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Almost one fourth of all apps (24%) are used only once. Why? Mostly because they don’t live up to user expectations.
That’s the reality we face as mobile marketers engaged in customer experience optimization.
Your goal isn’t just to stay out of the 24% of apps that are immediately uninstalled. It’s to create an experience that leads to customer satisfaction.
This is where psychology can come into play in your user experience optimization efforts.
In this article, we’ll tackle psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s psychology of optimal experience. To build a satisfying app experience, your app user must:
Here’s why this entire process is important. If an app fails to delight users or doesn’t perform as expected, your users will ditch you faster than their fitness-related new year’s resolution.
There are many reasons why people uninstall an app. When we asked 2,000 users why they uninstalled an app, we found:
What’s common among all those reasons? They can all be bucketed under one general heading: “poor user experience.”
If you can improve the app experience, you will improve retention.
But in order to excel at improving the customer experience, you have to know what an optimal experience is. What are you aiming for? Rave reviews in app stores? High Net Promoter Scores? Or something more?
In 2008 a psychologist named Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi published Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience that helped explain why we enjoy certain activities over others.
Csikszentmihalyi spent 12 years studying people around the world to learn how enjoyable activities take away worries and distractions and can even distort your sense of time (e.g., “Where did the last three hours go?!”).
These satisfying, pleasurable activities he called “optimal experiences,” “flow states,” or simply ”‘flow.” And for the rest of the article, we’ll be using these terms interchangeably to mean the same thing: a favorable experience while using your app.
Csikszentmihalyi eventually defined the psychology of optimal experience, defining 9 specific factors that are all present in an experience of flow:
But in order to actually use his ideas for optimizing the app experience, we need Owen Shaffer. In 2013, he expanded on Csikszentmihalyi’s research and proposed seven conditions that lead to a flow state:
And here’s where all these ideas become applicable to mobile marketing.
How can we use these flow conditions in the context of app experience optimization?
If knowing what to do and knowing how to do it are prime conditions for getting into a flow state, then it’s clear that your app needs to continuously educate users.
And not just about features and functionalities, but also communicating to users the benefits and value of using your app.
Feedback mechanisms are vital for an optimal experience. If we can’t tell whether we’re doing well, then we never get into a flow state.
For a gaming app, it’s immediately obvious that you can’t succeed at a game without seeing a progress bar, a points system, or a dashboard with the player’s stats. For an ecommerce or travel app it could be a panel showing how much money the user has saved thus far.
Whatever your app category, you need to deliver instant feedback to users so they know if they’re using it correctly!
Part of educating users on what to do is giving them a way to know where they are in your app, and what they need to do if they want to move around. Since flow is dependent upon people feeling like they have a sense of control and mastery over the task, you need to give them navigational cues so they can find their own way.
App users are a fickle bunch. Every new notification is a chance that they might move away from your app and launch some other tool.
Accept that this is outside your control. What is in your control is simplifying and streamlining everything within your app.
A balance between perceived skills and challenges is necessary for an optimal experience.
According to Csikszentmihalyi’s research, when a task is too easy, a person gets bored. If it’s too difficult, it builds anxiety.
The tasks you design in your app must be challenging enough not to bore users, but not so difficult they give up in frustration.
Every customer interaction can be optimized, tested, and improved.
After all, what is digital experience? When you come right down to it, it is an opportunity to wow users.
An optimal user experience for your mobile app can tip the scales and move users from customers to evangelists.
And like any human interaction, you can use the psychological principles of flow to improve your digital optimization efforts. Not in a manipulative, evil scientist way, but in a way that allows you to give users an immersive, creative experience.
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