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Loyalty & Retention

App Developer Conversations: Post-launch success – Retention, Ratings & Customer Delight

Robi Ganguly  //  March 13, 2013  //  9 min read

In our most recent App Developer Conversations we took a bit of a different approach and dissected some of the most common questions we receive from app developers about how to launch an app and foster its success. In our segment we really focused on the post-launch success tactics (visit MobileDevHQ to see the key tips for ensuring a successful app launch)

We focused on several key areas:

  • How to drive retention and engagement with your biggest fans
  • The importance of ratings and reviews on conversions (people who visit your app’s app store page and actually download it)
  • How much you can learn from your customer base, no matter how small

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!

The Transcript:

Robi: Hello. Welcome to App Developer Conversations. As always, I’m joined
by Ian Sefferman, of MobileDevHQ. I’m Robi Ganguly, of Apptentive.
We’re missing Ryan Morel, from PlaceClaim, as he gets a tan
in Hawaii.

Ian: Yeah. Tan and a Mai Tai.

Robi: This week, we’re doing a little bit different format than usual.
We’re tackling one real heavy topic about marketing. In a previous
segment, we were talking about leading up to launch and some decisions
that people make when they watch an app, and as they’re really
thinking about how they position themselves and get discovered. In
this segment, we’re going to go deeper on post-launch: Engagement and
retention, and what you can do to make sure that your conversions are
going higher.

Let’s first start on that topic: Conversions. Once your app is live
and you’re in the App Store, there are some things that you do in
addition to your description and your screenshots to ensure that the
people that come across your app page are more disposed to actually
downloading and purchasing. What would you say that the top 2 things
that people are caring about are?

Ian: I think the top things that people care about the moment they hit
your page are . . . maybe the top 3 things: I want a one-sentence
summary of what this app actually does for me. I want to see the
screenshots, because you can pretty quickly discern this is a crappy
app versus this is a legit app, from the screenshots. I want to know
the rating and reviews. Those are the 3 things. If you immediately see
an app with, basically any one of those factors can quickly kill a
deal. If they don’t know what’s going on within a sentence, they’re
gone. If they see that your app is crappy because the screenshots are
crappy, they’re gone. If they see you have a 1-star rating they’re
gone. That being said, by having the best one-sentence summary, the
best screenshots, and a 5-star app, you’re still not guaranteed, it
still had to match what they want, but that’s certainly going to give
you the highest chance.

Robi: In the previous segment, we talked a little bit about those
screenshots, some of the things that are successful; a description of
some of the things that are successful, but what’s interesting to note
is that as your app goes live and is live, you have that opportunity
to learn and refresh. The language that you’re using can actually be
informed quite significantly by having your first couple thousand
downloads and your first couple thousand customers talking to you,
[inaudible: 02:30] app communications. One of the ways in which
customers are using us on a regular basis, is they have these
conversations with customers, they figure why people are using the
app, what really resonates, and then they change their copy and they
change what they highlight in the screenshots in order to be more
aligned with what they’re learning from the consumer base.

Ian: I love that, and I think . . . do you guys actually do this with
like, can you guys actually bring together the most frequently used
phrases for an app?

Robi: Not yet. It’s definitely on the roadmap.

Ian: Cool. I think that that is so powerful, in terms of bringing that
together as a publisher, really understand the exact messaging that
your customers are using about you, and then reflecting that back in
what you say about your own app. So powerful.

Robi: This is very traditional marketing. A lot of people come in an app
development space and try and reinvent the wheel, but truly great
marketing resonates with consumers because of a deep understanding of
consumer needs, desires, and language. The more that you can get close
to that consumer and learn from them, the faster you can iterate and
get the language exactly right. That’s really powerful. Pay attention
to what people are saying about you in the App Store and other places,
but in particular, to you directly. Make sure that you can hear from

Then we also really . . . the ratings and review stuff just cannot be
underestimated in its importance. There are a lot of psychological
studies about how important ratings and reviews are to us as consumers
for digital goods, because a digital good is by definition ephemeral;
you can’t actually hold it, you can’t look at it, you can’t feel it.
As a result, we really rely upon one another in our experiences with
these digital goods to make purchasing decisions.

Ian: What do you think are then the knobs and levers that an app publisher
can turn to make the ratings and reviews reflect what they want to
reflect and see that messaging and language that they want the
consumer to see?

Robi: Obviously, I’m biased; I think our tools do a great job of this. The
general principal of what we see being really successful is when you
have an app that’s got some user base at all, they’re using it for a
purpose and they’re happy. Those people who are using your app on a
regular basis, reach out to them and take the time to ask them how
they’re feeling. The people who are ecstatic, people who love your
app, you can actually ask them to go talk about you in public. Most
people are so busy being happy using your app, they’re not going to
think, “I should go to App Store and rate this.” It’s an unnatural
act, that’s why we see a lot of ratings and reviews being biased
towards the negative, because that’s the person who has this incentive
to go say something. It’s really about talking to your customer base;
the people who are using you on a regular basis, reaching out to them
and finding out if they’re ecstatic, and then making it really easy
for them to go talk about you. That’s Step 1.

Step 2 is ensuring that as you watch updates, that you have a regular
set of communications with those people. The people who maybe rated
your first version are not necessarily going to then think to
themselves, “I should go do this with my next version.” We see
something called the ratings click when people update. We actually see
a lot of developers who are wary of updating because they have a
really great set of ratings and reviews right now, and they’re like,
“I don’t want to do this because I’ve got 1,000 great ratings and
reviews, and they’re all going to go to 0.” That number resets,
especially in the iTunes App Store. Making sure that you’re reaching
out to those people and you’re thoughtful about that before you push
updates is really, really key. What about you? You hear from a lot of
developers about this.

Ian: Yeah. I think you’re right. In my mind, a huge part of it is that
point of knowing when to actually ask for feedback. At what point are
your users clearly having success in their app that they are in a
happy state and are going to say that, “Yes, I love the app,” and
asking at that point? I think that’s something that you guys work on
too, which is on number of opens? Is it after an amount of time? I
think that you can get really smart about that, too. If you’re a game,
you can do it after a level has been unlocked, whatever it might be. I
think that’s huge. I think otherwise, you’re generally totally
agreeing with what I . . .

Robi: Yeah, that’s a really good point. Discovering what the moments of
happiness are inside of your app is something too few developers spend
time on. Every time we see a developer do that, we suggest you do this
on opens, days on device, or something that’s significant to your app
as a variable that you can pass along to us. That latter one is the
most powerful. When you said in a game, completing a level, that’s a
moment of happiness, it’s a moment of success. A signature, like a doc
signing app, after somebody’s signed their first doc or second doc,
that’s a moment where they’ve accomplished something with your app
that’s provided utility. That’s a great place to inject and ask how
they’re feeling. Discovering those moments of happiness, and you
should know this. If you’re designing your app, you’re actually trying
to design these accomplishments and moments of happiness, so that
should be pretty easy for you to come up with and create some theses
around, and then to test.

The final thing about this is, I think, instrumenting; understanding
what’s going on. If you see a bunch of people using homegrown hardcode
solutions, and then they have no insight into how many people have
seen like a ratings prompt or something like that. They don’t actually
know if it’s working, they’re just like, “I see other people doing
it.” Again, take that as your step: Figure out how to instrument it.
That’s one of the things our customers just love, the data and all

Ian: That’s great.

Robi: Let’s move on from the ratings and reviews, and go into the real
problem that not enough people are talking about in mobile app
development today, which is retention. Talk to me a little about what
you see.

Ian: I think you probably have the more robust data set around retention,
but being at a high-level, we see that, or at least anecdotally, we
see that the apps that make the home screen are used constantly. The
apps that don’t make the home screen, either people hate it so much
that they’re going to uninstall it or it’s just complete apathy and
it’ll sit in a folder somewhere and never actually be opened. The best
ways to improve your retention at the 30,000-foot level is, A: Amazing
experience, and B: Integration with an existing workflow. Both of
those things have to happen. Even if you’re a game, I think that’s

I can think of a calendar app. If a calendar app doesn’t integrate
with my Google Calendar, then it’s not happening. It has to have that
workflow, at the end it has to have some of the great experience to go
along with it. You’d probably have really great data on . . . do you
guys have data on what is average retention, what is a good net form?

Robi: The answer’s horrible. On average, 90% of consumers are gone within 6
month of downloading your app. 90%, and that’s average. Apps like
Facebook actually pull that up because of the amount of data and time
spent. The vast majority of people are just trying your app. Whether
your app costs $5 or is free, they’re trying you out. They have so
many apps on their device, I think the last number we saw as an
average was over 80 different apps installed on the average
Smartphone. They don’t have time; they don’t think about it, they’re
distracted. What you’re really looking for is that core passionate
base. Figuring out as quickly as possible the people who aren’t in the
90%, that 10% that are coming back, figuring out what they’re using
you for. We see way too many developers who are always focused on
getting more, more, more without thinking about who. Which audience
and why are they using you.

Ian: Super-critical.

Robi: When you focus on that 10%, when you figure out why they’re using you
and do research with those people, and then you build more deeply for
those people, we see that curve changing. We see people generating
much more emotion from the consumer. People are like, “I love this app
because it solves this problem that I had,” and it brings in more of
that audience. Word-of-mouth is totally underestimated. I’m not
talking like Facebook Share word-of-mouth, I’m talking about, you and
I are at dinner and I tell you about the Sign Now app, which is
awesome for document signing on my iPhone, and you’re like, “I’m going
to go get that because it totally suits my need. I have that exact
same problem.”

Ian: Which, by the way, I am probably going to go get after we have this

Robi: It’s just phenomenal for document signing. That’s the thing that we
see a lot. When you want to solve for retention, what you really have
to start out is the core principle of who’s using you, who’s really
finding you meet their needs; learning more about them, going deeper
with them, and then that leads to building better product for people
who are going to use you on a regular basis.

Ian: Cool stuff.

Robi: I think we covered a bunch of things here; got a little bit long.
Feel free to reach out with other questions to Ian or myself. Like
this on Facebook, or Like this on YouTube really, and share this with
your friends and tell us in comments if you have any questions. Thanks
for tuning in.

Ian: Thanks.

About Robi Ganguly

Robi Ganguly is the Co-founder and CEO at Apptentive. He is passionate about giving customers a voice via mobile. Follow Robi on Twitter @rganguly.
View all posts by Robi Ganguly >

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