John Gruber, of Daring Fireball, shared his frustration with the usage of ratings prompts last December:
I’ve long considered a public campaign against this particular practice, wherein I’d encourage Daring Fireball readers, whenever they encounter these “Please rate this app” prompts, to go ahead and take the time to do it — but to rate the app with just one star and to leave a review along the lines of, “One star for annoying me with a prompt to review the app.”
In the following weeks, several other people chimed in on the topic, having a somewhat public, flowing debate about the practice of reaching out to customers for better ratings. A deeper discussion about the app store, consumer decision-making and why ratings matter was touched on, but largely left alone as most focused on the execution of the prompts.
On one side, you had Gruber, Marco Arment and others who were strongly against the practice. On the other side, we heard from Cabel Sasser , Chris Gonzales, Dan Counsell, and Wil Shipley who had arguments in favor of reaching out to customers. Penalizing hard working developers and publishers hardly seems fair when the app store represents such an important piece of the distribution and customer connection puzzle.
Somewhere in the middle, Daniel Jalkut offered a nuanced view of the situation that asked more questions than it answered, challenging us all to explore what is truly best for the consumer. Taken in sum, this was a good beginning to what is a much larger conversation.
Ratings prompts, while being the interruption that catalyzed this conversation, represent only the tip of the iceberg. This is about much more than ratings. It’s about more than improving an app’s rankings.
This is about how companies communicate with their customers in the mobile world.
For many companies, mobile is the primary medium of communication with their customers and the number of companies who are mobile first will only grow. Each of us carries a little communications device that buzzes and blinks all day long, alerting us to news, updates, and information. These messages build up – messages from our friends, our family and yes, the companies we’ve allowed into our inboxes, given our phone numbers, and whose apps we’ve installed.
We do not have to guess how this plays out – we already know. There are reasons why developers employ prompts, why websites have numerous pop-ups, and we can only expect to see more of these on mobile. These messages increase revenue, retention, ratings, and customer interaction. Overuse of these tactics is well documented, and while inappropriate interruptions can make a difference to a companies’ metrics, we know that appropriate, non-intrusive, implementation can make a larger one.
You don’t boycott a store because a clerk asked if they could help you or become annoyed when a cashier asks if you were able to find everything all right.
What is needed is a better answer to the question: “How can I communicate with my app customers without driving them crazy?” The answer has to come from the app developers and publishers, not the app customers. Nor can we rely on the app stores to make meaningful changes.
Starting a campaign to rate apps 1 star if they prompt for a review or calling developers greedy and desperate are not constructive and don’t take us to a healthier communications environment. You don’t boycott a store because a clerk asked if they could help you or become annoyed when a cashier asks if you were able to find everything all right.
Asking people if they need help, at the right moment, can create a delightful experience.
Let’s Start Talking With Our Customers, Together
This is really about companies wanting to talk to their customers in an elegant, helpful, and relevant way without being annoying. So, what is the right way to communicate with customers inside a mobile app?
By working with thousands of companies on these problems we’ve discovered that there are a few clear guidelines that can form the basis of better behavior by apps:
Don’t interrupt customers in the middle of tasks or at app launch
Identify and enable communication at key moments in the customer’s journey – when they’re happy, frustrated, or lost. Identifying these moments should be a natural part of any app’s design process
Instrument your communications activity so that you know what the impacts and outcomes of your messaging strategy are – working with hard coded solutions that don’t make you any smarter about your customers’ preferences is a recipe for disaster
Iterate, experiment, and be able to make changes on the fly
Some Myths and A Better Way to Communicate
In the debate about ratings prompts a lot of strong feelings based upon personal anecdote formed the foundation of much of the analysis. Significant assumptions about consumer behavior at scale made its way into commonly held beliefs. What has been sorely lacking, however, has been actual concrete data.
“If you don’t know what happens when you send a message, you might as well not send the message at all.”
Here at Apptentive, we think a lot about customer communication and the experience for the end consumer. For years we’ve instrumented every message and communication we power for our customers, measuring what the outcomes are.
We’ve held ourselves to a standard that says, “If you don’t know what happens when you send a message, you might as well not send the message at all.” This perspective has served our customers and our team well. It helps us to deliver best practices, improve tools, and shed light on an area that is severely lacking in data. For example, we know that:
Just asking people to rate the app is ~5 to 10x less effective than starting a conversation about whether or not the consumer is happy
The actual words used in the message to the customer can dramatically change the % of ecstatic customers who talk about your app in the app store and impact the % of ratings that also result in reviews
Showing a ratings prompt on launch is 50% more likely to result in the app being closed than if it’s shown at any other point in the app
Customers who are asked about their opinion with an app who are unhappy are >100% more likely to return to the app than the average app customer. It turns out that being informed that the company actually cares about your opinion can change the dynamic
When you give people choices about what action to take, only about 20 to 30% of customers will actually exit the app to do something else.
This week we rolled out many major improvements to our services, which represents over 2 years of working with many of the world’s largest companies. We have a sophisticated communications system focused on enabling you to listen and talk with your mobile customers. Our company is betting on the fact that you, and app publishers everywhere, want to treat their customers well and with respect.
We believe that while in-app communications are inevitable, they don’t have to be annoying, unsophisticated, and a necessary evil. We know that it’s possible to connect with your app customers at the right time and we know many of you truly deeply care about the mobile customer experience. Your passion for the consumer experience is why the ratings debate prompted such strong opinions and discussion in the first place.
It’s Time We All Got Better At Talking With Our Customers
Poorly implemented ratings prompts raised awareness around how easily a mobile experience can be ruined. It’s time to re-examine all of our customer interactions and ask ourselves if we can do better. Are there better places in the app to ask for feedback? Are there places where customers might need help and appreciate a company reaching out?
As we said earlier, this conversation is just the beginning. We know there are strong opinions about this and encourage you to add your thoughts below. Many of you are our customers, colleagues, and fellow app enthusiasts and we value your words. We plan on taking the thoughtfulness and execution behind customer communication to a level beyond where it exists today on mobile and even online. We encourage you all to communicate with your customers the right way as we all work towards creating products that people love.
Cost per installs (CPIs) for mobile apps hit an all time high during 2013 and all signs point to a continued cost increase each year. Unfortunately, the average revenue per user (ARPU) is not increasing at the same rate or even close to it. To understand what these numbers mean for app publishers here’s some quick math, adopted from Superdata, to depict what it means to have CPIs increase.
“Let’s say that you’ve just acquired a cohort of 100 brand new users at an average CPI of $2.25 USD. The average conversion rate (from a non-spending to a spending user) in October was 4.68 percent,” the company said. “Each of these players spends $21.45 (average revenue per paying user for mobile in the US). That gives you $100.39 in monthly earnings. With $225 in cost, you’ll need to make sure you keep those users engaged for at least two months before you start making a profit. And two months is an eon in mobile game time.”
If two months is an eon in mobile game time then the opportunity for mobile games to make a profit looks grim for the future. As acquisition costs continue to rise year after year, customers will need to be engaged longer for the game to have a chance at making a profit. For mobile games (and other apps) there is only one conclusion:
Developers need to start to find a balance between paid acquisitions, and “earned” or “owned” organic acquisition. Don’t simply dedicated your entire marketing or acquisition budget to paid ads or installs, but rather seek out ways to foster organic consumer behavior that will lead to referrals and fan media activity.
The goal of any customer acquisition campaign is not to simply acquire new customers, but acquire customers that actually spend money. In an article from VentureBeat, Erlend Christofferson from Supercell and Jussi Laakkonen from Applifier both agreed that the ideal method of customer acquisition isn’t paid, but through word-of-mouth, customer engagement and community development.
We focus on creating engaged users. We believe an engaged user is more likely to tell his friends about our games, and more likely to monetize. – Erlend Christofferson, Supercell
The new way for games coverage, like everyone says, is a friend showing another friend a game. “Hey, you have to play this.” That’s the best way for a consumer to find a game. – Jussi Laakkonen, Applifier
Recently, I had the chance to talk with with Jon Kimmich, the founder and CEO of Software Illumaniti. We spoke about the rising costs of acquisition for mobile games and why it is critical for mobile game developers to employ other methods in lieu of paid acquisition. He had this to say:
Mitch Lasky (of Benchmark Capital) really hit the nail on the head when he said, ‘Developers will need to consider offering a high-quality community experience within their games. At their best, games are single-purpose social networks’. It’s one thing to build moment-to-moment gameplay engagement, but the most engaged and committed fans don’t stop there, they create commentary and content that extends and (in some cases) transcends the game or app experience, and as a developer you need to both nurture and provide means of expression in support of this activity. To fail to do so is tantamount to leaving engagement (and money) “on the table.”
Even though paid acquisition seems like a necessary evil to compete with other mobile apps, taking steps to increase your organic downloads can be more valuable.
Facebook’s app advertising is often heralded as the best channel for paid acquisition. In a recent report from Localytics, installs from Facebook hold a slight edge over organic installs in the total number of times an app is used over the first 60 days. However, that slight edge ends after the 4th use. Organic installs result in a higher percentage of 6+ uses over 60 days.
As described by Christofferson, highly engaged customers are the most likely to monetize and tell their friends. Based off the chart, organic downloads tend to bring in more highly engaged customers over time than Facebook.
So instead of increasing your budget for paid installs, it makes more sense to focus on your organic installs.
1. Community Influencers
Take advantage of the influencers in your niche. According to the Ayzenberg Group, the most powerful form of digital marketing today is based on how we seek out information in the digital world. We look to the online experts who share our interests and heed their advice over any other form of marketing and corporate advertising.
Spend time finding and connecting with the online bloggers, social media stars, YouTube contributors, and other digital experts who fit your niche. Develop relationships with them and run campaigns utilizing their networks. These “new influencers” are proving extremely effective and yielding better results than previous online marketing tactics.
2. Interact With Your Customers
Turn your mobile app into a conversation platform and learn what drives your mobile customers to leave or return to your app. You can incorporate in-app communication tools to help provide in-app support, receive feedback, and interact with customers.
Creating a place where customers feel heard and listened to as part of the app experience increases customer engagement. Customers trust problems will get solved and feel better supported when they can talk directly to someone. The positive customer experiences that stem from the support, feedback, or other conversations you have with customers go a long way to powering those positive word-of-mouth exchanges that every app covets.
Lastly, providing one final frontier to capture information about bugs instead of learning about them on the app store is very meaningful. Negative reviews are powerful deterrents for new downloads. Having customers come talk to you directly instead of the app store decreases the likelihood of receiving low reviews.
Customer Acquisition Strategies for Mobile Games
Building a great game is by far and away the most critical component of having a successful mobile app, but in crowded app stores even great games need help to be noticed. Cultivating communities in-app and online are powerful acquisition methods that are more sustainable, relatively inexpensive, and gain customers with a higher lifetime value than paid channels.
As you plan your acquisition strategy or look to tweak the one you already have, don’t ignore your app customers and fans in your niche online. It will take a little more time and effort than just paid advertising, but it will have the greater reward.
If you have any suggestions of other methods of customer acquisition that can help mobile game developers combat rising acquisition costs please share below in the comments.
Surveys have proven to be incredibly powerful tools for market analysis and driving customer insight. Restaurants and auto shops have surveys asking “How did we do today?” and retail stores often have their cashiers ask “Did you find everything you were looking for?” These may seem like simple questions to the consumer, but to a business these questions are crucial for understanding how to improve.
For online businesses, surveys have quickly become the best way to get insight into a customer base to determine who their customers are, how their customer feel, and what their customers truly want. All of which is very useful information! Originally conducted with paper and pencil, surveys are now commonly found all over the internet, but rarely inside mobile apps. Mobile apps are like any other business and stand to benefit from surveying customer and potential customer bases.
5 Reasons Why Your Mobile App Needs to Use Surveys
1. Save Money
Mobile app development is expensive. Every new feature and functionality costs additional money. Playing guessing games about what to create next can be incredibly costly and end up sinking your app. Never assume you know what your customers want because you will often be surprised what they will write when given the chance. Using an in-app survey can cut costs and much of the guess work from mobile app development.
From the beginning, incorporate a survey in your minimum viable product to capture responses about what your developing and what your customers would like to see. It is never too late or too early to use surveys as a channel to better understand how your customers feel and think about your app. Having these answers can help you save money as you create what your customers want instead of what you think they want.
2. Prioritize Features
Creating a mobile app can be extremely exciting, especially when you get caught up in the fervor of “we can build this, and that, and oh we can do this too.” However, trying to do too much too fast or in the wrong order can hamper the success of your app. Spending time on a feature that really isn’t all that great can waste valuable time and resources. It’s important to be able to prioritize your features and plan a product roadmap with confidence.
Enter surveys. Surveys are perfect for figuring out not only what your customers want, but also what is most important to them. Give your customers a voice to aid you in your product roadmap and you can be confident that you are spending time on the correct path to grow your mobile app business.
3. Who Are Your Customers?
A few simple questions can provide a treasure trove of insight on your customer base. Collecting demographic information such as age and gender is important data for future app development and can even aid you in choosing the correct ad agency or in getting the right partnership.
Demographic surveys can also include questions about customer likes and dislikes, problems they have, and address areas not directly related to your app. The more you can understand about who your customers are, the easier it will be able to create something that they love to use.
4. Specific Customer Feedback
All customer feedback is valuable, but sometimes you need feedback about a specific item. If you’ve released a new feature or entirely overhauled your app design you may want to learn what your customers think of the updates. Do they hate it? And if so, why? You may be curious why customers stopped watching an instructional video halfway through or why they abandoned their purchase partway through the check-out process.
Using a mobile survey can give you insight into how your app is faring, whether it is a game, retail, or entertainment. Getting specific feedback can tell you how a feature was received and why customers are abandoning their carts. If a new update results in unhappy customers it’s essential to find out quickly to help avoid an onslaught of negative reviews in the app store. These reviews seldom go away even when the problem is fixed as people rarely update their reviews.
5. Engage Your Customers
The amount of people who provide feedback in-app or in the app stores is a very small percentage of your entire audience. Encouraging the rest of your audience to share their thoughts is important to get the full perspective of your customer base and not just the vocal customers. Surveys are a proactive tool that can help you reach and get responses from a larger portion of your customer base.
Surveys tell your customers that you are dedicated to improving your app and provides them with specific questions to answer which is often easier for most people than creating their own feedback.
In-App Surveys for your Mobile App
As businesses increasingly use mobile apps to drive their futures, native optimized mobile surveys will be incredibly important for engaging and understanding a mobile customer base.
As with any app feature, it takes time and money to developer surveys that fit seamlessly into your mobile app. Apptentive’s in-app surveys are developed for native apps, optimized for mobile devices, and allow you to target segments of your customer base.
Whether you use a service or create your own, surveys are a powerful tool to drive your business and beat your competition. The app that is first to build what their customers want, knows who their customers are, and understands what their customers think is the app that will come out on top.
Want to know one of the easiest ways to turn your customers into evangelists? The answer may already be sitting in your inbox. If you’re an app developer, then you are probably well aware of how important customer feedback is in shaping your product. Anyone familiar with the lean methodology of building a startup company also knows that collecting feedback is essential to the measurement cycle. While much is said about the importance of feedback as a tool for building better products, little is said about its importance in setting the tone of community engagement. Customer feedback is one of the most effective tools you have at your disposal to not only inform product decisions, but also to turn the inquiring customer into an evangelist. What’s the secret sauce? Follow up with them.
During the last week of September, my company launched Canary to the App Store, a calendar app for iPhone that simplifies scheduling meetings and calendar management for Google Calendar users. In less than a week, we secured 3 press features in Business Insider, TechCrunch, and LifeHacker. With the press came a flurry of feature requests that no one on the team anticipated — people asking everything from why we didn’t integrate into iCal (a common question) to when we planned on adding a landscape view. In addition, the launch of iOS 7 was just around the corner and we knew an upgrade was inevitable. I immediately went to work fielding questions and compiling the feedback to prioritize what to build next.
We soon realized that the iCal situation had to be addressed with a quick solution (one that couldn’t involve engineering at the time due to the scope of the challenge), so we created a guide for syncing iCal to Google on our blog. The tipping point came when I received a particularly abrasive email from a user who was extremely upset that he couldn’t get his iCal events on Canary. I apologized and sent him the link to the post. No response. Then a few days later I decided to follow up with him asking if everything had worked out. Suddenly, the previously frustrated user had transformed into an extremely thankful one. He had been completely won over by our willingness to follow up and was appreciative enough to try out our tips, successfully becoming an ardent supporter of our app!
I immediately realized that this incident provided a very valuable opportunity for us and decided to see how I could replicate its success with the ongoing conversations we were having about features with our other users. I began by grouping them across email and social media based on the similarities in their feature requests. Once we prioritized what would be ready for the next release, I went back to the users who had made the requests and let them know what to expect in the upcoming launch. Then, on the day of the next release, I let them know that the feature they had requested was now available for download. The responses to my emails and tweets were amazing. Almost every user responded and every single one of those responses was extremely gracious and appreciative of having their voices heard in the development process. Sending a follow-up email turned what is often a unidirectional, static interaction into one that conveyed attention to detail, and an actual interest in discourse. After two successful release cycles, I’ve realized that following up with your customers during the feedback process is effective for a number of reasons:
1. It’s the perfect way to close the feedback loop with your customers — especially in a public forum.
People will always be armchair developers. There’s no stopping that. However, it’s important to recognize the good ideas and suggestions that make your product better and provide closure for the initial concern or idea that initiated the discussion. Following up about a bug fix or a new feature is a sign of your willingness to get to a resolution and it demonstrates that you value your customers’ opinions to everyone who witnesses that interaction.
2. It gives people a sense of ownership over your product’s growth.
When people feel that their voices are not only being heard, but are actually a part of the conversations that influence product decisions, they will feel a much deeper connection to everything that your team produces. They are more likely to tweet about you, feature you in their blogs, and recommend you to their friends and family.
3. It makes your customers more willing to do things for you.
Need to administer a survey? Want a customer’s perspective on a new feature? Need beta testers? Reach out to those people with whom you’ve followed up. They are more likely to answer your questions, engage with your content, and test new things after you’ve already established a relationship with them that says, “I’m actually listening.”
This type of communication has had a powerful impact on our company’s culture, arguably more than the content that we’ve produced. More importantly, evidence of it on our social media channels, our App Store reviews, and the speed at which we’ve been able to improve Canary lets potential users know that we’re a team willing to listen and collaborate. Think about how you’re connecting with your customers through feedback and how you can make those relationships more valuable to the community that you’re building. It’s worked for us!
About the author: Ralph Bouquet is the cofounder of Canary, a calendar app for iPhone that lets Google Calendar users simplify how they schedule meetings and manage their calendars. Canary is available for free on the App Store.
Customers want the best deals and do not have second thoughts about switching to new companies to get what they want. They’re even quicker to switch if given a poor experience or by being frustrated with customer support. In a global survey conducted by Accenture, over 91% of respondents expressed frustration with mobile customer support. The study illustrated many expectations that customers have for their mobile experience:
56% expect more options for obtaining service and support by phone, online and at store locations via mobile devices.
50% find it frustrating having a company’s online channels for customer service and support not be optimized for mobile phones or tablets.
47% during the actual buying phase find it frustrating not being able to access the information, make purchase or make payment using a mobile device at the time and place they want.
45% would have been prevented from switching companies if they offered them better service and support via mobile device.
38% of consumers globally who use online sources to learn about the company’s products and services, access the sites at least half of the time through their mobile device.
There is ample opportunity here for the companies that devote resources to providing support optimized for mobile devices to capitalize on customers looking for a positive mobile experience. Acquiring more customers seems to be a common theme for companies, especially during the holidays, but I advocate for focusing on your current customers.
Newly acquired holiday shoppers spend 15%-50% less than repeat customers and are worth less overall to your company. It doesn’t make a lot of sense to spend the majority of your budget on acquiring customers when they spend less and are more prone to leaving. Instead, focus on improving your mobile experience with a heavy focus on mobile support. Word gets out when companies take their customer support seriously. Take a look at Amazon, Zappos, or Nordstrom and you can see how great support can affect a customer base. And if you’re still caught up on acquiring new customers, creating an amazing service or product that people talk about is one of the best acquisition strategies there is. Make your current customers happy and news ones will come.
Being Mobile During the Holiday Season
Customer service and support is clearly important to mobile customers and unhappy customers have no second thoughts about moving on. This should be thought of an opportunity for companies, not a problem. Providing an amazing mobile customer experience is not difficult and it doesn’t need a creative mastermind to come up with something new. Here are a couple of suggestions on how to provide mobile customer support that will retain your customers:
Be available for your customers wherever they are. This is a staple of customer support and it’s surprising how many companies simply don’t have an in-app solution for communicating with their customers. It should be a priority to make it incredibly easy for your customers to reach you, wherever they are. This is one of the most apparent problems with mobile support, or lack there of inside an app.
A human response. Customers want to feel taken care of. A response from a Justin or Katie is a better experience than “the team” or a “noreply” address. We strive for personalization and having a person who is there just for you generates a stronger feeling that the company is working to make your experience positive.
Be honest and communicative. A problem with many customer support approaches is the lack of setting expectations for customers. It’s essential to let customers know it may take a week to solve the problem, and not that a fix is coming soon. Be forthcoming about mistakes instead of covering them up. If something will not or can not be changed take the time to explain why. This goes a long way to creating trust with your customers.
There are many other suggestions for giving awesome customer service that you can apply to your mobile support. With the holiday season looming, great support could be the advantage you need over your competitors. Of course, creating an overall positive experience for customers starts with creating a great mobile product. If you’re interested in other ways to make your app more successful, I wrote a post with simple mobile app success tips to employ to make your app a better experience for the holidays and year round.
This year, holiday shoppers are 50%-150% more likely to make purchases from mobile devices. The mobile experience is fast, easy, and comfortable and when there is a problem consumers are looking for timely support. There is still a lack of support for mobile, but customers DO realize and appreciate when companies make an effort to provide helpful assistance.
The current frustration in the mobile market is leaving opportunities for any company up to the challenge of being thoughtful about how they communicate with their customers. There is still time before the holiday rush to add a mobile solution that can help retain your repeat customers. If the holiday season is important (or even if it’s not), take the time to make the customer experience as flawless as possible, even when problems arise.
Have you made an changes to your mobile app to anticipate the holiday rush? Any suggestions to fellow readers on how to succeed during the holidays? Please share in the comments below.
If you’re able to read this sentence, chances are English is your native or second language. It is a common misconception that English takes priority over other languages, especially in the online and tech world. This is of course not true.
What we forget is that we live in a world amongst 7 billion people, which is said to increase up to 10.9B by 2050. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, as of 2012 the population of the U.S. is 313.9 million. So if you think about the fraction of the U.S. versus the world it’s essentially an ant on an ant farm.
As of 2010, there are an estimated 445 million Chinese, 154 million Spanish and 99 million Japanese language users online. It is estimated that fast-increasing language users, such as Chinese, will fully dominate and replace English as the top online language users within a matter of time. What does this entail for app developers and brands?
Well, in order to reach a higher audience for your app, you must localize it or risk being left out in the cold. English has not always been taught as a second language so we must keep our prior generations in mind, as well, when increasing a broader market for online applications. If the user doesn’t understand what your application does, chances of them downloading it are slim to none.
An article in the MIT Technology Review states, “Mobile computers are spreading faster than any other consumer technology in history.” In January 2013, Facebook reported that for the first time the majority audience was coming from mobile devices rather than personal laptops. Mobile technology is currently our leading source and therefore we must see the importance of localization and translation for mobile apps.
Many successful companies have made their apps available on a global scale, but more often than not, it has come at a steep price. Usually professional translation services can cost big bucks, sometimes as much as $.20 or $.30 per word. Traditionally, this would lead to only big companies or individuals who can afford this extra expenditure to offer multi-lingual content.
As a relatively new alternative, machine translators have since helped to provide free translations for everyone. However, for anyone who has used Google Translate, Bing Translator, or any number of the free machine translators available online, they know the results are rarely, if ever, accurate. While some might say, “something is better than nothing,” the truth is that having poorly translated content can actually have the inverse effect on your company. Many people will be turned off by the bad grammar or unintelligible content, and may actually think your company or app is poor quality and not worth downloading, regardless of the functionality or game play. That’s a big price to pay for merely trying to expand your market.
For these reasons, there has been a large push in the translation and localization field to come up with even more alternatives to help solve the language gap issue. As a member of Ackuna, a recently launched translation service, we find that the best solution for us is utilizing crowdsourcing to power localization to another level. Ackuna markets toward app developers as well as companies wishing to translate their web content. Instead of relying on inaccurate machine translations, Ackuna utilizes crowdsourcing amongst their online members to translate the content. The service is completely free and the process is a lot more accurate than any machine translation out on the market. Think of it as a translation machine powered entirely by humans.
Bottom line is that the online world is quickly becoming more globalized. The fewer language options you provide, the fewer downloads. However, what you use to translate your content matters greatly. If you have the extra money to spend on a professional translation company, by all means you should do so. Quality translation is an investment, just like any other marketing venture. However, there are new alternatives being developed which are worth exploring if money is a significant factor.
About the Author: Irina Usharenko is a marketing intern at Ackuna. Irina is expected to graduate this year with a B.A. in Marketing Management from Baruch College, Zicklin School of Business. She plays a quartzy game of scrabble and has a passion for innovative technology.
Jason Fried, the founder of 37signals, posed the question “Do You Really Know Your Customers?” For most of us with digital businesses the answer is no. We would not recognize them on the street, nor have a casual conversation with one of them as a small storeowner would. However, customers are our lifeblood whether we interact with them or not. Fried urges us to ask ourselves, “How much better can we be if we know our customers for real, not just as data points?”
I’d have to say MUCH BETTER. Listening to your customers, valuing them, and really spending time to get to know them is the way we are supposed provide service. We should all be more proactive in understanding how we can really help our customers. There are useful tools such as Google Analytics, Flurry, and MixPanel that can give you robust data on the behavior of your customers. These tools are helpful, but there is so much more to know about your customers that these tools cannot tell you.
Whether you have an app you consider successful or not, do you wonder if it could be done better? Companies that have been extremely successful may shrug their shoulders and consider that they are doing enough. Not knowing customers is an all too often scenario in today’s digital world. Digital technology has changed the way we communicate and has made it so that in most circumstances not having a relationship with a company whose product you use all the time is normal.
I believe there is a huge amount of value for both businesses and customer to develop relationships and get to know one another. With this in mind, here are 5 reasons why we should talk to our mobile customers to get to know them.
1. When you talk to your customers, they talk back.
Customer feedback is one of the most essential resources for any company with a mobile app, and the best way to get it is by asking. Feedback serves as a tool to help prioritize features for roadmaps, improve your product, and understand how your customers are using the app. With feedback, companies can make quicker decisions faster and with more confidence that their customers will be happy with the changes.
Not all feedback is positive, but that negative feedback provides even better opportunities to learn and improve. If you develop relationships with your customers they will talk to you when there is a problem instead of you learning a week later about the issue. You can then fix it quickly so other customers don’t experience the same issue.
In general, feedback is the basis of conversation between you and your customers. Listen to what they say and you will have a better idea of what they want and how to improve your app.
Spend a lot of time talking to customers face to face. You’d be amazed how many companies don’t listen to their customers. –Ross Perot
2. Talking is the best form of customer support
Part of talking with your customers is to give them a good experience. The simple process of listening and responding to customers can go a long way, especially because in today’s app ecosystem most people are under the impression that apps don’t care about customer support. Having simple conversations can go a long way to providing a positive experience that customers want to share with their friends and family.
At 360iDev, Joe Cieplinksi gave a great presentation on “Customer Support: Building Apps for the Long Haul.” He points out numerous reviews and messages they received where customers were pleasantly surprised because the team behind the app cared to respond. We need to change these expectations as a whole, but support is a great channel for communication, learning, and that customer “wow.”
One customer well taken care of could be more valuable than $10,000 worth of advertising. -Jim Rohn
3. Happy customers make you feel good
How often do you hear from customers who love your product? If you’re in a customer-facing role you may here it often, but as a developer it may be rare that you receive praise for your hard work or are even aware that people appreciate your efforts.
I recommend everyone in a company to interact with customers at some point. Having the experience of interacting with your customers can make you feel good, motivate you to continue working hard, and even provide inspiration on what to do next. Meeting the people who you help everyday can be as good for you as it is for them.
Don’t underestimate how important your own happiness is.
Revolve your world around the customer and more customers will revolve around you. -Heather Williams
4. Unhappy customers create an amazing opportunity
Did you know that most unhappy customers never say anything at all? That means you should cherish the ones that do all the more. There shouldn’t be anyone more important to talk to and get to know than an unhappy customer.
If you’ve ever wondered why people stop using your app or never use a certain feature, these are the best people to talk to so take a moment to have a conversation and find out. Unhappy customers can be your greatest evangelists when you listen to what’s wrong and work to solve it.
Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning. – Bill Gates
5. Trust is built through relationships
“People who talk to you trust you more.” We believe in this quote at Apptentive and always have channels open for our customers to talk to us. We enjoy spending our time talking with customers, understanding their pain points, and what we can do to solve them in the most simple, effective ways possible.
Building a relationship should be at the core of how every company focuses on its customers. Customers are the most important person in a company, and developing relationships are essential to building a customer base that trusts you.
Every company’s greatest assets are its customers, because without customers there is no company. – Michael LeBoeuf
Do you know your mobile customers? No? Well, it’s time that changed. If we take the time to talk to our customers we can learn a lot, and in the end you may appreciate it more than they do. Start taking efforts to make digital technology a positive channel for interacting with your customers rather than a wall. It’s hard to know exactly how much better we could all be if we knew our customers but it definitely wouldn’t hurt anything if we tried.
Do you think it is important to know your customers as more than just data points? What are some of the best examples of companies making an effort to know their mobile customers in the digital world?
The rumor is that Apple is tweaking the app store algorithm to include ratings. According to app marketing firm Fiksu, starting in July there has been a noticeable shift up the ranking charts for apps averaging 4 stars and higher while apps that are rated 3 stars or less are dropping.
There are also reports that Apple is experimenting with engagement as another factor for rankings. According to a post from TechCrunch, new user engagement (i.e. time spent per session, number of sessions per week, etc.) is increasingly affecting category rankings.
All in all, Apple seems to be experimenting with creating an app store ecosystem that places quality apps at the top instead of just the apps that get downloaded the most. Including ratings in the ranking algorithm places Apple down the path for rewarding apps based on quality by gauging engagement and retention levels.
We are all aware that there are services available for gaming the download system and we must assume there will be instances of buying ratings as well. One argument is that adding ratings into the algorithm will damage the ecosystem further as apps with mid to low-level budgets will get pushed further into obscurity as ratings increase for apps that have the budget.
It may well be the case that apps will buy ratings to try and move up the rankings, but I am sure (I hope) that Apple will invest time and effort into catching apps that use black-hat tactics to increase their ratings. Even with the potential for apps to try and game the charts, including ratings into the algorithm is a necessary step forward to having the best quality apps reach the top charts.
Learn which customers love your app and which ones do not. If you ask every customer to rate your app how many ratings will end up negative? Negative reviews will no longer just dissuade new customers from downloading your app, but also lower your rankings. With Apptentive you can talk to unhappy customers to gather feedback about what could be improved while guiding happy customers to the app store.
Ask for ratings at the right time and in the right place. There is a right time and place for everything and this holds true when asking for ratings. As a general rule, don’t ask for a rating the first time a customer uses an app. Let them experience the app before being prompted. Also, try to avoid prompting customers while they are busy interacting with the app. For example, prompt a customer after they finish the checkout process and not when they add an item to the cart.
Give your customers a voice.By making it easy for your customers to contact you in-app, frustrated customers will vent to you about your app instead of leaving a negative review in the app store. This gives you the opportunity to solve a problem, create a happy customer, and then ask politely for a rating.
Respond with respect. Always respond with “thank you” to any message received from one of your customers. Whether a customer complains about a problem or suggests a feature for the hundredth time, responding respectfully and courteously can disarm an upset customer. This gives you the opportunity to providing amazing service and “wow” the customer with your support and attention to their problem. Giving them a great experience can often lead to a positive review later on.
Ask after each new version release.With the current reports surrounding the changes in the Apple App Store there is a belief that ratings of the most recent version of an app will harbor the most weight. New ratings and reviews from your loyal community could become very valuable if this new system is put in place. If so, be sure to ask your community for ratings after each release, but remember to not over do it or spam your customer base.
How do you feel about ratings being included in the Apple App Store ranking algorithm? Share your thoughts and leave a comment below.
Automatic app updates are one of the many new Apple App Store changes being introduced in Apple’s new operating system iOS 7.
For the consumers who hate the red badges it’s your lucky day. With automatic updates you will never see the pesky red badge on the App Store icon again.
For companies with mobile apps, these automatic app updates are a mixed bag. From the positive perspective, you no longer need to worry about whether or not customers have updated to the latest version of their app. No more complaints or bad reviews about bugs that have been fixed in a newer available version.
Apps now automatically update each day.
As great as it is to have your software update automatically, it comes at a costly price. The automatic updates take away one of the only touch points that companies have with their entire mobile customer base.
Since the beginning of the Apple App Store, communicating with mobile customers has been difficult. In the Apple App Store you are not able to respond to reviews, negative or positive. In a marketplace where customer communication and customer support are paramount to success, not having access to your customers is incredibly detrimental.
Even with the barrier that is inherit in the Apple App Store, companies were able to, until now, have a micro connection with their customers through manual app updates. A badge would alert the customer that an app had a newer version available to be installed. Navigating to the app store you actively saw what app(s) were going to be updated. Even if it was only for a second you thought about that particular app, and for many people that would lead them back for at least one more session.
Since Apple doesn’t otherwise provide developers with a way to communicate directly with their customers that indirect mechanism [manual updates] served an important role – Matt Henderson
You are still able to see the updates with iOS 7 if you navigate to the app store to look, but after using iOS 7 for a couple months now, I have never looked. It just doesn’t occur to me to look after being consistently reminded for the past 5 years, and I strongly believe most customers will behave the same.
These updates provided valuable notifications that an app had been updated. It showed the customer that the app was being improved, that there was a team somewhere spending time and effort into improving the experience.
But why is this a problem?
Retention is one of the most difficult problems facing every mobile app. 60% of apps are deleted only ONE MONTH after being downloaded. At 6 months, 90% of apps get deleted, and only 4% of customers will be using an app they installed a year ago.
Churn rates are incredibly high and taking away a notification that serves as a reminder will only increase these numbers.
The best way to improve retention is through communication.
Losing a key mechanism to reminding your audience that your app exists somewhere on their phone will have two outcomes.
Nothing will be done and customer retention will plummet even further.
Customer communication will become a higher priority for app developers. If you’re looking for a great way to communicate with your customers, inside your app, take a look at this post about Message Center.
Many companies do not place much importance on communication and developing customer relationships, but it can’t be ignored. Without automatic updates you need to be more proactive in connecting with your mobile customers than ever before.
We are a few short months away from having the majority of the iOS population on iOS 7. If you haven’t thought about how to better communicate with your app customers now is the time to begin.
For those out there facing this new dilemma, do you have plans to find a new touch point with your customers? If not, why not? Share your thoughts below.
Customers are engaging your brand in more than one channel and especially on their phones. That means that the same customer might be talking to you on email, on Twitter, via phone, or in some other channel – at any moment. It’s important to consider how you sound to customers when they contact you. They react to what they hear and read, not just to what you meant when you said it or wrote it.
Increasingly, the best place to interact with that the customer is inside your native app. You’ve already got their attention if they are using your app, so why not consider that location a channel that’s just as important (or more so) than email, Twitter, or phone? How you sound when you interrupt your customer’s app use has to be friendly, informative, and useful.
Who is speaking for your company and how?
By using the term “How You Sound” I mean the words you use and how the experience feels to the customer (as if they were talking to you on a phone or in person). When you talk to the customer across different channels, that customer measures your performance by where you provide the worst experience. If you’re going to talk to customers in your app, on Email, via Phone, and by Twitter, the tone and message should be appropriate for that channel yet still seem like your brand.
You get to the goal of “How We Sound” by building the experience you want the customer to feel, and then by checking how it feels in each channel. You can do this by standardizing (and specializing) the content, and by setting up a workflow that allows for success in each channel. To use a programming metaphor, the subclass of each interaction channel might not implement service-specific methods, and you should always ensure that the prototype methods (contactMe() and IveGotAProblem()) are easy to find in every channel.
What matters most to “How You Sound”?
Most people instinctively feel that a brand should look consistent when you encounter it in a different medium – think of the logos we use and the color schemes that ensure that a web experience “feels” like the mobile experience as well – and have a harder time extrapolating that feeling to other parts of the service experience. They just know that something feels “wrong” or “unprofessional.”
Using a common language
The best method you have for ensuring a common experience is to use common nouns, verbs, and sentences in your service design. When you are referring to the customer, always use the same words. When you ask the customer to do something, use consistent nouns to describe the parts of your product or service. Customers will need to use these terms as a “grammar” to assemble the pieces of your service experience into the “sentences” that solve their problems. If they need to know how to “Add” a “User” to have the rights to view a “Filter” as a way of making sure a certain customer can see certain information, you need to make the procedure and steps to get this done really clear.
Using a common method of handling
Using common language is a great place to start in your service design when you want to make the experience consistent across channels. You should also think about the information you need in each channel to identify the customer, to understand what they need, and to tie their other contacts together.
When a customer contacts you on Twitter, you should already know that this is the same customer who has an open support case, or the same customer who bought a product or service from your company, and that you can respond to them in a channel-appropriate method.
What’s a channel-appropriate response?
This is a fancy way of saying that you shouldn’t share information in public channels (like Twitter) that people wouldn’t want to share. So while you might respond to someone’s request for help on Twitter with “Sorry to hear you’re having issues. We’ve got it – will follow up via dm or email,” you should limit the sending private information that the customer doesn’t want to make public.
And Don’t Cross the Streams unless the customer does it first. If the customer responds to you in email, they probably want a private response. On the other hand, they might send up a message flare on Twitter when they’d prefer that you pay attention to them RIGHT NOW. Use your best judgement and you should get close to the tone, speed, and privacy that your customer prefers. The customer who often emails you might be fine with a Twitter Direct Message if they’ve contacted you this way before; and if they’ve never Tweeted at you or DMed you, perhaps you should stick to email or phone.
What’s the Goal of “How We Sound”?
You want to deliver the confidence that the experience will feel the same to the customer (and to you) no matter what the contact method. Today you might be having conversations with the customer in channels called “Phone,” “Email,” and “Twitter.” Tomorrow the names of those channels might be a lot different, and might require different inputs (Smell-o-vision, anyone?) The interaction challenge will be the same.
When you respond in a way that feels consistent to the customer, you’re well positioned to add new interaction channels that sound the same, no matter where they appear. And that consistency and emotional experience is the thing that builds and reinforces your brand.
Greg Meyer is Manager, Customer WOW at the Desk.com Team at Salesforce. You can find him on Twitter at @grmeyer
Last week I had an amazing time attending and volunteering at AltWWDC in San Francisco. For those who don’t know, AltWWDC is an alternative conference that occurs simultaneously to Apple’s World Wide Developer Conference. The conference had an array of world class speakers who are all leaders in the mobile and tech development field.
With the addition of a co-working space, instructional lab sessions, and panels, AltWWDC is a wonderful conference open to all and I highly recommend everybody to experience it next year. You know it’s good when plenty of individuals with WWDC badges choose to spend their time at AltWWDC instead. Ultimately, it is an unbelievable community that fosters growth and innovation and every developer can gain knowledge and friends by being part of it.
The talks and panels at AltWWDC covered everything from design, app marketing, mobile games, to plenty of development tips such as how to make your app run fast, Cocos2D, an in depth look at how the Vesper app was created, and more. What struck me as interesting was that almost every talk and panel had an underlying focus on the customer. Throughout the diverse talks, the notion of connecting, listening, and understanding your customer was present even if it wasn’t directly being spoken about.
Within this mobile, connected, and flowing world companies are trying to replicate the mom and pop style of community and personal interaction with their customers. Focusing on your customers can seem like an obvious statement, but it is harder to do than you think. That is why you hear so many influential speakers mentioning it in their talks.
Eli Hodapp, the editor in chief of TouchArcade, gave a talk titled “Traditional Marketing Sucks, Let’s Get Weird.” The talk broke down how many mobile app developers approach releasing a mobile game onto the app store. It usually goes something like this:
Spend a ton of time building your game.
Submit to Apple and hope for the best. If it’s rejected, tweak as needed to comply with Apple.
Blast out press releases to everyone imaginable.
Cross your fingers, wish upon a shooting star, or rub your bald friend’s head for luck for Apple to feature your game.
Make loads of money.
This get rich quick mentality is, in Eli’s words, “toxic.” For the top games in the app store there is so much more that went into the creation of these games than code. Eli’s top piece of advice to mobile game developers was to invest in creating a community or being part of a community. Traditional PR marketing can’t hold a candle to the power of a community. Make the press irrelevant by starting your own community and make your own press through your community.
Obvious paths to building a community can be through Facebook and Twitter, but don’t forget about sites such as TouchArcade, iOSGaming on Reddit, or even sites not directly related to gaming like MacRumours. Engage with and build your community by constantly posting concept art, new features, and showing aspects of the app as it is built. You will be building personal connections with every interaction, every conversation, and driving excitement for your app.
“Real connections with the people who use your app are more effective than any kind of marketing you can ever do.” – Eli Hodapp
Make your app, whether it is a game or not, a part of a community by responding to your own threads as well as commenting on others. You may not realize this but every personal interaction, a reply to a question, a sharing of an idea, or confiding in a loyal fan is a memorable experience that you have created for that person. You will be building a community that is loyal to you, your app, and anything you release in the future. You have people that will champion your app, tell your friends, and even start forums about your app on other sites. Traditional marketing can suck, but building a community shouldn’t be weird. It should be the every app’s first marketing goal.
Source: Eli Hodapp, TouchArcade
Lex Friedman, a senior writer a Macworld, gave a talk called “Learning from Apple’s Mistakes.” Apple has obviously made mistakes, just look at the release of Apple Maps, MobileMe, and the Cube to name a few. However, after the release of Apple Maps, Tim Cook wrote a letter apologizing for falling short on Apple’s commitment to providing the best experience for Apple customers. He even went as far to name alternative applications for Apple customers to use, including Google Maps, in the letter. However, not everyone is like Apple and I don’t recommend providing your customers with an alternative solution, but writing a letter to take ownership and acknowledge the frustration that Apple customers were feeling was a great solution.
It can be hard to compare Apple with your own company or independent moonlight activities but everyone should strive to acknowledge and listen to their customers. Lex referenced many examples where Apple made mistakes and the result of those mistakes, but in the end what every developer could actionably take away from the talk was the type of relationship they should have with their customers.
“Honest and open communication with your customers is incredibly important.” – Lex Friedman
There will be times where you receive large amounts of feedback from customers, angry and happy, about what you should change or improve. Whether the customer is right or wrong, they deserved to be listened to. Try a reply of “Thank you for your suggestions. At this time we do not have time to change this feature, but thank you for bringing it to our attention.” You’d be surprised at how a simple response can satisfy a customer, even if that response tells them that nothing will be done. Here is a great article that Lex wrote that shows when Apple heeded or ignored customer outcries on their products.
Josh Michaels, an independent developer most famously known for Ow My Balls!, gave a great talk titled “Tales from Indie Tech Support.” In the talk he regaled us with stories, both painful and hilarious, from his experiences interacting with his customers. The talk gave a fresh perspective on how important customer support is. A single developer, who has hundreds of tasks to do in order to be successful, will take the time out of his day to respond to every bit of feedback no matter if it is praise or harsh criticism. Josh created a recipe for responding to feedback, even if it is an inconsiderate, rude, or condescending message.
How to respond to feedback:
Say “Thank You”
Apologize for the inconvenience
Ask how you can help
It might look something like this “Hi, Thank you. I am sorry about the inconvenience. Is there anything I can do to help fix the problem?” Sometimes simple and to the point is best. Josh has seen remarkable conversations begin with this response. Commonly customers are surprised to even get a response, let alone someone asking what they can do to remedy the issue. Once you open the conversation with an angry customer there are numerous ways to turn them into a loud, happy, and loyal fan.
One of Josh’s tactics is to offer them a refund or even provide a free version of a future product. The goal is to continue the conversation to learn what could be improved or what was wrong. These conversations give allow Josh to develop a relationship with those customers, most importantly the ones who are unhappy. By refunding the money, but not giving up on them, more often than not he creates a loyal fan from an unhappy one, eager to know when about his next product release. One element of Josh’s talk that stuck out to me was the importance of being accessible. If it isn’t easy for customers to reach you, they won’t, and you will not have a chance to turn a dissatisfied customer into an evangelist.
“You need to make yourself easily accessible, don’t HIDE from your customers.” – Josh Michaels
Making yourself available through your app is a feature that is often overlooked. It isn’t difficult to do and should be just as important, if not more, than being able to turn the sound on and off. The first step of providing great support is by being available through your app because that is where your customers are.
There are more ways than just building communities, listening, and being accessible to your customers that can have an impact. Charles Perry, owner of Leaf Hut Software, gave an enlightening talk on universal design. There are millions of people in the world with some form of disability and products like the iPhone and iPad can have a profound effect on changing those people’s lives. For the blind, deaf, or physically disabled, apps open up a whole new way to experience and interact with the world. Charles’s talk “Designing Apps for Everyone” really illuminated the power that every developer has in changing lives.
In a talk called “Marketing You Won’t Hate” given by Jean MacDonald, a developer extraordinaire and founder of AppCamp 4 Girls, she gave a vital piece advice to us all.
“What’s easiest for your isn’t always the way to go. Think about it from the customer’s perspective.” - Jean MacDonald
This piece of advice goes far beyond marketers and directly into what Charles meant when he spoke about universal design. Developing for everybody requires you to think about it from the customer’s perspective. That is not to say that your app has to have universal design functions that will allow someone who is blind to use it. It lends to the concept that each app can be a powerful tool for someone and it is the responsibility of the developer to invest extra time and effort to make the app as best as possible for the customer, disabled or not.
Even the small stuff can impress your customers and give them a better user experience leading the customer to those surprising “delightful” moments. Ben Johnson, a senior product engineer at Raizlabs, gave a wonderful presentation on “Gratuitous Animations.” Gratuitous they might be, but certain animations can add and create a better user experience. These animations can be incredibly helpful at creating an engaging experience on a small screen and even teach the customer something new or how to use the application. Take a look at Ben’s slides to see how subtle animations can improve the user experience and but remember not to go over the top with the animations.
Source: Ben Johnson, Raizlabs
This review of my experience at AltWWDC was to express thanks and to show developers how they can focus on the customer in myriad of ways. You can build a community and leverage personal relationships to help market and improve your app. You can take unhappy customers and turn them into loyal fans with a little time and effort. Efforts that often go far further than you could imagine. You can place the customer perspective at the forefront of your mind and make an application that provides what they need, and even change someone’s life. You can focus on the smaller aspects of your app to provide an overall better experience and delight the customer.
Focusing on the customer benefits developers as much as it does the customer. When you pour your heart and soul into an app you want people to love it. So think about the little things, join a community, listen to your customers, understand the customer perspective, make yourself accessible, and you will create something larger than an app. You will be creating a wonderful experience, a new relationship, and perhaps brighten someones day.
Many of the talks slides are available through each speaker page and you can watch some of the presentations online. Did you attend AltWWDC? Please share any comments about AltWWDC or how customers are playing a larger role in our products.
We recently recorded a two part conversation with Ryan Morel of PlacePlay about how app developers can increase their app revenue through customer feedback and communications.
We covered a whole host of issues and tactics, here’s the first part of the interview, talking about the basics about what we’ve built and the benefits that developers are seeing:
In the second part of the interview we dug into more of the ways in which customers who you connect with become evangelists, how we eliminate shipping app updates to fiddle with settings and survey changes and why customer lifetime values climb when you have real relationships.
Here’s a full transcript of the conversation:
Ryan: Hi. Today, we’re here with Robi Ganguly from Apptentive. So thanks for joining us, Robi.
Robi: Happy to be here. Good to see you again, Ryan.
Ryan: Yep. So before we get started, why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself and what Apptentive does.
Robi: Sure. So, a little bit about myself and my background. I spent a bunch of time in Silicon Valley working for some of the big tech companies, most recently, Yahoo, where I was responsible for display advertising. And I had a bunch of experience with marketers and advertisers, as they were thinking about how to use the Internet and digital channels to talk to their customers. And then, after that, I actually did some work for Del Monte and Nike, with similar strategies around talking with their customers. Which leads us to what we’re building with Apptentive, which is really a tool for anybody developing apps on iOS, Android, and Mac OS10, to talk to their customers in their apps. You know, set STKs for them to do that. We think it’s just really important to have a relationship with your customers in the digital age.
Ryan: So, if I understand this correctly, you guys do two relatively specific things. So, one, you help developers get better reviews, and then the second thing is to communicate directly with consumers for feedback, relationship, et cetera. Is that fair to say?
Robi: Yes, absolutely. The ratings and reviews part is relatively straightforward, in terms of we give them tools that make it easy to prompt in their app to identify if customers are happy and they’re enjoying it, and then to prompt those people who are happy and enjoying the app to actually go to the App Store and say something wonderful about them. The flip side of that is making sure that the customers are having a great experience. So if they’re not really 100% in love with your app yet, that they get a chance to talk to that developer, and so the net result of that is your ratings and reviews are wonderful and you have a channeled action talk with people who, instead, would have gone to the App Store and ranted.
And then that second piece of really getting feedback is… A lot of apps have a “contact us” or support button, we power that and our SDKs present a native ballot box where you can solicit that feedback from an end customer and then you can also, when you get feedback from them, see the context of the device that they’re on–the carrier, OS, Virgin–and any other data that you choose to attach. So as a result, when you get feedback from a customer, it’s really rich because you understand their situation and the environment.
And finally, we also allow you to really structure some of that feedback through the use of surveys in your app, so that makes it very easy for the end customer to give feedback. It’s basically tapable responses in a survey ballot box in the app, so that they’re invested in the end customer’s investment and telling you more about what’s going on in their experience is 10-15 seconds, which then leads to a higher participation rate.
Ryan: App Store review rants have long been a problem for app developers, and specifically their inability to go back to that customer and help them solve that need. So it sounds like your solution helps prevent those App Store review rants and provides consumers and developers a channel of communication that they didn’t otherwise have before.
Robi: Yeah. That’s right. I think one of the things that we heard early on, when we started building Apptentive, was that it was super frustrating to go through the App Store and see somebody complain and then see an anonymous username. We actually heard from many developers that they’d Google those usernames and see if they could figure out a Twitter account or Facebook account in order to get in contact with them, which just really tells you how frustrated they are about not being able to go address those concerns.
I think we know, pretty obviously, at this point that on the Internet, anonymity leads to a lot more extremism in terms of comments–a lot more yelling, ranting and raving. And so, what we’ve done, by creating this rating and review process that helps qualify how somebody feels, is that we end up intercepting the rants that people who were going to go to the App Store and really shout, instead come directly to the developer. And as a result of being able to come to the developer and the developer being able to respond, the dialogue goes from this extremist yelling and screaming to an actual constructive dialogue. And we hear a lot of developers telling us about situations where the initial contact from a customer was really vitriolic–somebody was really angry–and then as soon as the developer responded back and said, “I’m sorry, are you having trouble?” The person toned it down and they got to a place where they were able to actually discuss something cordially and worked constructively to make the app better, together.
Ryan: Obviously, one of the big benefits you guys are providing is preventing developers from stalking consumers, so that’s a good thing. And so, the other thing I heard you say was that you provide a way for consumers to feel engaged in the process of the app development. So the app developer becomes kind of like a partner instead of a supplier. So maybe, you could talk a little bit about how you’ve seen those close relationships affect consumers’ engagement within an app and with the company?
Robi: Yeah. I think that it’s a really simple thing. It’s very, very easy to understand if you think about yourself as a consumer in daily life. When you come across a situation that doesn’t make sense to you or you’re frustrated, if you have the ability to raise your hand and talk about what’s going on and you feel hurt. Just by feeling hurt, I think, as a consumer, it changes the tenor in the relationship with whoever you’re dealing with. Whether that’s me going to Starbucks and getting the wrong drink and then telling them that I got the wrong thing and that he fixes it for me without a hassle, or it’s in the app, knowing that my opinion matters, right?
And then I’m actually giving you insight into what it’s like to use my app because it’s very hard, as an app developer, as anybody creating a piece of software, truly stepping into the shoes of the end consumer. And so this partnership is great for the developer as well, because they can really get advice and an understanding about what they thought it was going to do and then how it’s actually being used. So, just like you said, there’s this partnership in terms of making the app better, together.
Ryan: And I would assume, as a result of that, that some of those detractors end up becoming promoters?
Robi: That’s actually 100% correct. That’s the coolest thing. Developers, anecdotally, will come to us and say, “So and so came in. There were very upset. We went back and forth. I pushed out an update to the app. I told that person explicitly, that had complained, I pushed out an update and I listened to you.” And then shortly thereafter, that consumer becomes a person who is an evangelist–someone who’s on Twitter and Facebook sharing it with their friends. But one of the coolest things about this is actually hearing the stories where an end customer, now, because they have this relationship with the developer, will start using the developer’s name.
Like, “I was talking with Robi about their app. They responded. You should use this app, it’s amazing.” And so, it’s a way to really cut through that wall of the piece of software between you, to develop that relationship that then extends into the real world.
Ryan: Can you summarize what the really big benefits, for app developers are, of using Apptentive?
Robi: Sure. So there are a few things that people really are enjoying today, as a result. So the first thing is, the big problem with App Store is that Microsoft, Google, Apple–they own the customer relationship—and so as a result, by default, you as a developer don’t know who those customers are. Now, using us soliciting feedback, you develop relationships. You understand the email address. You understand the usage patterns. You have a way to dialogue with these people on a regular basis.
So that’s number one–direct customer relationships. Number two is better ratings and reviews. So, by and large, when people use our rating systems, they see increases in volumes and more ratings and reviews–50 to 100% more. And then they see increases in those actual ratings–another star or more. In fact, we see a lot of app developers, once they use us, get their ratings pegged pretty close to five stars, and the reviews take on a totally different tone. So people use words like “love” when they’re describing your app and that’s amazing to have in the App Store. And then the final thing is, because you have this dialogue and you’re engaging with your customers and you’re learning and you’re making the app better, your retention rate goes up.
Ryan: Do you guys do any analytics to identify what the best time is to promote, like a review or a rating feedback? Are you guys doing that right now?
Robi: Yes. So, what we have is, in our ratings prompt, everything’s instrumented so we can understand when it’s shown and then what the result is. So, we asked this question, “Do you love this app” whatever the app name is and we have all the data around when it’s shown, who clicks “yes” and who clicks “no” at each point in time.
We deliver that in our dashboard to you, so that you as an app developer can understand what’s happening with your existing settings but, importantly, the settings are all server-driven so, without having to ship an update to your app, you can act on that insight into what’s happening and change the settings of when you’re prompting and the end customer can answer that question. And, with our surveys, we also have it instrumented, and with our feedback it’s also instrumented. So, our goal is to make you, as an app developer, much smarter about interactions and the results of when you’re trying to interact with somebody because the worst thing you can do is be clumsy about it and end up hurting your app. So, that’s why we track all that data and present it to you.
Ryan: We all know that any app developer can hard code a question to ask their user, to review their app. That doesn’t cost very much. So, why would an app developer, essentially, pay you guys to handle that for them?
Robi: What we see when developers hard code that stuff in is that they don’t understand what’s actually happening. They haven’t instrumented it, so they don’t know, for example, how many times a customer has actually seen that prompt. You don’t know how many people are then clicking and going to that app store and reading it. The lack of data around that, plus the fact that you have to ship an update to your app, results in a really long cycle time around trying to figure out the appropriate time to ask somebody this question and making sure that only people who actually love your app are going to the app store and giving you a good review, as opposed to coming to you.
What we do, is we instrument that process. We ask the qualifying question, ”Do you love this app” which ends up resulting in most people who are unhappy with your app coming directly to you. That’s this notion of intercepting negative feedback that really is occurring across all of our developers. Also, importantly, because we’ve instrumented this and we’re presenting it in this dashboard and we tell you and people are saying, “Yes. I love this app versus anything else,” and because it’s connected to the server for settings, that developer can, today, launch an app with settings around what they’re prompting and then, tomorrow, change those settings without having to ship an update to the app.
So, that cycle of really getting very specific to your customer base about when you’re prompting them and trying to get as many happy customers as possible, goes from taking 6 to 12 months with not very much data to three to four weeks with tons of accurate data about all the activity around this. So, that benefit is a real reason why people are using this pegged because they have an insight into every step of the process and they don’t have to ship an update into the app store.
Ryan: Outside of the fact that they’re getting all this data and reporting, which is fantastic, it sounds like it’s like they’re paying you just because they don’t have to do updates.
Robi: Yes. I think one of the biggest smiles I get when I talk to people about our service is that we’re pretty focused on this idea that any time we can remove shipping updates to your app, in the process, we will, because people, in particular in the Apple ecosystem, are terrified of having to wait two weeks for the review process and that’s slowing down the development. So, we move that ahead.
Ryan: Can you provide any specific examples about developers who are using you who have made improvements to their app, based on the feedback they’ve gotten?
Robi: Absolutely. Here in town, there’s a great team of developers working on an iOS app called Chewsy, and Chewsy really helps you understand dishes at specific restaurants. Using their app, you can rate and review specific dishes and take pictures. So, it’s a pretty wonderful way to explore a menu through other people’s eyes and get really good data about what you should be ordering. One of the problems they run into is that, in markets where they don’t have a ton of coverage, so, for example, let’s say, Kansas City. If they don’t have a lot of users, they say that’s a great experience with any customer isn’t as good as it is here in Seattle. They’ve been using us to collect feedback and get insight from their end customers about what that experience is like and then how they would expect that experience to look, when there is volume and that’s allowed them to iterate on their product and really deliver something that is making more of their customers around the world happy. And it’s something they couldn’t have done just through metrics and analysis. They have to actually go talk to the customers in these different markets.
Ryan: And we talked about communicating with consumers is a really powerful tool for app developers. Do you have any examples of developers using you who have seen their revenue, ultimately, increase after integrating your SDK?
Robi: Absolutely. The easiest way to think about us is the idea that your app store page is really your storefront. As a result, consumers, when they’re shopping, think about downloading an app or buying an app. They’re looking at your storefront before they make that decision. The thing that they look at, most often, are the ratings and reviews. That’s what’s dynamic. Your description is important and screenshots are important. They certainly help, but thanks to Amazon and many others over the past decade, we’ve really been trained to look at what other consumers are saying about something. It helps us sort through all the noise, and as a result of having much better ratings in terms of higher volume ratings, as well as higher star ratings, people are more likely to download your app.
So, we hear from developers, of both free and paid apps, that they’re seeing more downloads, that the conversion rate of people who are seeing their apps page is just going up, that more people who see that app store page are downloading. Then, as a result, there’s a boost in revenue because you have more people using your app and they’re happier, as well, because you’re making a better app.
I think, over the long run, what we’re also seeing is that when you have relationships with customers, particularly if you’re in a free-to-play game, or something like that, you have that relationship and people trust you and they develop a relationship with you, they’re more likely to stay in your app. So, retention is really big. That difference between having a customer for a month versus 6 or 12 months, is massive from a revenue perspective, and we’re hearing from companies on a regular basis that’s true.
Ryan: So, it’s not only increasing initial downloads, but it’s increasing the retention levels and, ultimately, the lifetime value of the consumer.
Robi: Yes. Absolutely. And I think a really big point here, that a lot of folks don’t necessarily understand right off the bat is that trust is key to having lots of commercial transactions, whether or not you’re buying a car from somebody or you’re buying a latte. If you trust the business you’re dealing with, you’re more comfortable spending money with them and that’s happening in the app space incredibly fast.
Ryan: OK. Is there anything else you want to talk about before we go?
Robi: Just, the main thing is it’s really an exciting time to be an app developer. We have more customers signing on every day, and we get to talk to them about their businesses and are pretty fortunate to see across the landscape and businesses that never existed before are now springing to life because of this personal device that everybody has in their pocket. It’s pretty wonderful.
Ryan: Great. So, before we sign off, tell everybody how they can find you and learn more about Apptentive.