Skyhook_logoThis post is part of a new series called “Designing for Place” brought to you by Skyhook. As a mobile-first world takes over design, location becomes an essential component. The series examines the many ways place needs to be considered. 

Once a user has downloaded your app, how does it go from sitting among 100 other apps to becoming a vital part of their day? The definition of ‘vital’ is different for productivity, utility and gaming apps. But regardless of category, a vital experience transcends basic functionality. It boils down to what makes an app something that a user doesn’t want to — or can’t — live without.

In the series’ first post, we introduced the concept of “Designing for Place” — how you can better understand your app usage, functionality, and become a vital part of your users’ everyday lives. We broke down app feature functionality by location because precise location data has quickly become essential to providing richer insights into your users’ behavior and interests.

So now that you’re armed with this kind of contextual data on your users, what then? The next step is to take the findings from your analysis and dive deeper to apply them towards your existing app features. This will help you to better categorize and personify your user. And we call this process “Appticipation”.

Categorizing your app features: Which are the most frequently used?

To get at what matters to your users most, you’ll want to do some categorization of your functionality. This will let you aggregate features by types. Some examples of functionality type include Discovery, Social, Profile, or Payment.

Take the Dunkin Donuts app below, for example. It has the functionality that can be categorized into a few of these different aggregate types: you can load cards and pay with the app (Payment), and there is a search functionality that helps you locate the nearest shop to you (Discovery).


While you are doing this aggregate exercise, consider this: if a user can’t find the functionality, it doesn’t exist. So while your app may provide the ability for users to locate a store nearby, the fact is, if it’s buried three screens deep and no one can find it, your app does not do it.

That being said, a certain balance has to be made between the list of your app features and when and where they’re useful to your users. That is, not every feature in your application is useful to your users at all times, and in all locations. There’s an interesting trend emerging now where apps are slowly starting to incorporate “modes” into their functionality. Retail apps such as Walmart and CardStar use intelligence gathered from their users based on where they’re going to best serve up the functionality they may need. For example, when you enter a Walmart Store, your entire app experience shifts to a “Store Mode”, where you can take advantage of coupons, deals, and other relevant store information to help you make decisions while you’re shopping.

At Skyhook, we actually approach this notion of “modes” and take it a step further by defining where you are as being who you are. Where you go and what you do define who you are as an app user via our Personas capability. For example, among our out-of-the-box profiles available, we have personas like the Luxury Shopper — which we define as a user who visits beauty supply shops and high-end clothing stores and has an income of over $200k.

Now, consider the kind of experiences you could deliver to your users if you knew who they were. Using this appticipation functionality — applying data about what users do in the place that they are — we can create app modes based on the functionality they need in the place they are. This level of audience intelligence can have a significant impact your app KPI’s — things such as engagement and session length.

iphoneSee appticipation in action — download Skyhook’s CardStar case study.

Understanding your app usage by persona

Another good thing to look at is where your users go by getting a high level view and then diving down. You can do this by segmenting your users by high, medium and low usage to find out where the power users are and compare these to others. Then look at the functions they use by place to get a sense of what’s important to them in the places they go. Looking at ratios of usage over total number of visits (your Vital Ratio) tells you how vital that function is in that place.

For example, in the chart below, we can see that our Auto Intender persona accesses the payment functionality of our app 70% of the time when they’re in a retail location. If we rank our payment functionality as one of the most vital features of our app while in a retail location, what can we do to the design of our app to get that number up to 100%? The answer may be enabling a “shop mode” that is triggered on the device by a geofence when a user enters the store — and have that functionality displayed prominently so users don’t need to dig through screens to pay for their purchases.


The Bottom Line: Designing for Place

This level of contextual data is critical to delivering the most relevant and valuable experiences to users in real-time. It also will drive global optimization of an app to suit the entire app audience better. Dynamic user experiences can respond to the user’s intent, adapt to the user’s location, change based on time of day, and tune to the user’s skill level. Implementing a dynamic user experience will ultimately result in better ratings and reviews to stand out in the app store, ultimately leading to lift in average session length, growth in daily active users and growth in sessions per day.

In our next post, we’ll take a deeper dive into how different type of apps can leverage all of this contextual user information. We’ll also envision what new modes may look like based on existing app features and functionality.

Mike Schneider – also known as SchneiderMike – is the VP of Marketing at Skyhook. Skyhook is a big data company that specializes in mobile location, and their technology enables businesses to gain deep levels of insight to optimize mobile experiences.

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