Google announced yesterday that it will soon add a familiar feature to the Play Store: Paid search results.
This announcement came one day after Fiksu reported that mobile customer acquisition costs had reached an all-time high, with 61 percent year-over-year growth. Sponsored listings will enable small and large developers alike to dramatically improve app discovery and better stand out against the Play Store’s 1.3 million apps.
In much the same way that Google’s Quality Score rewards highly relevant results (both paid and organic), Google expects paid search in the Google Play Store to enhance app discovery by rewarding higher quality apps that are more relevant to the searched keywords with a discounted price per click.
In a statement on the Android Developers Blog, Google Play’s Product Management Director, Michael Siliski, commented:
“App discovery plays a critical role in driving your continued success, and over the past year Google has provided best practices to enhance app discovery and engagement, as well as app promotion tools to get the most out of search and display advertising for developers. We are always looking for new ways to help you get your apps in front of potential new users.”
Considering that about 90% of Google’s revenues come from online advertising, the introduction of sponsored search results to the Google Play Store should come of little surprise. This news came with the announcement that the Google Play Store now has a reach of over 1 billion people in 190 countries and generated over $7 billion in revenue for app developers in 2014.
The look and feel of sponsored Google Play sponsored app listings will be consistent with those on Google.com. Sponsored results will be presented above the organic listings and clearly identified with a gold “AD” icon next to the app’s title, as demonstrated below:
Google will begin testing sponsored search results in the coming weeks to a limited group of developers who are already promoting their apps with paid advertising. A target date has yet to be announced for the general availability of this new feature, but Google plans to discuss the results of its pilot program within the next couple months.
Recently Google quietly released a new feature in the Play Store which was quickly noticed and remarked-upon by many: the ability to sort app search results by rating. The first incarnation of this feature (and one must assume that future updates will allow sorting by specific Star levels) is extremely simple: 2 choices only, “All ratings” and “4+ Stars”. This Android Authority post was one of the first-breaking that we noticed pointing it out, and as they pointed out it is a modest step in the right direction but doesn’t solve for all the challenges, writing, “…this may not catch some new apps with just a handful of reviews, and, second, apps with tons of fake reviews will still go through.” It’s a relevant point that new and low-install apps could be unfairly penalized until they build up a sufficient quantity of ratings, while this BRG article notes that the feature could also unfairly reward new or low-install apps with a modest number of ratings that happen to skew positive or are being ‘gamed’ by biased ratings (as the stats folks say, until the number of ratings for a given app reaches statistical significance).
These are interesting initial considerations, but for the last couple days we’ve been thinking about the more strategic implications of this move for the Play Store and Android apps overall – now and in the near future. This is Google we’re talking about, after all. 2 years ago (almost to the day), Android Authority ran this post questioning the larger issue at play here: why it was taking so long for Google to apply its deep experience and expertise in information organization, discovery, and qualification to its burgeoning app marketplace. The post not only questioned when Google would start to enable a variety of quality, price, and other app characteristic sorting and filtering, but also wondered when the Play Store content would start to be more prominently featured in organic search results — and how.
We thought we’d take a few moments to comment on this development and build on the rich online conversation that’s been unfolding about the new feature over the past week. Here are a few of our initial considerations as Google starts the process of introducing more flexible options for mobile users to find the right apps in the Play Store for their needs – particularly for app developers, managers, and publishers.
1) Ratings and Reviews Now Matter More Then Ever – Across All Key Platforms
This may seem like an obvious point – but the fact that Google *didn’t* offer this feature until now meant that developers and publishers could effectively hold app user Ratings and Reviews in a lower regard for Android apps than they needed to for iOS apps. As the Google founders themselves showed the world 15 years ago, a search is quite simply the beginning – and therefore the action closest to any person’s process of information discovery – of a decision. Even though the Play Store was gathering and displaying Ratings and Reviews against apps post-search (at least in the Play Store, if not effectively in broader search results), that is not nearly as valuable as enabling this piece of information to qualify the discovery process during the search process. A capability – feature, or logic, or the combination of the two – that an individual user can apply “a priori” in their search experience is a great deal more valuable than a feature that must be applied “ex post”. This is a direct result of the fact that a capability that is applied earlier in any manual discovery process is more valuable than one that is applied later. There are two reasons for this: first, it is more efficient for the individual user; and second, it is more precise as a mechanism for organizing and presenting the inferred results that a given user desires.
In other words, by elevating the ratings sort capability during the search Google has made it both easier and faster for users to find what they really want. In so doing, Google has basically affirmed for mobile app developers that (a) ratings and reviews really matter – a lot, and, (b) they want to elevate the importance and weight they ascribe to this aspect of any given app on their platform. The implication here is not a small one for mobile app developers and publishers overall – and for Android app managers specifically: app quality, as judged by real app users, is now one of the most important meta-data characteristics of every single app in the Play Store. The downstream implication of this is that every Android app publisher now has an imperative to manage a strategy for ensuring that users consistently (a) see high value in each app they release for Android, and, (b) are encouraged to express their satisfaction with the app value in the form of public ratings and reviews in the Play Store. It’s as if Google has – in one feature-update stroke – said to Android developers and managers, “We now consider high ratings for apps in our marketplace to be a primary user download consideration, and you should too.”
2) Android Apps Are No Longer Allowed to be the “Also-Rans” of a Company’s Mobile Strategy
Whether or not they publicly acknowledge it, there has been an undercurrent of bias among corporate marketers and entertainment media publishers that iOS apps are the clear priority and biggest business opportunity… and that an Android app is either a ‘check the box’ gotta-have or a distant 2nd priority to their iPhone and iPad apps. We fully recognize that this is a gross generalization – there are many publishers who have lead the market with Android-first innovation, and many companies who for several years have looked at their mobile OS usage and business-benefit data and allocated development resources with equal (or proportionally-appropriate) priority for both platforms. However, we don’t think we’re being controversial in stating that Android as a app platform has for too long been considered an under-appreciated second child – never able to live up to the higher expectations and preferred first-born status of iOS. [As a father of three, I’m reminded of the Tikki Tikki Tembo story that I’ve read my daughters on many an evening.]
And for a while, this was probably a defensible point of view. Research consistently showed that iPhone users were early-tech-adopters and indexed higher than other mobile OS platforms for income and digital media content consumption — all statistics that made mobile marketers salivate, and gave easy-to-repeat statistics that allowed them to defend their iOS-first priorities and justify their disproportionate investment of money and effort towards the Sunnyvale giant’s products and platform.
However, the last several years have forced objective mobile business managers to revisit their biases and revise their marketing and development priorities. The run-away growth of Android in recent years which has made it the definitively dominant mobile OS platform globally, according to IDC (linked), Gartner (chart at right), and others. Increased competition in the U.S. market among both wireless carriers and their smartphone hardware partners has made mobile OS platform switching more commonplace. A good deal is a good deal, and Apple and Google now are in the software *and* hardware game – and Google’s willingness to take a break-even or loss-making deal on their hardware and software in favor of winning their way into consumers pockets has harvested a lot of early-iPhone-adopters. [Some killer hardware innovation by Samsung, HTC, and now Google’s previous Motorola hardware unit has earned a lot of new and OS-switching U.S. and European customers also.]
Simply put, Android apps are now vitally important for any global media or brand enterprise – now more so than ever, in light of the platform’s pervasiveness. Maintaining a lower-quality, or feature-poor, Android version of an app that is better on the iOS platform can no longer be explained away with glib stats about difference segment profiles with iPhone users or ignored because Apple developer expertise was earlier to market. App marketers and publishers better have financial and usage data to back up their development investment priorities – and it better align proportionally. Google hasn’t elected to belabor this point by using “the stick” – instead, we view this new ratings-sort feature in the Play Store as an important signal that they intend to provide more “carrots” to motivate app managers to focus on what their diverse, increasingly-global mobile customer base really wants and values. In our view, this is one small example of a much larger key strategic shift in Google’s ability to signal how they intend to help – and reward – app publishers who prioritize app quality in their Android-specific app development and innovation efforts.
3) Mobile Customer Needs Come First – Ignore Them At Your Peril
Finally, Google’s ratings-sort feature acknowledges (at long last) that their Play Store app discovery capabilities have under-delivered to their growing customer base for too long – and they intend to change that. Our prediction is that this is just the first step. We will continue to pay attention to the new tools – and improved quality of Play Store + organic search results – that elevating the importance of app customer evaluations motivates them to create. So here’s the final strategic question we’ll leave you with: “If the most efficient company in the history of the world at organizing and presenting useful information to Internet users is signalling that they intend to raise their emphasis on effective discovery of quality applications, what do YOU intend to do to ensure that your Android app(s) perform at their best for customers?”
If you are running a business that is dependent upon mobile customer experiences and commerce – and really, who *isn’t* these days – are you paying enough attention to driving app quality on all of the key mobile platforms? Are you using all of the data at your disposal – both public data like app store ratings, reviews, and meta-data, as well as private data like user mobile OS share and ARPU – to ensure your development and marketing efforts are appropriate? Are you letting historical bias (or just your own personal mobile OS platform preferences) guide an under-emphasis on Android app improvement, quality, and customer regard? Most of all, are you listening to – and engaging with – your mobile app customers with equivalent empathy and focus, regardless of which mobile platform app they are using of yours? In our view, these are some of the important strategic questions that this seemingly small Play Store experience improvement provoke.
As always, we welcome your comments and views on the topic. We know where we stand on the matter: every mobile customer is unique, valued, and valuable – and every customer deserves to receive the highest-quality experience that your resources and developers can deliver. But don’t believe us – just look at Google. They just raised the bar on expectations for app quality and customer evaluations of same. Our bet is that they intend to raise it further still as the mobile marketplace continues to grow and mature.
The experts on Apptentive’s Mobile Team provide answers to your questions about from between app development to successfully marketing your app. Got a question? Ask it in our comment section below or on Twitter using #MobileTeam. In each post we’ll highlight a different topic where the Mobile Team will share their insight and experience.
This week we asked the Mobile Team: What are you most excited about from Apple’s WWDC 2014 or Google I/O and why?
I am very excited to see the new Material design. It literally adds a new dimension to the UI – elevation. Elevation determines the size of shadows, and leads to very natural animations. Another great addition is color accents. Developers no longer need to customize every single widget to brand the app. Just specify a color palette in the theme, and voila, the whole app is tinted accordingly. Material design comes with a comprehensive guide on the thinking behind the design, implementation dos and don’ts, and lots of visual examples. It looks beautiful.
Google I/O is stuffed with announcements beyond Material design, and believe it or not, the next thing that got me excited was Cardboard. Yup, it is a piece of cardboard, with lens, magnets and NFC tag. Add a phone, and you get a virtual reality viewer. The magnets are especially ingenious: one magnet is inside the box, to hold the outside magnet within a groove. Pull the outside one down, and the magnetometer on the phone detects the change in magnetic field to trigger a button event. This is how you select an item on the phone while it is trapped inside the cardboard box. Clever, isn’t it? I don’t really have any particular use for a VR viewer, but Cardboard is really fun!
There were so many great new API’s announced at WWDC 2014, it really opens up so many new opportunities for developers. I can already see us taking advantage of Handoff and App Extensions in both Clear and Ember. For example, we could now write a widget for Notification Centre that shows your most recent tasks from Clear – This is something users have been asking for and we’ve never been able to offer before.
As a user I’m probably most looking forward to the new cleaner look in OS X Yosemite. I’m also very excited for HomeKit and HealthKit, the possibilities for both of these are mind blowing.
Apple’s new Continuity features of OS X Yosemite and iOS are extremely exciting. The free interchange of information between Mobile, Tablet, Desktop, and TV only further bolsters Apple’s position as a truly unique cross platform ecosystem. There are some fantastic new use cases that will come out of this and we’re really looking forward to including some of this advanced functionality in our apps to make software even easier to use.
The keynote announcements from these events are always a mix of exciting and scary. New things are exciting! Doubly so for developers and others working in technology, because new things change our direction, for better or for worse. That’s the scary part, because you don’t know.
Even now, a month later, with the new ideas in grasp, and the new betas installed, I’m not sure. It takes time to see how things pan out. Exciting! Scary!
We make technology because we get bored and dissatisfied with the old stuff, because we like the challenge of being kept on our toes, of not knowing whether we’re getting in on the ground floor, or wasting our time while the competition laps us.
Apple has begun to make great strides towards unifying iOS and Mac not just from a design standpoint but with functionality like Handoff and Continuity. This feels like a level of maturity on both platforms that will usher in a new wave of exciting use cases. Thinking of all your technology as a single continuous device is definitely where the future is heading and it is very refreshing to see a company like Apple getting behind that drive.
The Wear products are fascinating. It’s most of the value of Google Glass, but delivered in a way that harmonizes with social norms instead of disrupting them. I’m wearing one now and it’s still a little too intrusive, but unlike Glass, that’s a software problem, not a hardware one.
There were a lot of awesome things announced during WWDC. iOS 8 is really a developer release. But the thing I’m most excited about is the changes we are starting to see from Apple; they are starting to open up more. We don’t have a WWDC-specific NDA this year. The Developer Forums will be index by search engines. When we are more free to talk and write about the new frameworks and APIs, everyone wins.
From a pure developer perspective, Apple’s announcement of the Swift programming language is one of the most exciting things to happen the platform in years. The opportunity for existing and new developers who learn the language is immense. Apple might be talking a big game about supporting Objective-C and C long term but there should be no doubt that the future of the platform is Swift. Already we have seen a number of the new features of iOS and Xcode tied intrinsically to Swift.
In theory, a new language built from the ground up for iOS and the associated hardware is an incredibly powerful proposition. Apple will be able to do things that nobody else can even dream of, and we as developers have the chance to take that journey with them. From a more realistic perspective of course, we won’t really get to use Swift in anger for a year or two anyway, but it sure will be fun when we can.
Take a look for yourself and see if you learn something new. Be sure to let us know in the comments if there are other areas we can address!
Robi: Hello. Welcome to App Developer Conversations. We’ve got Ryan Morel
back. You look a little tan. I hope you had fun in Hawaii. Ian is also
back from Hawaii.
Ian: Doesn’t look tan, because I stay in the shade.
Robi: Ian Sefferman of MobileDevHQ. I’m Robi Ganguly of Apptentive. Now
that the gang is back together, we’re going to talk about some new and
some old news, I guess. Let’s start off with something that’s old but
it’s always funny when it happens; Phil Schiller told us that Android
sucks, which is like, “Okay. Phil Schiller’s talking.” Then Android’s
chief, Andy Rubin is leaving. How about you talk to us a little bit
about the Android news around and Rubin leaving the [inaudible: 00:44]
and going into something else for Google.
Ian: I think it’s a potential huge shake-up. It could be really good, it
could be really bad. Andy Rubin has done a fantastic job of having a
vision of an open source operating system, finding a company who could
help get distribution for that operation system in Google, and making
it sort of . . . it’s not the standard, because I think iOS is the
standard to everybody here, but it is certainly comparable to the
standard; has huge numbers. That being said, if they do want to become
the standard, they’re going to have to figure out a 10x play and maybe
that involves shaking things up every once in awhile. This could work
out for them really well for them.
Robi: Do you have any thoughts on it?
Ryan: Yeah. I think it’s been an amazing run for Android; we all know that.
I think questions start to get raised when you have a market size that
is 5x the size of another, yet ¼ the size of the revenue. That starts
to become a little bit . . . that’s way out of balance. Then other
questions start to come up when you have OEMs with leverage. Amazon,
right across the street here, has essentially their own version of
Android, which Google has no control over. We can bet Samsung is
continuing to just push on their own version of Android, if not, going
to move slowly; Tizen, or whatever the hell they call their thing. Now
all of a sudden, you take those two players out of what you would
consider the core Google Android audience, and you’ve got problems.
You’ve got [inaudible: 02:28] devices.
Robi: I think that is probably Phil Schiller’s point. Phil Schiller is
like, “This fragmentation is real and it’s really messing with
consumers experiences, and look at the data. Sure, they have more
devices than us, a lot more now, but our people use their devices way
more often that are consuming more data.” When you think about it from
the developer’s perspective, we’re always talking about which
platforms developers prefer, what approach. It seems like you’ve got
to be developing for both if you’re going to be in this long-term.
This issue, are you seeing in your business what Phil Schiller is
saying, in terms of there being more money, people are using it more
Ian: Yeah. The short answer to that is, yes. There’s obvious caveats to
that, and we talk about Amazon as a caveat to that. In the standard
Android world, absolutely, iOS rules the day.
Robi: How does this play out? Do we just get to hear for the next 10 years,
“Android sucks”? Then everybody’s buying Android devices. Is this the
Ryan: I think at some point, people need to recognize that it’s okay to
have different audience segments. This has always been Apple’s play.
Apple’s like, “I don’t want these people who want free devices. We
don’t want them.” It’s arguable for game developers; you don’t want
them either, because they’re not paying you any money. Then there’s a
certain segment of the Android population, like you and other people
buying the Galaxy Nexus 3 and Nexus 4. Sorry.
Ian: Galaxy S3.
Ryan: Yeah, Galaxy S3 and Galaxy S4, etc., those are the high-end scope.
When you look at the handset breakdown between them, it’s still iOS.
If I’m a developer, I’m thinking about how do I maximize my game for
these handsets that appeal to this higher-end audience and then not
care so much about this lower end audience, maybe?
Robi: Then there is another side to this I think, which is Schiller and
Apple are up there saying fragmentation’s bad, it’s really hard for a
consumer to have a consistent experience, and their developers’ lives
are easier, but we continue to see more and more devices coming out of
them supporting different things. iPad 2 is different from the iPad 3,
which is different from the iPad Mini, which is different from the
iPhone 5, which is different from the iPhone 4S. There’s no shortage
of things that are confusing about the iOS ecosystem at this point.
Are you seeing any of that stuff coming out, playing out? Are you
hearing from developers, that that is becoming more challenging?
Ian: We really talk after the development cycle, but I haven’t actually
heard that. People still bang on that drum, and I think of Android is
fragmented but iOS is not. I think part of that is because Apple says,
“Android is fragmented and we are not.” People just listen to them. It
Robi: I’m definitely seeing people developing just and iPad app or just an
iPhone app now. More and more being like, “I’m just choosing this one
thing. I’m just going after this. It’s too complicated to think about
the experiences across both.”
Ian: It’s probably right to do that. Depending on what your app is, there
are different use cases between having an app on your phone and having
an app on a tablet.
Ryan: Yep. We’ve talked about this before; they’re all big enough now. When
the iPad first released, an iPad-only app was a guaranteed failure.
Now, there are 120 million of them or something ridiculous. That’s a
huge market of people who are spending a lot of money. Perfect, Super
Cell, a good example, there’s an article about that making . . .
they’re calling the iPad the perfect gaming device or something, and
they’re focused almost solely on that.
Robi: Anything else?
Ryan: It’s good to be back.
Robi: Welcome back.
Ryan: I missed you guys.
Robi: We missed you, too. We talked about you quite a bit in the last ones
we showed, actually.
Mark: Fucking asshole, glad he’s gone.
Ian: I think there was fucking asshole, but it was because you were in
Robi: Sipping Mai Tais.
Ian: Not editing the video.
Robi: Be sure to tune in for the next 2 installments of App Developer
Conversations. You can like this on YouTube. Share it with your
friends and subscribe.
In this week’s App Developer Conversations we shared our predictions about 2013, specifically as they apply to app developers. We had several, so this episode is a bit longer than most, but we think it’s worth it. We’d love to hear your predictions in the comments!
We had a few key predictions:
On Discovery: 2013 will be the year that search in the app stores becomes more sophisticated, Apple uses Chomp, Google plays to their strengths etc. This means that app publishers will be waking up to the fact that organic really matters.
On Monetization: In 2013, publishers will be more sophisticated about monetization choices (in-app purchase vs ads etc) on a per user basis, based upon predictive analytics etc
On Customer Communication: 2013 will be the year of retention – what can I do to improve retention by 5% etc?
In addition, we discussed predictions around the impact of tablets and a few “wild ass” predictions, like:
Hoping to see more integration in the living room, with tablets and tvs combining and perhaps Apple’s TV initiative coming out in late winter / early spring
A consolidation in the hardware space by tablet vendors
Tablets getting into the enterprise more deeply
Consumers just buying tablets as their home computer
Do we need a cell phone anymore?
One big game studio is going to go out of business
The next generation hardware consoles (from Microsoft and Sony) will come out and be underwhelming
Also, be sure to see the other two segments from this week:
In this week’s App Developer Conversations we discussed Rovio’s recently released game: Bad Piggies and explored how app developers can create and extend franchises.
We had a couple key observations:
Rovio’s ability to promote its other games with a tremendously large installed base is significant.
In general, app developers are really just starting to wrap their heads around building a relationship with their customers, but it’s clear that those who are doing it well can really grow their business.
Watch to find out more and be sure to see the other two segments from this week:
MobileDevHQ talked about hard core games and if they’re appropriate for mobile
App Developer Conversations is a weekly video series with Ian Sefferman of MobileDevHQ and Ryan Morel of PlacePlay covering current topics of interest for app developers. If you have suggestions for future conversations, please let us know!
Robi: Hello. Welcome to Part 2 of App Developers Conversations this week. I
am here with Ryan Morel, of PlacePlay, and Ian Sefferaman,
Angry Birds is Rovio’s big hit, but now Rovio is coming out with Bad
Piggies, and they are trying to see if they can extend this franchise
into something else. I think it makes sense to talk about how a
publisher can really build a franchise, and how you can take an
audience from one app, or one series of apps, to other apps. Let us
kick it off with you, Ryan. You played the game, what do you think?
Ryan: I think it is fun, at least the 2 or 3 levels that I played. It is
interesting enough that I will play maybe a couple more and either
stop or keep going. I think that the nice thing that it has, and was
really smart on Rovio’s part, was making the pigs the central theme,
the central character of the game. I think we saw that despite Rovio’s
massive marketing muscle, which is massive. Amazing Alex, probably for
Rovio’s standards, is a massive flop, so using a character from the
Angry Bird’s franchise may a ton of sense for them.
You played a level or 2.
Ian: Yes. It is a good game right. It is fun, relatively simple, it will
be a good time waster for when you are sitting on a bus, or at the
airport, or something like that. I totally agree, using, leveraging
the franchise of Angry Birds is super-smart. I am always amazed at
walking into, I am ashamed to admit it that I have walked into a
Walmart in the last few months, Walking into a Walmart and seeing
Angry Birds toys and things like that. This just totally leverages
that. It is straight out of . . . Rovio has done a good job at
pretending they are a movie studio that does not make movies. They
say, ‘We are going to act as if we are Paramount, and Paramount knows
exactly that, whoever makes it, that Pirates of the Caribbean is a
monster franchise, or Pixar knows that Toy Story is a monster
franchise, if we need to extend that franchise, we extend that
franchise, it makes us like killing in the short term. That is a long
term play because you can do it over and over again. From that
perspective, it makes a ton of sense. It is something that I do not
think a lot of . . . EA has done it with Madden, things like that,
that is just a continual franchise, but not a lot of the casual games
have been able to do that, and I think it is really interesting to see
somebody do that.
Robi: How did you find out about it? Did you read press, or were you told
about it in one of their apps?
Ryan: I read about it.
Ryan: They do, Rovio pushes their stuff hard. If you go into any of their
iPad or iPhone games and you press pause, you will see ads for their
other ones. Clearly, a lot of people are finding out about it through
that advertising. I think it will be, I think it is an interesting
little test to see how many people will convert from Angry Birds to
Bad Piggies versus Angry Birds to Amazing Alex, whether or not that
becomes a barometer for their ability to produce non-Angry Birds
content. Angry Birds has shown no signs of slowing down. It has been
3 years, but you would assume that eventually it will. Do you not
Robi: Probably. It is not always top of the charts though, which it was for
a good period of time. I think what is interesting is their using a
bunch of their inventory instead of for advertising external stuff,
advertising their internal stuff. We, at Yahoo!, call that house
advertising and it makes a ton of sense, especially you are as big as
I think what is weird, to me, is that Rovio has not really done a lot
else to really build up their franchise. They have the ability to
subscribe to a newsletter and some of the apps. I do not know if you
have ever clicked on that. It takes you out to a webpage, which is
just really dumb. You are leaving the app and it does not really look
good on your phone, so I would be surprised if that was very
meaningful to them. Do you not think they could be more sophisticated?
Ian: Yes, absolutely. They are sophisticated in some of the stunts that
they do. I remember the Space Needle, that was super-smart, covering
the Space Needle with a sling shot and putting a big bird on there was
really interesting. I think they way that they branded that stuff,
doing that type of marketing is smart. I think they have not done a
good job of the traditional digital marketing, building a community
around this franchise.
Ryan: Right. Do you think that, I would guess that the reason is that they
just have not needed to. By the time they need to, it will be too
Robi: That is the thing. If I was them, you got the dollars in your wallet
and the ability to invest; I would be investing as much, if not more,
than I was in new games and new opportunities, and making sure that my
ability to take people from one game to the next, to the next, was
really smart and intelligent. I was taking that audience and I was
moving them around my assets, and making sure that they knew about
what else I was doing. I think that is one of the places we see most
developers being really behind the marketing ball, where we think in
app messaging and the ability to really take your audience and talk to
them about the right things, you drive significant results. It is
instructive of where we are in the market, that a company a successful
as Rovio, is still pretty early and somewhat primitive in thinking
Ryan: I think it could be just a result of the natural extension of the
console-days. With mobile, it is really the first opportunity and the
first platform that companies have that cannot ‘own’ the customer,
despite the fact that Apple technically owns it.
Ryan: Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo have always been the gateways.
Although, Apple is now, there are still meaningful opportunities to
connect outside of the app experience with the App Store, Facebook,
their website, and all the different things you are talking about, but
just no one is doing it. EA is trying to build Origin. I cannot
remember the last time I heard anyone talk about it besides me. Could
they do a better job? The answer is obviously, yes, because eventually
someone’s going to. [inaudible: 06:43]
Robi: Anything else on this topic?
Ryan: I would just ask if you think, if either of you think Rovio has a
shot at doing something really successful, outside the Angry Birds
Robi: I think that they probably could, if they were to take my advice.
Ian: Hire Rovi, and we can win.
Robi: Exactly. Founders@Apptentive.com. Seriously, I think if the fact of
the matter is that if they start to invest in turning their apps into
channels, to build a real meaningful audience, and it is not just
about the ads that they are using, but it is actually saying, ‘We are
going to turn this into a marketing funnel. We are going to get deeper
engagement from people.’ Then you can move folks, but otherwise, you
have to have a lose association that looks close enough to the Angry
Birds franchise and it is using the same characters, then of course,
somebody will click then go download your app. What do you think?
Ian: I think you are right on. It is interesting to me that, I think, EA
is a household name. Rovio is not, Angry Birds is. From that
perspective, it becomes hard. Angry Birds is the company, so branching
out of Angry Birds is a little bit more difficult, where as EA is the
company and EA has Madden, Tiger Wood’s Golf, and things like that. I
think they got to fix that problem first.
Ryan: The assumption that you can take a hardcore experience and put it out
into mobile and see the same levels of success, is naive and
borderline retarded. At least what I have seen in most the hardcore
games . . .
Robi: Stay Tuned for Part 3 of this week’s App Developer Conversations.
Thank you guys.
App Developer Conversations is a weekly video series with Ian Sefferman of MobileDevHQ and Ryan Morel of PlacePlay covering current topics of interest for app developers. If you have suggestions for future conversations, please let us know!
Robi: Hello. Welcome to the next installment of App Developer
Conversations. I am here with Ryan Morrell, of Place Play, and Ian
Sefferman, of Mobile Dev HQ. We are going to dig in a little bit on a
topic that a lot of people like to talk about.
Appcelerator came out with some data around, and that is Android’s
adoption among developers, is it waning? Appcelerator says over the
past four quarters it has been dropping and they are seeing more and
more healthy interest in iOS development, but that it is waning in the
Android space. The question is, should we take these numbers
seriously, and what should we be thinking about as app developers?
Ryan, why don’t you kick it off.
Ryan: It is a grain of salt, to some extent. I do not know that
Appcelerator would have any specific agenda for promoting data that
looks like this, but we have not seen any data to support that the
developers are losing interest in Android. We actually have more
Android developer than we do iOS, so I do not know if that is entirely
true. I certainly do hear people saying, ‘We are going to do Android
when we can,’ and that, lots of times, leads to, ‘My stuff is going so
well. Do we want to update the content so frequently that, that means
Android slips?’ We have had lots of conversations with developers who
say, “Yes, it is about 80% of the revenue. There is 1X to 2X the work,
in terms of development.’ I think that probably the biggest challenge
that developers have is now that once you create your app, now what?
There is Google Play, Android, and carrier stores, that’s a lot of
work. What do you guys think?
Ian: We are in the same thing, in that we have not firsthand noticed that.
We have always seen our customer base be 80/20, iOS to Android.
Anecdotally, I have seen an increase in people caring about Kindle,
and that might be a Seattle-bias or whatnot, but that is another
interesting data point. I think that if I were to look at, whether or
not that study is true, if I were to look at, if I were to assume it
is true and think about why it might be the case, one, Apple has done
a fantastic job of updating their OS so frequently that developers
just need to keep on the train and have a little bit less time and
resources to do other things. Two, traditionally, I have always
thought of Apple and iOS as [inaudible: 02:44], as the high-end of the
smartphone, but when you actually look at what they have done, I am
constantly surprised that they now have free phones. It is really not
super-expensive to get into iOS anymore. When you start to think about
how they have captured the low-end of the market, or they are
capturing the low-end of the market, at least in the United States,
that that is super-compelling to a developer who says, ‘I actually
want to focus on the lower-end because I am working a weird game or
some product that targets those consumers, rather than the high-end. I
would have traditionally said “Go to Android first,” but now you can
actually go to iOS first, even in that type of situation.
Robi: I think one of the things that Appcelerator stated when they came out
with their study was that people are fearful for the fragmentation,
that problem continues to be something that makes people hesitate or
might be limiting the interest. The fact of the matter is that Google
needs to be more aggressive about phasing things out and making sure
that the updates are going out. There is an argument to be made that
they have lost so much control that they cannot actually do that.
Apple is continuously doing things that upset the developer community,
but the thing that pleases the developer community is how quickly they
are pushing Legacy OS versions off, from a support perspective, and
they are not even supporting NX codes, so you cannot really build for
it, and so I think that makes a lot of lives easier.
Ryan: Every time Apple updates their OS, they also provide developers with
new features that they can take advantage of, as well as the consumer
community. When developers have new features they can play with, they
want to go do that. They are consistently updating apps to take
advantage of that, consumers are updating software to take advantage
of that, so it creates this nice rising tide. With Google, and now we
even see this with Windows Phones 7, software gets updated and only
some percentage of people do it. If you are a developer you say, ‘I
got to . . . not only did I develop this for multiple versions of OS,
now I got to go do individual updates based on . . .no.’ They think
that is too much work.
Robi: That too much work question hits organizations large and small. We
are saying it is not just the independent developers here facing this
problem, it is the large companies with mobile presences are already
behind the 8 ball, they do not have enough resources to do what they
are doing. Things are moving way too fast, so that decision is really
a painful one for everybody in the ecosystem, it seems like, to us.
Ian: Yes, I agree.
Ryan: How much of that do you think is reality versus the momentum of
perceived reality? I technically do not know. We are not developing
apps and doing stuff for Android, but my perception is that, and the
noise we hear is that it is hard. Is that really true, or is that just
the momentum of the perception, is it just perceived that way so
people say, ‘No, I do not think so’?
Robi: It does seem be challenging. We make an SDK for Android, more and
more people are using it, but what we have found is that there are
some issues with documentation. Recently we ran into an issue where
the documentation and the Java doc that you could download was not the
same as the doc online, and it was recently downloaded, so they did
not actually specify something that they did online, and that caused
an issue for us. That stuff is a little bit amateur hour, I think.
When we think about how we design the UI on iOS, we say, ‘Here is what
we want it to look like.’ We draw it out, design it, and make sure it
works. ‘OK. Good,’ you put it out there and do some testing.
With Android, you say, ‘This is what we want it to look like. Now what
can we actually accomplish? It looks like on this portion of devices,
that is going to be a crappy experience, so let us go back,’ And you
are constantly fighting that game of lowest common denominator. It is
just not a good place to be.
Ryan: Ian, you had mentioned the low-end market and Apple kind of capturing
that. That has historically been owned by Google, to some extent,
despite Samsung’s progress of the high-end. Do you think that over
time people . . . are developers caring less because that low-end does
Ian: That is a really good question. You probably actually have more data
on that, in terms of advertising than we do. I think that, just as in
the real world, there is a lot of money to be made in the high-end,
there are also a lot of businesses to be built in the low-end of the
things, especially the Walmarts of the world do not carry luxury
goods, but Walmart makes a lot of money. I have a feeling that it is
both, and it is just dependant on who you are going to target. Did you
seen any of that on the [inaudible: 07:40] side?
Ryan: Yes, everything. Yes, of course. More people want advertising on the
Android because they cannot make money elsewhere. We all know that, A,
advertising revenue on Android is not as good as it is on iOS,
partially because of this low-end, high-end perception of people. How
long does that last? Our own advertising pays pretty well and
developers like it, but it is not Dragonvale, you are not bringing in
$15 million a month from the app store, so it is hard to know if that
can support an entire economy of app developers.
Robi: That was very good conversation of the wax and waning interest in the
Android ecosystem. Join us for the next installment of App Developer
The problem is somebody needs to actually be pushing the HTML5
platform forward. It seemed like Google is doing that, and maybe,
arguably, they still are but they have pulled back. They seem confused
about this. If it is not Google, then who else would it be?
Customer interactions = an opportunity to increase retention and loyalty
So you’ve built an app. Now what?
Hopefully, your customers find it useful, entertaining or life changing.
Invariably, though, some of them will find that they have an opinion, question or suggestion that they’d like to share with you.
Your app customers have questions
When customers want to reach out and talk to you, many developers think instantly, “Oh, something is wrong, there must be a problem”. To the contrary, however, many of our developers find that giving customers the ability to provide feedback from within the app results in a surprising number of kudos, suggestions and positive engagements.
Even when the customer is reaching out to tell you about a problem, they’re giving you the chance to truly win their loyalty over the long run. Think about it, your customer can’t get something to work right and you come in to save the day with A+, stellar customer service, surprising and delighting them. How great is that?
Put a name to your app
Even more importantly, when your customers are hearing back from you, they’re associating a name and a person with your app – giving it an identity that is more tangible than just an app icon. That customer you emailed with who started referring to you by your first name? They’re most likely going to be coming back to your app now that they know you.
Creating a personal connection with a customer is one of the biggest reasons why companies who are excellent at customer service continue to make significant gains in customer satisfaction, loyalty and profits. Companies like Zappos and Nordstrom have perfected the art of making each and every customer feel a personal connection with the company by delivering happiness.
Creating connections and delivering great customer service are easier than ever before
So how do you integrate awesome customer service into your app? Here are a few simple principles for doing so:
Provide a way to contact you in the app. With smartphones, an email address or telephone number should be interactive and launch the necessary tool when clicked. Make this available so customers don’t have to search for your contact info. Services like ours actually allow you to embed feedback forms into your apps giving customers a way to contact you directly so they don’t have to switch apps in order to get in touch with you.
Make it social. Let your customers leave feedback on whatever social channels you maintain. Facebook, Google+, Twitter, etc. If you are on it, integrate it.
Chat it up. Email is great but some people feel that it takes too long to get a response. And seriously, nothing can turn a customer into a madman quicker than listening to Muzak versions of Nirvana while they are on hold. Chat, however, provides immediate satisfaction.
The power of video. Go ahead make a tutorial. Incorporate that into your app and see all the happy users smile!
Let people tell their story. Nothing sells better than positive reviews. Make it easy for your customers to tell others how easy it was for them to do this or that with your app or how well it worked for them. Not only will this help sales, but it will help existing customers feel like your stuff actually works.
Remember, feedback from your customers – both good and bad – can help make your app a smashing success. Make sure that before it gets into the hands of your customers you have given them some way to get their feedback to you directly!
Join the thousands of companies that are being Apptentive.