What All Marketers Need to Know About Mobile Payment Apps

Blog Post
October 13, 2017

We've established that mobile is the new battlefield for customer experience—enabling brands to execute a one-to-one, in-the-moment marketing strategy.

One of the newest weapons in this battle for mobile dominance is the payment app. From Paypal and Venmo to retail- and financial-specific models (Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, Taco Bell, Wells Fargo, Bank of America and Capital One all seeking downloads), the war for a cherished spot on customers mobile real estate continues.

Continued engagement, data collection and brand loyalty are the initial goals of a mobile payment app. Following this, the app can provide an ever-evolving selection of value-added services and products that help make customer’s lives so much easier that they can’t imagine living without it. This opportunity for future cross-sell and up-sell creates a loop for customer engagement, loyalty and advocacy.

Starbucks is a prime example of making the most of the mobile payment app. They’re succeeding by utilizing a combination of customer rewards and ease-of-use (both of which lead to continued brand loyalty). Not only are they winning the coffee war on every corner, they’re running away with it on your phone as well.

App Fatigue is Real

It’s not mission accomplished after that initial download. Take a second and have a look at your own mobile phone. Swipe through the screens and take stock of the apps you’ve downloaded. How many of those do you actually use on a daily basis? Weekly? And how many have you long since deleted to save space for your growing collection of family photos and funny cat gifs?

As both banks and retailers look to continually drive customers to mobile payment apps, they first need to understand that app fatigue is a very real thing. A look at the number of downloads versus the abandonment rate of the average app out there drives this very real point home.

But engagement is critical in converting app users from prospects to customers.

To create ongoing relationships, thoughtful, relevant and helpful engagements that feel “just in time" based on a customer’s unique need or job to be done is the way to motivate the customer to stay and continue to use the app. If you’re not continuously optimizing your customer’s experience with your brand, a competitor will find a way to steal them away. It’s easier and cheaper to retain your current customers than to try to win back old ones or find new ones. 

Follow the four tips in this post to keep customers engaged with your app from initial download and onward.

1. Onboarding is Key to Keeping Customers Engaged

Engagement must start early to avoid app fatigue. If it doesn’t happen during the period when consumers are most curious and want to learn about the new app, then the likelihood of it ever happening are small. The most important thing to do is to get them using the features they want to use and feeling successful.

You can easily see when someone has downloaded your mobile payment app. And because apps are most often interacted with immediately following a download, there is no time like right away to get them engaged and to incentivize them to continue use the app.

In terms of onboarding, activation and use are critical. Following immediate activation of the payment app, offer basic in-app instructions to get them up and running quickly, and let them know the benefits of using it.


  • Earning reward points
  • Cash incentives
  • Friend and family referral incentives
  • Making smoother transactions
  • Keeping closer tabs on spending

Brands can borrow techniques used by design and communication apps like Canva, Tumblr and Slack. These apps are complex, but each does a good job of getting the user engaged with basic features so the user can feel some quick successes. They also use multiple channels for their onboarding stream: in-app, push notifications and email.

You can follow-up a day later with a more detailed email, thanking users for their interaction and offering even more useful information to keep you top of mind.

2. Monitor Customer Behavior to Create a Personalized, Valuable Experience

Right after the initial interaction is the ideal time to monitor the customer’s engagement with the app. Statistically, this is most likely the time period when they will have the most interaction with the app, and therefore your best chance to learn about their behaviors and needs. The user's engagement will help you to determine their persona and figure out where are they in the buyer’s journey—and subsequently allow you to deliver the most appropriate content.

Look at how and when they are using the app. How frequently are they using it? What are their spending habits? Are they using in the store? Is it accessed when they’re shopping other places beyond a brick and mortar space? Answering these behavioral questions will help you to understand who the customer is and what jobs they are trying to accomplish (why they are using the app), which then enables you to speak to them more contextually.

All of this data, learned through each interaction with the app, aides both buyer and business in creating a personalized, beneficial interactive experience. There’s no time like this “fresh” download time when they are brand new to their experience to better understand how to keep them engaged with the app and to find out their jobs to be done

3. Respect the Customer and Stay on Brand

Keep in mind, many apps get deleted because they immediately bombard customers with offers and create a lot of noise. Respect your customer: they signed up because of convenience, a sense of loyalty and an affinity for your brand. You need to interact with each person on his or her terms. Be consistent with your messaging and reinforce the brand experience all the way through engagement.

4. Use Win-Back As Necessary

Have you ever forgotten that you have a certain app on your phone? Chances are, you have. So, what’s to be done if a customer’s engagement drops off rapidly?

You can adopt a win-back strategy. Take small steps by offering gentle reminders that they still have the app on their phone. One way to do this is by asking for a rating. It suggests to the customer: here’s an easy action for you to take (even if you’re not quite ready to use the app again). Ratings and reviews are an increasingly powerful way to market a brand based on “unbiased” peer-to-peer endorsements. You can feature this content on your website and marketing materials to make an even stronger impact. Plus, customers generally feel great about seeing their “name in lights” (with permissions, of course).

This gentle action can keep them engaged, and by registering their response to inform you about what to do next in the battle for mobile.

A Win-Win Victory

Ultimately, a mobile payment app succeeds by creating a relevant, contextual customer experience that simplifies and enhances customers lives. It encourages continued use and evolves with the customer throughout their journey. For the brand, it becomes a powerful tool, useful in one-to-one, in-the-moment marketing, providing the data and insight necessary to continue to engage in a conversation.