Much like early days of smartphone apps, these early days for mobile AR involve lots of experimenting with design principles and best practices. We’ve examined some early lessons such as location datanative thinking and “AR-only” design.

To add to that list, the latest success factor we’ve been looking at and discussing with industry players involves stickiness. In other words, one of the pitfalls of mobile AR apps is that their value wholly resides within novelty… and the downside is that it wears off quickly.

Though admittedly anecdotal (small sample), this has been our experience. Most ARkit apps we’ve tried have varying levels of a wow factor, but nearly all wore off quickly. And in our informal polling of XR startups and investors, that common sentiment persists.

Instant Replay

So the name of the game is to design apps that have inherent re-playability, or some form of sustained value that drives repeat usage. For example, game mechanics tend to perform well when they balance challenging play with attainable goals and frequent rewards.

Beyond gaming, tools that have ongoing utility can also prove sustainable, such as anything grounded in a frequent activity like communications. Combining some of the above factors, AR apps that infuse value to communications and social interaction can have greater active use.

One example is Israel-based Snaappy. It develops AR animated characters that add dimension and meaning to social messaging. This not only carries the above traits but it does so on top of an increasingly popular and frequently-used interface where millennials live: messaging.

“Communication is good for retention but bad when it comes to wow effect and engagement,” Snaappy CEO Gal Shvebish told ARtillry. “On the other hand, AR is great for wow effect and engagement, but bad when it comes to retention. If you combine the two into one system, you can take advantage of both [and] really create something that will be here for the long run.”

Moving Target

Developers can also think in terms of achievement-based rewards, social sharing and other components that create stickiness. And that playbook luckily already has several chapters written. Though mobile AR will require native thinking, some heuristics can be inherited.

That playbook will of course continue to evolve and it will be a moving target as AR itself evolves with user behavior and expectations. But start with the basics of stickiness, and learn from some of the mechanics that have worked for mobile apps over the past decade.

As we learned during that period, there will be “vanity metrics” that don’t really reflect value, such as app downloads. The true measures of value — which drive monetization models like in-app purchases or offline commerce — will be tied to frequency of active use.

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Disclosure: ARtillry has no financial stake in the companies mentioned in this post, nor received payment for its production. Snaappy is however one of many subscribers to ARtillry Insights which does not include quid-pro-quo editorial coverage. Disclosure and ethics policy can be seen here.

Header Image Credit: Google Poly