Video: App Install Ads & Checkout Conversion

by June 2, 2023

When we observe people using our sites, we find app install banners can have negative unintended consequences. So it's probably worth asking, how do we end up with issues like these? This five minute clip from my Mind the Gap talk takes a look.


Most of these web pages are designed this way because these techniques work, right? I mean, app install ads. They happen everywhere, from e-commerce to publishing and beyond.

While they come in many shapes and sizes, they're there to get people to download native mobile applications. So how effective are they? Well, as usual, it depends on what we mean by effective.

It turns out, if you put a full screen interstitial with a big button in front of people, some portion of them will click. In this example we published from Google, about 9% of people click the big Get the App button. Success, right?

It's a pretty good conversion right there. But the other half of the story is that when we tested removing the full page interstitial, app downloads only dropped 2%, but daily active users on the web went up 17%. What's the last A-B test you did that had that kind of impact?

Perhaps removing things is a great idea for many of our tests instead of just adding stuff. So if you're measuring active users instead of conversion on app install button clicks, the definition of what's good quickly changes.

When we observe people using our sites, we find app install banners can also have a lot of negative unintended consequences. In this example, this user is trying to purchase some rosy pink shimmer. And though they've already selected the product they want, they can't seem to find something really important.

So they scroll down, they scroll up, they begin to scroll to the left and to the right and back again, searching for that elusive Add to Cart button. After all, once they have a product they'd like to purchase, the next step is actually checking out. But try as they might, nowhere on the screen is an Add to Cart button to be found.

Scrolling doesn't seem to turn it up. So where could it be? Going down again and down further, coming back up, still nothing. You'd expect it to be somewhere right around here, wouldn't you?

Well, out of desperation, perhaps they'll tap the little almost cart-like icon at the top. No, nothing there either. Well, coming back again, perhaps they'll be able to find it. Let's see how that works. Nope, still not there.

Nothing in the cart, nothing on the page. Finally this person decides to do is tap the little X down by the Sephora app ad. And there, lo and behold, an Add to Basket option.

In examples like this and others, app installed banners were the direct and sole cause of shopping cart abandonment. In Baymard Institute's testing, 53% of sites displayed one of these banners.

Here's another example. Let's say you want to take a look at this shelved ottoman a little closer. So you tap to zoom and then you... Well, unless you close the app install banner, you can't actually get back to the page where you purchased it.

Which again, if you ask most e-commerce company what metrics they care about, sales conversion is pretty high on the list. So having a user experience that negatively affects that seems like a pretty big deal. And as a result, it's probably worth asking, how do we end up with issues like these?

How can these prevalent app install banners be the direct and sole cause of abandonment when abandonment is the opposite of what we're looking for? Is this a user experience design problem?

Maybe it's because these companies aren't investing in user experience. But when I did a quick job search, I found that not only do they have user experience design teams, but pretty much all of them tout the importance of user-centered design on their business in these listings.

Not only that, the job descriptions are filled with superlatives on the impact and importance of great user experience design. So what's going on?

Because like you, I don't find these web experiences to be very user-centric at all. In fact, I'd characterize most of these as user hostile. And it's not just these companies. And I really don't want to single out anyone in particular. But you don't have to look very far to encounter these kinds of experiences on the web today.

Often I hear all this is because business goals are outweighing design goals. PM made me do it. Legal made me do it. But as we saw with app interstitial banners, important business goals like daily active users and e-commerce conversions are taking a hit with these approaches.

So why would the business side of the team be forcing us to do this stuff?