Friday, 31 October 2014

3 Effective Channels for Marketing Your Mobile App
When you study the successful apps and their history of how they got their first million customers, you can see many common threads between them.
In this article, I touch upon three such channels that will help you get your marketing started and help you scale user growth. Two factors play a key role here. One is focus. Working on these channels alone will ensure focus in your activities. Secondly, these channels bring in predictability in growth and user acquisition.
One important point to note is that none of these factors will add numbers to your growth if your app doesn’t solve a problem for your customers. The premise is that you’ve built an app that your customers want.

1. Content marketing

There are two ways to approach content marketing.
One is to create a ton of fantastic content on your own blog and as guest posts. This helps you build credibility and establish yourself as an industry thought leader. Interesting content pulls people to your blog and in turn helps you get more click-throughs to your app. Creating content that people are reading and sharing will also help you get bonus points in your search-engine rankings.
You can also share curated content with your audience through social media and email. You essentially keep your audience constantly engaged with your brand to convert users sitting on the fence, over time. Use Foster to discover great content to share within your industry.

2. Paid acquisition

The most predictable means of acquiring users is through paid placements across search (Google, Bing), social (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn) and through means of retargeting and banner ads.
If you do have a budget set aside for ad spends, typically spending a greater amount on one day yields better results than spending a small amount across days or weeks.
Many app developers have been known to spend a huge amount of money within a very short period of time to give a considerable boost to download numbers. This creates an upward trajectory so quickly that Apple or Google could in turn put your app on their featured lists.
While this is one of the most predictable methods, it can also be one of the most expensive means to acquire users. As long as the customer lifetime value is greater than the cost of acquisition of the customer, this should be your preferred medium to draw downloads consistently. A good, profitable ratio would be three to one.

3. Viral loops

Many would argue that viral is a result of word of mouth, which grows from a fantastic product or a great campaign. In my opinion, it is a combination of both. If it’s just the result of a great campaign, you may see a spike in the short term, but definitely see a downward trend in the long term.
Word of mouth is most often engineered or designed within the system through viral loops. You need to enable your users to spread the message about your app to others. You see many successful apps doing it all the time.
Andrew Chen describes viral loops as "steps a user goes through between entering the site/app to inviting the next set of new users." There are many examples of viral loops used by many successful apps, such as Dropbox giving free extra space to you and your invited friend, and Runkeeper pushing out your stats on your social profiles for vanity, thus attracting other users.
Remember, the best way to get the max out of your marketing efforts is to focus on the one that works.

Cross Platform Apps – Qt vs. HTML5
Although building a separate native app per platform is currently proving to be the most successful approach for mass market consumer apps, there are still a lot of situations where it makes more sense to go cross-platform. In this article we’ll look at the most popular option, hybrid web apps built with HTML5, versus an up-and-coming challenger, Qt.
Why Qt?
Those who know the history of Qt may be surprised to see it described as “up and coming”. Qt was originally designed for building cross-platform desktop apps, it’s creators started working on it in 1994! However, Qt became interesting for mobile development after Nokia bought Trolltech, the company developing Qt at the time, and invested heavily into making it the ideal toolkit for building mobile apps. Unfortunately, Nokia was making this strategic decision shortly before the iPhone launched (the acquisition was completed afterwards). This changed the game from building apps for devices with numeric keypads and Qwerty keyboards, to large touch-screen based devices. The former Trolltech engineers recognised that they needed a very different way of creating apps for Nokia’s offering to compete.
When Steve Jobs said that the iPhone was 5 years ahead of the competition at launch, he was not far wrong. Android had managed to close some of that gap, probably due to executives at Google having some advanced warning about the iPhone. Unfortunately, Nokia eventually gave up on it’s own Qt based devices in favour of Windows Phone as the software efforts were taking too long and they were falling a long way behind in the ecosystem wars. They sold Qt to one of their major services company suppliers – Digia – who have recently established a fully-owned separate entity for the product, The Qt Company. Only after being fully disentangled from Nokia has Qt been able to return to its roots as a cross-platform framework and start supporting the major mobile platforms. However, in the mean time, others had seen the great foundation for mobile apps that Nokia’s investment created. As a result the BlackBerry 10, Jolla Sailfish, Ubuntu Mobile and Tizen platforms all have Qt as a core framework.
From a personal perspective, I re-wrote a popular iOS game for Symbian using Qt in early 2011. The UI design and general debugging tools were a bit immature at the time but it was one of the simplest learning curves and most pleasant development experiences I’ve had on any platform (note: I was not paid to say that), even though the core of Qt is using the less than developer friendly but high performance C++. I was able to achieve smooth 60fps performance on some rather low-spec hardware. It was easy enough to learn their new UI technology, Qt Quick, and build the menu screens for the game with it in a couple of days.

Why HTML5, or why not?


HTML5 is the most popular option for developers building cross-platform mobile apps, however, it appears to be falling out of favour a little. Web browsers and web views are available on every platform and web developers are able to transfer their skills from building websites to building mobile apps. Open source frameworks like Cordova (PhoneGap) allow developers using HTML5 to access additional mobile specific functionality and make it easy to package apps in a native format for each platform. The added bonus is that you can usually have a version of your app on the web as well as in the app stores for minimal additional effort. HTML5 is generally more productive for building UI centric applications than native apps. There is also an embarrassment of riches when it comes to libraries and frameworks for building mobile web apps. Hybrid web apps are in the privileged position (on iOS at least) of being able to update their code directly, avoiding the App Store review process for all but major changes.
Given its ubiquity and large developer base, why isn’t HTML5 the default cross-platform approach? Despite many advantages, hybrid web app developers have been struggling with performance (partly due to crippled or outdated webview implementations, an issue which has been fixed in the latest versions of iOS & Android, although this will take a while to penetrate the entire installed base). There is also an issue with varying levels of support for standards across mobile browsers (again, this is something that’s improving but not entirely fixed yet). Web technologies have also not really been designed for the highly animated UIs that are now expected by mobile users. This is something that the much hyped framework aims to resolve.
A number of very high profile consumer startups have publicly switched from web hybrid to native mobile app approachesThe most common reason stated for these switches has been lack of adequate tooling. It’s certainly possible to make web apps perform well on mobile devices within their limited memory budgets but with the current state of debugging and profiling tools, that’s still not an easy thing to do compared to producing native apps. This said, not all apps need flawless UI animations and we’re not comparing HTML5 with native, so lets look at how it goes head to head with Qt.

Qt vs. HTML5 – Pros & Cons

Supported platforms:
  • HTML5 is supported almost everywhere.
  • Qt is supported on all major platforms (and minor ones that happen to use it for their UI).

Although in theory you can target more platforms with HTML5, this is not how most developers are using it in the real world. HTML5 developers are increasingly abandoning the browser and building hybrid apps. Most mobile developers are targeting some subset of Android, iOS, Windows Phone, Windows 8 and BlackBerry 10. Qt supports all of these and more. In fact, in practice our data shows that Qt developers actually target fractionally more platforms on average than HTML5 developers. As a result, this is basically a tie for most developers with a significant advantage to HTML5 for those who really want to run their software everywhere (feature phones, Smart TVs etc.).
Learning curve:
This one depends whether you’re already a web developer. If you are, learning to build mobile web apps is probably easier than learning Qt. However, if you’re new to either then Qt has significant advantages in terms of having one framework to learn rather than 10s of them to choose from before you even start. Qt also has great documentation, which isn’t necessarily true for all web frameworks. In a fair contest, this is a clear win for Qt.
  • HTML5 is open standards based and there are multiple open source implementations.
  • Qt is open source but dual licensed and effectively controlled by a single vendor.
Clearly HTML5 is more open than Qt. This isn’t always an advantage. The process of creating standards and getting multiple vendors to implement them is slow, Qt can be more agile. If you really need something fixed or a new feature added in open source you can do it yourself or pay someone to do it. If you need to support Internet Explorer and there’s an issue with it, you have to work around or wait for Microsoft. Then again, there’s no vendor lock-in with HTML5 and the web isn’t going anywhere. Someone else could buy Qt and take it in a direction that doesn’t align with your goals. Or they could just put the price up beyond your budget. HTML5 has the edge but it’s not a clear win.
  • Building for HTML5 is free. There are some non-essential paid tools that can help.
  • Qt requires a commercial license for most commercial use on mobile.
Qt’s open source licenses are not compatible with distribution on most app stores. Although the iOS port of Qt is developed in open source, you need a commercial license to ship apps in the store. The lowest cost subscription that allows developing mobile apps for the iOS & Android stores with Qt is $25/month. HTML5 wins.
Cross-platform compatibility:
  • HTML5 has multiple independent implementations of a standard.
  • Qt has one vendor implementing the same runtime on multiple platforms.
Multiple implementations, with several in open source and a large community reporting on and working around compatibility issues makes for a very robust platform. Even so, having a single vendor making sure all platforms behave in the same way is almost always better for compatibility of your app. Qt wins.
  • HTML5’s DOM was not built for modern mobile apps.
  • Qt Quick’s (QML) scene graph is built directly on top of OpenGL ES.
Both environments use JavaScript. However, with Qt it’s much easier to drop down to native code if you really need native platform functionality or performance. The performance penalties for switching between JavaScript and native code are much lower with Qt. The biggest difference however, is graphics performance. People looking for serious graphics performance with HTML5 resort to complex schemes to avoid touching the DOM as much as possible. Building the entire UI on top of WebGL seems like the most promising path to future performance, now that WebGL has much wider support (Apple adding this in iOS8 is key). Qt has a massive advantage here, it also has more extensive animation options than CSS3 for web app developers.
Native user experience:
  • With HTML5 you rely on either a 3rd party framework like Ionic or building your own clones of native interface elements.
  • With Qt you can use components that clone native interface elements, or use real native UI calls.
Being able to call native APIs in Qt potentially gives it the advantage here but in reality this loses cross-platform compatibility. In practice neither option is really well suited to situations where you need a genuinely native user experience. Both can emulate one adequately for a subset of possible apps. In general it’s best to use a cross-platform approach where a fully custom UI is needed, or a native look and feel is not essential.


Comparing across these metrics, Qt has a slight edge over HTML5. However, there are other metrics you could use that would give the opposite result. In practice the technology needs to be selected to fit the project. Both options have merits and if you’re an HTML5 developer who’s not already familiar with Qt’s offerings, they’re worth a look. I also didn’t mention that Qt apps can display HTML5 content in a webview, meaning that it doesn’t have to be one or the other, it can be both.

Mobile App Marketing, App Retention, and Building Real Customer Relationships

Mobile app growth is stunning (and changing your business)

As I shared in a prior post about inbound marketing for mobile, the growth of the app ecosystem is simply extraordinary. A few weeks ago we learned that total app store downloads have eclipsed 100 billion with no signs of slowing down. The tremendous growth in this ecosystem is a testament to something that every marketer needs to understand:
Your customers are all moving to mobile.
Whether it's the mobile web or mobile apps (the chart below tells us it's all mobile apps these days), the evidence that consumers are flocking to their mobile devices is overwhelming. As a marketer, our first task is to find where our audience is and where it's going.
Today, the answer to both questions is increasingly: mobile.
Mobile's unique properties present us with a new set of marketing opportunities — new ways to learn about and connect with our potential customers. To name a few:
  • Because your mobile customers are treating their phones like extensions of themselves (check out this recent Pew Internet study), they have invited us into a more personal and immersive aspect of their lives.
  • This new dynamic means that we, as marketers, can develop truly deep connections with our customers through digital channels.
  • The kinds of relationships we have been able to foster in person are now possible through software.

This very personal device has a downside

There are some meaningful challenges to the mobile app channel, however. The market for apps is already extremely crowded. The quality bar continues to rise rapidly and the era of the "get rich quick" apps has long since passed.
Because consumers download so many apps on a regular basis, they're very used to abandoning your software and maybe even deleting it. As a result, the largest problem in the mobile app ecosystem is really app retention. Within 3 months, over 3/4 of your customer base is gone, never to be seen again.
The Mobile App Retention problem is massive - most customers are gone in 90 days
With average pay-per-install prices costing over $1.50, the shape of this retention curve is really disheartening to app marketers. It means that a lot of installs are going wasted and customers aren't really happy (one huge reason why mobile app tracking rules).
In thinking through this problem and working with thousands of app publishers, we've come to realize that there's a simple equation behind each and every business in the mobile app space. We find that it's a helpful way of understanding how to grow and build your business. Understanding the math of the app business helps marketers, product managers and mobile business owners prioritize their investments in order to grow their business.
The Math of the App Business: a powerful equation for breaking down your core app business drivers
In today's mobile environment, many marketers are myopically focused on the installation number. While that input is important and a very strong reason to invest in a proper App Store SEO strategy, our equation clarifies that it is but one of three crucial components. App marketers need to be more focused on:

So, how do you grow your app's retention?

As the CEO of a mobile app feedback and engagement company, I get to talk to a lot of mobile teams about the problems they face on the retention and monetization side of the business. There are several key ways in which innovators are increasing mobile retention and driving meaningful business results.

Analytics and iteration

Many app publishers are working with analytics packages from Google, Flurry, Kontagent, or New Relic in order to better understand their customers' behavior inside the app. By creating various events to track specific actions taken and watching the breadcrumbs of data left behind from consumer interactions, app publishers are able to get a much better sense of what happens once they've launched their app. Using that data helps identify places of popularity and places of exit. Using analytics to drive iteration on the product is a helpful piece of growing your retention numbers.

Consumer Engagement

Consumer engagement is a phrase that's used often these days but that requires more specificity in order to truly be helpful to app marketers. Engaging with your customers helps you make a product that will drive better retention, higher customer satisfaction and inform your product roadmap. In the mobile app world, there are 3 important ways in which you can connect with your customers:
  1. Feedback: Listening to your customers and making it incredibly easy for them to give you feedback is a must-have for every app. There are people who are willing to look for a way to talk with you and tell you what they like, what they'd like improved and what is causing confusion already. These are your most engaged customers. Embracing and empowering them drives their investment in your app and company even higher.
  2. Customer research: Every company with an app has a built-in audience of customers to conduct research with and learn from. Tapping into that audience for specific research (i.e. Did this product feature land as we expected it to? What are the demographics of our audience?) is an important engagement mechanism that often informs the product, marketing, and executive teams at the same time as involving customers in the betterment of the product. These involved customers tend to stick around a lot longer.
  3. Targeted and personalized communications: Because mobile is such a personal experience, the old methods of communicating with customers (email blasts to your list, direct mail to everyone, advertising spend to find your audience) are not nearly as useful. More importantly, in the face of the tactics others are using, they make your brand look a bit clueless. Instead, it's possible to communicate with your mobile customers based upon the actions they take, the groups that they fall into and the questions they ask of you. Using intelligent in-app communications to generate conversations and follow-up in a personalized manner allow your brand to deliver a 1:1 experience for every consumer, which brings them back to your app on a regular basis.

Interested in more specific resources about driving retention?

We've scratched the surface about the retention problem and how to address it, but there's a lot more in the way of resources out there for mobile marketers. Here are a few that are helpful and specific:

Retention's downstream impacts:

In addition to driving up the retention aspect of the app business equation, increased retention actually fuels two significant long-term benefits, illustrating how interconnected each of these components are:

Boosting downloads

When apps increase their retention, their overall audience grows. As a result of the growth in their audience they end up with better app store performance because their larger, happier customer base is more likely to talk about them and share great ratings and reviews in the app store. In addition, the larger, more engaged audience is more likely to spread the word with their friends about the app. A more engaged, larger audience proves to be a significant engine for organic download growth.

Understanding your customers better

In order to drive higher retention, marketers need to understand their customers better and develop better relationships with them. The side effect of the work required in order to get to know customers better is that you understand the language that customers use and the things that customers care about most. Using that understanding to shape your further marketing efforts can yield significant increases in efficacy because you're using customers' language instead of your own. Very few things are as powerful as speaking to someone in their own words.

The deeper goal: meaningful customer relationships

Ultimately, mobile marketers should be focused on developing long-term value for their clients and brands. Through the mobile channel's unparalleled ability to deliver a personal experience and the opportunity to be with a customer everywhere they go, the notion of lifetime value (LTV) has become even more important. As inbound marketers, many of us have felt first-hand the effects of measuring traffic sources and understanding that the most relevant, invested, interested customers are our most profitable customers. We are past the days of trying to acquire every customer possible and have moved on to doing much more value-oriented great marketing, marketing which invites our customers into an ongoing conversation that is more give and take and less broadcast and pray.
When you create meaningful relationships with customers, customers see your company as a more human organization, one capable of listening and learning. Along with this more personal perception comes a more robust public image — consumers give your company leeway and understand that you will make mistakes along the way. Developing organizational tolerance for mistakes extends to your customer base: a deeper understanding of the people behind the app helps you keep your base of supporters on board when you make mistakes.
Because of the mobile device's always on, "five minutes of use at a time" paradigm, it's incredibly important to try and become a habit of some sort for your consumers. By putting a personal face and voice to your communications with customers, you're more likely to earn that habitual usage of your app, resulting in outstanding performance.

Finally, a bonus: presenting the case

We know that as marketers many of you struggle to make the case for new initiatives, investments and strategies inside of your organization. Often the question of where to put resources comes down to an analysis of cost/benefit or, put another way, ROI. As we've worked with a number of companies where this has been an important piece of the puzzle, we've created a simple sample equation you can use to highlight the benefits of investing in customer retention and happiness.
In this example, we're making very conservative assumptions about the impacts on installs and retention and not even assuming any impact on ARPU. Many businesses find that their happiest customers spend 1000% or more of the average consumer, so this is a place where a lot of ROI is uncovered over time as well.

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Gamification Helps Utility Companies Change Customer Behavior
ComEd, National Grid and other utilities use analytics to get consumers to compete with neighbors and encourage towns.
In exchange for discounts from their favorite companies, people will like corporate Facebook pages, fill out surveys and join mailing lists. But power companies have to get their customers to do more than that.
To comply with policies in 26 US states that call for them to reduce electricity and natural gas use in the next several years, utility companies hope to spark a sustained change in behavior among customers. Their method: gamification.
In Massachusetts, for example, utilities must cut electricity usage by the equivalent of 2.6 percent of retail sales and gas usage by 1.15 percent of sales by 2015. Goals increase after that. "With increasingly aggressive savings targets, we needed new and innovative strategies," says Tom Baron, senior program manager at the US$13 billion National Grid U.S.
Utility companies worldwide are expected to spend $13.5 million on gamification tools, applications and services this year, and that figure will rise to $65 million by 2016, according to IDC Energy Insights.
Cutting Energy Is All in the Game
National Grid makes a game of cutting usage by encouraging customers to join energy-saving challenges. "We're hoping to generate a friendly sense of competition," Baron says. Working with vendor Opower, National Grid uses customer data and analytics to create home energy reports that show how much energy customers use, compare their usage with that of neighbors and offer tips for reducing consumption and costs.
In Rhode Island, National Grid is piloting a program in which customers earn points based on the amount of energy saved. They can redeem the points at Home Depot,, Starbucks and other retailers, or donate to charities such as the National Park Foundation. The utility also runs community contests. When North Smithfield, R.I., was the first town in the state to enroll 5 percent of residents in an energy-saving challenge, National Grid rewarded the town with $7,500 to use on conservation products, such as solar panels and insulated windows.
Related: Why gamification and big data go hand-in-hand
Reports Lead to Big-Time Savings
Since home energy reports debuted in Massachusetts, Rhode Island and New York in 2009, National Grid customers in those states have saved $73.7 million and 800 million kilowatt-hours of electricity.
In Illinois, Exelon's $4.5 billion ComEd unit sends similar reports to 1.7 million customers. They include tips for cutting energy use, such as unplugging chargers and cleaning air conditioning filters. Customers can also use a portal to set goals, see more ways to conserve and, for those with smart meters, create alerts for unusual usage levels. The portal asks users for data about their households so ComEd can personalize its tips, says Val Jensen, senior vice president of customer operations. "If they don't have central air, we don't want to send them tips on that," he says.
Since the program started in 2009, participating ComEd customers have saved 2 percent annually on their utility bills. The reports, Jensen says, "tap into core behavioral motivators that we have ignored."

Lost at the Mall? 3 Strategies for App Store Optimization
Imagine trying to find someone you’ve never met before at the Mall of America, which is so large that seven Yankee Stadiums can fit inside. Now think of this same challenge in terms of app marketing.
How do you help consumers find their way to your app’s location in the Mall of America-sized app stores? What strategies and signs can you can use to help them navigate? In the language of mobile marketing, how do you best perform app-store optimization(ASO)?
In eMarketer’s “Mobile App Marketing: 10 Tactics Used by Successful App Marketers” report, Patrick Haig, vice president of customer success at MobileDevHQ, noted that app stores have shifted from being an “ameritocracy” (in which the best apps got noticed because of their merit or greatness) to being an overcrowded marketplace in which it’s really easy to overlook even the greatest apps.
The question is: How can we, as marketers, optimize search within the app stores so that new users can discover our brand’s amazing app?
To answer that, you have to ask yourself another question: Have we created compelling content? Doing so happens long before the ASO stage. If you haven’t created something that is worth searching for, the first user who finds you won’t announce your presence to the rest of the “mall.” Organic or viral marketing will be halted dead in its tracks.
I hate to break the bad news, but if you suspect that your app may be less than great, go back to square one and bravely enter the process of app optimization before you waste your time marketing a product people won’t talk about. Once complete, follow these three steps.
Step 1: Map Out Each App Store’s Algorithms
As you probably know, each app store (Apple, Google Play, etc.) has different algorithms that “dictate what results are returned when a user types in keywords like ‘home automation’ or ‘puzzle games.’” Algorithms are both mysterious and discoverable. They are a great example of the science and art that marketing is so famous for.
So how can you figure out each app store’s algorithms in order to essentially draw a mall map, or a way to help customers navigate their way to your amazing app? The eMarketer report explains: “The key to success is knowing which areas affect search results. This is not as easy as it sounds, given that search algorithms are unique to each app store. And, in the case of Apple, the algorithm is somewhat of a mystery.”
However, eMarketer recommends that marketers focus on the following search features in the ASO process:
Lost at the Mall? 3 Strategies for App Store Optimization image itunes1.jpg1
Like eMarketer, Intuit also consulted various organizations and brands about its ASO processes. Its ASO findings and recommendations differ slightly from eMarketer’s, including a few more search features for marketers to focus on, such as app downloads (in Apple iTunes) and video previews (in Google Play). Here are Intuit’s ASO findings:
Lost at the Mall? 3 Strategies for App Store Optimization image googleplay1.jpg1
Step 2: Start A/B TestingYes, you should make your best guess in how to promote your app, but you should also try different approaches. While testing the waters, you should apply scientific principles, such as A/B testing, to figure out what works and what doesn’t. For more on A/B testing, read “Stop the Insanity and Start Measuring Mobile” and “Optimize that App: Why Guess When We’ve Got Science?
Step 3. Videos Work, You Should Make OneIf app stores are like Mall of America-sized stadiums, then ask yourself this: What will be on the screen or center stage? As users browse these enormous app stores, you should aim to surprise them with an amazing show. Now and in the near future, I believe that app promo videos will become your brand’s opportunity (and challenge) to really shine.
As I wrote in “Tablets And Video: A Match Made In Mobile”: “Video as a platform continues to grow. The sheer volume of advertising dollars spent on YouTube is proof enough. EMarketer reports that YouTube will bring in $5.6 billion in gross ad revenues in 2014.”
App promotion videos or trailers are simply short video clips (approximately 60 seconds) that show real people benefiting from your app. These videos are more than simply informative–they should be creative and engaging, providing your consumers with “wow and delight.” Instead of just reading a description, your potential customers can watch your app perform.
There’s some good and bad news, though. To date, Apple hasn’t allowed any videos for promotion in the App Store except for Clumsy Ninja, its latest Editor’s Choice app. However, Google Play does allow video.
Don’t Give Up Hope That Your App Will Be FoundIn closing, remember: App store optimization may sound easy, but it’s not. Each app store is unique and a lack of transparency remains. Don’t give up, though. If you begin to implement these three simple, yet complex strategies, you will reap the benefits over the long haul.