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2020 Mobile App Engagement Benchmark Report

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Webinar: What to Do Before and After a Mobile App Launch to Improve Customer Experience

Madeleine Wilson  //  November 25, 2019  //  21 min read

Getting your app up and running is only half the battle. What comes next is equally as important. How do you determine what is and isn’t working? How do you know what your customers need and want?

In this webinar, Robi Ganguly, CEO and Co-Founder, Apptentive and Ben Johnson, VP Mobile Strategy, Rightpoint will cover the essentials to have in place both pre- and post-launch in order to provide the best customer experience possible.

You will learn:

  • Why it is critical to be customer-centric and not problem-oriented
  • Mistakes happen: how to course correct in the best way possible
  • Keeping your product sticky and why continuous improvements are important

Transcript

 

Ben Johnson:

Hey everyone. Welcome to today’s webinar. This is the last webinar in our Essentials of Product Innovation Series, and today we’re going to be talking about product launches. So to give you a little bit of an introduction, and if you’re looking on the webcam, I promise that Robi and I did not coordinate our green and red Christmas attire for today’s webinar, but my name is Ben Johnson. I’m the Vice President of Mobile and Emerging Tech here at Rightpoint, and I’m really thrilled to welcome Robi Ganguly, who I’ve known for many years, have always been impressed with the work that he and his team have done, and the product that they’ve built at Apptentive. So I wanted to give a warm welcome to Robi and let him tell a little bit about himself.

Robi Ganguly:

Thanks Ben, and I appreciate that. It is a little early for Christmas colors, but Thanksgiving’s next week, just around the corner. So I’m Robi Ganguly, Co-founder and CEO at Apptentive, and I’ll tell you a little bit about us. So, Apptentive is a company that is really focused on measuring customer experience and doing that through the sentiment of customers. So, we help really large consumer brands capture feedback, collect information from their customers about their experiences, analyze it so they can understand what people are struggling with, where are their problems, opportunities to grow the business and get better, and then take action. So fundamentally fix problems, to build new products, to take customers who had unfortunate experiences and to solve them, whether it’s customer service and customer care or it’s actually feature development.

Robi Ganguly:

And this is really an ongoing process. Measuring experience over time with your customers who have a relationship with you for many years is really important. So this is a set of actions and behaviors that we help companies do on an ongoing basis throughout their customer life cycle. Just pretty relevant to this conversation around launching products and relaunching, and then continuing to meet the market where it needs to be met. So, I’m looking forward to the conversation, Ben.

Ben Johnson:

Awesome. Okay. So let’s dive right in and start first by demystifying a belief that I think a lot of people have, which is that your product launch is a singular moment. It is not a singular moment. And if you think about the moment right here, when this rocket is taking off from the ground, there’s a lot of work that goes into this launch and there’s a lot of work that still needs to be done, so coming up with a plan and letting people know about that plan, the moment the rocket actually leaves the earth, and there’s a ton of stuff that needs to happen afterwards, I’m no rocket scientist, but I feel like boosters need to be separated at some point and land back on the earth, and then there’s a lot of contingency planning for especially when things go wrong.

And so we’re going to talk to you today about a couple of those areas. So we’re going to cover the plan leading up to launch, the plan after your launch, and then the plan when your launch inevitably fails. And so to kick us off, Robi’s going to talk us through the first section about the plan leading up to launch.

Robi Ganguly:

Yeah. So one of the things that we’ve seen a lot working together with Rightpoint and working with really large consumer brands is that before the launch, before actually taking something new to market or relaunching an existing product, there’s a lot of planning you can do, and you can do it with existing customers or existing loyalists. And we like to talk about it as bringing the loyalists to your party, actually including them and inviting them.

Robi Ganguly:

So I’m going to talk a little bit about some work we did with a customer of ours, Overstock. Overstock has been around for a number of years, very successful in the e-commerce space, and had built a really successful app, but it had gotten long in the tooth. After the first couple of iterations and being out in market for several years, they had meaningful success and their app was driving a lot of business. It was growing on an annual basis. They were very happy with the results, but they were trying to figure out where to go next. And we’d been working with Overstock for a number of years, so we had the fortune of being able to work with them on relaunching an app that was very successful already, and to think about how to migrate a customer base to something that was going to be in some ways revolutionary. They didn’t want to just evolve the product. They had some really meaningful changes that they wanted to make.

Robi Ganguly:

So in that process, we had a pretty significant competitive advantage, which was our work with Overstock had proven that they could hear from their customers on a regular basis about their experience to the tune of 64% of customers, when asked questions, would answer it. So with a really high response rate, Overstock had a meaningful advantage of understanding where they wanted to take the product and how to meet the needs of their customers, and to really identify opportunities for the things that were new.

Robi Ganguly:

So in being able to tap into this, we segmented this into three different areas of information. The first was helping them understand their most loyal customers’ needs. What were the things that really drew customers to use the app on a monthly or even weekly basis, to use it versus their website, or any other place that they could be shopping from? Understanding, asking questions about what they really cared about, what they loved about the app in particular helped the product team focus their energy on areas outside of that to redesign, areas outside of that that were going to be new. S,o to help them have comfort and security that they are going to continue to meet the needs of their most loyal customers.

Robi Ganguly:

The second area was a challenging place for a lot of product managers. For a lot of product teams, especially in digital, they start to imagine new things that they can accomplish, new tools that come out from the operating systems, for example. Maybe we’re talking about Apple Pay launching and Android Pay launching, and these are new environments to take your customers through in order to purchase things, so they had a lot of different ideas about new things they wanted to release, but you couldn’t just foist lots of new features for new features’ sakes on the customer. You had to actually help the customer along on that path using new things.

Robi Ganguly:

So we worked with them specifically to understand what of their ideas that they had inside of Overstock, they had about 15, were the most important, the most interesting. What resonated? And then to also take that set of things that they heard from their customers about in order to identify what features they felt were most polished, that were most ready to release. And that intersection of what was most polished and met with customers’ most obvious needs allowed them to then really funnel their launch down to, “Okay, if we’re going to put new things out, these two features are the most needed from customers. They’re desiring them, and they’re most polished.” So, we really coach everybody that we work with to go through the same sort of process, because if everything about your launch is about new, and you haven’t validated with customers that it meets their sort of requirements and their prioritization, then you can land flat on your face by not making it easy for that transition.

Robi Ganguly:

The final place that we helped them do a lot of research was what they were going to be taking away. Especially in mobile, with limited screen space, with things evolving quite a bit on a regular basis, your app can get bloated and heavy by putting too many features in it. And what that causes is navigation confusion. It causes frustration on the part of customers, and it causes a challenge for development teams in terms of maintaining code bases that are sometimes multiple years apart in terms of their generations. So, taking things away is an important part of the process, and what we worked with them to understand and research with customers were validating features that they thought were fundamentally better in other channels. For example, on the website, there were many aspects of account management that were just better managed, and it made sense to pull some of those account management features out. And helping the product teams, again, identify areas where they could take things away that were not necessary was really important.

Robi Ganguly:

And then there was another aspect of what we helped them do, which was communicating, communicating before the next generation of the app was launched, communicating that some things were going to change, and giving people a heads up so that they could prepare their customers for the change. Not everybody’s going to be happy about it. Change is generally hard for a lot of your customers who have been with you for a long time, but when you give them a heads up and you communicate why, you can at least prepare them, and then it feels less like loss, and they’re less likely to cry on the way out.

Robi Ganguly:

So really what we helped our customer, Overstock, do before relaunching was identify the needs of their customers, help them navigate to prioritizing new features that they could launch successfully, and then understanding and pre-messaging about the things that they said no to and were taken away. So that proved to be really helpful in their launch, because as a result of that, their new app was adopted relatively heavily, had a consistent four and a half star or above rating, and has grown pretty meaningfully in terms of MAU and purchase transaction volume.

Robi Ganguly:

So with that, I’ll hand it back to you, Ben.

Ben Johnson:

I just think it’s a fantastic example and hopefully gives you a sense that, again, we’re talking about far more than just that one moment when you think of your app launching. And I think some of the examples that Robi just gave were really, really great. So I want to talk about the plan sort of during launch, and to do that, I want to share a story about some of the work that we did at Rightpoint with our client that’s at Six Flags. So for those of you who aren’t familiar with Six Flags, they are an entertainment destination with theme parks and rides. They have about 25 different properties in the US, Mexico and Canada, and roughly 30 million guests annually that come to experience the joys and thrills of of the Six Flags theme park.

Ben Johnson:

So we helped them build out their first app. So, unlike Overstock, they didn’t necessarily have an existing app. They had some ideas certainly, but when they first approached us they were really thinking about this first version of the app as a big bang launch with a lot of excitement, in line with their brand. But ultimately our guidance was that they were trying to do too much, especially for their budget, and that they would benefit from multiple versions with new features showing up sort of throughout the year and in an ongoing way.

Ben Johnson:

This is something to think about during your product launches. You’re probably familiar with the terms “waterfall” and “agile.” It’s safe to say that when Six Flags started with us, they were definitely more in the waterfall mentality. We had a particular date to head, and everything sort of backs off from there, and historically this made sense for them because they are a very seasonally driven business, and this may make sense for your business as well, but one of the risks of thinking this way, especially when you’re doing a product launch, is that you run the risk of missing your date and in their case, missing an entire season. Software is certainly temperamental, and dates absolutely will be missed unfortunately, so it’s better to go into your projects with an understanding that this is more likely the case, more the norm, and instead focusing on how to embrace this and launch as early as possible so that you can see that value as early as possible.

Ben Johnson:

So changing those mindsets is a really important piece of what we do, but it’s also something to think about for your internal stakeholders. How do you get them out of necessarily thinking about this one particular date? I’ll tell you some reasons why. So just to illustrate what we worked on with them, this was kind of the requested list of features, that initial V1. These were sort of all the things that, the hopes and dreams that everybody had sort of been asking for through in park surveys, or just market research. Just a lot of stuff that was possible and it could be done.

Ben Johnson:

But ultimately what we chose to do was really focus on these top four, and there were a lot of different reasons for that. Like I said before, it definitely helped that it fit within the budget, but it was also the core of the application, and so we really focused on those features that would support the rest of the experience. You couldn’t have purchasing if you didn’t know what you were necessarily buying, right? So sort of thinking about it that way. But by focusing on these four features and then leaving a lot left afterwards, it actually helped us build out a really powerful roadmap and it allowed us to focus and build a really great initial app with lots of versions to follow.

Ben Johnson:

So to give you a real sort of a bird’s eye view at all of the various different releases that we did with Six Flags over the course of several years, this is kind of a little snapshot of those features, and you can see that 1.0 list, those four features down there in the bottom left. That’s what we went to market with and then followed up with some additional work on ride wait times and store passes, followed up with season passes thereafter. Maps was a big update in version two. Added additional functionality for Fright Fest and their Holiday in the Park, entertainment sections, added my photos. And so you can see that we actually got into a pretty good cadence where we were releasing fairly regularly.

Ben Johnson:

And again, when you think about a launch, a lot of people I guess think about that one moment, but this was multiple years of launching, and I think when you’re thinking about your products and how you’re building them, think about holding back some of those features that may not be fully baked, or you may not be able to do your best job at or put your best foot forward, because those can really help you with your roadmap. And one of the really great aspects of having that long roadmap is that you can get feedback from your guests, in this case, and to Robi’s point, with great tools like Apptentive, you can actually bring that information to the forefront and make it very easy for your teams to understand what people are looking for. And then you actually make your customers a part of that journey, which I think is a very important part of a launch, to make them feel like they have a voice and to sort of chart the path of your app based on what your users are telling you.

Ben Johnson:

And so I think this is a really great example of how we were able to do that. We were constantly getting surveys and feedback from, whether it was app store reviews or in-park surveys, about what features were interesting or most highly prioritized, and we were sort of shuffling those around as sort of the market was indicating. But again, if you think about the longterm, and that’s what I encourage all of you to do, there’s some great results, and this is just a snapshot I took just yesterday of the iOS app, and since launch there have been nearly 39,000, 40,000 reviews and ratings in the App Store with a 4.7 average, which is really just fantastic. And I think it proves that it’s important not to boil the ocean. Build the core essentials and save some of the extra features for later so that you can keep those loyalists that Robi spoke of and the new adopters on the journey with you.

Ben Johnson:

So with that, I want to move into our last section today, and now that we’ve talked about the pre-launch and during launch, let’s talk about what happens when the plan or when your launch inevitably fails. And if you’ve built any sort of software, you’ve likely failed in one form or another. This happens on every project in some way, shape or form. What will help you is how you respond to that launch and that failure. How you figure out how to cut your losses and iterate. So, for this final section, we’re going to share two examples that I think illustrate this, and we’ll start with an example that Robi’s got.

Robi Ganguly:

Yeah. Yeah. Thanks, Ben. And as you were just talking about giving your customers a voice and thinking about the ways in which you can learn from them, and make sure you’re bringing them along, as well as testing your fit as you launch something and then continue to iterate, it brings to mind Netflix. And Netflix is a fantastic company that’s done really well, but in 2011 Netflix launched its highest price increase ever, and in September of 2011, as a result of that price increase hitting the market and consumers not having the opportunity to give a lot of feedback except for canceling, they experienced a ton of cancellations.

Robi Ganguly:

So by September it was obvious that a lot of customers were hitting the doors, and so what Netflix and Reed Hasting decided to do was in September announced Qwikster. And what was Qwikster? Qwikster was their harebrained scheme to solve the problem of raising prices on customers who we had both streaming and delivery by mail, DVD subscription from Netflix. They were going to launch Qwikster, a separate company that was just for the DVD subscription, and if you only wanted to do the DVD subscription by mail, you would join Qwikster and you would manage your account that way. And if you wanted streaming, you would continue to stay on Netflix on the core platform and you could stream it that way. And if you wanted both, you could have both subscriptions.

Robi Ganguly:

That was their solution to the problem, probably because they didn’t talk to a lot of customers about what that meant, and what it meant for customers was a hassle. Two accounts to manage. This set of subscriptions where you might have content on one versus the other. Within three weeks it was obvious that everybody hated this idea, from the cancellations in from consumers, to Wall Street tanking the stock from like a high of $237 down to $55 in a matter of months. It was really clear that people were voting that this was dumb idea. And it was so clear that three weeks later Reed Hastings authored a blog post that said, “I’m sorry. I messed up. We’ve reversed this decision. This is a huge hassle. We really screwed this up. We’re not doing this. In fact, we’re going to make some changes to bring it together and we’re going to have more price sensitivity around these subscriptions, but we’re not going to create two different accounts for each of you customers in order to manage this pricing challenge.”

Robi Ganguly:

And so to their credit, they reacted when it was obvious, very quickly. To their detriment, they didn’t ask enough people beforehand to figure this out before they went public with it, and it actually took five quarters of losses with people declining in memberships before they really turned it around. A year later, fourth quarter of 2012, they really started to be on the uptrend again when they signed two million more customers over the previous quarter. But it took a good five quarters of pain because they didn’t listen to their customers. At least they iterated, and I think our advice to you is, if you can avoid that, if you can talk to more customers beforehand, great, but at least learn from Netflix and when it’s really damning, change, and change as quickly as you can because it will take a while to pull out of that. So that was the Qwikster scenario.

Ben Johnson:

Interesting aside, Robi, I actually read this recently, that Netflix has gotten a lot smarter on how they do price increases, and they do it when they launch their most popular shows like Stranger Things, which is smart, and it seems like they’ve actually learned from it. But not everybody has a Netflix war chest of cash to make these sorts of mistakes-

Robi Ganguly:

That’s right.

Ben Johnson:

… so it is an interesting example. So another example that I want to share is maybe a bit more of an uplifting story. Obviously Netflix still does well, and they’re a great service, but this is about a launch that I think has a little bit of a silver lining at the end. So this company, it was called Burbn, and Burbn was founded in 2010 out in the Valley, and what they were building was a location sharing startup. So this was when Foursquare used to be cool. They wanted to build a … Well actually, maybe it’s still cool. Certainly I don’t use it anymore, but they wanted to build a cooler version of Foursquare. So if you can see the screenshot, it was all about making plans, and figuring out where people were going, and telling people that you had gone to those places.

Ben Johnson:

They tried a bunch of different things. They had a website at first, then they actually built out a full app, but there was just too much going on. It was very crowded, and it was kind of a chaotic product that wasn’t getting a ton of traction. What I will say is they had some core early adopters, and they had a good network of people that were using the product, but it really just wasn’t sticking.

Ben Johnson:

So they actually looked at the data and realized that one of the features, amongst all of the things that they were doing, was getting the most attention and adoption, and that was photos, and they decided to sort of cut their losses, stop focusing on plans, and focus instead on photos. And that company became Instagram, which is a really sort of amazing turnaround story to think about, but they came from somewhere that was a very different place, but it turned into a very successful application with a lot of users, and I think no one would say that they don’t know what Instagram is. I don’t think Burbn is a household name. Instagram certainly it. It’s really an amazing success to think about that launch. They launched, they decided they were failing, and they decided to cut their losses and focus on a new set of features. So I think it’s a cool story and certainly hopefully gives you some inspiration if you’re feeling like your product isn’t meeting market, that there’s always an opportunity to change and to evolve.

Robi Ganguly:

Yeah. That’s so true. That is inspiring. So what have we talked about today? First and foremost, I think what we want to impress on you is a launch is not a singular moment. If you and your team, if your company is really focused on this as being the big bang that’s going to change the trajectory of the product, the relationship with your customers, or the company, that’s not really true. Think about it as multiple moments in ways to learn, and really, before you relaunch something and take something to market, if you have existing customers, really focus on those loyalists. Those most loyal customers will tell you the direction that you need to go because they’ll help you understand what they really need, they’ll help you understand the things that you’re thinking about that are new that resonate with them the most and intersect with their desires, and they’ll help you identify what things you can say no to and pull out, and at the very least you can help them navigate to your next version of your experience by talking to them and giving them an understanding of what’s going to be taken out and communicating that. Setting those expectations is really powerful.

Robi Ganguly:

And as Ben laid out, transitioning from thinking about launch as a singular moment to just a piece of the puzzle allows you to really follow up any meaningful changes with ongoing releases. And when you increase that release cycle, you can really delight your customers on an ongoing basis, almost surprise them with what you’ve changed in terms of velocity, and also make your team’s life a lot easier by being able to reduce the number of things that you have to solve bugs for and the number of things you have to iterate on. That’s really important, to keep momentum around that as opposed to hitting a brick wall.

Robi Ganguly:

And finally, you’re going to fail sometimes, and when you fail, fail gracefully, listen to the market, iterate, pull the plug on things that are not working. If you decided to launch your own separate brand called Qwikster and it’s horrible, just kill it. I think that’s our advice.

Robi Ganguly:

So with that, I think Ben and I would love to stop talking at you and continue the conversation with some Q&A.

Ben Johnson:

Awesome. All right. So if you have questions, I believe there’s a questions module in GoToWebinar, but we actually have one question already. This one’s probably for you, Robi. You talked about using mobile apps for loyalty. What other goals do you recommend businesses apply to their mobile activities?

Robi Ganguly:

Yeah, absolutely. I mean, loyalty to us is a big piece of why apps work, right? It’s not necessarily for everybody, but for a lot of companies it’s for the most engaged customers. Certainly at Overstock and Six Flags, customers who have the apps are much more likely to return to the brand and spend a lot of time there. But also with Overstock, the transactional nature of the app there is an important goal. That spur of the moment, “I’m on the bus. I’ve decided I needed to purchase something for my house.” Being able to pull the app up allows me to fulfill that demand right then and there before I forget it, before I get to the office and get really busy with the rest of my day, and then forget that I was thinking about this thing that I need to purchase for my house. So those transactions, incremental transactions that are enabling your business to grow faster, definitely meaningful KPI.

Robi Ganguly:

Another aspect of the way in which companies that we work with measure this is self-service. Handling customer needs on their own. So for example, we work with a lot of companies in the telecommunications and media space, and as people have gotten more subscriptions, being able to manage their subscriptions on the fly using an app is an act of convenience as opposed to having to call up and wait on hold and trying to talk to somebody. If you can manage your account right there on your device and get it done in transit on your commute, when you’re thinking about the problem, it makes your life easier. It also makes the company’s life easier. So self-service KPIs and really fulfilling the jobs to be done in a way that satisfies the customer. That’s another set of metrics we see people really focused on.

Ben Johnson:

Nice. Another one just came in, which maybe I’ll take to start, but Robi, I would be curious about your take on this. What do you think of alert fatigue in the context of mobile apps? So I’m going to take this question. It’s sort of in the notification realm, but maybe also in-app prompt realm. One of the things that we think about a lot is how to give your users that control over the notifications that they will receive. We call it sort of a “pretty please” prompt, but we sort of ask very nicely and say, “Hey, can we give you …” Or, “Will you give us access to notify you for these particular things?” And I think if you’re intentional about the types of things that you are going to alert them about, folks will opt in. Now, it may mean that your initial opt in rates are … Or your rate might be higher, but your initial numbers might be lower, but I think ultimately you’re going to have more success with those notifications and alerts actually getting people to do what you want them to do or give them the information that you need.

Ben Johnson:

I personally like, a super quick example, Domino’s has figured out that sending me a push notification on Fridays right when I’m headed home from work is a fantastic way for them to earn a pizza, or have me purchase a pizza, but I’m cool with that, right? Like I’m opting into it. Now, if I wasn’t okay with it, I might unsubscribe, but I think if you can give people the control to say, “Hey, I do want to hear about these things,” they’ll give you the rope to give them notifications. I don’t know. Robi, do you have thoughts on alert fatigue?

Robi Ganguly:

Yeah. So I think that one of the problems that a lot of companies are struggling with is they’re participating in an environment where every other company is also looking for ways to alert customers and engage them. And so it’s not just your company that’s responsible for sending notifications to somebody. It’s 100 others. So in an environment where you’re participating in that, you don’t necessarily get to set the rules. And so I think one of the rules that we as consumers are adopting is if it shows up and it makes me feel like it’s just about the company, and it’s not about me, I ignore it. So what we’ve found is in-app questions, things that actually communicate to customers, “I want to hear your opinion. We want to learn from you about what we could be doing better. We want to learn from you because you are a gold rewards member who purchases with us five times a week. We want to learn about this specific ask,” when you communicate something that says you know about the customer and that you are interested in them, it’s not just about you, the company, we see people getting much higher response rates and being much more engaged.

Robi Ganguly:

And so for example, when I was talking about Overstock, one of the reasons that Overstock felt very comfortable working with us to get in front of the launch to learn from customers was that they were seeing 64% response rates. And that might not mean that much to you, Ben, but the average response rate to surveys in the consumer environment is 2% to 7%, so getting 64% of people to actually answer these questions means that Overstock has customers who want to be heard from, customers who are interested in helping make the future better, and it’s identified customers in the right time and right place to ask them questions. And when you do all those things, you get high response rates. So part of our learnings and feedback to companies is, make it about the customer and then manage and measure your response rates to figure out if you’re doing a good job targeting, and that’s kind of where expertise comes in.

Ben Johnson:

Awesome. Well, we’re out of time. We have some other questions, but we’ll get back to folks if you did ask a question. We’d love to continue the conversation, so you have both of our contact information here on the slide (in video), and if you’re interested in talking to us about your product launch, we’d love to hear from you. We’ll definitely circulate the recordings as well, and appreciate everyone tuning in. Thanks so much, Robi. I enjoyed the conversation, and we’ll talk to everybody soon.

Robi Ganguly:

Fantastic. Thank you.

Ben Johnson:

Thanks so much.

Ready to get started? Contact Rightpoint and Apptentive today!

About Madeleine Wilson

Madeleine Wilson is the Content Marketing Manager for Apptentive. No stranger to B2B tech, Madeleine enjoys translating complex concepts into easy-to-digest pieces of content.
View all posts by Madeleine Wilson >

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