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October Events Round-Up: Apptentive at Home and Away

apptentive-on-the-road

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

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

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

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

And that’s just this week!

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

Ratings

Using Rating Prompts in your Mobile App

Ratings App StoreWe seek to rate, judge, and qualify the experiences we have every day. We often place everything we do on a sliding scale that helps us explain to others how great or poor the experience was. Whether it’s movies, a book, a restaurant, a new experience, or just your usual Tuesday we have an answer for what we thought about it or how it went. When we ask, “How was it?” we expect an answer that will make up our mind on whether we should do it as well.

Due to our curiosity and inquisitive nature we seek to know how other people felt about things before we try them ourselves. For many experiences this is a survival technique, but for mobile apps it’s as simple as knowing if the app is worth 10 seconds to download and try out. The influence of ratings and peer reviews have grown and can noticeably effect the success of an app.

Ratings are often the first looked at attribute of a mobile app and in a single second a potential customer will often decide, just based off the rating, whether or not to download the app. From the beginning of the published app lifecycle ratings play an immediate role in an app’s success.

The Controversial Rating Prompt

Apptentive Rating Prompt

Apps rely on them, customers are annoyed by them. If used correctly they can increase your app’s rating and if abused can lose you customers. Rating prompts are a double-edged sword that can disrupt the customer experience, but are one of the best ways to get more ratings. Like every tool, there are ways for rating prompts to be used incorrectly, but when used correctly it is a win-win for everyone involved.

 Why Prompts Are Necessary

How often do you leave a positive review… for anything? After having an amazing meal at a restaurant or being blown away by a new film, how often do you take the time to write a positive review?

For mobile apps, it often doesn’t occur to people to leave a review for an application they enjoy, value, or rely on. However, a single unsatisfactory experiences such as “not redesigned for iOS 7″ can result in a 1-star review. Critics are louder than satisfied customers and choose to use their voices more often. Prompts help level the playing field by reminding and making it easy for happy customers to rate.

Building an app that people love and are willing to leave a positive rating for is hard work, and the effort should be acknowledged. You have an audience that uses your app everyday, loves it, but still never takes the time to give you a review.
It’s your job to go out there and proactively reach out and lead your customers to action.

Sometimes all it takes to increase your ratings and reviews is a simple question asked in the right way and at the right time.

Do You Love Prompt

Going one step further and asking a pre-qualifying question such as “Do you love [App Name]?” is a great way to understand how your customers feel before asking for a rating. This way, if a customer doesn’t love your app you can ask for feedback instead of asking for a rating. If they do love your app, then give them the option to go to your app’s page in the app store.

In-App Rating Prompt Best Practices

Rating prompts needs to be tested and optimized just like any other feature, as there is no one size fits all solution for when and where to use them. Every app is different and as a result, customer behavior is unique to each app.

The first item you need to consider is the experience and flow of customer behavior for your app. When you set a rating prompt your first question should be, “If we place it here, will it be a disruption for my mobile customers?” If so, try to find another spot in your app to have a rating prompt appear. The last thing you want to do is to have a negative effect on keeping your customer engaged.

Even though every app is different, there are key questions that can help you figure out the best time to show the rating prompt:

  • How many times does it take for a customer to feel the value of your app?
  • What is an accomplishment or achievement in your app?
  • When you think about the lifecycle of your customer, at what point do they become an evangelist?

Knowing the answers to these questions will guide you to using your prompt at the correct time. However, testing is always important when trying to maximize results. Test for two weeks, collect the data, and make changes based on what you are seeing. Keep testing out different times for the rating prompt to appear in two-week cycles until you feel confident in its placement.

If you aren’t seeing an increase in reviews through a rating prompt it can mean one of two options. You may be being too conservative in surfacing the rating prompt. In this scenario, customers aren’t getting to the point in your app where the prompt is popping up. In the other scenario, you are surfacing the prompt at a time when the customer is engaged with your app and will the prompt more annoying than anything else. Just remember, testing makes perfect so don’t be afraid to experiment.

Here are a couple of points to keep in mind when setting your rating prompt:

  • DO NOT prompt the first time a customer launches an app. They haven’t experienced anything yet so don’t ask for a rating.
  • AVOID setting your rating prompt to appear when the app is launched, no matter how many times it has been opened before. When a customer opens your app they want to be use it, not rate it immediately.
  • DO prompt after a customer accomplishes a task or receives an achievement (i.e. Logs a workout, beats a level, or completes a purchase)

The more thoughtful you are around using your rating prompt the better the results will be.

The Apptentive Ratings Prompt is designed to help anybody with a mobile app get better ratings and reviews the correct way and leads unsatisfied customers to talk to you instead of going to the app store. In the crowded app ecosystem, the mobile app that leverages the voices of their customers will have the upper hand in the app store.

L.O.V.E

Love: The Apptentive Framework to Improving the Customer Experience

We’re all about the love, but when we use the tagline “Spread the Love”  at Apptentive, we are not just talking about sharing that wonderful feeling. At Apptentive, we use the letters L.O.V.E. as a constant reminder of how we should build our product and interact with our customers. It is a framework that we use to continually improve our product while keeping our customers in mind.L.O.V.E.

These four letters create a list that you should consider everyday when you think about how your app is interacting with your customers. Each aspect of the acronym is important and there is no order in which to follow them. Instead, it is understanding that there is a right moment (which could be all the time) to use each piece of L.O.V.E that is important.

• Listen

Listening is the foundation of every positive relationship. We have all heard the adage, “hearing is easy, listening is hard,” but how does that translate to businesses and is it even important? Every customer has listened to another one for advice, suggestions, and warnings about a product. It is important for businesses to listen to the customer as well. In regards to mobile, much of the feedback can be straight forward, but take the time to digest the words being said as that can lead to a better understanding in general of how the app can be improved. For example, if someone comments on reducing the steps to access a certain feature, consider making it simpler to access all the features.

When somebody reaches out by sending feedback, asking questions, or commenting it means they care. Whether the messages contain praise or criticism, a customer is taking the time to send it. That alone gives it enough value to warrant a developers attention. For every customer complaint there are many others who feel the same way but remain silent. Ignoring negative feedback will result in some serious missed opportunities, and result in driving people away from your app. People leaving negative feedback want to use your app as much or even more so than those who provided positive feedback. Furthermore, negative feedback can provide developers with vital information on how to improve the app. In case you need any help handling negative feedback here are some tips to turn negative reviews into happy customers.

Listening is also about providing a place where you can listen and encouraging people to talk with you. This is why social media has become an integral channel to many businesses. Show that you listen to your customers by always commenting and thanking people through your social media channels. Often times people don’t reach out because they think there won’t be a response. Show them that responding is a priority. With a mobile app, any channel avoiding the app store should be used as an alternative as a place to listen (social media, blogs, forums etc.). At Apptentive, we want to make it easy for app developers to listen to their customers and provide a place in-app where customers can communicate with you, the app developer.

As 2013 picks up speed, it is clear that customers want a better customer experiences. It is so important that people will pay more for companies that provide great customer experiences. As app developers, having many different places where customers can go to be listened to is an easy step to use to start improving the customer experience.

• Observe

Observing is about incorporating data to judge if something is significant or not . In the technical world of bugs, freezes, and crashes some problems may be hard or too time consuming for customers to thoroughly explain.  Therefore, it is up to the developer to investigate an issue in order to come to a complete understanding of the issue. If app developers are focused on listening to their customers, there will be a large amount of feedback. Being able to observe allows app developers to be able to prioritize what feedback is most important and should be acted upon. In an ideal world everything can be fixed, changed, or added but that is not always possible, especially with smaller indie developers. Therefore, it is important to be able to discern what items are most significant. Don’t get sidetracked trying to improve features that only you think is important. Focus on what is important to the customer, or you won’t have any left. Apptentive provides data to app developers to more easily understand customer sentiment towards certain features and generally gathers feedback about what customers like or dislike about an app.

If it is difficult to ascertain what should be fixed through the data gathered, take a walk in the customer’s shoes for a day and use the app (or product) as if you daily life depended on it. That will help clarifying what to improve upon. You owe it to yourself to make the best app possible, because if you don’t take the time to make your app great, why should customers take the time to use it!

• Validate

Repeat-Business

Now it’s crucial to validate the time spent by the person who provided feedback as time well spent. The most common mistake made by businesses, app developers, or anybody asking for feedback is not validating the feedback they receive. Saying thank you is not enough, and can even sound like a dismissal in some instances. Tell the people who provided feedback what you plan on doing with their suggestions or to fix their complaints. Make your customers feel appreciated by explaining to them that the app has been improved thanks to their feedback. App developers should feel obligated to reach back out after any interaction with a person using their app. Whether or not you asked for feedback, it is important to show your appreciation every time it is received.

By validating feedback app developers have a wonderful opportunity to create brand advocates out of everyone who uses the app. Letting people know that their feedback helped create part of the new release creates a bond between the customer and the app, so not only will they continue to use it because they helped make it better, but they will tell their friends about the app as well. And as we all know, nothing is more effective or trusted than word-of-mouth for acquiring new customers.

• Engage

Engaging customers is the most dynamic letter in L.O.V.E. because it incorporates every other letter and is open to any innovative ideas one could have. It is important for app developers to spend time and energy engaging and developing relationships with people who use their apps. You can do this by offering discounts or invites to private betas of the app. Try sending out holiday or seasonal cards to your customers so they know that you are keeping them in mind. Consider dropping personal notes about updates and changes to the app to people who have provided feedback. Besides being personal, be creative with your messages (e.g. include a cat video link :D, or anything to bring out a smile).

Don’t let the customer have the last word in a conversation. Let the final interaction come from the developer side with a thank you note, or something as simple as wishing them a wonderful day. If need be, stay on the phone with them for 8 hours like the customer service agent from Zappos (check out the great re-enactment video).

Here are two things we like to do at Apptentive to engage others:

Be real. Real messages from real people. It is fine to give customers your personal/work e-mail and encourage them to drop a line at anytime because customers who talk to you trust you more. Provide information for them on how to stay connected with links to your blog, Facebook, twitter, or any other places where information is published to the public.

Create a presence outside your mobile app. Whatever your target audience is, host or help sponsor an event that your audience would be interested in going to. It doesn’t need to be about your app or your business. You can’t go wrong helping to nurture a community that is your target audience. If you don’t have the money to throw events, just show up to them. Being present, personal, and approachable will go a long way to helping people remember you. This also includes writing guest posts, being open to interviews, and participating in conversations around the internet.

At Apptentive the L.O.V.E. framework works great to make sure we are keeping our customers in mind as we improve our product. Each part of the framework is important as a business tries to establish itself or grow. Every time a new feature, direction, or idea is being discussed it should answer one key question. Is this something that customers want? Without our customers there would be no Apptentive. Join us in focusing on building a better mobile customer experience and sign up with Apptentive today.






Adding some more Red to Team Apptentive

Red Russak joins forces with Apptentive

When we first met Red Russak, Mike and I knew we’d encountered a force of nature – his personality and enthusiasm is infectious. It wasn’t long before we found ourselves on the receiving end of his networking prowess – he introduced us to potential customers, would randomly send us suggestions and generally just “got” what we were working on. The more we got to know Red, the more we loved him.

Which is why we’re absolutely delighted to announce that we asked Red to join team as our first fully sales-focused team member.

Red’s passion for sales, startups and Seattle are a great fit for us and we’re excited to work together.

Red practice pitches the team

Red practice pitches the team

Importantly, as many of you know, Red has been running StartupSeattle for over a year. It’s a great organization that has brought our community closer together and created hundreds of meaningful relationships. Apptentive is passionate about investing in the Seattle community and making it stronger. To us, success is measured in our impact on the world and StartupSeattle’s an important step in the right direction for our little company.

We’re delighted to have Red on our team. Feel free to reach out to him at any time, of course he’s Red [at] Apptentive.com

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App Developer Conversations – What the Popcap layoffs mean to the games industry

In this week’s App Developer Conversations with Ian Sefferman of MobileDevHQ and Ryan Morel of PlacePlay we discussed Popcap’s announcement this week that they’ll be laying off ~50 people. The net of the conversation is that the move to mobile and social games is happening much faster than even the most sophisticated of companies can anticipate. Watch to find out more and be sure to see the other two videos from this week:

We hope you enjoy this series – please let us know in the comments about future topics you might want to hear about and if you have anything to add to the discussion!

The Transcript
Robi: Hello. Welcome to App Developer Conversations. I’m here with Ryan
Morel, CEO of PlacePlay, and Ian Sefferman, CEO of MobileDevHQ, and I’m
Robi Ganguly from Apptentive. Let’s just jump into it.

This week, PopCap announced that they’re going to be laying off about 50
people here in North America and that they’re going to be evaluating their
operation in Dublin. In talking about it in his blog post, the CEO of
PopCap stated that the reason for it was that the move, to quote him, “was
that in the past year, we’ve seen a dramatic change in the way people play
and pay for games. Free-to-play, social, and mobile games have exploded in
popularity. It happened fast, surprisingly so.” So, they were shocked. They
had to do some reduction in force really quickly because of this move.
Let’s discuss what this means for mobile apps in general.

Ryan: I think it’s probably a proxy for what’s going on in the rest of what
we call “the traditional publisher world.” We saw this a little bit in
mobile when we moved from the carrier distribution model to smart phones,
where the big guys were slow, like glue, had big problems. This is probably
happening on a much greater scale with people like EA, Activision, etc.,
because their business is set up to build these huge multimillion dollar
franchises that take two years.

Now you’re presented with a market that favors much smaller, faster,
cheaper, lower quality titles that need to be pumped out in three to nine
months. How do you restructure your entire business not only from a
development perspective, but also from a distribution, marketing, and
monetization perspective? That’s obviously really difficult, and just
speaking for myself, I was really surprised by PopCap being really honest
about this, simply because we always assumed they’re doing so well. This
doesn’t mean that they’re not, but it means that they’re seeing changes
affecting their business in a negative way.

Ian: I would actually go so far as to say that this isn’t necessarily only
to gain publishers, and that kind of thing. This is actually pretty
widespread in the start-up community. We talk a lot about how start-ups now
just simply take less capital. You can get more things done quicker, and
that can hurt a lot of incumbents very fast. So, it’s not necessarily just
a games publisher thing. I think it’s more, this is how technology is
progressing, and it’s becoming cheaper, and quicker, and easier to fund,
and easier to build. A hit isn’t as big of a hit anymore. It’s no longer
that you’re going to get $100 million dollar franchise out of something.
You might get a $10 million dollar franchise out of something. So, I think
that’s interesting as well.

Robi: I think something that strikes me about this is just the fact that
the business cycle is really speeding up. We’ve seen changes in the games
industry. Typically, companies know in advance that their business is
deteriorating, and if they’re going to do layoffs, oftentimes they do it in
the form of stopping hiring. They might have 50 open heads, and they end up
saying, “Okay, our business is changing, so we’re going to cut it to 25
open heads.”

But the fact that they had to actively say, “This portion of our company
was good a year ago, when we had these plans, and now it’s not and we have
to lay people off,” says to me, “Wow, it’s moving so fast that a
sophisticated company like PopCap, that’s historically been really well
managed, was caught off guard.” That’s a little bit scary.

Ryan: Yeah. I think to your point, you see different variations of this.
We’ve seen it recently with Nokia saying they’re going to lay off X
thousands of people by 2014. Being in a small company, you look at that and
go, “What are you talking about? If you need to lay these people off, you
do it today.” I think to both of your points, it’s interesting to see how
these big established business approach things very differently than start-
ups do, especially in the scenario where start-ups are part of the reason
why they’re getting crushed.

The iPhone, obviously, is the big driver behind Nokia’s issues, but you
could make a pretty valid argument, potentially, that what really is
hurting Nokia is the fact that Apple has thousands of developers building
apps for them and keeping that ecosystem really strong, and that’s hurting
Nokia just as much. I think that’s an interesting point.

Ian: I think another thing that I see coming out of this is that when you,
typically, are an established game company with a big brand and lots of
distribution, like selling boxes into Wal-Mart, for example, there are only
a few companies in the world that really do that successfully. Pop-Cap is
there.

The fact that they’re feeling like the assets that they had to communicate
to people, to distribute their copies of the game, are not actually assets
anymore, that they’re not successfully maintaining that businesses, says a
lot about the fragmentation of people’s attention to games. Being a PopCap
doesn’t mean what it used to mean.

Ryan: I think that’s exactly right. Distribution used to be a competitive
advantage to PopCap. No longer, because distribution is totally
democratized by Apple and by Google.

Robi: Yeah. Although, and you guys help solve this problem in particular,
the advantages of distribution in the App Store are varied. It’s a black
box in many ways. What would you advise if you were to sit down with PopCap
and say, “Clearly, you’re moving to mobile. You’ve got to be thinking more
about how to create advantages in this new world of distribution. How would
you go about that?”

Ian: I think there’s a lot to be said to actually putting together the paid
side and the organic side in order to do well within the app store. So, in
rankings, in search, driving people from ads elsewhere, from other apps. I
think the more you look at app distribution, the more you have to be
sophisticated and really think of a multichannel approach, and that
multichannel approach makes every channel better.

Ryan: This kind of [delves] into our conversation from last week about
Zynga. I think what we’re going to see is similar to what Zynga’s doing,
where companies are going to try to do manage their customer relationships
and those engagements a little bit differently than they have been today. A
year ago, everyone was relying on OpenFeint to create these faux-
communities. Now people use Game Center. But those aren’t engagement
solutions, and they don’t allow PopCap to have one-to-one interactions,
like something that you guys do.

Ian: Yeah. It’s totally what we’re trying to enable, because we think this
fragmentation’s a huge problem, and if you don’t have a relationship with
the end-consumer, if you’re used to distribution being something you can
count on, and that moves away from you because the app store is not
featuring you anymore, for example, if you don’t have that ability to talk
to somebody, you’re dead in the water, it seems like.

Ryan: Yep. There are a series of articles on our blog right now about
engaging consumers via social media. The guy ha we talked to has done a
fantastic job with community marketing, and it’s really interesting to hear
him talk about how companies should be stepping back from marketing a
feature, and talk more about, “We’re going to create this emotional
connection, and we’re part of your life,” community marketing stuff.

I think we’re going to see more of that as companies realize, “Hey, me just
putting out this content, and relying on this black box of distribution
isn’t good enough. I really need to own this customer engagement, and this
customer interaction.” I think that’s going to be really interesting.

Robi: Any last words on this topic?

Ian: No. I think it’s super interesting. We’ll see how it plays out. My
thoughts certainly go with the people who got laid off. I have a feeling
that they’ll be totally fine and will be able to find great work, and I
look forward to seeing what PopCap does. I think they’re really
interesting, ultimately.

Ryan: I’d echo that.

Robi: Yeah, definitely the folks who have been laid off, thoughts to those
guys. Thanks for joining us. Be sure to check out the other videos we’ve
got coming today.

Ian: Let’s start out with an example. I think that the biggest and best
example right now is probably Uber, where they are a sole mobile play, but
everything that they do is based in the offline world, based in getting
around, going places, where they’re driving .

App Developer Conversations – How does Zynga impact mobile app developers?

We’re kicking off a weekly video series that we’re calling App Developer Conversations this week that features myself, Ian Sefferman of MobileDevHQ and Ryan Morel of PlacePlay. We’ll be focusing on short video conversations about issues facing app developers, new opportunities to promote and monetize your apps and whatever else we think is relevant. Be sure to check out the MobileDevHQ blog and PlacePlay blog to see their videos from each week as well.

This week I led our discussion about Zynga, their mobile strategy and how it impacts mobile app developers. We had a few key takeaways:

  • Zynga’s existing mobile strategy appears to be highly acquisition-focused; it’s unclear whether or not this will lead to long-term success (although we’re skeptical).
  • Having mobile “DNA” is particularly important and we don’t see that being true for Zynga at this time
  • Most mobile app developers have nothing to worry about with respect to Zynga, but if you’re working on games that are similar to their strategy (i.e. Games with Friends) you should probably be a bit more concerned about what you’re working on.

We hope you enjoy this series – please let us know in the comments about future topics you might want to hear about and if you have anything to add to the discussion!

 

The transcript

I’m Robi Ganguly of Apptentive, and I’m here with Ryan Morel of PlacePlay,
and Ian Sefferman of MobileDevHQ. We’re here to talk about app development,
discuss what’s going on and potentially talk about new opportunities. So
quick intro, could you tell us about what you do at MobileDevHQ?

Ian: Yes absolutely, I’m Ian at MobileDevHQ we’re doing apps for
optimization. Which is essentially as SEO for mobile apps. So we help app
developers rank more highly in App Store search.

Robi: Awesome. And how about you, Ryan, what are you working on at
PlacePlay?

Ryan: My name is Ryan Morel, I’m the CEO of PlacePlay. We help app
developers make more money with targeted advertising. It’s really simple.

Robi: Like I said, I’m Robi, with Apptentive. And what we do is help app
developers talk to their customers more effectively. We think app stores
are great for distribution, but they are the last place for customer
conversations. We fix that problem, and get people higher ratings,
downloads, and higher customer retention. So let’s just jump right in to
it. Let’s talk about Zynga. We know their growth on the web is flattening
, and they’ve been saying mobile is a real big growth area in terms of
where people are spending time. But it doesn’t seem like their monetization
strategy is keeping up with that. What do you think the pros and cons are
of their mobile strategies today?

Ryan: I think it’s been interesting, because it’s clearly, up until
recently been a secondary platform for that, right. So as their DAU’s on
the web, going like this? It was like we really don’t need to focus on
mobile, but now the DAU’s for the web are going, “I guess mobile is a much
bigger concern”. So I think that created two problems for them. So one,
it set expectations that were unrealistic. And two there’s no favorite
nation status on mobile. So Facebook, clearly Zynga did do a lot of thing
right, Facebook made them. They had that favored nation status there’s no
way to get it on mobile. So trying to compete fair and square with other
well-capitalized companies that know mobile really well, has clearly proven
hard for them. And I think we are starting to get to a point where we’re
maybe seeing some reactionary moves; as opposed to like strategic moves.
So “Draw Something” was a fantastic game that’s doing really well, but they
may have over payed for that a little bit. Considering what it’s done
since acquiring it.

Robi: What about you Ian?

Ian: I think “Draw Something” is a great example of where Zynga’s doing
wrong. On the web front we can talk about whether or not Zynga’s actually
innovative in their game design, but the [EA suite] has been clear that
maybe they weren’t. But, on the mobile front they I think they didn’t even
try right. Most of their mobile efforts are acquisitions, so they really
have no core DNA in mobile yet. If they want to acquire in order to build
that core DNA then, that’s actually, I think, very smart. If they’re just
acquiring to try to find the next hot thing, it’s never going to work out.
Because at the time you’ve bought it, it’s already going to be on its way
down. So figuring out how they can build mobile into the core DNA is, I
think, their biggest challenge.

Robi: I think that DNA issue is often underestimated in its importance.
So we see lots of game companies and EA’s one of them with a studio
acquisition strategy, right. They’ll buy, oh you’re successful at this you
are developing this, so were going to buy you and bring you in-house, and
then that one time they were successful was really an aberration it wasn’t
consistent. And because it was an internal DNA they don’t know why they
strayed away from success. They don’t know how to lead a company back to
being good at it. I think that’s underestimated, so. I’d be most concerned
with Zynga if I was them about that lack of really understanding and the
feeling around how to do mobile correctly, and how to evolve with it.

Ryan: I think that’s a really interesting point. I’m not trying to
diminish the accomplishments of OMGPOP, because it clearly has a fantastic
game. That company was dead on vines, right. And “Draw Something” was
their hit title. So much like Angry Birds who has parlayed their success,
Rovi was a nobody. And they’ve done a bunch of stuff and it all failed. So
I’m not convinced that those acquisitions and their acquisition strategy is
buying that core DNA. It seems to me like if they went after, I’m giving
Zynga and EA advice. It’s very presumptuous. Like if they went after
somebody like Z2Live here in Seattle or Back-flip or some of these other
guys who were built from the ground up on mobile, that’s probably the way
to get that core team that you guys are both talking about.

Robi: So I think were saying quite a bit about the DNA, their acquisition
strategy may be maybe it’s questionable . Maybe it’s not the best way to
acquire DNA. But if you’re a mobile app developer you’re scared of them.

Ryan: If I was a mobile, no. The only thing I’d be scared of is their
ability to outspend me in these acquisitions. And their ability to get
they’re monetization metrics right. But I’m not sure if it’s there, at
this point. They’re no different than anybody else, right. If I’m a
mobile app developer I’m way more worried about GREE or DNA, or some of
these other guys who are spending huge dollars on these acquisitions.

Ian: Yeah, I actually think that’s sort of dead on. I would be worried
from the standpoint of are they going to artificially going to inflate
prices in ads, in driving user acquisition. I think most mobile developers
especially in the gaming space, have much more to worry about in terms of
building an awesome game then they do in terms of their competition coming.
I wouldn’t worry about Zynga.

Ryan: Sorry for interrupting, I guess the only thing I’d be worried about
is them copying me.

Robi: I think that’s what I was going to talk about. If your mobile app
developer in general, Zynga may not be on the radar, but if you are making
specific types of games. Particularly games that have this with friends
aspect trying to be social and viral in that sense, you’d probably be more
worried. Because if you’re coming with something that you think is
innovative, there’s a decent chance that they’re going to find out they
might copy you or they might come talk to you and you’ve got to be thinking
maybe about those situations six months before. Whereas, most app
developers don’t have to be thinking about that problem.

Ryan: I would say also, and I think we kind of glossed over this a little
bit. That Zynga did really make a good acquisition with Newtoy. That
“With Friends” series is clearly proven to be a good one or them, but maybe
not huge but overall profitable for them. So I guess that would solve for
some of their mobile DNA stuff, because those guys clearly had a bunch of
experience. So, we should be fair none of us are running public companies.

Robi: And to be fair, none of us are running public companies. Right?

Ian: Also true.

Robi: They’re doing a great job. So I like to take the conversation a
little bit back to Facebook, which we talked about on the previous
segment. And one of the things that Zynga really did in order to grow, was
they really understood that the canvas on which you were building your
game, was a place not just to have the game, but to show related activity
from friends and then your friends can bring you back into games. And the
space in Facebook on the web allows for that; but on a mobile device you
know, we are really limited. Do you think that changes the dynamic of how
they’ve been growing? And part of this shift to mobile that’s hard, is
that they don’t have as much space to work with, or that they don’t have as
many as tools that are affective?

Ryan: Yes, I think that’s a big part of it. And as we also talked about
before, while we were talking about Facebook, it’s hard to really
understand how people are engaging with Facebook on mobile. I just don’t
know enough. I know for me, it’s like a quick scan versus the web. It’s
like slow I don’t read everything I don’t look at everything, so it’s a
little different. That takes away a big adherent advantage that they have,
so yes, I think that’s a challenge.

Ian: Ditto. I think, back when Zynga started and was using Facebook
effectively, Facebook was the most spammy site out there, and Zynga was at
the top of that list. Facebook has close that down, and I don’t think that
opportunity will ever presents itself ever again. So, I don’t think Zynga
has that ability to do that again.

Robi: I think one of the interesting things is, that were certainly seeing
really discreet experiences, live on mobile really well. Like “Words with
Friends” is a wonderful example of taking advantage of the fact that you
know people are waiting for the bus, and they have five minutes. It’s just
great for them to be able like “duh, duh, duh”. Then they’re reminded two
hours later by their friend that they have a move to make. I think that
aspect, whether it’s through Facebook or not, that like tying into the
natural windows of opportunity on mobile, seems like a big opportunity.
But, still the prevalence of being reminded, without the space of Facebook
around it seems to be a big challenge.

Ryan: Yeah.

Robi: So that’s our thoughts on Zynga. It’s been a good conversation,
thanks for paying attention.

Ian: We’ve talked a little bit about where we think these changes are
happening, where it’s coming from, why it’s happening.

Robi: So, my personal belief is that some of it is just products age. So
the Kindle Fire at this point, is probably a little long in the tooth. It’s
probably due for a refresh…

Recapping the Via.Me Hackathon

Picture of Robi Ganguly and Sky Kelsey posing in a Back to the Future cutout of Marty McFly and Doc

Team Apptentive Goes Hack to the Future

Team Apptentive had the honor of participating in the Via.Me Hackathon, “Hack to the Future” the weekend before WWDC as a technical sponsor. We had an absolute blast and were really impressed with just how many ideas were built over the course of 24 hours, with a significant number of teams staying up all night to finish their ideas.

One of the most enjoyable aspects of a Hackathon is seeing how many different ways people take the highlighted APIs and SDKs to build an MVP for demonstration. From the overall winner (Talk to the Future) to our favorite app that used Apptentive (Movies with Friends) the field was full of ideas we could see using on a regular basis.

Here’s a recap of the companies that presented, starting with the 3 main prize winners, along with our notes

Talk to the Future
*grand prize winner*

One of the most effective presentation styles is to know what you’re going to say, but not exactly how you’re going to say it. Talk to the Future’s creator demonstrated this magnificently as he asked questions of himself in front of the audience to make us all “feel” the problem.

“Why can’t I wake up in the morning?” he asked.

“Because I’m dumb in the morning. I forget what I’m supposed to remember,” he answered.

“Here’s my solution: Talk to the future. Leave yourself a message in the future”.

And then he demonstrated it and it worked. He typed in a message, set a time and his phone number and sure enough, the phone rang and played him his message. For further awesomeness, he showed us that the product engaged people to come back again to see what they’d done previously and to hear the messages and responses.

This was the hands down winner of the Hackathon and the presentation and demo were a huge reason as to why.

Both Twilio and Iron.io were ecstatic about the use of their APIs in building this idea.

Instahipster
*Via.me prize*

Like hipsters? Want to make your friends’ pictures look silly? Use Instahipster to instantly take a photo and add props and text to the photo. Using the Via.me API to pull and post data was a thorough method of demonstrating their mastery of the API and they walked away with the Via.me prize.

Want to see it in action? It’s live at: instahipster.me and you might recognize one of the folks on the home page :)

Instavia.me
*Crowd favorite*

This smart chrome extension made posting to Via.me a 1 click process from anywhere on the web. The demo was excellent, really showing how slow the current process is and how much this would improve upon that. I loved that the demo involved Fergus from the Via.me team – it was exactly the kind of spontaneous interaction that a Hackathon can bring about. This was the crowd favorite and rightly so.

Two hackers at Xhack2012 fall asleep

Dedicated Xhackers

The Rest of the Hacks:

32 AR

Used Augmented Reality glasses to recognize faces, in the hopes that a store could better identify the customer and bring up data about what they’ve purchased and other information in the company’s customer database. This was a really cool idea, but felt a bit out of place for the Hackathon.

Wingpin

Wingpin’s premise seemed to be that you could publish to social media from a payphone, avoiding the requirement of a smartphone. It also enabled you to use a payphone to update your flight status.

Wingpin was ambitious in its use of the various tech sponsors’ offerings: they made use of the Via.me api, Twilio, Heroku and MongoHQ

Viameme (mobile app developers with lean mean tech)

A meme generator for the iPad? This one was a no-brainer and it probably would have done better if they’d been able to get their Via.me API calls to work correctly.

In addition to Via.Me the team used Sincerely, which I think would really help round this app into something fun and shareable.

Viathem

Viathem’s creator was inspired by her grandfather: she wants to make it easier for him to visually interact with information, since text-based information is more challenging. The idea was really intriguing and I hope the team keeps making progress. Unfortunately the demo didn’t show something complete enough for me to really see how it worked.

Marquee

Marquee’s biggest accomplishment was to reverse engineer Turntable.fm so that they could figure out Turntable’s data and put a new interface on the site. I loved that the team was very enthusiastic about the technical accomplishment of one night’s work, their enthusiasm was infectious and many of us in the crowd were giggling by the end of their preso.

Happenin

Happenin creates a Via.me profile for an event, scrapes Eventbrite for the attendee list and then shows related tweets. The idea is to show everything from an event in one place. I really liked the concept around Happenin and think that they have something if they can turn it into a great mobile experience and can cover enough of the requisite data sources to satisfy most consumers’ needs.

Intern Lunch

Intern Lunch was a fun concept from a few interns who are new to the Bay Area who are in search of more peer networking. As someone who organized intern lunches at RealNetworks when I was there this idea grabbed me, but their execution seemed a bit limited. The crowd didn’t seem to really get how it worked.

They used the Github and Heroku services.

Picture of the demo of Movies with Friends which uses Apptentive's in-app feedback and ratings mechanismsMovies with Friends demos at Xhack

Movies with Friends

Movies with Friends is going to happen in some form, there’s no doubt about that. Using video capture, you can play charades with your friends across the world. Maybe this is better for tablets or connected TVs (maybe this is a Kinect hack) but without a doubt someone is going to get this idea right and be very popular. I hope this team executes on it.

This app really showed off the power of the Tokbox service and we were flattered that they used Apptentive from the outset to get feedback on their MVP.

Making Via.me super cool

It wasn’t clear if this product was actually built or was a series of mockups, but the basic gist was adding search, scheduling and tagging to posts was going to make Via.me even more useful to brands. I have to agree.

Via.me webcam uploader

This made a ton of sense – using the Via.me API, the team built a webcam capture and upload tool on top of the Via.Me API. I think if the team expands upon this to certain interactions or use cases for webcam use (maybe focus on tablets?) there could be something there.

Tumblr.est

A fun use of the Tumblr api to create a tag based search for Tumblr, based on the premise that it’s hard to discover content across the network of Tumblr sites.

mmdgot

Remember the game Telephone from when we were kids? This team recreated it, on the web, powered by Twilio and it’s still live: mmdgot.herokuapp.com

Go play it and tell me what you think in the comments. I would love to see this continue to evolve.

In addition to Twilio they used Heroku (obviously) and MongoDB

Freshtag

Fresh tag: hashtag based video chat. There were a lot of “concerns” that the interest areas of the hashtag would lead to adult content but it seemed like a really interesting way to use the Tokbox API to build a specific community. I could see networking conversations happening this way in the right execution, maybe somewhat like the burgeoning Clarity.fm.

Ji-chan

A Japanese learning application that helps you learn characters/words by matching up characters with letters. This one was fun but it wasn’t clear if they had just built it over the weekend and it didn’t seem to use any of the highlighted technologies.

Healthify

This was a really interesting project that the entire Apptentive team wanted to win something because the team clearly needed new laptops and were super capable. Over the course of the Hackathon they Used iron.io to catalog over 100,000 tweets related to health and mapped them to identify trends and potential outbreaks in health. They employed some NLP work to analyze the tweets and even used Via.me to post data/tweets. The Iron.io prize was very well-deserved and we hope this goes live sometime soon.

Fancygram

In addition to being around to support the developers, the Zencoder team took it upon themselves to create a hack as well. Using Via.me, Tumblr and Heroku, they built an automatic tool to add a bit of class to your photos. Using Facial recognition they placed monocles and tophats on the people in the photo with surprising accuracy. My favorite feature: if the subject’s head was too close to the top of the photo, Fancygram didn’t add a tophat, so as not to have it be cut off.

Photohoarder

Since Picplz is going away, Photohoarder is rising to fill the void: using the Dropbox API, Photohoarder is a one-click process to save all your photos before Picplz deletes the photos. This seems like an awesome tool for anyone with a Picplz account.

Why you should meet

This team wants to solve the problem of not knowing who people are based upon their FB photo. The idea is to share a video of yourself and to allow you to surf around based on people. It seemed like this team and the hashtag chat could have worked together on something.

Piece by piece

This app, which was built on Via.me and used Apptentive for feedback demonstrated some very impressive technology. The idea is to use augmented reality to make content, like photos, easy to manipulate like real objects. Creating a 3D alternate reality is really interesting, but the demo didn’t really drive home a use case that resonated.

Hungry4

Based on the idea that it’s hard to figure out what you’re hungry for, Hungry4 built an app that uses google geocoding to figure out where you are and then uses foodspotting to figure out visuals around you, so you can visually surf through options and then go based upon what strikes your fancy. I’d like to see this continue to get built, it seems like visual navigation around food could make a lot of sense.

Whew… that was a long list of hacks wasn’t it? Kudos to you if you made it this far – this is why Hackathons are so fun. Lots of ideas can be built in just 24 hours and some of them really deserve to become products to be tested and get feedback on. Speaking of which – we happily awarded 6 months of our Pro service to any of the participating hacks that launch in the app store. We’re looking forward to helping these ideas turn into successful products!

Your customers have questions

Your customers have questions

Hey you, you there. Yeah, YOU

Do you ever find yourself with a question that you think is obvious and simple to answer?

clip_image002Maybe you’re at the store, shopping for jeans and you really don’t know what you’re supposed to be paying attention to or what’s in style. Or, as happens to me sometimes, maybe you find yourself in the “these jeans are so expensive we don’t put a price on them” section and you’re scratching your head, wondering, “How much do these cost?”

Simple question right?

Easy for the merchant to answer right?

The interesting thing about this situation is this: if you can’t find someone to answer that question in a couple of minutes, you’re most likely going to just walk right out of the store. From “curious about the price of these fancy-ass jeans” to “F-it, I don’t have time for this,” in just moments.

Not a good outcome for the merchant.

A person’s time is valuable and making someone feel like they’re wasting it is the surest way to lose their business and loyalty. For most customers, not being able to ask a simple question and get a solid answer is exactly the same thing as making them feel like you’ve wasted their time.

Are you able to hear your customer’s questions?

Now, we work with a lot of app developers so we often think about this when it comes to consumers of applications. If you’re an app developer, take a moment to think about YOUR customers.

They have questions too:

  • Why’d you build something the way that you have?
  • When can they expect an update?
  • Why isn’t something working the way that they think it should work?

As an app developer, it’s important to recognize that your apps might make sense to you, but they don’t always make sense to your customers. In order to make sure they don’t just quit the app and leave your icon dormant on one of their screens, you need to get better at answering their questions. Give them reasons to stick around, to trust you, to understand why your app works the way that it does.

Listen to them, find out what they expect, what they determine to be confusing and identify what you can work on.

So, do you recognize that your customers have questions? Great!

Now, what are you going to do in order to hear their questions?

Yeah, loaded question Smile. If you’re an iOS app developer who wants to listen to their customers, be sure to try out the Apptentive framework – drop it into your iOS apps and manage customer questions and feedback online, through our developer communications portal. You’ll be learning from your customers in no time and keeping more folks in the store (although we recommend making the price a bit more obvious…).

You don’t have to take our word for it though

Some other smart people talking about customer questions: