A/B Testing Is An Ongoing Process For Deal-Finder App Retale

onboardingEven minor tweaks to copy or layout can have a big impact on app engagement.

“Little changes really do matter,” said Luca Criscuolo, head of mobile product at Germany-based Bonial.com Group, parent company of Retale, a location-based app that aggregates and mobilizes offline coupons, deals, flyers and circulars from chains and local stores.

That’s particularly true during the onboarding process, the first series of explanatory screens a user is presented with after downloading an app.

Roughly 70% of users abandon an app within 30 days, according to Urban Airship, but many will leave far sooner than that. Around 25% of users desert an app after a single session, never to return.

It’s why continual testing is key, said Criscuolo. As a product guy, testing is a core part of his team’s day-to-day.

Whether developers paid to acquire users – and it’s not cheap – or scored organic installs, it’s still a losing proposition when users jump ship straightaway.

“Re-engagement through CRM campaigns and push notifications at the right moment, those things are standard in the market,” Criscuolo said. “But we want to go beyond that, to see which are the right features and what we can do with the user experience to engage users more often.”

Retale, which hit the 5 million download mark in November, has been working with Apptimize, a mobile app optimization provider that helps developers A/B test their apps. Other Apptimize clients include Trulia, Western Union, HotelTonight, Glassdoor and The Wall Street Journal.

Developers that integrate the Apptimize SDK can use the company’s web interface to deploy and test real-time changes to their native apps. Apptimize also has an integration with analytics and marketing platform Localytics to help its customers track the results of their tests.

After some initial experiments in the weeks leading up to Black Friday – Retale tested a variety of different versions of a promotional preview screen against a control, ultimately driving a 3.2% increase in click-throughs on the winning variant – the app started addressing trickier questions related to layout and UX, namely its onboarding process.

When users first download Retale, they’re shown an assemblage of retailers – Walmart, Barnes & Noble, Cabela’s Ace, JCPenney and the like – from which they’re required to choose at least one “favorite” in order to access the app.

In the past, the names of the various retailers would appear in a list users would have to scroll through. But when a new product manager started on Criscuolo’s team last year, one of the first things he proposed was to transform the list into a grid format, where every cell of the grid would display the retailer’s logo writ large.

The theory was simple: There’s nothing all that difficult about scrolling through a list, but the easier you make it for users to tap and discover, the more likely it is that they will.

RetalewelcomeUsing Apptimize, Retale tested out the hypothesis and found that the grid version resulted in more users completing the onboarding process and also led users to favorite more retailers from the get-go.

It would be easy to stop there and feel quite complacent with the outcome, but Retale is looking to dig in a little deeper.

Although Retale doesn’t require users to log in, they do have to select at least one retailer from the grid or they aren’t able to finish onboarding and start using the app.

Retale discovered that many users who find it too onerous to choose a retailer drop off during the initial experience. However, the users who stick with it and complete the process, including opting in for push, provide a nice short-term revenue boost. They also make themselves available for re-engagement campaigns.

What remains an open question, though, is the long-term retention rates of the users who finish the forced selection process.

It’s also possible that developing an onboard experience that doesn’t require users to choose a retailer as their first in-app action would allow Retale to scoop up the users most likely to drop off initially and nurture them over time. Then again, because there’s no login, if a user doesn’t finish onboarding, at least at this point, there’s no way to re-engage them with a follow-up.

These are all things that Retale is in the process of mulling. The ultimate goal is a more personalization onboard experience – a series of screens that make sense for the particular group of people being onboarded rather than a one-size-fits-all situation.

Because within a single user base live a variety of different user personas – loyal users, new users, power users, users who just want to get into and get out. Treating them all the same isn’t the road to the best result.

“People don’t always realize that it’s not just one group of users they need to look at – there are lots of different types of people accessing your product,” said Nancy Hua, CEO and co-founder of Apptimize. “What you need to do is find out which ones are most important to you, figure out how to give them a good experience and then find others like them.”

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