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Inbound

10 Inbound Marketing Tips for Mobile Apps

This is a new and improved version of a popular post published on March 21, 2012.

Inbound Marketing

With over a million apps available today in both of the major app stores, it’s natural for companies with mobile apps to look around for easy ways to stand out in the sea of apps. While there are numerous paid channels for boosting downloads, it’s not always affordable or desirable to be spending money in order to generate momentum for your app. In fact, spending money to promote your app before you’ve determined that you’ve got a real success on your hands is an almost certain route to failure.

We’ve seen far too many early stage app projects die because they spent more money on User Acquisition (UA) than on product iteration and finding product/market fit. This is true for the small startup, but particularly painful when it comes to apps from the world’s largest companies and most popular brands. The all too common “orphaned” app from a big brand communicates that the company hasn’t really figured out mobile and isn’t trying in an ongoing manner – not the perception that companies want on the part of their consumers.

A better approach to launching your brand’s mobile app and generating momentum is to utilize a healthy mix of inbound marketing as a means of getting your first coverage and downloads. With companies like Moz and Hubspot raising awareness of the benefits of inbound marketing over the past several years, more people than ever before understand that providing useful and relevant information for your target audience is one of the best ways to generate interest and awareness for your product.

Every mobile team can take these 10 simple steps to increase their inbound marketing efforts for their apps. This will help you find more organic customers, the ones who will truly help you find product/market fit and iterate to sustained success.

If you’ve got questions, let us know in the comments or ping us for a demo

1) Set yourself up on Social Media

We’re always shocked when a company doesn’t have a Twitter or Facebook page for their app(s) (we’re on Twitter and Facebook btw). Regularly timed tweets, discussing progress on the product, making points about features and capabilities and highlighting interesting uses of your app are all easy to share on social media. For large brands with existing social presences, this might not require a separate app-focused handle, but we’ve seen companies be successful building a specific app-focused Twitter handle.

2) Talk with your friends

Inbound marketing isn’t just about online activities – at its core, inbound is the process of making sure that the right audience finds you and your app. At the beginning of your app’s development, be sure to actually talk with your friends (and colleagues) about the app. Involve them in the testing and let them play with the app, on their own. If you can involve them in the process early on, they’ll be much more likely to help promote your launch and assist in the discovery of early adopters, because they’ll understand who should be using the app and why.

This can extend beyond just your friend network to folks who have a reason to be an advocate for you, by the way. One of the reasons that we’re big fans of appbackr is that the process of winning backrs to your apps creates a team of people who share in your success, giving them a reason to help spread the word. This is why the largest consumer brands are starting to see success with advertising their apps through their other channels. Companies are utilizing the space on their grocery bags, websites and products in order to spread the word to their existing customer base to drive downloads.

3) Create a core destination to house your content and marketing efforts

Publishing an app in one of the major app stores is simply not enough. You need to take ownership of your app’s presence on the web and this means choosing a core destination and investing in it. For example, our friends at Chewsy have a fantastic site for their food rating and dish discovery app.

Do you have an existing website for your business? Create a section on it for your mobile app. If you want the app to become a standalone brand, go get the domain and start building it out. Remember, you can often take your app’s name and add “get” as a prefix or “app” as a suffix.

4) Start creating content

Now that you’ve got a central destination that you’re going to be investing in, you should start filling it with content. Select content that is relevant to your app and zone in on exactly what unique value you can offer to your audience. Are you all about restaurant quality in a certain locale? Have a game that’s great for kids? Write about restaurants or kids games.

Importantly, content isn’t just about writing blog posts and creating new materials. These days, curation of relevant information is as important (if not more) as creating content. Share great resources and information that are relevant to your selected topics. Create a reason for people to come find you and stay for a little while. The good folks over at Buffer do an awesome job with this, check out their post on adding cool symbols to your tweets.

5) Words are good, videos are great

If you’re making a mobile app, the experience with your app is the most important thing right? Get used to creating short videos about how to use your app, what the benefits are and what a typical use case might be.

People love videos, especially short videos and if you can manage to make the video informative and entertaining, you might be really on to something. We’re not saying that all of your videos are going to get shared and “go viral”, but if you make something worth sharing, you can guarantee that good things will happen.

6) Share your data and experiences

With so many apps out there, other app developers are hungry for lessons learned and data. If you want to be part of the conversation, monitor your own data and performance and then share it out. Your unique experience can be helpful for others in the space and there’s no better way to attract the attention and links from other developers than to be open about what you’ve done well, what you messed up and what you’d completely avoid in the future. It might be scary to share too much, but realize that the uniqueness of your app isn’t in the numbers, it’s in how you connect with your consumers. We’ve seen a lot of great examples of this, here is a good example:

Importantly, large companies that are more open with their development process do a better job recruiting mobile developers. Share your story, you might find people who want to join you because you do.

7) Listen to your early customers for feedback

This is a topic near and dear to our hearts here at Apptentive, of course. Companies using our in-app feedback and communications tools service regularly tell us about the victories that come out of their customer interactions. When you launch an app, you’ve got, at best, a guess about who is going to use it and why. Once it’s in the wild, your job is to figure out what you were right about, what you missed on and how you can improve.

The best way to do so is by listening to your customers and engaging with them as you make updates. When it comes to creating evangelists who will share your app with others, nothing is better than being responsive and engaging. Anonymous customers become trusted advisors and advocates when you make it easy for them to give you feedback, without the hassle. Every brand is in the business of building evangelists and promoters – doing so at scale is difficult, but possible, within your mobile apps. When you use Apptentive, of course :-).

8) Ask the right people for ratings

When it comes to earning an install, there is nothing more important to your app’s success than the overall ratings and most recent reviews. The vast majority of app downloads occur after someone has viewed your app’s page in the app store and most of their attention is focused on the ratings and reviews section. As a result, when it comes to inbound marketing in the app stores, you need to always be on top of what people are saying about your app.

Many app developers take the approach that it’s just enough to prompt people to rate their app, but this is really insufficient. Too often, these prompts, by being about the developer rather than the consumer. This can turn people off and lead to bad reviews and app exits. Instead of prompting everyone, instead focus on understanding what people think of your app and only when you’ve understood that they’re happy with your app, should they be prompted to rate you. Our “Ratings Done Right” approach to this is one take that really helps companies find customers at the right moment in time and understand how they’re feeling. Listening to the typically “silent majority” helps drive company goals forward much faster than just focusing on the vocal minority of unhappy critics in the app store.

9) Get involved in the relevant communities

If you’re adding value to the app ecosystem and have learned along the way, be sure to share your knowledge. Whether it’s sharing technical lessons or talking about the subject matter of your app, there are sure to be devoted communities to the topics that are relevant to you. Spend 30 minutes a day researching and finding places on the web where others are sharing and join the conversation. Add value with advice, humility and respect and the benefits will accrue over time to your app, as an audience of people who trust you come into contact with what you’re working on.

10) Make sure you’re making it easy!

We can’t tell you how many times we’ve come across a site for an app and found the links to download the app to be non-existent. Make sure that you’re using the right links for downloading your app wherever you establish a presence and get good at tracking those links as well. Using tools like Bit.ly, you can track the links for social sharing and get the added bonus of knowing exactly what’s working.








Show Phone Business

Is 2015 the Year of the Customer?

This article was originally published February 5, 2015 on CX Journey.

Mobile customer experienceWe’re one quarter into 2015, and it couldn’t be more apparent that Customer Experience is on everyone’s agenda – or at least on those of the 95% of retailers surveyed by Boston Retail Partners, who identified customer experience as a top-three priority in the new year.

As both an outsider and an insider in the Customer Experience movement, I wanted to share (and weigh in on) three CX predictions made manifest through firsthand conversations with hundreds of companies leading the way in customer experience and engagement.

#1 Customer Experience will become the major differentiator

In the news: According to Deloitte, 82% of brands perceive customer experience as a competitive differentiator. And this number is only rising.

By 2016, 89% of companies surveyed by Gartner plan to compete primarily on the basis of customer experience. And by 2020, customer experience is expected to overtake both price and product when it comes to differentiating a brand.

My take: Customer experience is absolutely a powerful differentiator. However, I’d caution that in order to create sustainable value, your CX strategy must be intertwined into your entire business and not simply a function of marketing.

For the long term win, Customer Experience Management needs to be a continuous process of collecting – and acting on – customer insights. It needs to be a comprehensive strategy with engineering, analytics, sales, marketing, and all job functions sharing the same appreciation for the customer and aligned with the same objectives.

#2 Customer Experience Management will become a designated job function

In the news: The number of openings in CX Design has skyrocketed, and CX as a priority is permeating every part of an organization – from marketing to engineering to the C-Suite. According to AT&T’s Office of the Customer, “CX knowledge will be required at higher levels in every position in the organization. This will come in the form of education, skills training, support, enhanced data, expanded partnerships, and a new focus on innovative design skills and talent.”

At the highest level, we’ve seen the rise of the Chief Customer Officer (CCO), an executive with the authority and visibility to create a culture of customer-centricity. While there were fewer than 20 CCOs in 2003, the Chief Customer Officer Council today recognizes over 500 CCOs across the world – including 22% of the Fortune 100.

My take: The numbers here are hard to deny. Even in companies that don’t take the CCO route, I expect to see a breakdown of silos between CMOs and CIOs. I anticipate marketers and information analysts honing in on the same metrics and digging for the same customer insights in the pursuit of an exceptional customer experience.

#3 Customer experience will be realized as a major revenue driver

In the news: Customer experience has traditionally been a touchy subject for many executives. Yes, it’s important. But how important?

Creating a customer-centric culture can be a big investment and, if not done right, can take a lot of guesswork about what your customers actually want. Customer experience is all too often seen as a discretionary cost and not a revenue driver. In 2015, that’s all subject to change – and rightfully so.

In addition to building a brand, creating customer loyalty, and providing opportunities for differentiation, we’re seeing customer engagement fueling sales. Consumers are not only influenced by engagement, they desire engagement. A Moxie study revealed that 72% of consumers want to be engaged by their favorite brands – and are happy to spend more if engaged.

My take: We’re expecting to see investments in customer experience offer up a tangible and measurable impact on the bottom line. Advances in marketing analytics will shed much-needed light on the increased spending, lifetime value, and the power of referrals from happy customers.

Investments in customer experience will be seen not as another cost to incur but as a way to cut costs. Given continued increases in acquisition costs, particularly in a space as crowded as the app stores, I’m expecting brands to place a renewed emphasis on retention marketing. I’m anticipating a shift in priorities and a focus on reducing churn by doing more to delight current customers through loyalty and CX programs.

Furthermore, the smarter brands get about collecting actionable insights, the better prepared they are to design actionable objectives – aligned with measurable goals – around their customer experience strategy.



It won’t be easy meeting these three predictions in the next 3 quarters, but we’re excited to see what’s in store for the customer experience and are already witnessing CX pioneers pave the way for customer success.

Customer Love

What Customer Love Means To Me

This article was originally published on LinkedIn.

Love.

In Business, this word isn’t used often enough. It’s an emotional word, full of pressure, expectation and questions that most companies aren’t yet focused on answering:

  • Will customers really love us?
  • Can we really expect that they’ll care about us when we’re not around?
  • If we aren’t loved, how could we possibly hope to change that?

However, at Apptentive, we talk about Customer Love so much we even have a hashtag for it: #customerlove

Customer Love is the key to our approach to our customers, our business and our team. It’s something we strive for every day, because we view love as an act. We know that we have to invest our energy and time in truly demonstrating our love for our customers, to make sure that they feel our care and attention on an ongoing basis.

We’ve written about our thought process and framework for the customer experience before, so the concepts here aren’t all brand new, but this is how I think about delivering on our promise to our customers. It’s really all about the L.O.V.E when it comes to the key actions that are necessary to really deliver Customer Love:

Listen:

Every great relationship is a two-way street. Unfortunately, too many companies really shy away from this approach to their customer relationships – they talk at, but don’t listen to customers, leading to huge communications gaps. When companies truly invest in listening, across the entire organization, they are able to glean insights and learn more about where they should be going next with their product, service and business.

In addition, true listening means that you’re letting your customers feel heard. It’s natural in business that not every customer is going to agree with you 100%, but that’s understood by customers. At the very least, when they complain or make suggestions, what they’re hoping for is to be heard and understood. Listening is a tool in making customers feel loved because it gives them the knowledge that their opinions matter.

Observe:

Observation is a crucial trait in understanding the people around you, the teammates you’re working with and your customers. When you observe their behavior in your app, with analytics and log files, you’re able to make conclusions about what is interesting to customers and whether or not your assumptions are correct.

Observation is also about identifying what is truly important to your customers. When you watch how they spend their time, really understanding their lives and their needs, you can build better solutions to their problems and challenges. When you and your organization move to a mode of behavior that’s deeply invested in understanding your customers, your observation skills are often key to those insights that lead to massive improvements in your product.

Validate:

Validation has a lot to do with how you underscore and invest in the customer’s true needs. When a customer takes the time to tell you what they think, they’re raising their hands and investing in you and your company. It’s absolutely crucial, regardless of their message and thoughts about your company, that you validate them – letting them know that their feelings are valid and that you care. Validation is not about telling them that you’ll do everything they ask for but rather ensuring that your connecting on a level that indicates that you understand they have feelings too. Saying things like, “thanks for that suggestion, we really appreciate it” can go a long way in making your customers feel validated.

Validation also comes in the form of working with your team to take your hypotheses and to share them with customers. Over the past several years, the Lean Startup concept has really taken hold and taught us that when ideas meet customers in an open and accepting manner, products get better faster. The more your team really understands that their work and concepts are for customers first, the more they’ll invest their time in validating their concepts with actual customers to ensure that they’re delivering the best experience possible.

Engage:

The final action necessary for any team that’s focused on Customer Love is that you must truly engage with your customers. This means reaching out and talking with them proactively. Today, too many companies make it hard to reach them and send messages to customers only to drive sales activities.

However, truly loving companies make a point of reaching out to customers to invite conversations, feedback and venting. When you really embrace customer love, your team wants to talk with more of your customer base and creates opportunities for customers to talk with you. Finding the right time and the right place to really reach your customers makes your customer base feel loved and makes it so easy to talk to you that they can’t help it.

Customer Love

Customer Love is A Requirement, Not An Option

The future of the customer experience requires that every company adapts to the changing times and finds new ways to truly earn customer loyalty. Love is the real requirement – if your customers don’t love you, you need to truly invest in the actions that will get them there. Because customer love is an act, not a static place, every company can work to get there and you’ll have Apptentive there, along the journey, continuing to invest in the actions that have gotten us here so far.

ModevCon

Shifts In The Mobile Conversation: Takeaways From ModevCon

Apptentive CEO Robi Ganguly speaking at ModevCon 2014

Apptentive CEO Robi Ganguly speaking at ModevCon 2014.

I recently traveled to DC and presented at ModevCon on growing mobile app retention and revenue by investing in customer engagement. Over the course of the two-day conference, I had the opportunity to speak with leaders in the mobile app industry and attended a number of breakout sessions on app design and the mobile experience.

Throughout these sessions and conversations, three themes kept coming up as an indicator of where mobile (and the way we talk about mobile) is headed: the rise of enterprise apps, the importance of mobile customer relationships, and a heightened focus on the customer’s experience with your app.

1. Mobile enterprise apps are on the rise.

Mobile-first isn’t just for startups. Across the globe, enterprises are using mobile to redefine themselves and innovate.

Skip Potter, Capital One’s Vice President of Engineering, cemented this point in his opening keynote address. Capital One has been an early adopter of mobile payments and other new technologies that make banking easier. In his presentation, Skip went over his experience with rolling out an array of native apps across multiple platforms to better serve the needs of Capital One’s 62 million customers. Building not only a “mobile-first” but an “API-first” mentality into the company’s culture, he was able to design a scalable mobile infrastructure and leverage the growth of the mobile market to expand Capital One’s business and increase its customer value.

Skip best summed up the trend of large enterprises embracing technology and mobile solutions when he defined Capital One not as a bank, but as a tech company that just happens to work in the financial services industry.

2. The conversation is shifting to emotional dynamics.

We’re not the only ones talking about Customer Love. Throughout ModevCon, I noticed conversations shifting from usability to desirability when it comes to valuing an app. With over 1.3 million apps in both the iTunes App Store and the Google Play Store, it’s no longer enough just to create an app that’s useful. You need to build an app that people want to use – even as they’re presented with an array of equally useful apps that seem to address the same need.

In a ModevCon session titled, “Win Hearts, Win Users with Emotional Design,” Erin Daniels of Design for People showed the power of empathy in e-commerce. By tapping into their customers’ emotions, Erin revealed, mobile publishers are able to truly delight their customers.

Delighted customers, in turn, will be more engaged, more apt to promote your app, and more willing to make a purchase through your app as a result of the trust you’ve built.

3. The mobile experience is becoming less about the app and more about the people.

No matter the topic, there was one concept that each of the sessions ultimately circled back to – the customer experience.

But in contrast to previous discussions around user interface and accessibility, speed, and usability, this year’s conversations took a broader approach when it came to defining the mobile experience. The customer experience today has less to do with the design of your app than it does with the meaningful interactions you have with your mobile customers. It’s the customer who is becoming increasingly mobile, and it is the job of the app to reflect and integrate with the consumers’ changing lifestyle and expectations.

Dan Katz, ‎the Vice President of Technology Solutions at INADEV Corporation, took a particularly interesting approach to this conversation as he discussed his project of introducing mobile and augmented reality experiences to the hallowed grounds of the National Mall. INADEV was given the opportunity to “reinvent the customer experience” at the National World War II and National Korean War Veterans Memorials in Washington D.C. by designing an ecosystem of experiences, systems, and apps to enhance and enrich an already powerful experience, showing that the impact of a strong customer experience reaches far beyond the app. (Read more about INADEV’s work with the National Mall here.)

Apptentive CEO Robi Ganguly speaking at ModevCon 2014

How have you experienced these three shifts with mobile and the way we talk about it? Or perhaps you have a different perspective on where mobile is headed?

Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

translation-Apptentive-feature-release

Product Release: Global Text Localization and Translation

This week we are pleased to announce one of the most exciting new features for current and future Enterprise-tier customers that we’ve ever worked on: Localization and full Multi-Language Translations for every Apptentive powered interaction.

For mobile app publishers and managers operating on a global scale, addressing every potential app customer in their preferred language is now an expectation and a requirement. We heard your feedback and we focused on building a rock solid tool for our clients, and a seamless experience for their customers.

We already offer a useful library of translations for our default Ratings Prompt text in 16 different languages today. That basic level of translation is available to *all* of our Apptentive customers today. We have just added additional tools specifically tailored to our Enterprise class customers with a globe-spanning customer base. This new feature is designed to work with the existing workflow you have with your localization team, and will now allow you to translate every line of text coming from Apptentive that is shown to your customers – including Survey questions, Ratings Prompts and Upgrade Messages. We believe that this feature – which is available to our Enterprise plan customers or as an add-on to a lower-tier plan – is unique in the marketplace for its breadth and flexibility.

Our CTO Mike Saffitz had this to say about the new feature release:

“I heard from several of our global customers that if we could give them the ability to easily translate any messaging prompt they loaded into our system into any other applicable language across all of their localized apps, it would set us apart from many of the other mobile marketing and engagement software companies out there. I’m happy to say that we’re now ready to turn this feature on for our upper-tier customers.”

If you are an eligible customer, our Director of Customer Success Christy Culp will send you an email notifying you of where to find the new Translations capability and apply it to your in-app customer messaging communication. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to send Christy a note and request a walk-through (christy@apptentive.com).

Thanks for continuing to inspire us to innovate and prioritize the features that can push your global business to be more engaging, useful, and valuable to your customers. As always, we appreciate your feedback and welcome it for future Product Roadmap planning and prioritization via our usual channels: in the Comments below, via our GitHub account, or simply by sending a message to us. Happy translating – and keep earning your app customers’ love, wherever they may be around the world.

Screenshot 2014-10-20 at 8.40.13 PM

Our Thoughts on the New Google App Ratings Filter

Recently Google quietly released a new feature in the Play Store which was quickly noticed and remarked-upon by many: the ability to sort app search results by rating. The first incarnation of this feature (and one must assume that future updates will allow sorting by specific Star levels) is extremely simple: 2 choices only, “All ratings” and “4+ Stars”. This Android Authority post was one of the first-breaking that we noticed pointing it out, and as they pointed out it is a modest step in the right direction but doesn’t solve for all the challenges, writing, “…this may not catch some new apps with just a handful of reviews, and, second, apps with tons of fake reviews will still go through.” Screenshot 2014-10-20 at 8.40.13 PMIt’s a relevant point that new and low-install apps could be unfairly penalized until they build up a sufficient quantity of ratings, while this BRG article notes that  the feature could also unfairly reward new or low-install apps with a modest number of ratings that happen to skew positive or are being ‘gamed’ by biased ratings (as the stats folks say, until the number of ratings for a given app reaches statistical significance).

These are interesting initial considerations, but for the last couple days we’ve been thinking about the more strategic implications of this move for the Play Store and Android apps overall – now and in the near future. This is Google we’re talking about, after all. 2 years ago (almost to the day), Android Authority ran this post questioning the larger issue at play here: why it was taking so long for Google to apply its deep experience and expertise in information organization, discovery, and qualification to its burgeoning app marketplace. The post not only questioned when Google would start to enable a variety of quality, price, and other app characteristic sorting and filtering, but also wondered when the Play Store content would start to be more prominently featured in organic search results — and how.

We thought we’d take a few moments to comment on this development and build on the rich online conversation that’s been unfolding about the new feature over the past week. Here are a few of our initial considerations as Google starts the process of introducing more flexible options for mobile users to find the right apps in the Play Store for their needs – particularly for app developers, managers, and publishers.

1) Ratings and Reviews Now Matter More Then Ever – Across All Key Platforms

This may seem like an obvious point – but the fact that Google *didn’t* offer this feature until now meant that developers and publishers could effectively hold app user Ratings and Reviews in a lower regard for Android apps than they needed to for iOS apps. As the Google founders themselves showed the world 15 years ago, a search is quite simply the beginning – and therefore the action closest to any person’s process of information discovery – of a decision. Even though the Play Store was gathering and displaying Ratings and Reviews against apps post-search (at least in the Play Store, if not effectively in broader search results), that is not nearly as valuable as enabling this piece of information to qualify the discovery process during the search process. A capability – feature, or logic, or the combination of the two – that an individual user can apply “a priori” in their search experience is a great deal more valuable than a feature that must be applied “ex post”. This is a direct result of the fact that a capability that is applied earlier in any manual discovery process is more valuable than one that is applied later. There are two reasons for this: first, it is more efficient for the individual user; and second, it is more precise as a mechanism for organizing and presenting the inferred results that a given user desires.4173GNCNV3L._SL500_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-big,TopRight,35,-73_OU01_AA300_

In other words, by elevating the ratings sort capability during the search Google has made it both easier and faster for users to find what they really want. In so doing, Google has basically affirmed for mobile app developers that (a) ratings and reviews really matter – a lot, and, (b) they want to elevate the importance and weight they ascribe to this aspect of any given app on their platform. The implication here is not a small one for mobile app developers and publishers overall – and for Android app managers specifically: app quality, as judged by real app users, is now one of the most important meta-data characteristics of every single app in the Play Store. The downstream implication of this is that every Android app publisher now has an imperative to manage a strategy for ensuring that users consistently (a) see high value in each app they release for Android, and, (b) are encouraged to express their satisfaction with the app value in the form of public ratings and reviews in the Play Store. It’s as if Google has – in one feature-update stroke – said to Android developers and managers, “We now consider high ratings for apps in our marketplace to be a primary user download consideration, and you should too.”

2) Android Apps Are No Longer Allowed to be the “Also-Rans” of a Company’s Mobile Strategy

Whether or not they publicly acknowledge it, there has been an undercurrent of bias among corporate marketers and entertainment media publishers that iOS apps are the clear priority and biggest business opportunity… and that an Android app is either a ‘check the box’ gotta-have or a distant 2nd priority to their iPhone and iPad apps. We fully recognize that this is a gross generalization – there are many publishers who have lead the market with Android-first innovation, and many companies who for several years have looked at their mobile OS usage and business-benefit data and allocated development resources with equal (or proportionally-appropriate) priority for both platforms. However, we don’t think we’re being controversial in stating that Android as a app platform has for too long been considered an under-appreciated second child – never able to live up to the higher expectations and preferred first-born status of iOS. [As a father of three, I’m reminded of the Tikki Tikki Tembo story that I’ve read my daughters on many an evening.]screen-shot-2013-07-16

And for a while, this was probably a defensible point of view. Research consistently showed that iPhone users were early-tech-adopters and indexed higher than other mobile OS platforms for income and digital media content consumption — all statistics that made mobile marketers salivate, and gave easy-to-repeat statistics that allowed them to defend their iOS-first priorities and justify their disproportionate investment of money and effort towards the Sunnyvale giant’s products and platform.

However, the last several years have forced objective mobile business managers to revisit their biases and revise their marketing and development priorities. The run-away growth of Android in recent years which has made it the definitively dominant mobile OS platform globally, according to IDC (linked), Gartner (chart at right), and others. Increased competition in the U.S. market among both wireless carriers and their smartphone hardware partners has made mobile OS platform switching more commonplace. A good deal is a good deal, and Apple and Google now are in the software *and* hardware game – and Google’s willingness to take a break-even or loss-making deal on their hardware and software in favor of winning their way into consumers pockets has harvested a lot of early-iPhone-adopters. [Some killer hardware innovation by Samsung, HTC, and now Google’s previous Motorola hardware unit has earned a lot of new and OS-switching U.S. and European customers also.]

Simply put, Android apps are now vitally important for any global media or brand enterprise – now more so than ever, in light of the platform’s pervasiveness. Maintaining a lower-quality, or feature-poor, Android version of an app that is better on the iOS platform can no longer be explained away with glib stats about difference segment profiles with iPhone users or ignored because Apple developer expertise was earlier to market. App marketers and publishers better have financial and usage data to back up their development investment priorities – and it better align proportionally. Google hasn’t elected to belabor this point by using “the stick” – instead, we view this new ratings-sort feature in the Play Store as an important signal that they intend to provide more “carrots” to motivate app managers to focus on what their diverse, increasingly-global mobile customer base really wants and values. In our view, this is one small example of a much larger key strategic shift in Google’s ability to signal how they intend to help – and reward – app publishers who prioritize app quality in their Android-specific app development and innovation efforts.

3) Mobile Customer Needs Come First – Ignore Them At Your Peril

Finally, Google’s ratings-sort feature acknowledges (at long last) that their Play Store app discovery capabilities have under-delivered to their growing customer base for too long – and they intend to change that. Our prediction is that this is just the first step. We will continue to pay attention to the new tools – and improved quality of Play Store + organic search results – that elevating the importance of app customer evaluations motivates them to create. So here’s the final strategic question we’ll leave you with: “If the most efficient company in the history of the world at organizing and presenting useful information to Internet users is signalling that they intend to raise their emphasis on effective discovery of quality applications, what do YOU intend to do to ensure that your Android app(s) perform at their best for customers?”289008691_2d063fdf97

If you are running a business that is dependent upon mobile customer experiences and commerce – and really, who *isn’t* these days – are you paying enough attention to driving app quality on all of the key mobile platforms? Are you using all of the data at your disposal – both public data like app store ratings, reviews, and meta-data, as well as private data like user mobile OS share and ARPU – to ensure your development and marketing efforts are appropriate? Are you letting historical bias (or just your own personal mobile OS platform preferences) guide an under-emphasis on Android app improvement, quality, and customer regard? Most of all, are you listening to – and engaging with – your mobile app customers with equivalent empathy and focus, regardless of which mobile platform app they are using of yours? In our view, these are some of the important strategic questions that this seemingly small Play Store experience improvement provoke.

As always, we welcome your comments and views on the topic. We know where we stand on the matter: every mobile customer is unique, valued, and valuable – and every customer deserves to receive the highest-quality experience that your resources and developers can deliver. But don’t believe us – just look at Google. They just raised the bar on expectations for app quality and customer evaluations of same. Our bet is that they intend to raise it further still as the mobile marketplace continues to grow and mature.

 

 

 

 

dreamforce

Dreamforce #DF14 – Relationships Always Matter Most

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This year the spectacle that is Salesforce.com’s “Dreamforce” conference / hubbub / bizdev scrum / fiesta has reached new heights of both technology – and cultural – impact. It is one of the most important events all year for software and digital marketing people because it provides the chance for people usually at a distance to see each other in the real world and improve our personal and professional relationships with each other.

There as ample evidence of this theme in the names and featured content of the actual sessions this year, too. Fully 74 of the sessions listed included the word in the title or description.

Therefore, we thought we’d take that lens and apply it to our summary of the week.

We have the benefit of a first-person vantage point on Dreamforce this year. Our CEO Robi participated in a panel entitled “GROW OR DIE! From Idea to IPO: Fund and Grow your Startup which was part of the Startups @Dreamforce content track on Monday. Robi spent the remainder of the week there also — forming new relationships, renewing old ones, and generally observing the whole thing. What follows are some personal observations of his about how the theme of real, personal relationships struck a chord with him during the conference.

Direct Dispatches from @RGanguly at the ‘Relationships Festival’, #DF14:

A few choice quotes from the conversation between Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman @WEF and Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton, natch) during the Day 2 session featuring them:

  • “The world needs dialog. Because dialog builds trust.” – Klaus Schwab, Founder @WEF #DF14
  • “You have to sustain the community” – Klaus Schwab, Founder @WEF #DF14
  • “You have to have face-to-face trust interactions and constant digital communication” – Klaus Schwab, Founder @WEF #DF14
  • “The Leaders of Today need: Passion & Professionalism, Vision and Values, The Heart, and, these days strong nerves” – Klaus Schwab, Founder @WEF #DF14
  • “At Dreamforce, ethics are as important as electronics” – @hillaryclinton #DF14
  • “If you are not in dialog, if you are not communicating and building trust, you are not building relationships.” – @hillaryclinton #DF14

Hillary Clinton also shared stories of how leaders (FDR, Kennedy, Eisenhower) used to have time to recreate and think: human beings haven’t changed that much, but the scrutiny, the attention, the negative approach has created very difficult hurdles for those who want to serve and want to lead, to do so. Her point was that the media has intensified scrutiny over time, while the amount time spent reporting the actual news has dramatically shrunk. In discussing this, she made a point that I thought was particularly insightful and really something worth keeping in mind:

“Technology has put a higher premium on face-to-face meetings and encounters. To go to them. To listen to them in their settings. In unlikely settings. I don’t think there is any substitute to spending that time together.” – @HillaryClinton

For us, one of the key takeaways from Dreamforce is that it presents a chance for us all in this industry to remember what the words behind the acronym ‘CRM’ *really* mean. It is a moment in time when we should all recall that “Customers” matter most. When we can all remind ourselves that “Relationships” are what create the most value in business, as in life. Managing both requires not only powerful software, but a little time spent together – face to face – in the real world sometimes.

Cheers from the conclusion of #DF14, and from all of us @Apptentive.

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October Events Round-Up: Apptentive at Home and Away

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It is the start of a busy few weeks here at Apptentive, and with a healthy list of events at home and abroad we thought we would kick off this week (and #Dreamforce #DF14 !) with a short round-up of where we will be and how to find us.

DreamforceHeaderStarting off the annual Salesforce San Francisco SaaS festival TODAY, our fearless leader CEO Robi Ganguly (@rganguly for those seeking to meet up with him this week in SF) is participating in a panel titled, “GROW OR DIE! From Idea to IPO: Fund and Grow your Startup. The panel kicks off a track at Dreamforce focused on Startups and is located at the Westin St. Francis at Noon today. If you’ve just arrived in San Francisco for the big event, or you’re a resident looking to learn as much as you can about startup success strategies, head on over to check it out. Robi is joined by an impressive array of other young company leaders. Even if you can’t make the panel discussion today, Robi will be in San Francisco attending DF14 and taking meetings all over the city this week — consider this an open invite to track him down on Twitter or email and connect.

Screenshot 2014-10-01 at 10.12.03 AMLater this week, we have both education and social events to highlight.  First, on Thursday October 16th at 10:00 a.m. PT / 1:00 p.m. ET, Robi will be participating in a great webinar (really a Google+ Hangout) hosted by our friends at the Application Developers Alliance on the topic of “Measuring Customer Lifetime Value: Know Your Customers, Increase Revenue“. If you are a mobile application program manager, product manager, or marketer who is accountable to your company for more than just app downloads/installs, don’t miss it.

Screenshot 2014-10-13 at 11.35.43 AMLater that evening, we are back in the real world as we host our usual monthly ‘Appy Hour‘ event here in Seattle for the mobile development and management community. This month we are delighted to be holding the event at Rhapsody’s corporate offices! We hope that many of our friends from previous Appy Hours will come out for the evening and meet new colleagues, share ideas or projects they are working on, and enjoy themselves. Appy Hour is our way of saying “Thanks” back to the mobile development and marketer community here in our hometown – the more the merrier, and find out more + RSVP here.

And that’s just this week!

Looking ahead to the near future, we will be continuing the ‘Appy Hour‘ events in San Diego (on November 6, building upon a successful and well-attended event recently – also @EvoNexus) and with a soon-to-be-announced ‘Appy Hour’ in Los Angeles as well. We will update all of our Angelinos in the next week or so via this blog and our social channels once the Los Angeles event is finalized!

Lastly, wanted to let everyone know that we’ve started cataloguing all of our planned Events and speaking activities on our “Press and Events” page on the site. If you ever are wondering where we are headed and what we’re doing IRL, feel free to visit that page and click through to the Meetup or Conference/Event pages to find out more and plan accordingly.

All the best from us, and we look forward to seeing you in person at one of these events in the next few weeks – or in attendance virtually at the LTV webinar.

[Oh and while we have your attention, the big Seattle Interactive Conference is happening this week as well. Although we won’t be sponsoring or speaking at it, if you’re going to be in town and want to meet up please get in touch or just leave a comment below with your Twitter handle. Cheers.]

 

 

 

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Release Day: Overview of New Dashboard and Conversations Features

Today is another exciting release day at Worldwide Apptentive HQ, and we’re pleased to announce two new features which have been requested by customers with increasing regularity. These features are being pushed live across all instances of our platform at every customer price tier – so enjoy the new flexibility that these offer you, if you are a customer!

1) Dynamic Date Ranges for App Health Reporting Dashboard

We often heard that our frequent Dashboard-using customers wanted the ability to modify applicable date ranges for their core App Health Dashboard, thereby refreshing the data powering all of the insight modules on the Dashboard. We recently pushed this live and invite our customers to try it out. You will be able to increase or decrease the applicable date range (from the previous 1-month, un-modifiable default) in the upper right header where the Dashboard Report dates are displayed. In so doing, the date range on Love Score chart module below updates to cover the entire date range selected… or at least back to the start of activation of our SDK and service in your relevant app(s).

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New Dashboard view, with new dynamic date range feature highlighted. With a Giant Red Arrow. Because we love Giant Red Arrows!

 

2) Conversation Search

For those customers with active customer conversations enabled by our Message Center platform module, we frequently heard feedback that our customers wanted the ability to query against their customer message submissions. We are pleased to share that this feature is now complete and live across all customer instances of the platform on the “Conversations” tab of our customer service management application.

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Conversation Search enables Apptentive customers to query the application user Conversation submissions and responses handled by our Message Center platform module.

As our platform improvements release schedule settles in to a regular rhythm here, we will always strive to use our blog as the ‘first / best’ location to learn about these new version releases and feature enhancements. Look for the “Product Release News” post Category as our way of identifying platform release updates in the future.

Warm regards from all of us at Apptentive – and as always, we welcome our customers’ feedback (and ideas) on product enhancements here in the Comments, via our GitHub page or StackOverflow, and of course via our direct feedback channels.

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Building our team: new funds and partners for growth

It’s all about relationships

At the core, our company is about building relationships. Establishing relationships with our customers. Forming relationships with our strategic and software eco-system partners. Helping our customers build better relationships with their customers.

As we continue to build Apptentive, it’s helpful for us to remind ourselves of this simple fact. It drives how we make decisions and with whom we choose to work.

Today I have the pleasure of sharing that we’ve added some very meaningful partners to our company in the process of raising our Series A. Working with the good people at SurveyMonkey and Origin Ventures, we’re taking the next step in our company’s evolution. I’m also delighted to have the continued support of our early investors, with Golden Venture Partners, Founders Co-Op and our many angels joining all four of the co-founders in participating in this round as well.

On behalf of all of us here at Team Apptentive, I’d like to share some personal thoughts about what this means for our growing company. While fundraising is often perceived as being about the money, for us this is really more about the growth we’re experiencing and the continued investments we need to make in order to deliver on the expectations of our customers and ourselves.

Believing in the concept of “Customer Love”

First, I love that we found people who are as committed as we are to the concept of “Customer Love” in SurveyMonkey and Origin Ventures. We are living in a new era where customers are once again being appreciated for what they really are: the most important strategic focus for every company worth it’s salt. Customers, not companies, are the engines of the modern economy. Earning the love – not just the respect or the admiration – of each and every customer is an increasingly crucial task for every company today. The most innovative and successful companies know this already and are doubling down on this commitment… with great outcomes as a result.

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Origin Ventures’ Steve Miller and Bruce Barron

In Origin Ventures, we now have a long-term investment partner which brings deep experience and relationships with many of the largest consumer product and brand companies in the world. Not to mention a team of partners, including Steve Miller and Bruce Barron (pictured here working away on a Mac signed by…oh just, you know… The Woz) and Brent Hill, who really understand not just what kind of mobile software platform we’re building here, but why.

Software development and design innovation are speeding up even as their costs decrease. At the same time, new customer feedback channels have dramatically increased the speed and quality of our insight into what *really matters most* to people. The rise of social media has helped dramatically raise the volume of the customer’s voice. Now mobile devices and applications are quickly changing the game once again. This is why earning customer love – through more efficient and effective mobile app communications – is what we’ve been focused on helping companies do since Day One here.

In Tim Cook’s recent remarks accompanying the latest Apple product releases, he emphasized the importance at his company of delivering an amazing customer engagement experience at every point-of-contact with Apple’s devices, software, and services. apptentive-deviceWe totally agree about the first-priority focus they place on customer delight. But we also want to point out that there is one vital aspect of the mobile experience where Apple, Google, Microsoft, and others in the devices-and-software market simply “go dark” as it relates to customers: inside the applications. This is exactly where companies need to dig deeper and turn their software into communications channels. This is also where Apptentive comes in.

Finding partners who understand this opportunity and who believe in the importance of companies getting more personal has always been a crucial part of our decision criteria. I’m delighted that in our new partners SurveyMonkey and Origin Ventures, we’ve found this shared belief in spades.

Ensuring that Our Customers Love Us

Second, I love the response that we’re hearing from many of our own customers about their experience integrating and using our mobile CRM software tools. Raising our Series A round gives us a variety of options for how best to fuel our next wave of growth plans. One of the most important inputs into these decisions will be the ideas and feedback we’re getting from our current (and soon-to-be!) Apptentive customers. Chuks-Personify.iTSo, keep it coming. We are striving to earn your love of us every day – not only through our software, but also through our team and approach. Consider this a humble request not to congratulate us on this news, but instead to share with us what you love about our company today and how we can do better for you tomorrow.

Growth isn’t just external – often, great growth comes because of internal refinement, insight and focus. Our company has benefited substantially by seeking out mentors and partners who can help us grow into the company we strive to be. In searching for partners who can help us serve our customers better, we really aimed to find great operating experience – people who have built great businesses, delighted their customers, and grown amazing teams in the process. We think we’ve accomplished that goal in this fundraising round.

It Takes A Team to Deliver on Love

Most importantly, I love the team and the company that we are building here at Apptentive. We believe that there is something quite powerful – and motivating – in helping our customers earn their own customers’ love and loyalty through better, more personal communications. We try to incorporate this concept into our priorities for building this company, too. I am so excited about the prospect of welcoming more talented people who share these values and want to join us in achieving this ambitious mission.Feelin-the-love

So if you know talented engineers, marketers, and customer success and sales people (or if you are one yourself) who have that *extra bit* – the “love your work” bit – woven into the fabric of their careers, then consider this my shameless pitch to get in touch soon. Did I mention that we’re hiring? You can learn more about the amazing team that we get to work with every day here.

It’s been an exciting day to reflect. Now it’s time to get back to work.

Let’s keep building the app love… one customer at a time.

Team Apptentive

Robi, Mike, Andrew, Sky, Josh, Steve, Red, Andrew, Peter, Matthew, Stacia, Christy, Nick, Blake and Clay (and perhaps, you)

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WWDC 2014 – Apple’s developer relationships mature

Open.

Apple opened up – it showed us more love, more insight into what’s coming next and more answers. Last week’s WWDC was notable in its universal inspiration of developers. The reason was a simple one: they felt like they’d been heard. As @jsnell wrote before WWDC, there is a new confidence to this version of Apple. This Apple shares more and listens harder. Gruber and Matt Drance agree that this WWDC was a monumental success, covering most of the main requests from the developer community and then shocking them with the dream of a new beginning. It feels like Swift is a jolt of forced fresh thinking at just the right time.

To The Cloud.

I find it fascinating to watch Apple transform in front of us. The future of computing is service-oriented. Unfortunately, services are an area of weakness for Apple. iCloud continues to be unreliable, the App Store has been massively behind Google Play’s innovation curve and the company who defined act 1 of digital music looks downright old in Act 2:  Beats seems like a blatant admission. Apple can’t afford to give up here, however. They realize that the changes might render them irrelevant. Not immediately, but over the next 10 to 15 years. Apple knows what it’s like to peak and then be beaten. They have respect for how quickly this can change. So they’re changing themselves, working to build out more services and taking more “risk”. As Matt shared, Apple struggles with a more open, services-oriented approach because of how they perceive risk:

The massive technical and political change required and subsequently generated by things like extensibility, third-party keyboards, and a new programming language, bears massive risk both inside and outside of Apple. That risk — to security, to battery life, to a consistent experience that customers know and trust — was constantly evaluated when I fought for SDK enhancements as a Technology Evangelist inside Apple. And more often than not, it was decided either that the risks were too high, or that there wasn’t enough time to solve the problem while sufficiently containing those risks.”

Contrast that with Google, Amazon and Facebook: they have grown up in a services-oriented world and are steeped in how to iterate quickly and take “risks” with developer-facing offerings. The word risk means different things to these companies – they’re used to deploying their software into the cloud. Apple is getting more comfortable with this concept, finally. You can see it with their announcements about iOS 8. A lot of the announcements were about upgrades to their developer services. You can see this by dissecting two of the most interesting areas of change:

  • The notifications center and app widgets
  • The App Store and iTunes Connect

Notification Center and App Widgets

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Screenshots of the new widgets in notification center

There is a strong argument to be made that notification center will be the most important screen on your iPhone or iPad. Similar to Google Now, notifications center has the opportunity to highlight core information at the right time. However, instead of Google determining what information to show, Apple is letting developers create the experience and compete for the attention of their customers.

Widgets enable more information to be accessible through the notification center. We fully expect more apps to be including widgets and working to ensure adoption of their widgets. This new channel for communication on a customer’s home screen will be used for marketing, customer feedback, follow-up and ongoing reminders of an app’s value. If you’re an informational app, there’s no reason you need to have a customer open your app in order to access crucial information. App Widgets and the updates to Notification Center are exciting developments and we can’t wait to experiment with them with our customers. But I bring up Notification Center and App Widgets as an example of how Apple is moving into services: cautiously but in a way that’s giving developers more control over the entire iOS experience.

If we’re right and Notification Center ends up consuming more of consumer time on the mobile device, this is an important decision. Apple, historically so careful with the customer experience, is giving the keys to the engagement castle away, trusting that developers will do the right things. This new Apple is letting developers define the mobile experience.

What will be interesting to observe is what happens when app developers get too aggressive with their widgets. Will the review process begin to test notifications out? Will developers be throttled in their widget activity? What extra controls will be embedded in the Settings section to give people control over the noise in Notification Center?

App Discovery and Marketing in the App Store

While much is made of iCloud and iTunes, the App Store is likely Apple’s most impactful web service today. Unfortunately, app discovery and search in the the App Store have long been a point of contention because developers and publishers have felt like they had insufficient tools and very little insight into the decision-making processes. While we don’t expect all of that to change with this update, it’s clear that Apple has invested more time and energy in improving the experience, both for publishers and app customers. Most of the improvements that were made should improve search, discoverability, reporting, attribution and conversion tracking. Fundamentally, the App Store team is providing a service that helps mobile businesses grow and they’re starting to act like it.

Apple's iOS 8 should bring related search

Related Search coming soon?

Improved Search

The changes don’t appear to be deployed yet on iOS 8 devices – but from the keynote, Apple’s new app store search will include “trending searches.” Similar to trends on Twitter, this feature gives insight into what are current popular searches in the App Store. It will be interesting to see how these suggestions will differ from the apps that appear in the Top Charts.

Replacing the “Apps Near Me” Section

Apple's iOS 8 will revamp app discovery

Bye bye “Apps Near Me”

Apple’s new “Explore” function in the App Store is a major improvement over the previous “Apps Near Me” feature that had limited use cases. With “Explore,” you are able to easily drill down into sub categories of each app vertical to find apps that suit your needs. The key takeaway here is that Apple is clearly experimenting with discovery methods and once “Apps Near Me” proved to be unsuccessful, they weren’t afraid to change it up.

App Previews

App previews have been desired by publishers for years – demonstrating an interactive app with flat screenshots is just not sufficient to the task. Great app previews will provide a boost in downloads for apps by telling the story more effectively. For paid apps this will become an important tool for converting visitors into a paid install. For more information on app previews and how to make them effective, our friends at Apptamin have written a great post with tips on how to use them. What remains to be seen is how Apple is going to deal with the quality question: many of the previews will be of poor quality. Is the review process now going to encompass reviewing your App Preview? If so, how much time is this going to add to the review process?

Beta Testing

It’s no secret that beta testing has been a frustrating experience for most iOS developers. As apps get more sophisticated and customer expectations rise, it’s absolutely crucial that developers conduct some testing and get feedback from customers before launching the apps more broadly. Launching with a buggy or incomplete app is just not an option for companies with an existing brand and customer base. This process has been significantly limited by Apple’s provisioning requirements and limits.

The purchase of TestFlight implied that this was going to get more attention from Apple and sure enough, WWDC confirmed this. Making it much easier to ship beta versions of apps to up to 1000 people (note that each person can have multiple devices, really increasing the scope of testing) is a huge win for publishers. The quality of apps is certainly going to improve as a result. The fact that Apple saw this area as truly important and crucial to the ecosystem further underlines their movement to a service-oriented approach – they have to be a provider of ongoing services that improve the app development and release process and testing is a crucial piece of the puzzle now.

Reporting

Reporting and analytics have long been subpar in iTunes Connect. If you wanted to understand how many people took a look at your app’s App Store page, well, that was just impossible. If you wanted to try and implement attribution tracking, you had to work with HasOffers or another outside vendor, which meant that the vast majority of developers weren’t even thinking about the problem. Trying to understand your app’s retention and installation activity? You better set up an analytics package and get comfortable with their reports. While there were many developers who invested in analytics, attribution and other reporting tools, the problem with the lack of information coming out of Apple was that key pieces of the puzzle were missing. Without App Store view and conversion data, every other analysis was an incomplete guess. Furthermore, the vast majority of developers weren’t taking the time to invest in these tools, resulting in suboptimal results.

With more information about customer needs and actions comes better software. Apple’s rollout of reporting and analytics tools should reverse this state of affairs, democratizing the data and information about app store behavior, unleashing a wave of more finely honed app strategies and better informed developers. Many of us thought Apple just didn’t want to share this data, but WWDC communicated that Apple understands our problems and wants to help us be more successful. By investing in this area of iTunes Connect Apple is making it easier for the rest of us who help app publishers to deliver a full picture of customer activity and behavior. Our in-app communications tools help with app store download conversion and customer retention.

Now that Apple’s providing us the core data for these calculations, we can help our customers contextualize that data and act upon it instead of spending numerous cycles just to estimate impacts and results.

Looking forward: designing a better mobile experience

In addition to the items we’ve highlighted above, there are many more inspiring features that we’ll all be discovering in the coming months. You can find a full overview on all the features released in iOS 8, but the most interesting pieces won’t be clear for at least 6 months. Once iOS 8 is out the door and in the hands of consumers, we’ll get to see how the new changes are helping us make better apps and be more successful. We’re excited to see how this unfolds with a newly open and supportive Apple. We can’t wait.

App Marketing

App Marketing Conversations: Q4 & Holiday Planning

The holidays are almost here and App Marketers have to prioritize!

In this installment of App Marketing Conversations we talked about the upcoming holiday season and how important it is to prioritize your marketing activities in order to make the most of the influx of new customers. With less than 6 weeks to Christmas, it’s important to plan for how you’re going to attract brand new customers, learn about how they’re different from your existing base and understand how to keep them. In addition, if you haven’t created your ad and marketing plan for the holidays and determined your absolute drop dead ship date, you’re already behind the ball. Take a look at the video from this week’s App Marketing Conversations to find out more specifics.

The Transcript:
Robi: Hello and welcome to another App Marketing Conversations. I’m Robi
Ganguly from Apptentive. As always, I’m joined by Ryan Morel from
Gamehouse, and Ian Sefferman from MobileDevHQ. We’re missing Darwin.
Ian: That’s right.Robi: But, you know.

Ian: It’s a good thing.

Ryan: Darwin’s in the corner.

Robi: For those who checked out last week’s segments, you might have
noticed that Darwin was acting up a little bit. We want to talk about Q4,
so we’re wrapping up Q3, here. And we know that many marketers out there
are thinking about how to close out the year, and Q4 is historically big
for many companies, especially retail, travel.

As you’re thinking about Q4, and we’ve had a number of years of experience
in the app ecosystem. I think there are some lessons for how to plan around
this, and how to time your product launches. So, we thought we’d share some
tips and tricks and get into that a little bit.

And then take comments and questions, so we can dig in more over the course
of the quarter.

So let’s start off, number one piece of advice that you would give to your
app marketers thinking about their Q4 planning?

Ian: If you haven’t started planning yet, it’s already too late. Like get
on the stick. Right. Q4 needs to happen early November, not late December.
Timing is everything, and having that strategy ready is gold.

Robi: What about you?

Ryan: Yes. So I think my biggest piece of advice would depend on the
company size, is not only make sure you have it planned early, but make
sure you’re starting it early. So you’re optimizing around that probably
two weeks before Christmas for two things. One, velocity of your ranking,
so that when the App Store shuts down, which it inevitably will, you’re at
the right spot. And that your user retention monetization metrics are
right.

Ian: And this is something that is really interesting, which is about the
ranking. Because I’ve always found it really weird that they shut down
rankings. Like I just never understood it. But Apple has been playing with
their rankings a pretty good amount, recently, leading me to think that
they might actually be getting ready for some sort of big change that
they’ve never done in Q4.

And it’s almost like, “Okay, well, I don’t understand what Apple’s going to
do. How do I manage around that?” And it’s like, start getting those
download velocity, ensure you have that engagement and retention, ensure
you have the right ratings, ensure your reviews look good. And like get all
of the first order priorities right, and then let the rest take care of
itself when it does, whenever it does happen, right.

Ryan: Yes.

Ian: I just have this vague sense that they’re going to change something
during Q4 this year.

Robi: Well, so…

Ryan: Prediction time.

Robi: The idea that they’ve been shifting more and more about their
rankings recently, I think underscores the fact that the historic shut down
of the App Store has indicated that it’s been highly manual, right? That
the way that they think about rankings, the way that they think about
reviews, all that stuff’s intertwined and dependent upon people. And so, if
they’re shifting a lot of the rankings, maybe they’ll be moving some of
that optimization more to their computers, which you would sort of expect,
right. It’s actually a little odd how manual it is.

So, if you assume that, then your point really is an important one.
Foundationally, we know that there are things that will matter, regardless
of whatever the algorithm ends of being. The core things that matter:
download velocity, retention, app ratings, and customer reviews. What else,
foundationally, should people be thinking about, that you think maybe
they’re not planning around as much?

Ryan: I think product launch timing is really important. So, I mean, you’re
going to see like certain developers are planning to launch their games in
early December, late November, whatever it may be. And those developers
have existing relationships with Apple and can negotiate placement, right.

There was news, unconfirmed comments this week, that Apple had either paid
PopCap, probably not, more likely, guaranteed placement for them to do IOS
exclusive. Like that stuff happens. So, if you’re not one of those people
who can get that type of promotion from Apple, you need to be watching
beforehand. The last thing you want to do is launch your title at the same
time that EA launches Battlefield on IOS or something like that. You’re
just going to get drowned out.

Robi: Rule of thumb. Would you say launch title by the first week of
December, or launch it before Thanksgiving?

Ryan: I mean this is just my opinion, I would do like early November.

Robi: Okay.

Ryan: Give you a chance to see what’s happening, drive some downloads, make
an update before Thanksgiving. Because Thanksgiving is also probably the
second busiest weekend on the App Store. Then see what happens right after
Thanksgiving; one more update, and then you punt. Cross your fingers.

Robi: Right.

Ryan: Because Christmas, I mean, it can’t be underscored how profitable
Christmas and the four days after it are. It’s unbelievable.

Robi: I find it really interesting; it’s not exactly Black Friday, you
know. And this isn’t the retail sector. But it is very much a meaningful
portion of the year in discovery for a lot of consumers, and then, by
extension, app marketers.

Ryan: Yes.

Ian: Huge.

Robi: So let’s talk a little bit more about the IOS7 aspect of this. Does
that matter, if you were thinking about the Q4 and IOS7 is sort of nice to
have? Are you crazy? Should you be pulling that in and saying, “I have to
be supporting IOS7 by the time?”

Ryan: Yes. So I think one of the, this is a guess. I’m totally making this
up; maybe this isn’t true. So what happens around the holidays? People get
together, and people talk and share things about what they’re interested
in. So AirDrop becomes really interesting, right.

So, if you’re not supporting IOS7, I’m not sure that AirDrop will work for
you, but it seems like a kind of no-brainer, right now. But the kids
sitting around on Christmas morning, or afterwards, whatever, are sharing
games via AirDrop. You have to be supporting it.

Ian: Yes, I agree with that. I think another reason why is, if you want any
hope of Apple featuring you, right, like if you care about that at all,
they simply won’t do it unless you’re optimized with their latest stuff.
They don’t give a sh** about you.

Robi: Yes. So we’ve been talking quite a bit about the App Store, as it
pertains to, Apple’s App Store. What about the Google Play Store? Same
foundational stuff? Same dynamics? Or are there differences that marketers
should be taking into account as they think about their Android releases?

Ian: I mean certainly like I don’t see the same rush to get things in. I
mean, you don’t have the shut down the same way. You can continue to do it.
But I think all of the things that we’re talking about foundationally, that
all sits on the same premise of have your ducks in a row; make sure you’re
aligned for this massive jump. That the jump isn’t going to be the same;
consumer demand isn’t going to be the same.

Ryan: Yes, I think that’s right. I have one more question for you. Like, if
you’re a new developer, because we’ve consistently heard that ratings are
an increasingly important thing. You don’t have a lot of volume. How can
you get that initial set of ratings? And how can you manage around that?

Robi: Well, I think there are two things. And one that is very much
underestimated, and very much why we’re talking about Q4 planning now, is
timing. You just, you have to be out there for a period of time, especially
if you’re new.

It’s not just going to explode, right, like you have to give yourself room
for people to download your app, use it, start interacting. And potentially
rating it if they’re happy, and if they’re not happy, finding out really
quickly. So that takes time. You can’t really force that stuff. Even if you
were to buy a lot of downloads. As we know, we’ve talked about it a lot,
it’s not necessarily going to be translated into consumers who are going to
be using it on a regular basis. Which means those are not consumers who are
going to rate you well. So that’s sort of one thing.

The second is that, if you do have other titles, and you’re sort of new in
this space, you could do some stuff with your existing audience that will
move people over to your newest apps. And that’s an asset you could do. And
I would say, sort of begging, pleading to get to your first 20 or 30
ratings, if you’re really brand new, is important. And people can do that.
We find, it’s better to get people outside of your network to do that. You
know, if you have to resort to asking your friends and family to go down on
your app and rate it because you have no attraction, nobody’s rated it,
then that will work, too.

Ryan: Yes. After how many, we’re maybe getting off-topic here, but you see
a lot of games or apps ask for ratings like almost right away, that’s
probably bad?

Robi: Our data says that’s horrible.

Ryan: Okay.

Robi: People hate that. They don’t go and rate it; they don’t take action
on it. But then they’ll also go and complain.

Ryan: Yes.

Robi: And say, “I haven’t even used your service; I haven’t used your app
at all. Why would I do that?” So we often find, and suggest to people using
our tools, to be conservative, and then sort of ramp it up more
aggressively as you get data and we report to people on the outcomes around
that.

So like a conservative estimate for a lot of apps is after it’s been on a
device for ten days, and it’s been used five to ten times, that seems like
it’s at least an indication that that person has made some commitment to
that experiment with your app to get to places that are, you know,
successful for them.

And then, what’s really important is to think about what’s unique to your
app as a success metrics. If you’re a utility, and people can actually use
you to like set up like a calendar invite, or something like that, that’s
probably aligned with them really adopting your app, as opposed to just
kind of poking around.

Ryan: Right.

Robi: So, last thoughts on Q4. We’ll come back to this, but last piece of
advice for marketers, as they’re planning?

Ian: You know my last piece of advice that we haven’t talked about is
actually get out of the marketing room and make sure your engineering is
also on track with this. Especially if you have any services in the Cloud,
make sure your infrastructure is ready.

Robi: That’s great advice.

Ryan: Yes, so, I would potentially think about pre-paying. Or you know,
negotiating now around any advertising revenue. So, especially at, well,
like this week, in the next couple of days, because we’re at the end of Q3,
people are maybe running deals and they will be happy to sandbag a little
bit. So you might be able to get some pre-paid discounts on advertising.
But I would be getting that set up now.

Robi: Yes. And I think that you should really think seriously about doing
an audit, right. How is your app, how are your teams doing in term of App
Store optimizations? How is your download velocity looking? How are your
ratings or reviews looking? How is sentiment inside your app around
customer satisfaction?

If you’re not aware of that, you can do an audit early on, to also tell
yourself and your team where you need to be by the end of November, if you
really want to be ready.

Great, well, be sure to like this, share with your friends, and check out
the other segments this week. Thanks.

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