All About Ad-APP-ting
By Justin Walker
What makes or breaks an app? The answer may vary, but when it comes to consumers adopting an app, it might just be in the details.
Kellen Mrkva, assistant professor of Marketing at the Hankamer School of Business, is on the front line of answering this question. Joined by Crystal Reeck of Temple University, and Nathaniel A. Posner and Eric J. Johnson of Columbia University, Mrkva investigated what drove app adoption in the article, “Nudging App Adoption: Choice Architecture Facilitates Consumer Uptake of Mobile Apps,” published in the Journal of Marketing.
Inspired by contact tracing apps that debuted at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the team was interested in understanding what motivated consumers to adapt certain apps over others. They looked at a variety of apps, including contact tracing and job search platforms.
“It started with some research on things like defaults—if you preselect something, it makes you more likely to choose a certain option,” Mrkva said. “We thought there were ways these app developers could improve how they presented these choices to have more people install the app.”
The team began with a series of online experiments where users engaged with various app versions, including word choice variations, shorter onboarding processes and differing color pallets. They wanted to find an optimal design structure that benefited consumers in as many ways as possible.
“We are all very busy,” Mrkva said. “Making it a little bit simpler of a process might make people more likely to go through with it and not move on to other apps.”
The project also included a field study, where a company ran several versions of its website to see if an optimal design existed. Mrkva and the team found that even the slightest details, such as making one button blue, made people more likely to use the website.
For some businesses, especially larger tech companies, this type of study is fairly common and they use their own data to make the most effective app design, Mrkva said. But smaller and mid-range companies likely lack the resources to do this themselves. That is where this research paper can have its most significant impact, he said.
“Getting knowledge out there of what works is huge for the smaller companies, especially those designing an app now,” Mrkva said. “These three things—color, wording and designs—can have a big impact on getting more people to enable an app.”