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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.

 

 

 

 

MobileTeamThumbnail

Swift, Material Design, Wearables and More – Google I/O and WWDC

The experts on Apptentive’s Mobile Team provide answers to your questions about from between app development to successfully marketing your app. Got a question? Ask it in our comment section below or on Twitter using #MobileTeam. In each post we’ll highlight a different topic where the Mobile Team will share their insight and experience.

This week we asked the Mobile Team:
What are you most excited about from Apple’s WWDC 2014 or Google I/O and why?

Rod Burns
The introduction of new language Swift has got iOS developers very excited. I don’t know many developers who particularly enjoy using Objective-C and Swift will make developing for iOS easier and quicker for developers. The language is more akin to web programming languages like JavaScript and Go, where Objective-C is more old school like C++. There are still a lot of web developers who are making the move over to mobile and this is an important move for Apple to continue to attract developers to their platform.

Rod Burns - WIP

Chiu-Ki Chan
I am very excited to see the new Material design. It literally adds a new dimension to the UI – elevation. Elevation determines the size of shadows, and leads to very natural animations. Another great addition is color accents. Developers no longer need to customize every single widget to brand the app. Just specify a color palette in the theme, and voila, the whole app is tinted accordingly. Material design comes with a comprehensive guide on the thinking behind the design, implementation dos and don’ts, and lots of visual examples. It looks beautiful.

Google I/O is stuffed with announcements beyond Material design, and believe it or not, the next thing that got me excited was Cardboard. Yup, it is a piece of cardboard, with lens, magnets and NFC tag. Add a phone, and you get a virtual reality viewer. The magnets are especially ingenious: one magnet is inside the box, to hold the outside magnet within a groove. Pull the outside one down, and the magnetometer on the phone detects the change in magnetic field to trigger a button event. This is how you select an item on the phone while it is trapped inside the cardboard box. Clever, isn’t it? I don’t really have any particular use for a VR viewer, but Cardboard is really fun!

Chiu-Ki Chan -Square Island

Dan Counsell
There were so many great new API’s announced at WWDC 2014, it really opens up so many new opportunities for developers. I can already see us taking advantage of Handoff and App Extensions in both Clear and Ember. For example, we could now write a widget for Notification Centre that shows your most recent tasks from Clear – This is something users have been asking for and we’ve never been able to offer before.

As a user I’m probably most looking forward to the new cleaner look in OS X Yosemite. I’m also very excited for HomeKit and HealthKit, the possibilities for both of these are mind blowing.

Dan Counsell - DanCounsell.com

Ben Johnson
Apple’s new Continuity features of OS X Yosemite and iOS are extremely exciting. The free interchange of information between Mobile, Tablet, Desktop, and TV only further bolsters Apple’s position as a truly unique cross platform ecosystem. There are some fantastic new use cases that will come out of this and we’re really looking forward to including some of this advanced functionality in our apps to make software even easier to use.

Ben Johnson – Raizlabs

Mike Lee
The keynote announcements from these events are always a mix of exciting and scary. New things are exciting! Doubly so for developers and others working in technology, because new things change our direction, for better or for worse. That’s the scary part, because you don’t know.

Even now, a month later, with the new ideas in grasp, and the new betas installed, I’m not sure. It takes time to see how things pan out. Exciting! Scary!

We make technology because we get bored and dissatisfied with the old stuff, because we like the challenge of being kept on our toes, of not knowing whether we’re getting in on the ground floor, or wasting our time while the competition laps us.

Mike Lee – The New Lemurs

Kyle Richter
Apple has begun to make great strides towards unifying iOS and Mac not just from a design standpoint but with functionality like Handoff and Continuity. This feels like a level of maturity on both platforms that will usher in a new wave of exciting use cases. Thinking of all your technology as a single continuous device is definitely where the future is heading and it is very refreshing to see a company like Apple getting behind that drive.

Kyle Richter – Empirical Development

Dan Shapiro
The Wear products are fascinating. It’s most of the value of Google Glass, but delivered in a way that harmonizes with social norms instead of disrupting them. I’m wearing one now and it’s still a little too intrusive, but unlike Glass, that’s a software problem, not a hardware one.

Dan Shapiro – DanShapiro.com

Michele Titolo
There were a lot of awesome things announced during WWDC. iOS 8 is really a developer release. But the thing I’m most excited about is the changes we are starting to see from Apple; they are starting to open up more. We don’t have a WWDC-specific NDA this year. The Developer Forums will be index by search engines. When we are more free to talk and write about the new frameworks and APIs, everyone wins.

Michele Titolo – Michele.io

Conor Winders
From a pure developer perspective, Apple’s announcement of the Swift programming language is one of the most exciting things to happen the platform in years. The opportunity for existing and new developers who learn the language is immense. Apple might be talking a big game about supporting Objective-C and C long term but there should be no doubt that the future of the platform is Swift. Already we have seen a number of the new features of iOS and Xcode tied intrinsically to Swift.

In theory, a new language built from the ground up for iOS and the associated hardware is an incredibly powerful proposition. Apple will be able to do things that nobody else can even dream of, and we as developers have the chance to take that journey with them. From a more realistic perspective of course, we won’t really get to use Swift in anger for a year or two anyway, but it sure will be fun when we can.

Conor Winders – Redwind Software

What excites you the most from this year’s WWDC and Google I/O? Share your questions and comments below or by using #MobileTeam on Twitter.


App Monetization

Common Mistakes To Avoid When Monetizing Mobile Apps

The experts on Apptentive’s Mobile Team provide answers to your questions about from between app development to successfully marketing your app. Got a question? Ask it in our comment section below or on Twitter using #MobileTeam. In each post we’ll highlight a different topic where the Mobile Team will share their insight and experience.

This week we asked the Mobile Team:
What common mistakes should app developers avoid when trying to monetize their apps?

Rod Burns
The biggest mistake developers make is not devoting enough time to figuring out what their monetization strategy is. They have probably spent a very long time crafting their app but spend only a small amount of time figuring out the monetization mechanics. Understand your target audience/demographic and decide your strategy. Once launched use analytics to understand how people are using your app and keep pivoting, it’ll probably take some different tactics to get it right!

Rod Burns - WIP

Chiu-Ki Chan
Monetization is an integral part of app development. Not only that you should think about it from the beginning, you also need to keep adjusting it after launch. Experiment with different price points. Run discounts from time to time. Provide different bundles for your in-app products. Better start with a high price and adjust down – you may anger your users if you hike up the price after they got comfortable with the cheap options.

Chiu-Ki Chan -Square Island

Dan Counsell
Time and time again I’ve seen developers go straight to freemium and make pretty much nothing at launch, simply because they give away too much and didn’t attract enough users.

Unless you’re sure you can consistently get millions of downloads each month, then freemium is not for you. Paid is still far better for indie developers. If your app does well in the paid charts you can always try moving to freemium further down the line.

If you’re launching as freemium or switching to it, you should proceed with extreme caution.

Dan Counsell - DanCounsell.com

Ben Johnson
What Dan Counsell (above) said. I’ve both witnessed and personally experienced the perils of going freemium and giving away too much. Don’t undervalue your work and don’t be afraid to charge appropriately. If people don’t buy what you’re selling, then have the price cut conversation, but don’t set the bar too low right out of the gate.

Ben Johnson – Raizlabs

Mike Lee
There’s only one right way to make money and that’s by providing value. When you think only in terms of how you could make money, you’re thinking only of yourself. You get customers the way you get anyone else, by thinking of what they need, not what you want or can get away with.

Mike Lee – The New Lemurs

Kyle Richter
The biggest problem with App Store monetization is that developers often wait till after they have thought up and designed the project to add monetization on top of it. The most successful freemium apps are those that plan their in app purchase from the ground up and make it part of the experience.

Kyle Richter – Empirical Development

Dan Shapiro
If you are considering charging for your app, the most important question is how much it costs you to acquire a user. If you plan to advertise for your users, you need to understand your cost per click and conversion rate so that you know how much you need to charge to recoup it; this will often be $4.99+. If you are getting users for free, then you can target the much more attractive $0.99 price point. There’s nothing worse than advertising for an app and losing money on each install!

Dan Shapiro – DanShapiro.com

Michele Titolo
When making an app that you’re charging upfront for, don’t be tied to one price point. Be willing to play around a bit, and find where you can really maximize your revenue. Also, for more expensive apps, putting them on sale for a limited time can help generate buzz and get users exposed to your brand. Never underestimate the power of a user loving your brand!

Michele Titolo – Michele.io

Conor Winders
The price point or monetization strategy should be thought out at the very early stage of development. Whether to go free, paid, freemium, etc should impact how the app is built and what the user journeys are in the app. Often we see developers go premium and build an experience based on that, but then try and change the monetization strategy later on. I’ve rarely see that approach work. Research and decide up front exactly how you plan on monetizing and use that to inform how users will experience your app, don’t try and decide later on or change it later on.

And the other piece of advice I would have for anyone going premium is to immediately forget about how much you think your app is worth and canvas real world opinions from people you don’t know. Your friends will all tell you that your app is worth whatever you tell them you are planning on charging. However, the real world app store doesn’t work like that and you need to get real insight from your potential users.

Conor Winders – Redwind Software

Do you have any monetization strategies that were a success or lead to failure? Share your questions and comments below or by using #MobileTeam on Twitter.


App Marketing

App Marketing Conversations: Holiday 2013 Recap

2013 Holiday Trends for Mobile Consumers – Sales Data Showing Rise in Mobile Commerce

In this installment of App Marketing Conversations we talked about consumer trends during the holiday season and the growth of mobile commerce. After the holidays, IBM released shopping data around how people are spending money with mobile devices. Mobile commerce is taking a larger percentage of online sales each year and companies not seeing increases through mobile devices should be focusing more heavily on mobile. Android continues to own the mobile market, but consumers with Apple devices are spending more money.

Take a look at the video from this week’s App Marketing Conversations to learn more.

 

Robi: Good morning and welcome to another installment of “App Marketing Conversations.” As always, I’m joined by Ryan Morel of Game House, and Ian Sefferman of MobileDevHQ. And I’m Robi Ganguly from Apptentive. Happy New Year.

So, in the previous installments, we’ve been sort of talking about what happened over the holidays, and stats that have come out. We want to do a little bit of a deeper dive on some stuff from IBM. They had a lot of shopping data around how people were spending money using mobile devices.

So, a couple things to highlight. They said they represented about 17 percent of all online sales, and that was growth of 46 percent over last year. So, mobile’s share of online sales grew tremendously, even though online sales themselves as a total bucket were growing really pretty healthily as well.

And then, sort of not surprising, Apple was much larger than Android. So, I think that the numbers are basically that Apple represented something like 12, 13 percent of the total, and Android was about 2 1/2 , 3 percent. And then, more importantly, the dollars spent from Apple devices were a whole lot more than Android.

$115 to, I think the number is $83 for Android in some of their studies. And then, if you cut the numbers up different ways, you come out with different absolute numbers. But in general, consumers with Apple devices were spending a lot more money than people with Android devices.

So, as you look as this stuff, Ryan, what do you take from it that’s most interesting?

Ryan: The thing that I think is most interesting goes back to our other topics about saturation not really mattering, in terms of where the growth of the market is going to be. I find Android and like this really sucks. But I also go “Well, there’s a lot of opportunity here,” right, because I still own the market from a pure market share percentage. So, they have a lot of room to operate and grow.

If I’m Apple, I’m really excited because I can now go build meaningful businesses around retail and commerce that Android can’t right. So, you can go into retailers and say, “Hey, I represent 15 percent of your mobile sales, or your total online sales. Let’s do some interesting things, if I leak in kind of all this other commerce-structure stuff that we can do that no one else can. And that kind of just creates the ecosystem login and platform login. That I think it will be hard for everybody to compete with.

Robi: Yes.

Ryan: So I think – yes, that’s what I think is really interesting.

Robi: Got it, and what about for you? Is it the same thing, or is there something else?

Ian: Yeah, and I mean I agree with everything he said there. That the one thing that stuck out to me originally when I heard the stat was, I think 16 percent was the number, right, for overall percentage of online sales. Is thinking about who that is actually out sized for. Who is doing more than 16 percent?

And it wouldn’t surprise me to see like an eBay doing much more than 16 percent on mobile. I think eBay has done pretty well with mobile, especially if you were to add in PayPal. That, sort of to me, is not online sales.

Ryan: Yes.

Ryan: Thinking about that type of world. Obviously, the newer folks have done tremendously well. Fab, I think, most of the, depending on how you define Fab, is doing well right now. But Fab has done tremendously well on mobile.

Shopping app 1-ILO seems to be killing it in the App Store. So, not just the fact that overall, it’s at 16 percent. But the fact that there are pockets where it’s even higher is incredible to me.

Robi: Right, right, and I think, again, in every one of our segments, we’ve brought up Amazon, I think. The stats on Amazon’s mobile are really extraordinary. So, that’s another place where people are buying really quite a bit of stuff from Amazon directly through their mobile apps.

I did a number of times did this holiday season. It’s like, “Oh, this is something I’m going to buy. I’ll just do it now as I’m waiting for the bus.” Super convenient.

So, yeah. I think the overall number hides the extraordinary success some of the people are having underneath the covers. And that means, for an app marketer, you should be wondering why you’re below 16 or 17 percent if you are. What are you doing to actually boost that up and take advantage?

So, what we can give advice to marketers around using the mobile device to stay engaged with these customers, and get them to spend $120 with you?

Ryan: I don’t know whether I am the right person to be giving advice on any of that. But one of the other things that I read, which I found quite interesting was that, especially for clothing, people are two or three times more likely to buy using Touch-based devices versus PC.

Because for something about touching the shirt, or the pants, or whatever makes you more likely to buy it.

Ian: There’s a tactile, like the zooming of the images. That makes a lot of sense.

Ryan: The point I’m trying to make there is if you’re not making a mobile-optimized experience, either from a Web perspective, or even just an app perspective, and you’re trying to sell clothes, or things that people kind of touch, and feel as part of the experience with the actual product, you’re doing yourself a disservice. You need to do that now! Or a year ago, probably.

Ian: Yes. I think the two things that I think of when I think what advice marketers can pull from this first, is along that line which is…I mean not the vast majority, but a large percentage of eCommerce is through very small, independent, kind of crappy-looking websites, and things like that. And obviously, individually, they don’t make up a lot, but collectively they make up a good amount.

If those folks–and I think a wide margin of those folks have not yet implemented any sort of app strategy or mobile strategy at all. If they don’t, it’s going to be killed by the folks who do and come in with that. So, for them, I think they have to do it.

And then, the other piece of the puzzle is, I think, eCommerce, perhaps better than anybody else on the Web, has always done a great job of personalization, of targeting, of things like that. And whether that’s e-mail, or whether that’s the recommendation of a website, whatever it is.

And I think that stuff has to transfer to a mobile-focused orientation. Like, you have to port that to mobile in a way that’s friendly to mobile as well.

Robi: Yeah, absolutely. And in some ways, it’s easier on mobile. At least with phones, you can generally be assured that it’s one person using that device. Tablets have more sharing for sure. But like on PC, that assumption isn’t always there.

So, you get a lot of work to get people to register, and get them to log in on websites. And I think to a large extent, apps have less of that on the phone as a requirement. I still see a lot of apps that ask me to register the first time, and I think that that is generally kind of crazy.

Because to start with the assumption that that person is the owner of that phone. And if you want them to log in, show them some value later on. But you can personalize, already, just from having them use your app without them logging in and registering.
So, I think there’s a lot more opportunity on mobile to do that well.

It also seems like, because we were in the previous segment talking about television ads. Some of these premier brands that have been doing TV ads for years, if not decades, should be thinking about using those ads to engage their shopping base through the advertisement to get their app, to start spending money there.

Did you see…because we were talking about this, did you see any of these mainstream retailers talking about their apps?

Ian: Yeah, I think a lot have. And Macy’s has a lot of TV ads it’s just another app. Home Depot actually has a good amount of ads about their app as well.

It feels like there’s a solid traction there. And I know Target does a lot of ins, like part of Target’s app strategy is to really just be a companion to the in-store experience. So, they’re certainly doing some of that. Yes, I think a good amount are doing it.

Robi: Anything else we should cover on this topic? I think the general point is, thanks to IBM and their data, really quickly, lots of sales are happening through mobile devices. And if you were one of the companies that’s not seeing 15, 16, 17 percent of your online sales coming through mobile, it probably means, not the market hasn’t gotten there it’s just that you haven’t. You probably want to focus more on your mobile efforts and they’re best.

Ryan: It’s a little bit like SEO strategy and being held heavily reliant on Google search for your business. Because if you didn’t do it you were screwed. And we’re kind of almost at the point with mobile where, if you’re not doing it you’re screwed. You have to do it.

I think the numbers that I would like to see are what are the average sales for people on PC? If the average iOS user was spending $100, and Android was spending $80, or whatever it was. What is the average PC user spending? Because that’s…I’d be interesting to see that.

Ian: Yes. I don’t know if that 16 percent is percent of online sales revenue, or online sales numbers.

Ryan: Yes, because if it’s revenue and it’s 8 percent of numbers, then it’s like, “This is a totally different story than the one we thought.”

Robi: Yes. Good questions for sure. And if I find some of those answers, I’ll put them on the post. Great, well thanks for tuning in, be sure to “Like” this and share it. And check out the other installments this week and Happy New Year.

Ian: Thanks.

Ryan: Thanks.

Mobile App Group Message

Introducing Groups and Group Messaging

Groups and Group Messages enable you to place your customers into groups. This allows you to proactively send messages via Message Center to groups of customers who have similar interests, feedback, or questions regarding your app. These messages are delivered directly to the customer in app, and are a great way to follow up with your customers to keep them informed about the changes, fixes, and updates to your mobile app.

Creating Groups and Adding People

There are two ways to get started with Group Messages:

First, while viewing a conversation with a person, click on the “add/edit” link under “Groups” in the right hand panel. You may then add the person to a new or existing group, as well as remove the person from any existing groups that they may be a member of.

GroupInConversation

Second, click the “Groups” link from within the “Interactions” section of our website. You’ll be able to view all of the groups you have created, create new groups, and views details about specific groups.

CreateGroup

Sending a Group Message

Once your groups are created and you’ve added customers to them, you can send a message to the group by clicking on “Group Messages” within the “Conversations” section of our website.

For each group message you send, you can select the sender, the target group, and create the message. You can give each message a title, which is not shown to customers, that will help you manage the messages that have already been sent.

When you click “Send,” the message will be immediately sent to all people currently in the group. You can click on “Sent Group Messages” to see the  messages you’ve previously sent.

SendGroupMessage

Important Notes

When using Group Messages, please be aware of the following:

  • Messages are sent immediately to all members of the group and cannot be cancelled.
  • Messages are only sent to members of the group at the time the message is sent– if you subsequently add a person to a group, they will not receive any previously sent messages.
  • Group Messages will cause a notification (e.g. Push, Email) if you have them configured for your app.
  • Group Messages will not be forwarded to external integrations if you have them configured for your app (e.g. Zendesk, UserVoice, etc.). If the customer replies to the Group Message the response will, however, be sent to these systems.
  • Group Messages are supported on all versions of our SDKs that include Message Center.

We are really excited to announce the release of Groups and Group Messaging to all of our customers on a paid plan. The ability to group customers with similar interests, concerns, or questions into a single group and follow up with all them is an incredibly powerful tool. It creates a positive customer experience and helps you bring your customer support to the next level.

Following up with your customers can have a large impact on your customer base, and to show you what we mean, please read –  The Power of the Follow-Up Message. If you have any questions or feedback, don’t hesitate to send us a message from within the Apptentive Dashboard or through our contact form.

Mobile Team

The Mobile Team

The experts on Apptentive’s Mobile Team provide answers to your questions about everything between app development to successfully marketing your app. Got a question? Ask it in our comment section below or on Twitter using #MobileTeam. In each post we’ll spotlight a different topic where the Mobile Team will share their insight and expertise.

Meet the Team

Rod Burns
Rod Burns – Rod Burns has been working in mobile for more than 13 years and working with mobile app developers well before the iPhone revolutionized the space (when app pre-installs were the holy grail for developers). He worked on the platform side with Symbian, the device side at Sony, and helped games developers make amazing experiences at Marmalade, giving him a good perspective on all pieces of the mobile puzzle. Most recently he has been working with WIP, helping mobile developers be awesome through events like WIPJam and helping companies build communities around their developer programs.

WIP

Chiu-Ki
Chiu-Ki Chan – Chiu-Ki is a mobile developer with a passion in speaking and teaching. Her mother tongue for mobile is Android, acquired while working on Android Maps at Google. Now she runs her own mobile development company, producing delightful apps such as “Monkey Write” for learning Chinese writing and “Heart Collage” for snapping photos to stitch into a heart. When she is not writing apps, she can be found traveling the world, sometimes sightseeing, sometimes dispensing Android tips on stage at various tech conferences.

Square Island

Doug Chavez
Doug Chavez – Doug Chavez is Senior Vice President for Universal McCann Worldwide where he focuses on emerging technology with an emphasis on social and mobile media business strategy. Doug has strong has proven track record of leading marketing transformation with clients such as Del Monte Foods, McDonald’s, Yahoo!, Charles Schwab and Ghirardelli. Prior to UM, Doug was vice president of global marketing at RadiumOne, an ad platform that leverages social sharing insights to expand audience segments across the web and mobile landscape. Doug is a frequent speaker about mobile and social strategy and how brands are evolving their conversations with consumers with strong mobile and social strategies.

DougChavez.com

Dan Counsell
Dan Counsell – Dan Counsell is the founder of Realmac Software, an award winning independent Mac and iOS development studio based in Brighton, UK. He’s been designing, building and shipping apps for over ten years, these include Clear, Ember and RapidWeaver.

DanCounsell.com

Ben Johnson
Ben Johnson – Ben has been building apps and thinking about mobile since the beginning of the App Store. Before Raizlabs he founded his own mobile consulting company and created a breakthrough calendar app, Free Time, which was recognized by Apple as a New and Noteworthy iPhone app. At Raizlabs he has been involved in dozens of projects helping clients push the envelope with innovative mobile technology. Ben is also a co-organizer of Boston’s premier mobile meetup, Drinks on Tap and has spoken at a variety of mobile conferences on the benefits of animations in mobile software.

Raizlabs

Kevin Kim
Kevin Kim – Kevin Y. Kim is a founder and partner of AppOrchard LLC, a Tipping Point Partners company focused on sustainable iOS development. After graduating Carnegie Mellon University, Kevin was first exposed to the NeXTStep computer (the ancestor of today’s iPhone) while a programmer at the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center and has been hooked ever since. His career has spanned over 20 years developing systems in finance, government, biotech and technology, including Apple where he managed the Apple Enterprise Services team for the New York metro area. His latest book, More iOS 6 Development: Further Explorations of the iOS SDK, is currently available through Apress. He resides in the Alphabet City section of New York City with his wife and a clowder of rescued cats.

AppOrchard

Mike Lee
Mike Lee – Mike Lee was a Mac developer whose religion changed when iPhone was announced. He grew up in Hawaii and learned to code in Seattle, but moved to California to work at some startups and a local fruit company before traveling the world and ending up in Amsterdam making educational games. He is frequently seen on stage talking about life, the universe, and iOS.

The New Lemurs

Leigh Momii
Leigh Momii – Leigh is a Product Manager at HTC. Her background is in computer science. She worked in aerospace and consulting as a software engineer prior to coming to HTC where she started out as a developer evangelist. She then transitioned into product management to gain experience in a different facet of the mobile industry. She is a proud Seattle native. When she’s not geeking out on my laptop or HTC, you may find her journeying to remote places of the globe in search of the best eats and hangouts. She is also a huge sports enthusiast, and enjoys martial arts, board games, and video games.

HTC

Kyle Richter
Kyle Richter – Kyle Richter is the founder of Dragon Forged Software an award winning iOS and Mac development company, and co-founder of Empirical Development a for-hire iOS shop. Kyle began writing code in the early 90s and has always been dedicated to the Mac platform. He has written several books on iOS development including Beginning iOS Game Center Development, Beginning Social Game Development, and iOS Components and Frameworks Advanced Programming. He manages a team of over 30 full time iOS developers and runs day to day operations at 3 development companies. Kyle travels the world speaking on development and entrepreneurship, currently he calls the Florida Keys his home.

Empirical Development

Dan Shapiro
Dan Shapiro – Shapiro was the founder and CEO of Ontela (now Photobucket), the leading mobile imaging platform. Previously he managed product for Wildseed, the creator of the first linux-based cell phone. He’s also the founder of Sparkbuy (sold to Google) and Robot Turtles, the best selling board game in Kickstarter history.

DanShapiro.com

Michele Titolo
Michele Titolo – Michele Titolo is a software engineer who ships great products. She has lead development teams to success in the App Store, and raised and maintained quality standards on the projects she works on. She is a Core Team member of CocoaPods, and organizes for both Women Who Code and Appsterdam in SF.

Michele.io

Conor Winders
Conor Winders – Conor Winders is the CEO and co-founder of Redwind Software, Ireland’s leading mobile apps and games developer. Releasing his first iOS game back in 2008 when the App Store launched, Conor has worked on over 150 apps to date. Redwind builds and publishes original titles as well as working with some of the worlds biggest brands including Heineken, Elvis Presley, Paddy Power and Deal or No Deal. A tech-enthusiast and self-proclaimed Apple fanboy Conor lives and breathes mobile.

Redwind Software

Do you have any questions for the Mobile Team? Share your questions either in the comments below or by using #MobileTeam on Twitter.

Mobile App Development

5 New Year’s Resolutions for Mobile App Developers in 2014

Mobile Apps 2014
2013 marked the year of mobile app proliferation. It is uncommon to find someone, of any age, who hasn’t experienced using a mobile app. The mobile marketplace itself has shown maturity in design, functionality, advertisements, customer communication, and crafting a sustainable business.

With the improvements to mobile apps over the year, mobile app developers and companies are faced with a more difficult challenge than any before – customer expectations. The average person using mobile apps has considerable experience with a large range of apps and expect the best.

To have a successful app in 2014, here are 5 resolutions that shouldn’t be broken.

1. Customer Communication

Customer support, customer service, and a great customer experience  is more important than ever for every mobile app, no matter what vertical you’re in. Having a direct communication channel between you and your customers can be the difference between a successful app and one that fails.

Every app would rather receive feedback  directly from customers instead of receiving it in the app store accompanied by a negative review. Being able to listen and respond to customers is the foundation of exceptional support and service. Taking an unhappy customer and solving their problem can easily turn a negative experience into a positive one. Be sure to listen to your customers in-app in 2014 and you will be rewarded.

2. Improved Performance

Even with the large number of apps that are available, only 40% of them actually get used and a large portion of these are plagued by performance issues. Apps that crash, freeze, or are just plain slow are often immediately deleted. Consumers don’t care to deal with a low performance application, especially when there is bound to be an alternative app (or five) they can use. App performance needs to be constantly tracked and monitored.

Here are a couple of things to remember when measuring (and testing) your app’s performance:

  • Track performance on multiple devices and operating systems
  • Track performance on different networks: wifi, 3g, 4g, and LTE

Create apps that perform well on any network, the majority of devices, and the most recent operating systems. Apps that don’t perform well rarely get revisited. Even after performance issues get fixed, it is unlikely a customer will choose to download the app again. Test and measure throughout every step of the development cycle.

3. Intelligent Advertising

Advertising provides revenue for many mobile apps and often serves as an app discovery tool as well. However, people don’t open an app to see an advertisement and too ads can ruin the experience and cause low retention rates. Even a single poorly placed ad can cause someone to close the app, lose interest in completing a purchase, or discourage someone from using the app again.

Be intelligent when and where you advertise inside your apps. Make an effort to incorporate your ads as seamlessly as possible. Don’t settle for using ad networks that have low quality advertisements that degrade the overall design of your app.

4. Design Updates

Design has become one of the most important aspects for a successful mobile app. Both iOS 7 and KitKat are focused on design and apps need to start reflecting this. In Apple’s case, all apps must be compliant with iOS 7 by February 1st.

To get started on improving your app design, take a look at these resources:

5. Security

Security is a real issue for everybody using mobile apps. In a recent report from HP, 97% of apps contained a privacy issue, 86% lacked basic security defenses, and 75% fail to properly encrypt personal data. As the general population starts to rely more heavily on using mobile apps, security is of the utmost importance.

The newer operating systems give consumers more control than ever over their privacy settings, but many don’t understand the implications and security concerns surrounding mobile apps. As an app developer it is incredibly important to develop apps that are secure from the ground up. You may not be reliable for any breaches in security, but you have an obligation to protect customer information to the best of your ability.

New Year’s Resolutions for 2014

Mobile app developers hold the future of how we interact with technology, connect with companies, and organize our lives. Follow these 5 New Year’s resolutions that mobile app developers should not break, and you’ll be off to a great start.

Apptentive In-App Survey

5 Tips to Writing Effective Surveys for Mobile Apps

Apptentive In-App SurveyWhether you are a seasoned survey writer or brand new to the scene, writing effective surveys for mobile devices can be challenging. As with any survey the first question to ask is “what’s the goal of this survey?” In order to write an effective survey you must have a goal that will help guide you in writing concise, data-oriented questions.

Nobody likes a long a survey – especially on a mobile device. That means all of your questions need to be extremely relevant – so no fluff. Only ask the questions that are essential to making decisions. Keeping surveys short and simple makes it easier to analyze the data and make decisions based off the results.

There may be many questions you want to ask your customers, but breaking all your questions into smaller surveys will work better than compiling all of your questions into a single survey.  Focus on a specific goal for each set of questions and you will get better data than trying to ask various questions that aren’t all connected.

Writing an Effective Survey

The data from a survey is only as good as the questions asked. Therefore it is extremely important in how you phrase both your the questions and the answers you provide. To help you out, here are 5 tips to make the most effective surveys.

1. Personalization

Holding the mobile device is a single individual you are looking to engage and have answer a couple questions for you. You need to write questions that feel as if they are directed at each customer instead of a general approach. You are surveying them and want their opinion, thoughts, and feelings on the matter.

Begin your questions with phrases like “How do you feel about…” and “What you do think of…” The importance of the survey is to hear what your customers think. There is no wrong or right answer. Phrasing questions in this way opens the way for customers to share their thoughts and provide new insight on something you haven’t considered.

2. Simple, Direct Questions

There isn’t a lot of real estate to use on mobile devices therefore your questions need to be simple, and direct to the point. Don’t waste space circling around the real questions you want to ask.

3. Provide Accurate Answers

The more accurate your answers are the easier it will be for you to analyze the data. Avoid number rating scales because it is difficult to gauge an experience with numbers. In a rating scale up to
10, there are some people who think 6 is still a positive experience, but many who feel otherwise. Words are a better way to accurately portray how someone is feeling in a way that other people can understand.

When providing ranges in your answers, don’t let your answers overlap or your data will be off. If you ask “How often do you play Angry Birds a day?” Don’t include the following: 1-2, 2-5, 5-10. Instead use: 1-2, 3-5, 6-10.

4. The Other


One of the most over-looked answers to many questions is “Other.” Where appropriate, including the “Other” as a possible answer, followed by the generic “Please Specify” input area can be an incredibly useful method to learn something important from your customers that you may not have expected.

5. All Questions Required


All questions included in a mobile survey should be required. If you have a question you are not requiring don’t include it in the first place. This will force you to focus on only the most important questions to include in your survey. The one exception is the common “Do you have any other feedback or suggestions for us?”

When To Use A Survey:

Apptentive Mobile SurveysThere are many great ways to use surveys to better understand your customers. Here are a couple of examples of how surveys can be used to drive your business.

• You want to know what your customers thought about a recently released feature or share their thoughts about new features they’d like to see.

• You’d like to better understand the demographic of customers who continue to use your app 20, 30, or even 40+ times.

• You have a purchasing funnel (or just a set of steps for a customer to complete) and want to know why customers aren’t completing the process.

• You want to know if customers would recommend your app to a friend.

There are many reasons why mobile apps should use in-app surveys. The most important reason is to better understand the people using your app. When you have a better understanding for why people use and like your mobile app you learn how to make faster and smarter decisions, better monetize your app, and make your customers happy.

If you take into account these 5 tips you will be off to a great start to writing a results oriented survey for your mobile app. If you want to start using mobile surveys in your app, here’s a great place to start.

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App Monetization

Top 5 Reasons Mobile Developers Fail to Monetize

App Monetization

Developers are constantly looking for ways to increase revenue streams and turn a profit on their apps. There are only have a few options that are really viable, but most are rarely profitable. In fact, 59% of developers don’t even make enough money to recoup the original costs of developing an app. If you have developed a great app that’s providing lackluster results, these five reasons are the likely culprits.

 1. Lack of a Monetization Strategy

Many developers start creating an app without having a monetization strategy. They know they will have some ads and maybe make it a premium app, but that’s about it. Their main focus is on the actual product, which is good. However, apps that are designed with monetization in mind tend to do a lot better. Perhaps ad space is worked into the design, such as interstitial ads or special ad areas. However, if a monetization campaign isn’t integrated into an app so that it fits seamlessly with the user’s experience, it can be less effective. If you’ve created an app that wasn’t optimized ahead of time, there are some options to consider.

First and foremost, there is Poll To Pay. It works as long as there is some available paid content in your app. You just need to integrate the SDK and place a “Poll” button somewhere visible. This allows customers to take a poll in exchange for the paid content, and Poll To Pay will pay you for the content that was given to the customers. People are more likely to part with their time instead of money making this strategy more effective than many ad campaigns.

Second, you can use sponsorships. This is similar to ad-supported monetization, however, it works much better with apps that weren’t originally designed for ads and places more control in the hands of the developer. This is because each advertisement can be custom designed for your app, tailoring the experience specifically for your audience. The idea of sponsorship is to find individual businesses or events to advertise on your app. It works best with industry specific apps that are related to your mobile application. This often results in a higher eCPM because of the contented is related to the app.

2. Not asking for help

Publishers and developers often overlook simply asking their monetization platform for help. The goal of these platforms is to make money, and in return, make you money. Chances are, they have had developers with the same challenges as you, and they know how to help. This can include:

  • Deciding on the right ad format
  • Choosing ad placement
  • Understanding and improving eCPMs
  • SDK challenges

They have access to a lot more research, experts, and experience in monetizing apps and can offer great advice for your specific app. Don’t be afraid to reach out to them, even if you don’t have a problem but just want to monetize smarter.

3. Misunderstanding eCPM

A popular way to judge the effectiveness for an ad campaign is by paying attention to eCPMs or Effective Cost per Mille. This is the ad revenue made per 1,000 impressions. In order to calculate this, follow this simple equation to find out how well your app is monetizing:

eCPM Equation

This is a great way to compare ad campaigns and services. However, this is a tricky metric and should  be seen as a tool and not as the sole way to measure monetization success. Many times the eCPM doesn’t tell the whole story.

For example:

Advertiser “A” gets 10,000,000 impressions in a week. You earn $10,000 which gives you an eCPM of $1.

Advertiser “B” only had 1,000 impressions and paid you $2.50. This means the eCPM was much more for “B” at $2.50.

This makes it so that Advertiser “B” has a higher eCPM and so it seems to be a better place to build up your inventory, where in reality the revenue from advertiser “A” was much better.

4. Maintaining Identical iOS and Android Apps

In order to be successful in the app world, it is almost always necessary to have iOS and Android platforms for your app. However, maintaing identical iOS and Android ad campaigns is a problem a lot of app developers have. These platforms have very different technology, and what works for one operating system might not work on the other. For example, iOS doesn’t allow Notification Push ads on many ad networks, so advertising campaigns have to adjust for this.

The demographics and habits of the customer bases for the iOS and Android are also very different, and can dictate what works best. For example, highly social interstitial ads may work on iOS, whereas simple call to actions on a loading screen may work better for Android. This is always evolving so testing many different options for ad services, ad models, and monetization options are crucial to find out what works for each operating system.

5. Failing to Integrate Ads

When it comes to ad space in an app, things can literally get ugly. It is a shame because designers work so hard to make an app beautiful, right down to the spacing of your font. Mobile ads can really stick out like a sore thumb and this hurts monetization. However, in a CPI model, publishers can help correct this by creatively optimizing ad placement with many services such as AppFlood, MobileCore, or Appnext .

Many ad services allow publishers to create their own banners, buttons, and items to seamlessly fit into the user interface. This looks better and you can make an advertising menu button for customers to see other apps they might like, which will feel as though it is part of the app and not an annoying ad. A good example is the advertisement on the phone to the right. The phone on the left has a good example of a customizable interstitial ad.

Mobile Ads

These 5 areas are important to focus on when you are questioning your own monetization strategy. Always improve your product, but take a closer look at your monetization plan and don’t fall into one of these traps. If you have other insights into what holds apps back from monetizing successfully please share below.

About the author:
Elliott Morrow is a blogger and writer from San Francisco. He relocated to Russia to participate in the growing tech scene, to assist fellow bloggers, and to battle bears on the weekends.

Apps on Smartphone

The Evolution of the Mobile App Landscape

A person’s smartphone is, in some ways, an extension of his or her personality. Through mobile apps, a smartphone is the way someone communicates with friends, shops, plays, works, learns, remembers and more. Most people have their smartphones with them wherever they go.

The average person adds 2.5 new apps every month. According to Inside Facebook, download rates have increased dramatically since 2008, when there were only “about 10 apps downloaded for every iPhone/iPod touch. Two years later the rate was more than five times higher.”

App customers aren’t the only ones who have changed drastically in the past few years. Mobile apps themselves have undergone enormous changes, and will continue do to so in the coming months and years.

Apps on Smartphone

More smartphones. More apps.

Although BlackBerry took home the win for the first smartphone – on sale in 2002, Apple’s iPhone brought us the ancestors of the apps we all know and love today. In 2007, Apple released the first ever iPhone with default apps including Maps, Photos, Messages and Weather.

However, by the middle of the next year, Apple launched their app store with hundreds of apps available for download. Google followed suit in October with the “Android Market” (later renamed Google Play). That same month, HTC released the first Android smartphone, the HTC Dream.

By January of 2011, more than 10 billion apps had been downloaded by smartphone and tablet users and come December, developers had created 1 million unique apps. These apps ranged from popular smartphone games like Angry Birds to the organizational app Evernote.

Brands are creating their own branded apps and selling them on Apple and Google’s app stores. Often these apps were value-added perks for existing customers to take of extra, convenient features. For instance, Verizon FiOS offers its fiber-optic TV customers apps to remotely control their DVR settings and stream content.

In the United States, people spend 49% of mobile app usage playing games. Social networking comes in second with 30%. News and entertainment make up less than 20% of mobile app usage throughout the day. The amount of time spent on mobile continues to increase as apps evolve and allow us to do more with our mobile devices.

Your apps and you.

Some of the most basic apps we use every day have all but replaced more traditional tools people utilized the days of smartphones.

Think about it. When you want to check the weather, do you turn to the local news? Or do you reach for your smartphone and open a weather app? Apps don’t just take care of your daily weather knowledge needs. There are other apps that have taken the place of tasks that, in the past, required more tools, travel and time to complete.

For example, in the past, banking required a trip to the bank complete with deposit slips, check book and even your best Sunday clothes, in some cases. Gas, time and, frankly, paper were wasted during the decades before mobile banking was developed.

Now, with banking apps, customers can access their accounts, deposit checks, make payments and perform other transactions without leaving the house. Or changing out of their pajamas.

Apps themselves continue to undergo dramatic change and development.

Mobile App Design

If you jumped on the app bandwagon right at the beginning, you may have noticed the subtle development of app design throughout the last few years. Many apps utilized a simple list or icon system to display features.

Now, apps are able to incorporate high-quality photos and mobility throughout the app. Instead of just scrolling from top to bottom or clicking on one-destination icons, the Facebook app incorporates a more interactive user experience with a “swipe-over menu to the side for accessing your profile, News Feed, events, etc. instead of that home screen grid.”

These are just a few examples of the touch-friendly design techniques app developers have incorporated in their apps to optimize the mobile experience. New and updated apps are increasingly moving toward touch controls like gestures and swipes.

The growth is expected to continue.

TechCrunch explains that experts predict that, by 2016, 44 billion apps will have been downloaded and “app-to-person messaging should overtake text messaging.”

According to Embience.com, mobile apps are “expected to be a $38 billion market by 2015.” These apps will be personalized, optimized for local use and will offer social interaction to customer. App developers are coming up with new application ideas every day to provide more services and usability to customers all over the world.

Established brands and brand-new startups are both vying for the smartphone space, which is essentially a blank canvas for the next big thing in the app world.

About the Author:
Elizabeth Phillips is a freelance writer with a focus on marketing. She can be found typing away on her laptop in Philadelphia, PA. Elizabeth welcomes your feedback via email.