March 14, 2017

Mobile Marketing Chart: How likely millennials, baby boomers and Gen Xers are to delete your app


In October 2016, we asked 2,400 satisfied and unsatisfied customers how likely they were to disengage with companies by taking eleven specific actions.

Of those actions, the biggest difference in behavior among generations was in regards to deleting mobile apps. In this week’s MarketingSherpa Chart article, we take a closer look at that data.

by Daniel Burstein, Senior Director, Content & Marketing, MarketingSherpa and MECLABS Institute

Marketers work so hard to win email subscribers and spend so much money to produce TV advertisements, so once we have a customer’s attention, the last thing we want to do is lose it.

In a previous MarketingSherpa article, we shared data for which channels customers are most (and least) likely to disengage from.

Of those channels, the biggest generational difference was for mobile apps. So, in this MarketingSherpa Chart article, let’s take a closer look at that data.

In the online survey, we split the 2,400 consumers into two groups of 1,200 each. We asked one group about companies they were satisfied with, and the other group was asked about companies they were unsatisfied with. One of the questions we asked was…

Q: Of the companies with which you are generally [satisfied or unsatisfied], how often do you disengage with their marketing by doing the following? 

Here’s a closer look at the responses for the “delete their app from your smartphone or tablet” option. 

To see 28 charts from the study, download the free report.

Of every possible response about every channel surveyed, the biggest variance was in the response “doesn’t apply to me” for satisfied customers. There was a 14% standard deviation in how likely different generations were to respond that deleting mobile apps doesn’t apply to them.

Not surprisingly, older generations are less interested in mobile apps…

So, you’re in the audience of a marketing event and you see a mobile marketing thought leader, expert of vendor speaking. Or perhaps you’re just watching a video of a similar session.

At the beginning of the session, to make her point, she’ll do one of these — “raise your hand if you have a smartphone.”

Invariably, you’ll see a lot of hands go up. Because a lot of marketers have smartphones. And the speaker will use that data to say, “See! You need an app!”

But first, consider your audience — 42% of the Silent Generation and 31% of baby boomers said that mobile apps do not apply to them.

…but even some in younger generations have no interest in your mobile app

While there was a big difference in generations, brands’ mobile apps are not universally loved and used. Even 15% of millennials and Gen Xers said the channel didn’t apply to them.

And maybe your company does need an app

On the flip side, it should be noted that all of these numbers are squarely in the minority of their generational cohorts.

And some brands experience great success from having an app. For example, I’ll be interviewing Senior Digital Marketing Manager Jonathan Levey on the stage at MarketingSherpa Summit 2017 in Las Vegas about how Flexjet drove a 488% increase in quote requests from its new app.

However, Jonathan didn’t jump into app development simply because apps were getting a lot of buzz. He did his homework upfront.

If the above data gives you pause before developing an app (especially if your ideal customers are in an older demographic), here are a few ways you can decide whether pursuing an app is a wise investment for your company:

  • Take a close look at the traffic to your website to see how much is coming from mobile devices
  • Test mobile advertising to gauge how responsive your customers are on mobile
  • Make sure your mobile app has a unique value proposition compared to your mobile website
  • Make sure your mobile app has a unique value proposition against other apps (After all, there are 140 billion apps in the Apple App Store alone, according to Statista)
  • Talk to some of those customers to see if they use apps and want one from your company

The app download is just the beginning

Once you’ve gotten customers to download the app, you have to provide enough value for them to continue to use it.

And if you don’t take a customer-first marketing approach to your app, it’s not only app usage that could be hurt, but customers’ overall satisfaction and engagement with your brand. According to research by Northwestern University into an air miles rewards program, there was a 40% drop in point accrual after 16-30 days without logging into the program’s app and a 70% drop after five to six months without logging in.

“Branded mobile apps? When done well, we’ve seen dramatic increases in customer value. Our analysis of customer engagement and transaction data proves that a dramatic bump in customer value may be possible, though is relatively short lived. But the more powerful ‘story’ becomes customers who are multichannel, not all-mobile-all-the-time,” Tom Collinger, Executive Director of Northwestern University's Spiegel Research Center, told me.

To get customers to download your app, you’re competing against every other app and channel out there. But even once they download, you’re still competing against every other possible channel. I already mentioned the necessity of creating a unique value proposition to get customers to initially download your app. The research center’s “Branded App ROI” report also calls out the importance of providing unique value to keep customers engaged with the app once they’ve downloaded.

“Apps that fail to provide proper value for the user risk hurting the brand. An app for a grocery store, for instance, that only provides store hours but doesn’t help users build shopping lists or find items in the store provides little additional value relative to a simple internet search,” the report states.

Other places generational differences matter (and where they don’t)

While the above-mentioned specific response had the most generational variance, there were two channels with overall responses that had greater generational variance — “unfollow them on social media” and “unfollow their YouTube channel.”

The channel where generational differences were the smallest was “change the channel when their radio ads are playing.”

Generational differences in how receptive consumers are to video pre-roll ads

The channel satisfied customers were most likely to disengage from overall was online pre-roll ads.

There was somewhat of a generational difference in responses, but the interesting thing was that it wasn’t merely what generation they were in that mattered; it was the generation combined with their satisfaction as a customer with a particular company.

For satisfied customers, 28% of millennials said they always skip online video ads that come on before a video they are watching, compared to 23% of Generation X, 20% of baby boomers, and 12% of the Silent Generation.

However, for unsatisfied customers, millennials were least likely to say they “always skip online pre-roll ads” — 29% of unsatisfied millennials skip while 34% of Generation X, 37% of baby boomers, and 33% of the Silent Generation skip online-pre-roll ads if they are unsatisfied customers of the company running the ad.

These aren’t major differences, but they could suggest that millennials tend to either be accepting or unaccepting of the format itself while other generations are less focused on the format and more interested in the company running the ad. If they are satisfied with the company, they are more likely to watch, and if they are unsatisfied, they are more likely to skip.

Rethink customer segmentation

This could have implications for Bumper Ads — YouTube’s new six-second, not-skippable video ads aimed at mobile users. This could be a good ad buy for millennials, but brands may be wasting a chance to expose satisfied customers in other generations to a longer message about their brand. Traditional skippable, longer TrueView ads might be better for companies with satisfied customers.

As shown above, demographics like generational differences aren’t the only way to segment your customers. Satisfaction plays a major role in their response as well.

Aside from segmenting by satisfaction in the near term, you should also try to win over as many unsatisfied customers as possible. This is an entire business-wide objective, of course, but marketers can play a critical role as well.

Marketing and advertising in general can have a bad reputation among consumers. However, it’s not really marketing and advertising that customers have a distaste for. What they really hate is thinking that they’re being tricked, swindled or bamboozled. Nobody wants to be taken advantage of.

When a company actually has its customers’ best interests at heart, when a company practices customer-first marketing, consumers are much more receptive to marketing and are less likely to disengage with all 11 marketing channels we surveyed customers about.

Marketing can be a service to customers when it helps them make the best decision for them in an incredibly complex marketplace. That means that marketers need to get an authentic message to the people who will benefit from it most. This isn’t simply targeting customers; its elevating customers and putting their needs, goals and desires at the forefront of every marketing campaign.

Related Resources

Learn a customer-first methodology in the University of Florida/MECLABS Institute Communicating Value and Web Conversion graduate certificate program

Mobile Marketing Chart: Why customers delete your app

Mobile Marketing How-To: 9 tactics for improving ranking in Apple’s App Store and the Google Android Market

Email Marketing Chart: Mobile versus desktop conversions

Branded App ROI report (via Northwestern’s Spiegel Research Center)

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