Strategy and Innovation

The past, present, and future of mobile brand engagement

At WillowTree, we spend a lot of our days thinking about product, design, and the functionality of mobile apps. Every single app that we build is carefully crafted to give the end-user the best product experience possible, every time they engage, no matter the platform, device, or channel. But lately, I’ve been thinking about how brands can effectively drive that engagement with their mobile app? As I’ve written about before, it’s absolutely essential to have a beautifully built and functional app, but in order for these apps to see growth, it requires some effort.

When we talk about the past, present, and future of app engagement, it can take you down many different paths.

From push notifications, to deep linking, to engaging with apps via smart devices like the Amazon Echo, apps have transformed the way consumers interact with brands.

According to Appboy, engagement is the “process of actively building, nurturing, and managing relationships with customers,” ultimately driving customer loyalty and growing the lifetime value of each customer.

Four main aspects of app engagement should be optimized by every brand trying to improve their active users, session lengths, and retention rate:

  • Onboard users effectively and efficiently
  • Differentiate your mobile app from the web experience and drive users to your mobile app from the mobile web via smart banners/interstitials
  • Use push notifications to re-engage your users
  • Allow app content to be discoverable by enabling deep linking

Brands like Regal Cinemas,, and Airbnb are all good examples for how to engage and retain mobile users. Their cross-channel strategies allow them to create a frictionless experience for the users that are converting time and time again on mobile. Whether the user is finding their app via email, social, word-of-mouth, paid, or downloading from the app store, their links work across all channels.

That’s why we’re pleased to announce a new partnership with Branch ( to help the apps we build grow. Branch is a deep linking platform that unifies mobile measurement and user experiences across devices, platforms, and channels. Their deep links can drive users to in-app content, where the user experience is superior and conversions are 3x higher.

We’re excited to continue to build the best apps in the world, and partnering with Branch to build enhanced mobile user experience that drives continual growth.

Never hesitate to reach out to us with any comments or suggestions.

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