It is no secret that the mobile app ecosystem is fiercely competitive and is all about survival of the fittest. Best-in-class mobile app marketing is now a must for every app company or indie developer who wants to cut through the noise and get noticed.
A lot of blood, sweat, and tears go into developing a great app. The kind of app that users will find valuable, especially since we already have millions of apps out there and new ones popping up every day. Any developer worth their salt would testify to that. The big challenge goes beyond generating enough downloads, it’s about generating these downloads by the right audience.
The current state of mobile app marketing
With the increasing competition in the mobile app world, mobile app marketing has become inevitable with new techniques introduced faster than you can read this sentence.
It is predicted that by 2017 almost 4.4 billion people will be using mobile apps. The staggering increase in smartphone usage and the consequent app usage has led to an enormous app economy, one that is growing by the minute. Yet, less than 1% of mobile apps are considered to be a success by their app developers. Let this sink in for a minute. Only 1%. The remaining 99% are perceived as a failure.
There is definitely something wrong with this picture!
Do you really know your users?
It seems that most of us, in the mobile app industry, are missing basic user understanding. Most developers are fueled by the desire to maximize the number of downloads for their app and hope that in turn the app would sky rocket to success. There is a lot of buzz about getting quality installs. “Get the right users” is a phrase that is spoken about way too much. However, this is easier said than done. Studies show that a huge number of apps turned to zombies and of the 113 billion+ apps that have been downloaded, about 20% are either used just once or deleted altogether.
While product quality is obviously one of the foremost important factors, utter lack of user understanding makes it that much harder for apps to succeed.
What are we, app marketers, doing wrong?
- Lack of in-depth user understanding:
Most developers have very little insight into who is actually downloading and using their app. They have a ton of data on HOW their app is being used but very little about WHO is using their app. Most analytics and data companies will provide some level of user data like demographics and high level interests but the main focus remains on in-app behavior. That’s simply not enough.
- Limited targeting options:
As a consequence of 1, targeting options are also very limited. Advanced user acquisition platforms offer some level of targeting and they put a lot of effort on expanding it, but it isstillvastlylimitedto criteria like demographics, country, operating system, high-level interests, etc. Below is a screenshot of targeting options provided by Facebook:An important thing to note is that all the interests and demographics targeting options given by Facebook are solely based on data shared by the user. Which means if a mobile user has a couple of apps about Golf on his phone and visits the golf course a few times a month, but decided not to share an interest in Golf on Facebook, Facebook will not have “Golf” as an interest for that user. This is just one example showing that the targeting options available today, even by the most advanced companies, are still somehow limited and developers need to be aware of that.
- The obsession with downloads:
Downloads of a mobile app are considered one of the major signs of success. Sure it is a good metric for the traction that an app is getting. However, somewhere in this rush to get the maximum number of downloads for an app, the focus on acquiring the users that would benefit most from that app, and retaining them, has diminished. Due to limited segmentation capabilities, developers often know very little about their loyal users, the users who really love their app. They often end up acquiring users that have little use for their app, while their optimal users are being neglected. This can lead to high acquisition costs, retention problems and high churn. Are you sure you are acquiring best users for your app?
- Ignoring the stagnation and decrease in retention numbers:
A successful launch, a great PR strategy, viral activities and additional marketing tactics can lead to substantial volume of app downloads. And then comes the false sense of success. Hate to be the party pooper, but in most cases, soon after downloading the app and “playing” with it a little, users lose interest and either stop using it or uninstall it. An average smartphone user today has way too many options to choose from. If your app doesn’t connect with them on a deeper level and you don’t provide a seamless personalized experience based on their interests, chances are that they will go elsewhere. The more your app is personalized to your users, the more attached they will become. That’s right- targeting plays an important role here as well.
- Costly user acquisition:
The app economy is super inflated right now and the cost of acquiring users exceeds the average revenues generated by those users, by far. That’s the perfect recipe for a complete failure. A recent report by Fiksu shows that the cost per loyal user index, which is the cost of acquiring a loyal user of an app, is $2.80.
Another study by SuperData estimates that the cost per install recently got to $2.73 for mobile games, compared to average revenue per user (ARPU) of just $1.96. I am sure you can do the match. We better be smart about our acquisition. More money should come in than go out. We should hunt for the perfect users – those that cost minimum but bring in the most. Did I mention targeting yet?
User Understanding: The gold mine of app marketing
What the app ecosystem needs today is genuine user understanding. There needs to be a paradigm shift towards a more personalized experience for the mobile users, and user understanding should be front and center of this paradigm shift.
Imagine this for an instance:
You just launched a cycling app that helps users track the miles covered, calories burnt, etc. You formulate some assumptions of who your target audience is. Let’s say you think the following is the typical profile of your ideal user: Unmarried, 20-28 years old, medium household income and interested in fitness. Typically you would run a user acquisition campaign targeting users with these attributes. But what if you had “magic eyes” and you found out that in reality the most engaged users of your app are men in the age group 40 – 46, married, who also love gaming and cars. Everything has instantly changed, right? Going by your gut feeling, you would have completely missed this segment, the segment that’s best for your app.
The question is: HOW can you gain such insights, without actually asking your users how old they are, what their marital status is and what their habits are?
You could do that by using innovative tools which will provide access to rich user profiles of your mobile users. This technology is now finally available for app marketers.
Before I talk about those tools, I just want to discuss the benefits for us marketers.
- Acquire the best users for your app, and your app is best for them: The “right” user for an app is one whose interests and personal taste are in line with what the app is offering. It’s a win-win for both, it’s only a challenge to find the one, or in our case, the ones. Here’s the recipe: First segment your high value users (that’s common knowledge today), then define this segment’s interests and demographics (tricky ha? Will soon get to how to do this). Then you can go ahead and run acquisition campaigns to acquire similar users (what is known as “lookalikes”).
- Boost engagement and retention: Retention can be boosted just by acquiring the optimal audience for your app. When an app developer truly understands his users, he can attempt to engage them through personalized communication and experience. If you know what makes your users tick, you can send just the right push messages/ads that can lure the dormant users back into using your app. Bingo.
- Maximize mobile revenue: In-app ads are one of the dominant business models in our industry. Advertisers are willing to pay more, much more, as long as you can provide them significant, in depth data on the impressions they are buying. Yes, they know the ropes. They want conversions and conversions are gained through accurate targeting. With the help of mobile user insights, publishers and advertisers alike would have a more holistic view of the characteristics of mobile users, thereby increasing an apps overall advertising revenue.
In-depth user insights. How?
There are a handful of companies who provide some level of user profiling. Personagraph is one them (disclosure- I am affiliated). It has created a ‘user-understanding’ platform. It’s based on advanced machine learning algorithms and on data science techniques. Once integrated with an app, the Personagraph SDK starts collecting data about the existing user base, from various sources, such as other apps installed on the device, GPS location, social media, and so forth. All this data is then run through the inference engine and a unique, robust user profile is created including info on demographics, interests, what competitive apps are used, how often they’re used, and the users’ most visited locations. Moreover, all of this is done in a privacy-respecting manner.
Can you imagine the things you could do with such data?
Shruti is a Sr. Digital Marketing Manager at Personagraph, mobile user insights company. She has a keen interest in all things digital including content, search and social. More recently she was responsible for conceptualization, deployment and content creation of a knowledge academy at Personagraph. For more interesting articles on the mobile ecosystem please visit Think Tank.