5 killer tactics to drive user engagement

Sponsored by: Digital Annexe
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by Ryan Bousfield, creative director, Digital Annexe

Pushing the boundaries of user engagement, often relies on filleting human nature. It’s not pretty at first but the rigorous process of overcoming technical obstacles can lead to powerful results. In 2011, our long standing client Mercedes-Benz challenged us to transfer the printed C-Class Coupé product brochure onto the relatively new iPad. At the time tablets were an under explored avenue for car buyers and we did not simply want to produce a carbon copy of a static medium. In the absence of standard competitors, our small team set out on the mammoth task of creating a benchmark app. So far the results have been phenomenal, in the span of three years we’ve produced nine brochure apps, received several accolades and most importantly saw record breaking sales from Mercedes-Benz. Through this process we have learnt more than a handful of valuable lessons which we have distilled in to “5 Killer Tactics to Drive User Engagement”.

KES (Keep Everything Simple)

Perhaps the toughest challenge in driving user engagement is the fear of not having user engagement. In such instances, the kneejerk reaction for a design team is to top up an app with as many features as possible, in order to keep the attention of wandering eyes. There is a truism out there – simple

Use the Right Actions

The other tendency, when mapping user engagement is to exploit a tablet’s multi-touch capability for the sake of exploiting a tablet’s multi-touch capability. Though there is no inherent problem with this tactic we’ve come to realise learnt actions, such as touch and hold or the three fingers swipe work beautifully in utility apps but serve as a barrier in other circumstances.

Blur the Lines Between Decision and Play

The best way to drive user engagement is to disguise the decision making process within an interaction, which is subtly embedded in the customer journey. Our users were presented with two vehicles disguised as one; the front of one model line and the rear of another. This tactic was effective because we live in an era of constant consideration. Why not accommodate this human tendency to veer off instead of sorting decisions as independent variables?

Form Over And Function

It might appear as common sense but every medium we adapt to makes us relive a predictable phase in aesthetics. Initially, there is an excitement to conceptualise elaborate visual treats for user engagement. But at a second glance, the wiser will have an epiphany to create a functionally useful experience as well. The answer of course is a balance of the two worlds.

Deploy Culture

Perhaps one of the most understated tactics for driving user engagement is to deploy culture. In an ideal world, predicting the psyche of users should be consistent; however, you’ll seldom see aesthetic preferences lack cultural influence. Diligently investigate what users are exposed to on daily basis. We encouraged users to take screenshots by mimicking a cultural trend towards Instagram-Style photos. The familiar visual cues alone, bridge the complex reactions which we spoke about earlier.

Now before we part ways, we have a few stats to back up our claims: over a quarter of C-Class iPad app users spend more than 30 minutes on the app, and the CLA-Class iPad brochure app was awarded Mobile of the Day by FWA. As with most innovators reading this post, we know you have some thoughts of your own. We’d love to hear about how you drive user engagement in the app world.

Ryan Bousfield is a creative director/designer "who knows enough about kerning and interaction design to be pretty good at digital" with Digital Annexe.