Through conversations with thousands of mobile developers, we’ve found that evaluation of the customer experience publishers hope to build into their apps often comes down to simple guesswork without any tested and true ways to gauge satisfaction. You have a steady stream of new installs and fantastic ratings in the app stores. And yet, your mobile customers come and go, with only a small portion continuing to use your app after the first month or even past those crucial first 30 seconds.
Fortunately, it no longer has to be guesswork. Many publishers are taking the first steps when it comes to better evaluating their in-app customer experience. Every day, we work with new CX-centric developers to integrate in-app surveys and customer communication tools into their apps. These tools, seen commonly all over the internet but rarely inside mobile apps, empower businesses to survey their customers. They unlock a wealth of insights in a much greater volume, and of a far more representative nature, than what the limited information in app store ratings seems to convey.
One such customer – Urbanspoon – used the mobile feedback prompt seen to the right to proactively ask customers for feedback with an in-app prompt. After implementing this feedback forum, Urbanspoon received over 7,000 pieces of feedback. These insights uncovered critical components that helped Urbanspoon in its strive to constantly create a better app for its customers with each new update.
Using in-app surveys to open up a channel for customer communication and gather mobile feedback has allowed Urbanspoon and countless others to save money, prioritize features, learn more about their customer base, receive structured feedback, and engage customers.
Mobile apps aren’t cheap. Every new update requires time and money, and lots of it. Mobile app developers have an inherent vision of what they want their app to be, but don’t always consider how the needs of their customers may differ from this vision. As a result, publishers are wasting valuable resources on new features and rollouts that don’t necessarily provide customer value.
However, if you can directly ask your customers what they’d like in an app using in-app surveys, you can be sure that your development time and money is being put to good use and that each new feature will enhance the customer experience. Or better yet, create a minimal viable product and test it in a mobile focus group environment to see if you’re on the right path.
As a developer, you have dozens of features on your roadmap that you’re excited to one day get to. But don’t fall into the trap of trying to do too much, too quickly. Collecting mobile feedback and giving your customers with a voice allows you to determine which of your proposed features are most important to them in the context of your app.
Once you’re armed with this knowledge, you can begin to prioritize your roadmap based on what will add the most customer delight. You’ll also be able to determine which of your current features needs a little touch-up to meet or exceed customer expectations.
Better Understand Your Customers
If we’re adamant about one thing, it’s our philosophy of Customer Love — seeing mobile customers as people, not users. Each of your customers has their own likes and dislikes, their own use cases for the app, and that one thing that will really make them love your app.
Using in-app surveys, you can begin to collect valuable demographic and psychographic information to segment your customer base. This research allows your in-app communications to speak directly to a segment’s unique interests. You can also use it segmentation to target your out-of-app marketing to potential customer groups that match one of your current customer personas and likely have common needs and interests that will draw them to your app.
Make Product-Specific Inquiries
You’ve rolled out a new update, only to find that retention is falling. Or you see customers abandoning their purchases half-way through checkout. Do you know what’s causing this behavior?
Once again, collecting mobile feedback can provide you an answer. By proactively surveying customers at key moments throughout their experience with your app (e.g., after they’ve used a new feature for the first time, or after they close out of the shopping cart platform), you can evaluate their experience with, and attitude toward, your product on-the-spot. This allows you to identify and fix any customer pain points early on and intercept negative app store reviews.
Engage Your Audience
The reviews you see on the app store ratings page represent only a small minority of your customer base. This minority tends to be skewed toward either extreme when it comes to their evaluation of your app. These are people who either love or hate your app, with a lesser proportion of those in-between making the leap to the ratings page. You’re getting only the feedback of the vocal few and not feedback particularly representative of your greater audience.
Providing your customers with the tools needed to share their thoughts – without requiring them to leave the app to take a web survey or visit the app store – allows you to unlock a much more precise perspective of customer opinion. Mobile surveys (particularly when done right) let you to quickly poll a much larger portion of your customers and have response rates dramatically higher than their web counterparts and competing market research instruments.
For more on opening up customer communication, check out MobileDevHQ’s Complete Guide to App Marketing, in collaboration with Apptentive’s Ezra Siegel and a panel of industry experts.
Not anymore. An increased number of smartphone holders worldwide and an increased demand for apps have created an extremely competitive marketplace where customers almost always have several strong options when it comes to finding that perfect app.
As customers increasingly shop around in the app stores and evaluate their options, mobile publishers are hit with dwindling customer retention rates. According to our own research, only 40 percent of customers continue to use an app they downloaded a month ago – and this number plummets to 4 percent over the course of the first year in the customer journey.
The cost of acquiring a loyal mobile customer (defined here as someone who opens your mobile app at least 3 times) is therefore at an all-time high. According to Fiksu’s Cost Per Loyal User (CPLU) Index, the average CPLU increased 34 percent from September 2013 to September 2014.
Between August 2014 and September 2014 alone, the base CPLU rose from $1.86 to $2.25. This 21 percent spike corresponds directly with the unveiling of the Apple iPhone 6 and iOS8. Both of these events led to an increase in demand for mobile devices and apps and a subsequent increase in competition among mobile app publishers vying for attention in an increasingly crowded market place.
As acquisition costs continue to rise, mobile customer retention becomes more important than ever. If done right, mobile retention campaigns can lessen the burden of the much-costlier new customer acquisitions while still allowing you to hit those monthly revenue and active customer goals.
We’ve put together a few, low-cost strategies to boost customer retention and loyalty – in turn, fueling sales, higher ratings, and organic growth through word-of-mouth and customer delight.
Give Your Customers a Voice
Before you can hope to delight, or even retain, your mobile customers, you must open up a two-way conversation where their voices can be heard. App developers constantly strive to create that perfect customer experience, but many lack the tools to evaluate whether or not their assumptions of customer opinion are really on mark.
Sure, there are the ratings on the app stores that can be used to guide future updates, but these are indicative of only a small fraction of your mobile customers – namely, the vocal minorities who either love or hate your app.
But what about the less vocal majority, those with opinions somewhere between those two extremes? This is a group that likely won’t make the journey to the app store ratings page unless they’re truly delighted or peeved. They constitute the bulk of your audience, yet their voices remain largely unheard across the much of today’s app market place.
To fill this void, developers are bringing customer service to the mobile channel – incorporating two-way chat capabilities between customers and publishers and prompting in-app surveys to gauge opinion throughout every step of the customer journey. In addition to allowing them to preemptively address customer issues before they surface publicly as a negative rating, these interactions provide developers with a wealth of data that they can use to shape future updates and delight their audiences.
Use smart, well-timed push messaging and in-app surveys
Opening up customer communication is just the first step in improving retention. Next, it’s time to actively ask for and respond to that communication.
We recommend our customers look for ways to reach out and solicit feedback during key events throughout the customer journey – such as the third time a customer logs in, or the first time someone shares content via the app. Once these events have been triggered, don’t wait for the customer to search through your menu navigation to tell you what they think. Instead, prompt a brief, non-disruptive conversation to gauge customer opinion at the broadest sense before diving into more specific sentiments in the event that the customer wishes to continue the conversation. (For more tips on asking for customer feedback, check out our 5 Tips for Writing Effective Mobile Surveys.)
Let your customers know they’re valued
The surest way to delight customers is to let them know that they are valued – and that means giving thanks and showing appreciation. If customers commonly make a similar request, consider shifting your development schedule to prioritize that need. Likewise, on releasing your next update, give a shoutout to your customers for contributing to a new feature release and remind them that you’re building a customer-first experience where their voices are not only listened to, but highly valued.
Regularly refresh your app with rich content updates
It’s no mystery that creating valuable is key to delighting mobile customers. If customers see new and interesting content each time they open the app, they are likelier to spend more time in your app consuming that content and return to your app frequently to see what’s new.
To really wow your mobile customers, align your content strategy with your customer data provides additional opportunities. For example, use your in-app prompts to suggest relevant content based on your customer communications or reward your returning customers by offering them exclusive discounts or deals out of appreciation for their loyalty.
Understand your app’s customer retention rates
And finally, it’s important to know your numbers – how to calculate retention rates and the revenue generated by each loyal customer. Of course, each app will have different retention and average revenue per user goals and benchmarks, but being able to calculate these metrics will allow you to internally compare both your marketing effectiveness over time and the ROIs of your retention and acquisition strategies to determine what makes the most sense for your business.
We’ve released a few guides to dive further into this concept and help demonstrate the importance of mobile customer retention:
To remedy this, we’ve worked with some of the best in the business at MobileDevHQ, Apptamin, Leanplum, and AppFlood to shed some light on the strategy and best practices behind app marketing with our new eBook, The Complete Guide to Enterprise App Marketing.
This free, 100+ page guide is tailored specifically to enterprises and designed around Dave McClure’s startup metrics for pirates of Acquisition, Activation, Retention, Referral, and Revenue (AARRR). Each of the five metrics is explained in-depth in terms of their importance to mobile marketing and some tips and best practices that marketers and developers alike can apply to their mobile strategy.
We encourage you to take the first step to improving your mobile marketing strategy by downloading this free eBook and sharing your favorite tips and advice from the guide (or anything we missed!) using the hashtag #AppMktgBook.
As in the past few years, the newest tablets and smartphones are going to be the big gift for many this holiday season. Between Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Christmas Day, and Black Friday/Cyber Monday (after everyone ‘gifts themselves’ new tech treats a little early to take advantage of early price reductions), people all over the world will boot up, charge up, and start loading new apps on to their new tablets and phones.
As a result, app stores across the board receive huge spikes in traffic and app download requests. According to a recent Flurry report, Christmas day sees a 91 percent increase in app downloads, as compared to an average day in the first half of December.
Seasonality of the US mobile market: Mobile commerce peaks in the Q4 holiday season.
In recent years, the combination of the holiday break at Apple and the increased demand for new apps has created a notable point of concern for app developers, marketers, and mobile product managers… the ‘App Store Freeze.’
In anticipation of the surge of new submissions, updates, and App Ratings and Reviews flowing in to iTunes, Apple would ‘freeze’ its app ratings and version update listings for a period of time in order to work through the backlog of new data.
The Ratings and Reviews component of the ‘freeze’ came as a blessing and a curse to app marketers. Mobile marketers ahead of their game could take advantage of the ‘freeze’ by attempting to boost their Ratings right before they were temporarily ‘locked in’ through advertising blitzes and holiday sales. Consequently, app publishers with more organic app store ratings and reviews optimization strategies were bumped down right before the ‘freeze’ – and stuck in that unfavorable position for anywhere between eight hours to one week.
For better or worse, the App Store Ratings Freeze is largely a thing of the past. In 2013 Ratings updates were locked for approximate eight hours, while any Ratings freeze this year is predicted to be negligible.
Dwindling duration of the infamous ‘App Store Freeze’
However, there are a still a variety of key considerations for mobile developers and marketers around the end-of-year holiday time period. Notable among these is the continued presence of the Apple iTunes Connect Holiday Shutdown – during which new app versions will not be processed through the App Store until after the Apple Holiday break.(See next paragraph.) We have assembled a few new tips to ensure that you ride smoothly through these exciting – but choppy – waters ahead for the next six weeks. As you seek to leverage the opportunity to delight customers who will be searching for new apps and trying out your app for the first time on their new mobile devices, we hope you find the following advice useful.
Plan early – especially regarding your app version and pricing updates.
While the App Ratings ‘freeze’ is no longer a main concern, app publishers should still be aware of – and plan around – the iTunes Connect Holiday Shutdown. This is the time Apple iTunes and App Store developers are typically away on vacation, preventing manual changes to app version updates in the App Store. The 2014 shutdown dates will be announced shortly, though publishers can anticipate something along the lines of Dec 20 – Dec 26/27 this year (in accordance with the duration and span of the 2013 dates).
During the expected iTunes Connect Shutdown, no new apps or updates will be added to the App Store and prices and descriptions for existing apps cannot be changed. Front-end functionalities of the App Store, including updates to app rankings, will be unaffected however. In preparation for the App Store Shutdown, we recommend submitting holiday updates and pricing changes by the first week of December to give ample buffer time for review and approval.
2013 dates for the App Store Holiday Shutdown Dates, when no new submissions will be approved by Apple – Not to be confused with the App Store Ratings Freeze, when app ratings were historically locked in place
The Google Play Store does not have a scheduled holiday shutdown (of which we are aware – if you know about one coming this year, please update everyone in the Comments). Android update submissions are typically made live within 24 hours. However, we would still recommend planning any app new submissions or version updates well in advance of the 3rd week of December to ensure that neither you nor your new Android device customers miss the ‘unboxing’ windows this year.
Similarly, if your new year resolution contains anything about SDK integrations or setting up mobile customer engagement programs, consider getting an early start while things are still relatively quiet in the time leading up to the holidays. This way, you can start to capture customer data during the busiest time of the year and use the start of the new year to focus on providing an incredible customer experience rather than working through a backlog of integrations.
Dress for the occasion.
There’s a reason retail stores play holiday music through all of December and most of November. Research has shown that holiday music and themes can increase the amount of time consumers spend in a store, their intention to revisit, and their intention to make a purchase.
The same goes for apps.
In addition to providing another opportunity to delight your mobile customers, holiday themes are an effective way to increase engagement and click-through rates. Capturing the holiday spirit may also provide opportunities for increased exposure if your app lands on an app store’s list of top holiday picks or in a festive industry round-up of ‘best in show’ holiday apps.
Consider holiday specials, but don’t sacrifice value for rank.
Everyone loves a deal, but make sure your holiday pricing aligns with your business goals. In the days of the App Store freeze, publishers would greatly discount their app’s price to boost its perceived value – and consequently, its ratings – right before Apple would freeze its listing of top-rated apps. With the much shorter duration of the freeze, tricks like this are much less effective and publishers should be careful of pricing below their cost of acquisition.
Before heading into the holidays, know your metrics inside and out – what it costs you to acquire a customer, and how much revenue you generate for each engaged user. Once you know these metrics, you can plan better plan your holiday strategy around maximizing either new user volume or your average revenue per user (ARPU).
Customer Service departments are notoriously overworked during the holiday season. In the app world, customer service can be put on the back burner entirely as staff depart for their own holiday vacations or are simply spread too thin to accommodate the sudden spike in traffic. However, publishers that set themselves apart by delivering an exceptional customer experience to the onslaught of new users will be rewarded in spades in the form of customer loyalty and retention.
The holiday opportunities last long beyond the initial holidays. It’s important to remember that user acquisition is just the first step in your journey.
New gadget holders are swamped with an endless list of new app recommendations from the moment they unwrap their shiny new toys. As a result, it may be hard to shine past the clutter as a must-download. In order to stay top of mind, consider investing in a longer-term retention or re-targeting campaign to nurture users into engaged and profitable customers long after the initial excitement of the holidays has waned.
Have any other tips? Share them with @Apptentive and we’ll pass them along! Until then, happy holiday planning!
Editor’s Note: The following is a guest post by our colleague, Tsipi Joseph, at AppGo2Market.
Many developers get really excited working on their mobile apps… just to realize, a little too late, that they haven’t set the right marketing infrastructure that will help their app shine in the very crowded app store markets.
Sooner or later, you have to learn the ropes of the app marketing business. Don’t let it happen it happen the hard way – the putting out fires sort of way.
We have put together a few tips we recommend you follow from an early stage to make sure that when the time is right, you have made all the necessary decisions and have the knowledge and tools in place to start pushing your app to market effectively.
No need to develop everything yourself! Luckily, our young industry has already started producing some best practices and conventions around mobile app distribution, engagement, and monetization. As such, there are many service providers in the ecosystem, providing developers with off-the shelf solutions to many of the basic building blocks of a successful mobile app. Many of those are around marketing your mobile app: Inbound and outbound analytics, push messaging, A/B testing, in-app feedback, and more. So, there’s no longer the need to develop everything yourself. That’s great news! BUT, it is important to select the right vendors for you, your specific challenges, your goals, and your needs. And you may need help doing that!
Seek recommendations and advice. Join mobile app related social groups – especially in Facebook and Google+. You can easily find app professionals who are eager to help their industry bros. You’d be surprised how quickly you can get priceless tips and answers to your questions. You can have meaningful discussions that will help you get smarter about your app promotion. There is also a lot of information out there that you can read, but it can sometimes get confusing and overwhelming. For best results, identify a few resources where you can get all the information you need and stick to them.
Keep your balance. Once you start looking for information, you will see that the information out there is close to endless. The set of decisions you need to take is huge, and a lot of them will be based on intuition, at least in the beginning. Don’t get lost and lose focus. Always seek the balance between the time you spend learning the business and the time you do the actual work.
Know where you’re going. Speaking of actual work, you need to know where you are going. It all starts with a plan, with goals, with you knowing what the word “success” means for you. Is it reaching the top five in the app store category? Achieving 10K downloads? Is it about user engagement? Maybe “60% of my users log in at least once a month” is what success looks like to you? Whatever it is, you can only get there if you know where you’re going.
Know how you’re going to get there. Once your destination is set, you need to decide on the best ways to reach that destination. It’s called planning. One important pointer – When you come to evaluate your plan, try and explain why you believe each chosen tactic can bring you closer to your destination. All done? You are good to go. No matter if your way is made of buzz creation, viral marketing or even burst campaigns, just make sure it’s connected to your goals. It’s that simple.
About Appgo2market: Appgo2market is a DIY Mobile app marketing resource center that supports appreneurs with (almost) everything they need to execute top-of-the-line marketing in order to meet and exceed their distribution, engagement and monetization goals:
Here is what you can find on Appgo2market:
A huge, and constantly updated library of how-to trainings (e.g., ASO, acquisition, Social, PR and more).
Downloadable templates tailored specifically to mobile app pros – you can just download and use as needed (Graphical, UX, spreadsheets and more ).
Access to top mobile app experts – Members can post specific questions to our “consulting zone” and get answers from relevant industry experts.
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: Developing an app these days is only half the battle, what’s one thing every app developer can do to help market their app?
It is easy to overlook the importance of App Store Optimization (SEO for apps) and how this drives users to your app. Discoverability is key and not everyone can afford to pay thousands for installs or cross promotion to get their app up the charts. A much cheaper option is to think carefully and experiment with the title and keywords for your app so that your app appears near the top when users search for specific terms. There are even some free tools available to get you started.
Post a demo video. Most app stores do not require a video, so many developers just skip it. But a video is a much richer format, and it gives you a chance to weave a story around your app. The video does not have to be professionally produced. Think of it as a show-and-tell. Share your excitement about the app.
A landing page is essential to help raise the profile and awareness of your app. It gives you a central place to direct users and collect their details before your app goes live. Having the details of hundreds (hopefully thousands) of potential users who are interested in downloading your app can really help boost your chart position on day one.
Each day new apps are announced and most of them don’t have a great landing page. A lot of them are missing key elements, and at the very worst they don’t even say what the app does. I don’t have space to go into all the details here, but if you’re interested in learning more about building the perfect landing page you should check out this article.
As soon as you know what you are building – get a launch page up early and start generating interest (and emails) – I’ve used a service called Launchrock before with a lot of success. By the time you are ready to launch you’ll have a solid group of early adopters that can help you beta test and promote your app when it hits the store.
Make your app free, or have a free version of your app. It’s much easier to market an app that is free to a consumer. Then, once you’ve got them hooked you can draw them in with in-app purchases and other monetization methods. Everyone likes free! Especially on Android, the expectations for free apps is very high and you’re going to have a much tougher time convincing someone to spend even $0.99 on your app even if it’s amazing.
It is all too easy to focus on the functionality of an app and forget about its form. A beautifully crafted app not just from a visual perspective but also from an user experience stance speaks volumes. Before a user downloads an app the first thing and often only thing they look at are the screenshots. Make sure that your app is presentable, well thought out and designed. Invest time and/or money into making a great icon and appearance.
Developers spend months working on their apps and then just minutes putting together the app store meta data, if people don’t give your app a chance they won’t know how well everything was developed.
If you are trying to market an app that you’ve built, you’ve already lost. Marketing should be a part of your app’s conception, creation, and implementation. Before you start designing, ask yourself questions like this:If someone was going to tweet about your app, what would they say?
Would you retweet that?
What is going to motivate your users to tell people about your app?
Why would a journalist get excited about your app?
If you were going to describe your app in one sentence, what would it be?
If your app doesn’t sound like it matters, you’re going to have a very hard time convincing people that it does. Marketing starts with understanding your market and how to engage them.
Never underestimate your content on the App Store. Good screenshots, a well written description, and testimonials are key. Regardless of how customers found out about your app, they will see this page before they download. Make sure it represents your app well.
Tell people about it in advance of the release. Too many developers get hung up on the worry that if they tell anyone about their great idea it will be stolen. To be honest, there are very few truly original and groundbreaking ideas left, you’re probably building something that has already been attempted or built, but hopefully you are doing it a lot better.
So get the word out about your amazing new app. If you are doing anything interesting from a code or interface perspective then blog about it and get people excited about what you are doing. We’ve seen blog posts generate huge traffic and interest in an app weeks before it’s even been released. The more buzz you can build for free the better.
Mobile in 2013 – The rise of social messaging apps within an expanding app marketplace
In this installment of App Marketing Conversations we talked about things that have changed and what we have learned for mobile in 2013. Previously, mobile was all about gaming, but during 2013 the market expanded and people now use their phones for everything not just games and entertainment. One of the largest trends during 2013 was the rise of social messaging apps. App marketers need to be thinking about how to build these messaging services into a marketing plan.
Take a look at the video below as we dive into we have learned during 2013 and what has changed that will impact app marketers in the future.
Robi: Morning, and welcome to another App Marketing Conversations. I’m here with Ryan from GameHouse and Ian from MobileDevHQ and I’m Robi from Apptentive.
So, wrapping up this year, it’s nice and cold in most of the country. Surprisingly cold in Seattle, and as we look back on the year we thought we’d do a series of conversations about the things that have changed, the things we’ve learned.
So, I’m going to start it off by talking about a couple of the things that app marketers have sort of seen and grown into this year. One of the things that happened last year is we talked a lot about gaming. We were like “Gaming, gaming, gaming. Gaming leads the way in mobile.” This year it feels like mobile has become a much more full discussion about opportunities that are provided to people like travel, people who are in retail, people who are in mCommerce, maybe in traditionally eCommerce who have moved to mobile, what other markets have come up and what’s your take on how that market’s expanded this year?
Ryan: Yeah, so I think it’s a really interesting point that gaming essentially has kind of acted as a plow, right? It was like “Hey, you can do all these games and all this fun stuff on your phone,” which was kind of the easy way to break people in to using their phones for things other than the phone and text messaging, right? And slowly but surely as people got more comfortable, we found other uses, right, and other companies started providing you value that you couldn’t have gotten before.
So, I mean, I was just thinking about this the other day, like, how much more often than I use my iPad or iPhone and the apps that are on it for pretty much everything that I would have done on a PC previously, like, shopping, retail’s a big one.
Ryan: Travel, sort of. I mean, you have to travel a lot to really get a lot of additional value there. So, I’m not sure what my overall point is other than over the last year we’ve really seen that kind of shift from “Hey, people are using phones for games and kind of entertainment” to “They’re using their phone and their tablet for kind of everything.”
Robi: Yep. Yep.
Ian: It’s true. Like, the point about games being a plow is interesting because it’s actually, like, games acted the way that porn traditionally acts, right?
Robi: Oh yeah.
Ian: Where porn brought VHS to the world.
Ian: Porn popularized the internet. Like, let’s be honest, right?
Ryan: Brought Bluray over.
Ian: Porn brought Bluray over HD-DVD.
Ian: Right? But games brought mobile.
Ian: And I’m sure there is porn on mobile, like, no question, but especially on apps where Apple locks it down. Like, games took over that role.
Ian: And that was a really important role for it to take. Like-
Robi: Yep. Yep. That makes sense. And then in terms of thinking about some of the other things we’ve seen trend wise, I’ve been kind of blown away in the past few months about all the stats around the social messaging apps.
Robi: And the hook is that kids are using their phones constantly, and so we’re seeing the rise of instant messaging again, except the scale of instant messaging is far larger than it was the first time around when we had ICQ and AOL Instant Messenger.
Robi: And all those. Right? So what do you guys think? Does that pretend, you know, a reinvention of a lot of the things we saw 10 and 15 years ago?
Ian: Probably. How that looks, I don’t know. I think it was Benedict Evans who was talking about how messaging actually has the most potential to supplant Facebook, which is a really interesting way of looking at it, that, like, those guys are building up a different social graph that is potentially even more useful.
Ian: So, like, I think there’s a lot of potential in messaging. Messaging boggles my mind. Like, I only know how to use SMS. I don’t-
Ian: I don’t know, but-
Robi: I’m sure you could figure out how to use WhatsApp.
Ian: I’m sure I could.
Ryan: Yeah. And I think its, because I was thinking about Benedict Evans’ point on this too where it’s like, you know, the messaging apps are going to become widgets very soon if they aren’t already, and then it ultimately relies upon the kind of platforms and services they build around those messaging apps.
But, you know, the phone is really interesting from a social networking perspective because your social graph is built in, right? It’s your phone book. And it wasn’t that way on the web. It’s certainly not that way with Facebook. Like, I have way more people in my contact list than I do friends on Facebook. Maybe that’s not true across the board, but I think the messaging apps, I would assume we’re going to see three winners and everything else will kind of slough off. That would be my guess. I don’t know how many more you can have.
Robi: Well, three winners in any given market.
Robi: Like, in the US, right?
Robi: So, but then if you look globally, there’s the potential that each market has its own three winners and maybe there’s some overlap but-
Robi: It’s not required. And if you’re a marketer and you’re looking at things like Facebook and you’re starting to do marketing and advertising using Facebook, you’re starting to build communities there, and then you look at a What’sApp.
Robi: Do you start paying attention to that more? Does that get pulled into your strategy? How are you evaluating that next year?
Ryan: I think you have to be thinking about creating, you know, over the last two years, “What kind of social hooks can we build in? How can we build Facebook and Twitter in?” Now it’s got to be “How can we build these messaging services in and either provide some sort of incentive or reward or just making it really easy to share something with their friends via these social messaging apps?” because the scale’s so much larger.
Ian: That’s right. From a, I think from a paid standpoint, like, a lot of those guys haven’t figured out what that looks like and certainly haven’t figured out their targeting, but that’s where, like, we’ve talked about this before, set aside 10% of your budget for experiments.
Ian: And go experiment in some way around those guys.
Robi: So, definitely seen an expansion of all the markets, opportunities there. In fact, I was arguing with somebody last week that most of the value in the mobile market isn’t actually captured in the stereotypical industry reports because they talked about in app purchases, app purchases and advertising, and that misses a whole bunch of the commerce around a retailer or a travel site or even Uber. That was the point I made.
Right, so last week we saw Uber’s leaked results.
Ian: Yeah, geez.
Robi: Which is, like, they’re grossing about $1 billion each year. And then net to them, in terms of revenue, is probably $210 million.
Robi: All that billion dollars is not captured in the industry reports around the size of mobile, right? That’s ridiculous, and that’s one company.
Robi: So, I think we’ve seen explosive growth. Another thing that we talked about last year, and I was banging the table when I said “2013, we’re going to be talking about retention a lot more,” and it feels like that’s definitely come up, but we’re still seeing so much explosive growth and expansion that retention is kind of a question coming up from the most seasoned marketers, but I’m not seeing it across the board.
Would you agree with that? How do you think about this Ryan?
Ryan: Yeah. So, I think retention starts to become more important as the market gets more and more saturated and we’ve got to be getting close to that point, right? I mean, I don’t know that we’re going to get there in the next year or so, but people are, you’re ultimately fighting for eyeballs and time and the cost of user acquisition continues to go up and it will continue to happen as long as the market can grow in conjunction with that.
So, it’s got to get, people need to be thinking about it now. Yeah. Not a very good point right there but…
Ian: But I totally agree. Like, it’s the right point of view. Retention and re-engagement have to become important at some point. It’s really just a matter of when people figure out that their budgets are, need to be focused in that direction and push notifications are not the answer to re-engagment. Right?
Like, they are, A, an answer that may or may not work. In many cases they don’t work. Yeah, and so there needs to be work done there to figure out better ways, more successful ways.
Ryan: Yeah. Oh yeah, and push notifications, I think, are an unfortunate victim of developers over use of them, right?
Ryan: Especially now that we’re seeing a bunch of system notifications, right?
Ryan: And so, like, that’s unfortunate because there can be a lot of value, right? Like, Starbucks push notifications are extremely valuable. Like, Apple Store notifications are really valuable, but so many of them are just, aren’t.
So I would say, you know, like, to your point, it’s one piece of an overarching puzzle. So yeah.
Robi: And the point about saturation’s an interesting one because, you know, part of me says “Okay, 2014. That’s when people are going to wake up and it’s really going to be a big deal,” but at the same time, going back to our good friend Benedict Evans and his predictions, right, he’s saying next year is the first time that mobile device says are really going to cross over PC ownership, and that’s actually interesting to think about.
When he put out that turn I was like “Wait, I thought that already happened,” but it hasn’t yet.
Robi: And so the fact that that’s just happening next year, I don’t know, maybe we are still, have sort of a lot of growth to go before we hit saturation globally at least.
Ryan: Yeah. I mean, I think, if I remember that chart correctly, it might have been a little bit unfair because it was like phone sales versus PC ownership, which is-
Robi: yeah, that’s true.
Ryan: Totally, like, two different things, because if you look at PC sales now, they’re kind of going like this. It goes, like, large. I mean, I’d like to see, like, what percentage of those home PCs are being used right now. I mean, just, like, think about your own experience. Like, other than doing some work at home, like, do you ever use your home computer?
Robi: Well, my home computer is my work computer.
Ian: Same for me, but, no, I also don’t use my tablet. I use my phone.
Ian: For almost everything.
Robi: Yeah. Right, it’s certainly, like, the big, old desktop. I do have one and it hasn’t been plugged in in quite a while.
Robi: So, that’s definitely gone. That counts in as numbers, right?
Ryan: Yeah. Well, I just think it’ll be, kind of my point there was it, phones have gone, or phones and tablets have gone, your point, from being games, to now being entertainment and retail, to now being total replacements for your home computer, and in a lot of cases, your work computer. And so the opportunities for developers and app marketers to capture that audience at various points during their day, whether it be on the bus, at work, or at home or with their kids, like, there’s a lot of opportunity there that simply didn’t exist before.
Robi: Yeah. That’s true. Creating time.
Robi: Yeah. Anything else to add?
Ian: No, I think this is good.
Robi: Great Well, so be sure to turn in for the next segments of App Marketing Conversations where we review a couple other pieces of 2013. We’ll look back, and then next week we’ll be looking forward. Cheers.
Ghosts, ghouls, witches, and even vampires may come out of the woodwork on Halloween, but to a mobile app they’re hardly reason to shriek into the night. As I considered what costumes I could create that would elicit the most screams and bring my fair share of terror into the night, I caught myself thinking. If I was mobile app, what would be scary to me? Zombies, trolls, and Frankenstein don’t cause a stir, but plenty of items come to mind, and each year they’re getting worse. I bring you:
The Top 6 Reasons Why It’s Scary to be Me: A Mobile App
1. The App Ecosystem - Costume Idea: An extra on Michael Jackson’s Thriller
There are over 1.75 million mobile apps available for download in the app ecosystem. Every week it is growing and getting organically discovered seems as likely as setting the high score for Candy Crush Saga. As a mobile app, I just want to be downloaded and do what I was made to do, but I need to be found first.
Being a part of the app ecosystem is like being an extra on Michael Jackson’s Thriller. You may look great, have all the moves, but no one is going to pay attention to you unless you’re at the front and your name’s MJ.
The only thing that hurts more than being all alone in an App Store is being found, downloaded, and then discarded. I may only live in digital space, but I have feelings too. You want to know what’s really scary? Retention rates! On average, retention rates drop to below 30% after a short 90 days.
I’m quickly left wondering, where did all the people go who downloaded me? Is there a way to bring my (un)dead customers back? It makes me shutter thinking about all the zombies who have me on their phones. I wish I knew why some customers left and why some stayed.
Raise the dead with: Engagement, In-app Customer Support – It’s time to bring them back “Warm Bodies” style – with a little love.
3. Device/OS Fragmentation- Costume Idea: Dr. Jeykell & Mr. Hyde
You are all so terribly hard to please! I think I am going a little crazy trying to handle every new operating system and device that gets released. Android is the usual suspect with over 10,000 distinct Android devices seen this year and eight different OS’s in use. Apple’s fragmentation is nothing to scoff at though, the generations of iPad’s, iPod’s, and iPhone’s adding up is starting to give me a headache as well.
I’m afraid to fall asleep at night not knowing where I might crash and bug out tomorrow. I feel like I have a thousand split personalities. Compared to me, Dr. Jeykell and Mr. Hyde had it easy.
4. Negative Reviews – Costume Idea: The Girl From The Ring
There is nobody more unhappy looking than the girl from the ring. She’s so unhappy that looking at her makes me feel terrible inside, thus her image will not be placed on this page. She’s so unhappy that she makes other people unhappy just by being in the same room with her.
Apparently I make people so unhappy that they leave negative reviews in the app store (ouch). Most of the time I don’t know what is wrong from their comments or they’re upset about a bug that has been squashed (change your review if the problem has been fixed!). These negative reviews make people think they won’t be happy if they download me, but that’s simply not true! I have many happy customers but they’re just too busy being happy to take the time to leave a review. My reputation is based on star ratings and reviews, and it really cheers me up when my happy customers leave a rating.
There is a lot of noise in the mobile industry and I somehow seem to drift through it all like a ghost. Nobody sees me and I haven’t quite saved up enough money for the “don’t be a ghost” operation. Even with cash to burn, I’ve heard it’s still difficult to be noticed. As mobile continues to grow, I’m afraid that some marketing budgets will be too big to keep up with (some already are).
Correctly marketing me is a task that my creators can no longer ignore as it is crucial to every app’s success. The time of making apps and making it big without a marketing strategy is long gone. I am beautiful and talented so make a marketing plan to get me noticed. Not every marketing plan needs money to work.
6. Development Costs – Costume Idea: It’s Alive!!!!! (Frankenstein)
Holy broomsticks! My great great grandfather was made for only 10 cents, but mobile apps these days can cost into the hundreds of millions of dollars. Once the mobile app development process begins, every little feature, design change, update, and maintenance starts to add up. It’s like Frankenstein coming alive and reaping havoc all across the town while you’re helpless to stop him (because you love him so much).
Now, I don’t think there is anything more important than me, but I can sympathize with what these growing costs can mean for businesses that want an app like me. In an effort to preserve and promote my kind, I urge you to be smart about how you develop your app. There are lots of tools out there (some free, some not) that will save you hours upon hours of dev time, cut down on maintenance, and are cheaper than doing it yourself.
Stop the monster rampage with: 3rd Party Solutions (Push, Support, Analytics etc.), Minimum Viable Product, Find a friendly dev who takes payment in candy corn.
The only way to beat my fears is by being prepared, just as the only way anyone is going to survive the Zombie Apocalypse is by being ready for it. Having strategies in place for all of these issues are as important as the development of an app. Without knowing how to handle these issues, your app won’t get very far. Do your research, spend time sketching out ideas, and make a plan for your app even before development begins.
If you have any other suggestions on what mobile apps need to know and prepare for in order to survive please share in the comments, I want to survive!
Whatever happened to that whole “HTML 5 is going to crush native apps” argument?
For a while it seemed like the whole mobile community was convinced that HTML5 was going to take over the market, rendering app store and native app development obsolete. Well, that hasn’t come to pass. So, with the news that Amazon’s App Store is now accepting HTML5 apps, we thought it was a good opportunity to discuss HTML5 again and to dig into if Amazon’s presence will meaningfully change the current trajectory of app creation in mobile. We discussed several aspects of this announcement, including:
Does the Kindle Fire help boost the relevance of HTML5?
Should marketers watch this closely?
Is this more important to specific verticals?
Do you think Amazon’s announcement is going to meaningfully impact the future of mobile app development? Please share in the comments.
Robi: Good morning. Welcome to another App Marketing Conversations. I’m
Robi Ganguly, CEO of Apptentive. As always, I’m joined by Ryan Morel of
Gamehouse and Ian Sefferman of MobileDevHQ, and our occasional guest,
Ian: More than occasional.
Robi: So, we are going to talk in this segment a little bit about some news
out of Amazon, who continues to introduce new opportunities for app
marketers to grow their businesses in the Amazon Appstore. The recent
release from them is that you can now produce HTML5 apps and then submit
them to the Amazon Appstore.
First off, we’ve talked about HTML5 quite a bit over the past year plus.
There’s a lot of back and forth about who should be investing in it and
why. Does this make a meaningful change in how you think about HTML5 apps?
Ian: No. It’s interesting because it’s as if there’s a dying patient in an
emergency room who’s flatlined, and these are the paddles which is like,
maybe if we’re really lucky, are going to resuscitate the guy. But,
fundamentally I for a long time wanted to be all in on HTML5. I thought it
was a great idea. I actually thought somebody needed to build an HTML 5 app
But, the more time I spent in the ecosystem the better Native became to me
for so, so many reasons. And platform owners care about it. Does Amazon
really have a meaningful amount of sway as a platform owner? It’s not
convincing to me that it’s going to make a huge difference.
Robi: What about you?
Ryan: I’m a long dissident of HTML5 content. I’ve never liked it. I
probably never will. But, I think it’s an interesting play from Amazon’s
perspective. It’s maybe a really, really long game where they say, “Hey
this is our potential way to access consumers on other people’s platforms
for content other than what Amazon traditionally sells, books, et cetera.”
Assuming that they’re doing this the way that I would expect Amazon to do
it, like if I have an iPad I could go to Amazon’s Appstore and buy HTML5
content and play them in my browser. That opens Amazon up to content sales,
to a vastly larger number of hardware platforms that they would never be
able to obtain themselves. So, I think it’s really interesting if the
Robi: Yes. And I think that you’ve got to be assuming that’s the bet
they’re making internally. That they think that, around the content
strategy that they’re developing, there’s an extension that they can make
into the broader market.
I think the other aspect of this that’s really fascinating is that they’re
anchoring it around the benefits to Kindle Fire owners and Kindle Fire HD
owners, that those devices in particular are being perfectly tuned for
HTML5 apps delivered by them. And I think that becomes interesting just
because they have this core opportunity to promote it, to push.
So, if you just pull that out. If you’re a marketer and you’re in sort of
the content space. Let’s say entertainment. Do you spend more time looking
at this as a result if you’re seeing already some existing meaningful
traffic growth for Kindle Fire?
Ryan: I think if you have existing content or have easy ways to produce
HTML5 content, then yes, you should think about it. But, I wouldn’t go
it. We have seen, just over the last couple of days, that Amazon’s tablet
share, they’re now not even in the top five or seven or something like
that, so, uber-cyclical business. Yeah, I wouldn’t go jumping out the
window for it.
Ian: So this brings up a good point which is, if Amazon’s goal is to access
platforms that it doesn’t otherwise have access to, by you as an
independent developer and marketer developing for Amazon’s HTML5 store, you
could just go straight to those platforms and have a better experience
Ian: So, why wouldn’t you?
Robi: Well, maybe part of the argument is if you don’t have the resources,
but you do have decent HTML5 experience, like maybe you’re Hulu and going,
“Hulu.com is okay on the tablet.” And maybe this is a better place to
promote yourself and connect billing systems, perhaps. What about the
search implications around this?
Ian: Yeah, I think that’s where it starts to get interesting. Because HTML5
apps are by their nature easier to search. They’re easier to index. They’re
easier to get deep linking and deep indexing into the content that’s going
on there. That makes search a whole lot better. Quite frankly, Amazon is
great at content search. If you look at the numbers, I think Google is
obviously the biggest search engine. Then it’s probably either YouTube or
Facebook. But, Amazon is not far down the line.
Ian: They’re certainly in the top seven to ten search engines. So, I think
Amazon will do a great job of understanding what an app is actually about
in a way that we haven’t seen before. That allows a marketer to really
boost engagement and downloads.
Ryan: Yeah, and the other thing I would add is I think in the short term it
might be interesting especially if you have HTML5 content and Native
content. Use HTML5 as opportunities for trials, if that’s easier, and then
upsell people into the Native version for its fuller functionality or
whatever. I think that’s a really balanced strategy, potentially.
Ian: Yeah. So, this is one question, do we think Amazon will be paying
developers to get into this platform in the way that Microsoft pays
developers to build Windows phone apps? Do we think Amazon will, and should
you be going after those dollars?
Robi: I would say I’d be very surprised if they had a structured plan
around paying developers to do that stuff. That seems outside of their
normal behavior around cost structures and the way that they think about
building businesses. Even if they did, it’s not clear that that’s
beneficial to the people who are accepting those dollars from Microsoft.
Ryan: Yeah, or the platform owner themselves, right.
Ryan: Because there are plenty of platform examples where they have
content, but they still don’t have users. I think two to three years ago
the lack of content was a really valid and meaningful reason for you to
have issues growing a platform, but at this point I think we’re past that.
It’s like you’re not fighting content, you’re fighting momentum and shift
change in behavior. It’s just hard.
Robi: Alright, so I think we’ve covered several topics on this. The verdict
remains to be seen. We’re a little skeptical about some of the
opportunities here. But, certainly it’s nice to see Amazon broadening their
approach to apps and the Appstore. I think that as a marketer, ultimately
you want to be seeing a bigger market with consumers spending more time and
more dollars. Amazon’s clearly bringing a lot of heft from consumer
purchasing behavior. So, if you have an Amazon app, maybe it’s time to
extend it a little bit and see if HTML5 can help you do cross promotion,
and if you don’t then let’s watch and see what happens.
So, be sure to check out the other segments this week and like this video
on YouTube, share it. Thanks.
App Developer Conversations is a weekly video series with Ian Sefferman of MobileDevHQ and Ryan Morel of PlacePlay covering current topics of interest for app developers. If you have suggestions for future conversations, please let us know!
Jeff Rutherford, of APPetite PR and I talked for a bit during a Google Hangout about app marketing, what we’re seeing in the world of app development and how to build a successful app, audience and brand. It’s our first video interview and we had some fun, let us know what you think in the comments!
In the interview we covered a number of topics, here’s a brief overview:
What Apptentive does and why we started the company
Why the App Store isn’t a good place for customer communication and how developers can use their app in order to connect with their app customers
How app developers can save 10’s of thousands of dollars by conducting research with their own customer base
Why the debate about app store reviews and responses is a good conversation
Some common mistakes that developers are making in making and marketing their apps
What I’d do if I was having a beer with a developer and why we’d be talking about love
How to think about social hooks, sharing and when it can be used for great leverage
Why you have to worry about trust and be wary of misleading consumers
How a dialog with a customer can lead to real-world sharing of your app
How software has truly entered the consumer age
See Jeff share an app with me that he loves, Tweetbot
App developers need to court attention from writers
As we’ve written about before, it’s important to be proactive in reaching out to the press and developing relationships. Our previous piece on tips for reaching out to the media continues to be popular because so many app developers are searching for guidance on how to navigate a world that is often foreign to them.
Here’s what an expert says about the topic:
We had the pleasure of meeting Victor from TUAW last week at WWDC and we got to see him give a presentation at Appsterdam WWDC HQ about how app developers can be most successful in their interactions with bloggers. His talk was engaging and informative and we thought we’d share what we heard from him.
For the TL;DR crowd, Victor had three main points to share with us all:
Make it great
Give it time
Be a mensch
Why does this matter?
Before he dug into the heart of his talk, he gave us all a compelling overview of why the press matters to your app’s success. There were a few really important points that I took away from this:
TUAW’s audience is really in “buying/download” mode. Fun fact: TUAW frequently drives more sales and downloads of an app than an Apple feature in the app store
Victor’s explanation for this was that TUAW and other blogs/publications about apps tend to act as “trusted friends” whose opinions are very influential, as opposed to the feature banners, which are often more akin to a “billboard on the highway”
It’s about people – it was clear that a common theme in Victor’s talk was the admonishment that if you realize that bloggers/the press/your customers are people too, you’ll make a lot more correct decisions along the way.
Make it great
It might sound trite to say it, but the simple point here was if you couldn’t pitch your app to a blogger and talk about why what you’ve built is specifically great, you haven’t hit the mark. How do you know it’s great? Here were a few tips to sanity checking your own internal barometer:
Talk to people who are “normal” – if you haven’t let other people use your app and gotten their feedback on what you’ve built, you’re very likely to miss basic capabilities that an average person requires. Making something that is intuitive requires actual validation of your design hypothesis.
What problem does it solve? If you can’t describe a core problem that your app solves, how do you expect a blogger to understand why it’s important enough to write about?
It needs to work! It sounds like TUAW sees far too many apps before they’re ready for primetime, struggling with crashing issues and incomplete functionality. Knowing that you’re developing a relationship with bloggers, you need to be thinking about how to make your first impression a positive one.
Give it time
Victor advised app developers to invest in relationships and to be patient. No, you’re not going to get the “perfect launch” with several articles at the same time that your app is released in the app store, so reset your expectations.
Instead, settle into a rhythm about telling your story to the right people and engaging with the right communities. If your app is real estate-focused, Victor said, get involved in the real estate community, tell your story, explain why your app is relevant and stay engaged in the comments and on Twitter.
Be constructive and helpful and you’ll get somewhere – seems simple right?
However, most people aren’t willing to invest the time and effort required to execute on this strategy. It takes a lot of work to continue reaching out, engaging in conversations, connecting, interacting and adding value. It takes even more work to research the bloggers you’re trying to reach out to in order to understand their particular interests, where they focus their time and if you’re appropriate. But it’s the kind of work that’s worth investing in because it results in personal connections and relationships that enable you to be heard and can assist you in attracting allies instead of of people you’re begging for favors.
Be a mensch
Just be a human being – realize that the people you’re interacting with are real people with lives, time constraints and stresses, just like you. If you hound them and annoy them, of course they’re not going to want to help you. “You’re not going to win converts by badgering people,” Victor told the crowd. If you want them to take the time to help you, be patient and understanding.
You might think that you’ve built something amazing but it’s not going to be true for everybody and you need to have the humility and self-awareness to realize this. More importantly, if someone gives you a bad/scathing review or makes a lot of suggestions, LISTEN!
The people you’re dealing with are in this industry and writing about it because they love what developers are building every day. They respect your work, appreciate it and want you to produce the best product possible so listen to them because they’re investing their energy in helping you be successful.
Finally, some tactical advice
In addition to Victor’s 3 main points, he shared some tactical advice during Q&A:
If you’re going to create a Twitter account/blog/Facebook page for your app, make sure that it’s got some personality.
If you want to really dive deep into this topic, you should check out “Pitch Perfect”, written by his colleagues Erica Sadun and Steven Sande.
Follow up, but politely. If you sent a message across and didn’t hear anything, it’s ok to follow up a week later, just to make sure they’d seen your message
Press releases really don’t capture their attention, don’t spend time and money on PR firms that just blast out press releases
When your app gets written about, participate in the comments
The comments can be a very solid place for bloggers to discover new apps, so if you’re engaging in conversation about your app across the web, it can help you get noticed
NEVER, EVER, pay for a review
And, a bonus, the actual video!
Thanks to the Appsterdam folks for taking video and letting us know about it:
Join the thousands of companies that are being Apptentive.