
Such approaches recognize the pivotal role of user context and experience in driving deep-funnel conversions. But New York startup Button is going one further, identifying those valuable experiences when traffic and intent intersect – and at that moment – showing contextually-relevant buttons to create an affiliate program for the mobile-first economy.
Many in mobile obsess with taking “top of funnel” behavior and converting this to purchases. Truth is, the bottom of the funnel is still broken, Michael Jaconi, CEO and Co-Founder of Button, tells me. In this scenario, Button is seeking to become “the connection layer” that removes the friction that exists when users have intent to purchase, allowing publishers with traffic and intent to connect to companies that sell the products and services that can fulfill that intent. It’s the capability that has convinced a long list of publishers, including companies like Conde Nast, Foursquare, Ibotta, meta search engines, and The Weather Channel, to partner with Button.
In practice, and with a few lines of code, Button’s technology scans a publisher’s mobile site or app for relevant, actionable information and links, and pairs this with the proper “buttons” from Button partners. (To date the company counts partnerships with Uber, Hotels.com, Ticketmaster, Walmart, eBay, and OpenTable – to name a few.) “The outcome is a new revenue stream for publishers based on the engagement activities they trigger, not the advertising they display,” Jaconi explains. For consumers, it’s an approach that can remove much of the hassle from doing what they want at the moment they discover they want to do it – ultimately creating a better experience.
Engagement data from Liftoff suggests a perfect storm of positive factors is coming together to benefit companies with booking apps. Now it’s up to marketers to drive the momentum with approaches that remove the friction and convert mobile-loving consumers into loyal customers.