How many users do you need?

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Building a mobile app can be a cash cow, but if not developed correctly, it can be among the 78 percent of apps users never return to after using once.

If your app is free, you’re solely relying on either advertising or in-app purchases (the freemium model) for monetization, which if no one is making multiple visits, you are not going to be making much revenue.

That said, more mobile startups are offering up free apps in hopes of snagging ad dollars or getting people to make purchases for advanced features, virtual good or more functionality. In fact, at last count, 76 percent of all revenue in the Apple app store in the US and over 90 percent in the Asian markets came from freemium apps or in-app purchases, according to Distimo’s report How the Most Successful Apps Monetize Their User Base.

Even Snapchat, a completely free app was offered a staggering $3 billion-dollar buyout by Facebook because of its mind-numbing user engagement numbers (currently about 400 million photos shared per day).

Want to know how your mobile app is measuring up? Check out these metrics:

1. Downloads. While downloads alone can’t determine if an app is a winner, they still play a role in measuiring its success.

For the freemium model, the more downloads, the higher the probabilty your app will succeed in converting free users into paid ones. And if the app does cost money to use, the download metric is even a bigger deal.

Make sure you put your download numbers in perspective with the number of active users. Measure how many people download and use the app, and monitor whether the app gains or loses popularity over a certain period of time or during a particular campaign. You can also track the statistics about the devices and platforms your app is used most on.

Third-party tools such as AppFigures and App Annie allow you to link your iTunes account to give you an update on these statistics

2. Engagement. This is what Snapchat and Instagram’s valuation was made up of: A cornucopia of highly-engaged users accessing the app at least once daily and in most cases, several times every day. You want your app to emulate this model and have high engagement.

You want consumers to use your app every day, making it an integral part of their daily lives.

While engagement is measured by how frequently users come back to your app, the metrics can vary. Engagement can meaure frequency of opens, duration or usage, number of screens used and conversion rate for events. Depending on your app’s goal, these metrics will tell you if your users consider your product indispensable.

3. Retention. You not only want your user base to grow but also want to make sure people are staying. One way to do this is by updates. Every app goes through an evolution — from its launch to a number of release versions, which may have feature and bug fixes or enhancements. These updates tend to occur after research or user feedback. Make sure you listen to the users, especially the ones that will go the extra mile to install an update for an enhanced experience. Tracking this metric will help you to determine the usability of your app and not just that, but also the value that users find in your app’s features, new and old.

If you choose to ignore users’ needs, your app will start to lose popularity.

4. Specific goals. Most developers have a certain vision of how each user will use their app, usually envisioning a specific task to complete.

When tracking specific goals, look at the steps or events that you want users to accomplish and look at the percentage of people that are completing those actions.

Engagement, retention and goals can be tracked by integrating analytics tool into your app, like Flurry, which is available for free, and Localytics, a tool that has a free and paid version.

Does App Design Matter?

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The user experience is something that you need to have at the top of your list in all aspects of your app development.

You are competing in an increasingly active market place and you have just a few seconds to grab people’s attention and just a few more seconds to keep it.

Design can make or break an app, plain and simple, so don’t skimp on this. You need a great icon, splash screens, tab icons, and dozens of other assets that need to be tied together.

Without a good user interface and functionality, your app will fail. These elements need to work together seamlessly. If there is a cumbersome aspect in any area, the overall app will be affected.

Begin at the beginning and sketch out the design. You can also use the design wireframe for iphone. This guides you through the potential and different views from the root view to the navigation view. Think about the end user and what he or she will see or want to see.

Whether you sketch it out on paper or with the wireframe design tool, think about the natural flow of the app and draw the map of this navigation. If you are having someone else create the app, this process is extremely valuable because it allows you to guide the process.

If you are doing your own programming, don’t skip steps thinking that because you are doing it yourself you will remember all these steps and features in the process of creating the app.

Speaking of the user experience, do not cut corners on the appearance of the app. Studies have shown the power of color in attracting buyers. Just because deep purple might be your favorite color, that does not mean that it is a good choice for attracting app users who are browsing the app store.

Marketplace and SEO for App Sales

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You can have the perfect app created and developed with ultimate precision but if no one knows about it, no one will buy it. You need to get your word out there in front of people. There are two routes to take and you need to take both of them. One is the search engines and the other is the marketplaces.

Search Engines

The old methods of search engine optimization (SEO) have been criticized as being part of a marketing method that can be construed as too artificial. The big quest for the past few years has been to find a way to get the word out in a consistent and authentic manner.

The new approach involves a steady stream of your personality and brand in a realistic and down to earth manner. Your web site for instance should be thorough and informative and easy to navigate. And yet, it should not be too slick.

And it has to be search engine friendly. Even if the focus on SEO has changed, you need to have some familiarity with it. The fact is that the more your app’s name appears online, the easier it will be to find.

You need to have a functioning website that you keep up to date. If your app is floating around a marketplace and someone stumbles on it and wants to know more about it, and they go to your website and see that it is not working well or has lapsed, they will quickly lose interest in knowing anything about your app or you.

As well as your own website, get out there and spread the word. Get to know the top tech blogs and if they are willing to feature you or a guest post from you, then grab that opportunity.

If they won’t interview you or don’t accept guest posts, see if you can advertise on that site.

Use social media to get your web site and brand out there. It is best to take a couple of social media outlets and really work at keeping the information moving rather than sign up for dozens of the hundreds of social media sites and become overwhelmed.

I mentioned that my app was slow to start selling but the momentum picked up and then I was offered a satisfactory buy out for the whole idea.

Outsourcing works here too. If you are not into marketing yourself, you might want to hire someone to write posts and articles for you. You need to build a buzz about your app.

Have a plan in place and begin the buzz even before you publish your app. Find the sites where your target audience hang out and get your app in front of them with articles, posts, and interviews.

It takes seven sighting of a product before people remember it. Think of your ideal consumer and think of how to get your app in front of this person at least seven times.

Marketplaces

The big app marketplaces are iTunes and Google Play. These are the big names but not the only names. However, the same rules apply. If you want your app to stand out in the marketplace, you need to apply some thought to it.

Here are some startling bits of information for you. Even in the big app stores such as those mentioned in the last paragraph, sixty percent of them never get downloaded. Yes, that is correct. More than half the apps in these gigantic marketplaces never get downloaded.

Two out of three apps get less than a thousand downloads a year. This brings me to something that you need to consider. The old saying is that Rome was not built in a day. So don’t think about your app as a get rich quick scheme.

You can easily publish your apps to such marketplaces. Start doing the research now so you get the feel for what these marketplaces consider applicable apps. For instance, Google Play limits the size of an app to 50 mb. You also need to know if your app will be free or priced. If it is priced, you can change it to free but then you cannot change it back to priced.

If your app starts out as free, you cannot change it to priced. However, you can create priced in-app products or subscriptions. It is best to know this before you create an app that is not suitable. In other words, do your homework on all levels.

App Branding – Brand your iPhone/Android App

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Microsoft Windows 8.1 is a product because it meets a need. Because it is offers tangible goods as well as services, Microsoft Windows 8.1 has several components – it has a core product, an actual product, and an augmented product.

The core product is the operating system that is essential for running a computer. The actual product is the brand name (Microsoft) and the features that are particular to Windows 8.1 (for instance, its stability and ability to host a variety of popular and necessary software products.

The augmented aspect involves the type of support offered by Microsoft such as the frequent updates and the way that Windows 8.1 automatically updates itself so that it is not a burden to the owner who has to keep track of necessary updates.

A brand is a symbol, name, term, or design or some combination thereof that identifies that product uniquely and its value for both marketer and buyer is that it acts like kind of a shorthand of recognition.

An example is the Nike symbol. For the marketer, if a new product is introduced, branding makes introducing it to the public so much easier. Consider what it would mean for Nike to come out with a radically different type of footwear – the Nike symbol on it would give it instant recognition and credibility. This makes it much easier for the marketer to bring new products to market.

From the consumer perspective, it allows for faster decision making because they will already be familiar with the quality and service that the branding promises.

Brand equity is important for the seller because it is the measure of the impact that the brand actually has on the consumer. Brand equity is that quality that makes the consumer willing to pay more for the product just because of the perceived worth of the brand.

It differs from brand value in that brand value is actually the measurable aspect of the brand’s equity. If slapping a famous and well recognized brand on an item raises the price that a consumer is willing to pay for it, then that extra price they are willing to pay is brand value.

The Martha Stewart line of household goods are worth more than the same sheets, for example, would be worth if they were no name sheets but otherwise identical. This is brand value created by the brand equity of Stewart’s name.

The three levels of brand positioning are product attributes, benefits, and beliefs and values. For instance, in looking at “The few. The proud. The Marines” you can see a top level of brand positioning where this slogan that identifies the Marines appeal to a set of beliefs and values where the slogan triggers the notion that the Marines are special.

Think of the phrase, “many are called but few are chosen” and “the few” resonates of that specialness in being a Marine. It appeals with “The proud” which offers a nationalistic sense of American values and beliefs.

Branding is how you stand out from the crowd.

Why you need to brand

  • You want to be the leader in your field

How to brand

  • Simple but ongoing steps to market yourself

Branding and Social Media

  • What social media to join and how to act in those groups

Building branding momentum

  • Spreading the word about your app

Protect Your App – Legality and Code Protection

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Think about Open Source applications and software. This is software that is, well, open source. The developers share it with everyone. This helps promote the notion that all software is free for anyone to use.

It isn’t.You put your brain power and your expertise into creating your app. Perhaps you paid someone to create it for you. In that case, you put your money into creating your app.

It is your creation and your property. You need to make sure that people know this. One of the simplest ways is to copyright your software and include a copyright announcement on your app.

Protecting Your Investment: Code Protection

There is that fantasy that you can protect your code in clever ways such as using API calls in creative ways. The reality is that once you release your app, the idea is out there. Another software genius can reverse engineer it and discover what makes it tick.

It can even call for less of an effort. Your app can kick off an idea for a very similar app that someone can create simply by thinking of ways to make something just like it.

This brings you right back to the importance of registering your ownership of this idea. If you have registered your ownership, that is, copyrighted your work, you have the full force of the legal system behind you.

Sure someone can still steal your idea and your code but you can take them to court. The threat of being punished monetarily for stealing someone’s app creation is usually enough to scare off potential app thieves.

I’m talking about the big thieves who will steal your idea and try to make it their own. Be prepared with copyrighted apps so you can stop them legally. There are the other thieves of the smaller variety.

Protecting My Code

These are the people who provide cracked versions of your very own app. After a couple of years, I noticed that Keyprowler was showing up on Torrent and Warez sites - for free along with the key.

At first, I was scared I would lose sales. I worked hours and hours trying to stop this thievery but no matter how much I tried the software kept getting cracked.

Then I had an epiphany, which every app developer needs to keep in mind….anyone willing to spend hours cracking your software is not a customer. This means that the best solution is that if you have limited resources just disregard these Warez and Torrent crooks.

Sure put it basic safeguards but do not put in ridiculous schemes and registration procedures that could scare off real customers. Basic user keys is enough. Anyone that will buy your software is going to do it the right way, anyone that would steal it would never purchase it anyway.

The Elements of Designing Your Application

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As well as time in choosing the app, you will need time to program the app, develop a good user interface and develop the functionality. These elements need to work together. If there is a cumbersome aspect in any area, the overall app will be affected.

Begin at the beginning and sketch out the design. You can also use the design wireframe for iphone. This guides you through the potential and different views from the root view to the navigation view. Think about the end user and what he or she will see or want to see.

Whether you sketch it out on paper or with the wireframe design tool, think about the natural flow of the app and draw the map of this navigation. If you are having someone else create the app, this process is extremely valuable because it allows you to guide the process.

If you are doing your own programming, don’t skip steps thinking that because you are doing it yourself you will remember all these steps and features in the process of creating the app.

Examine templates and even other apps to get ideas and see how the flow works. End users are used to a good functionality and if you try to be too creative and go too far from the navigation that they expect, your app might suffer because it does not respond to the expectations of the end user.

How to Market an App (iPhone and Android)

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In the summer of 2007, I was working on Keyprowler and people kept telling me I was wasting my time. I was told constantly by my friend’s and relatives I was off base with this idea.

Also listen to what they say when you reveal your idea to them. Their criticisms might be valid and your second hurdle, after coming up with the idea, is measuring your idea against what the naysayers tell you.

Every time I mentioned what I was doing, they said, “oh, they already have that.” Or “you are too late, no one will buy it.” But what they forget is that the marketplace for any given application always has unserved or underserved positions.

For example, when Starbucks was created, people probably said, “oh, there is coffee in every gas station. In fact people give it away.” But what they forgot is that there are many positions in the marketplace. (Remember this - there are many positions in the marketplace.) At that point in time there was no branded premium coffee. This mean that the coffee market was underserved.

The entire reason Facebook is successful is that they took the MySpace business model and figured out what caused problems with the userbase. They discovered that slow loading pages, no privacy whatsoever, and too much page customization were the big problems.

Facebook created an application that addressed these issues and before MySpace could respond, Facebook had taken over the marketplace .

In a given app marketplace there are several openings that an app developer could take advantage of. These are the leading ones.

Price. The price is too low or too high. Software is one of the few industries where people EXPECT to pay more for good software. Think Premium vs. Discount. Think Starbucks vs. McDonalds coffee

Ease of use. Some apps are bloated from years of adding features on top of features. Many users want a simpler, straight forward approach. This is one tactic that Apple has used for users, starting with the first iPod. Think Tinder as opposed to Match.com.

Niche marketplaces. Some users want an already existing app geared toward their lifestyle, and industry. Think Grindr, a dating app for homosexual and bisexuals.

After months and months of research, I began to develop Keyprower to serve the mid range ($29.99) ease of use market which I felt was underserved. There were dozens of similar applications from $9.99 to $199.99, what they all had in common was the difficulty of use and too many features.

Technology Research

When you are researching ideas, do not overlook the cutting edge in technology. Check out the news reports, technology blogs, and even the academic journals on the latest in technology research.

In the rapid-paced world of emerging technologies, there is always something new and it can be in any field from nanotechnology on up. The range of possibilities is unlimited. Even new technology in diet and exercise can be useful in feeding your app research.

I mention this so that you don’t get caught up in thinking about the technology available for creating your app and extend your thinking to the possibilities in the types of apps that will be needed as new technology emerges.

 

Judging the Market

Ideally when you began thinking about your app, you had the typical buyer in mind. You could see that person and how he or she would use the app. You should think about this person and the segment of society to which this person belongs.

If you are thinking of a man in his early twenties, you need to start breaking down that segment into a smaller segment. Market segmentation is useful because it breaks the large groups into smaller groups which allows you to focus more specifically the distinct needs, characteristics, and behavior.

The better you understand their needs, the easier it is to reach the people in this group. People respond according to their buying habits and how they plan to use the product or a service.

Why do they want the app? To make their lives more efficient? To make their lives more fun? To help them break a habit?

The four primary segmentation variables are:

u  Geographic

u  Demographic

u  Psychographic

u  Behavioral

Where are you selling your app? Who in that geographical area will want to buy it? What kind of people are they? What do they do for fun and work?

Here are some ways to look at these potential segments. These five questions help you narrow your target market.

Measurability

Can you measure the number of people in this area with purchasing power and interest in your app?

Accessibility

Can you reach the people who would be interested in your app with your advertising campaign? Suppose they are students who do not listen to radio, watch television, or read newspapers? How will you reach them?

Substantial

Are there enough people in this area who would want to use your app?

Differentiable

In this market segment, can you separate out the people who would be interested in your app?

Actionable

Is it possible to deliver the app to meet the demand? Actually with an app, the strictures that are on a tangible product are not a problem. If you have a good delivery system with no downtown, you’re good to go.

Outsourcing App Development

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Whether you hire a company or outsource your work overseas, you need to be aware that there are pitfalls. Of course, the cost of hiring someone do to your work is often an obstacle.

People think that the solution to this is to hire someone from a country where people work for very little money. Well, sometimes this works and sometimes it doesn’t. You are working with people from a different culture and it is possible that your communication may not be the best.

Sometimes their skill levels are not up to par. If you are working with someone you cannot deal with face-to-face, you run the risk of hiring someone who really does not have the expertise you need.

If you ask around for references you can mitigate this somewhat. Then you run into the next potential problem. The person might be overwhelmed with work and take too long to finish your job.

You have to be cautious in finding the sweet spot between the cost and the expertise and the time involved.