It looks like 2014 will be a banner year for the app market. The industry as a whole is beginning to mature and a stable foundation of developers, users, and standards are becoming increasingly commonplace. In terms of profitability, the global app market is one of the fastest-growing industries in the world, with an increase of about 37% from 2013 to 2014. According to TechCrunch, global mobile advertising spending was about $13.1 billion in 2013, and is projected to be $18 billion in 2014. The long-term trend looks promising as well, with market projections often exceeding $40 billion by 2017.

With the maturation and long-term growth potential seemingly in place, the question becomes who will profit most from these developments? Of course, the tech giants who control the gateways, such as Apple and Google, will profit immensely. However, companies who are able to develop apps that engender long-term loyalty of a robust user base will also see their share of those growing profits.

Here are some key steps that companies can take to build and sustain long-term app user loyalty:

Create user habits

In an ideal world, you would be able to get loyal app users simply because you asked your users for it. However, in the real world, it is imperative that you give users a compelling reason to log into your app on a regular basis. There are virtually endless specific ways to accomplish this, but the underlying component will always involve creating value for users.

One way that successful apps get users to log in every day is by offering a reward or bonus for consecutive days of logging in. A gaming app might offer 10 game credits on the first day, 15 on the second day, and so on. This encourages users to log in every day, which in turn increases the chances that they engage deeper with the app. Offering higher rewards to users who consecutively log in helps turn the act of logging into the app into a habit.

Another strategy is to provide content that is personalized to the user, and updated on a timely basis. With few exceptions, static apps tend not to do very well, while apps that offer new information on a regular basis give users a compelling reason to keep coming back for more. In addition, users can stay informed about updated information through push notifications, which are another way of engaging with users and reminding them that your company and your app exists.

The Notification Bar is the NEW News Feed, use push notifications access it

Smartphone users are bombarded by information constantly throughout their day, which makes it easy for them to forget about your app if you let them. Incorporating push notifications that periodically remind users about useful information your app provides can help keep your app fresh in their minds, increasing engagement over time.

Facebook is a great example of how to successfully utilize push notifications. For all of the complaints about Facebook, the fact remains that it is one of the most downloaded, and most highly engaged apps ever created. The key in Facebook’s case is providing information that individual users want to see by allowing high levels of push notification customization like receiving notifications when someone writes on their wall, tag’s them in a photo, or even a friends birthday.

Staying engaged with users requires a concerted effort. However, successfully gaining and maintaining the long-term loyalty of a robust user base can have a significant impact on your bottom line.

Stay up to date with latest OS changes, such as iBeacon

Both iOS and Android are constantly being updated, patched, and changed. There are constantly new levels of integration, feature improvements, and fundamental OS changes that are in the works.

One of the most exciting new changes is the proliferation of iBeacon and Near Field Communication, or NFC. Both of these technologies allow smartphone apps to communicate with small, inexpensive devices that can provide useful and geographically relevant information.

One great example of iBeacons at work was at the Coachella Valley Music Festival in March of 2014. The organizers of the festival had iBeacons located strategically throughout the event, which would automatically push relevant information to smartphones when festival-goers who had downloaded the Coachella smartphone app walked by them. These iBeacons helped festival-goers learn more about the stages and artists performing, and also made it easy for them to automatically track and record their itinerary for later viewing.

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