Author: Mark Petrie

WWDC21: Privacy and Personalization

WWDC21 Keynote

WWDC21 is now underway and top of Monday’s opening keynote, Apple’s Craig Federighi (SVP, Software Engineering) gave us a glimpse of what’s coming in iOS15. The good news for users and potentially bad news for (some) brands and advertisers is that Apple continues to put our privacy at the forefront of everything they do with new features such as the App Privacy Report and Focus feature.

However, if you dig beneath some of the more adversarial headlines (for example the BBC led with Apple continues privacy war), we believe these new features continue to represent a progressive opportunity for brands to offer better, true personalized experiences.

Background

One year ago at WWDC20, Apple announced that iOS14, to be launched last September, would include one of the most significant changes in the history of mobile advertising and measurement – users would now have to opt-in to allow apps to use the IDFA (ID for Advertisers) in order for brands, advertisers and mobile measurement platforms to track user behaviour across different apps and websites.

We’ve written at length about the changes to the IDFA, including the stay of execution that delayed this until iOS14.5 was released on April 26th this year. TL;DR once iOS14.5 reaches widespread adoption, it will signal the end of using third party data (collected from other apps and websites) to serve targeted advertising. That point is approaching fast as six weeks after launch, adoption of iOS14.5 (and its successor 14.6) has accelerated to 41% in the past few days as users are prompted to update.

iOS14.5+ Worldwide Adoption after 6 Weeks

Kumulos

 

Google have somewhat followed suit announcing that sometime in late 2021 users will be able to opt-out of the Android Advertising ID (their equivalent to the IDFA). More good news for users and good news for brands! However, with iOS15, Apple are going further still with features such as the App Privacy Report.

App Privacy Report

Before you install an app from the App Store, you will be told what permissions the app may request, e.g. access to your contacts – a simple “nutrition label” according to Apple. The new App Privacy Report announced at WWDC21 goes further. You will be able to access this from your Settings at any time and see how often, in the past seven days, an app has used the permissions you have granted it and where the app is sending data.

WWDC21 iOS15 App Privacy Report

Apple

 

Here at Kumulos, we think this is a great idea. If you’re Head of Mobile for a theme park and want to use location to update your guests on nearby attraction queue times as they move around your venue, then simply ask them and explain why – if you have a good reason, most will opt-in and you’ve nothing to worry about!

However, may people are asking why, now, are Apple putting so much emphasis on ensuring you know (and can control) what apps on your phone are doing? To answer that, we need to look at some of the other announcements from WWDC21…

Apple Wallet

Not only has Apple announced (again) that you will be able to store digital keys for your car, hotel room and even your home in your mobile wallet, at WWDC21 they announced that in iOS15 you will be able to store both your state ID and driving license in your mobile wallet! Already accepted in several states, discussions are now ongoing with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to use this.

So, if your iPhone –your digital identity and connection to the online world, is also to become your offline identity for the real, physical world then not only is it reasonable to show you what other apps on your phone are doing, it should be expected. This, in part, explains why Apple is so focussed on putting you in control of your privacy!

What else was announced at WWDC21?

Over in email marketing land, the Apple Mail client will now hide the IP address of the device it is on. This means that some email marketing platforms will no longer be able to track if an email has been opened and where the recipient was when they did that.

A more significant announcement concerning IP Addresses, is the new Private Relay feature for iCloud subscribers that will route all Safari web traffic through two separate proxy servers, therefore masking their IP address, much like a VPN. Why is this significant? IP addresses are a key, if not staple, ingredient in the black arts and witchcraft recipes of the device finger-printing and probabilistic tracking – unofficial, non-consent approaches make a best guess on who you are and where you have been to determine what to serve you – a marketing tactic that is ageing fast (in case you hadn’t guessed, we’re not fans).

So this signals the end of targeted advertising? How does it empower personalization? Again, to answer that, we need to look at another announcement from WWDC21…

Focus Mode and Notification Summary

At present, the only control you have over when you receive notifications is Do Not Disturb. When iOS15 is released, you will be able to better customize which apps can notify you and when. You will be able to group apps into work and personal and then ensure only work apps can notify you during the 9-5 and that they can’t then notify you in evenings and weekends. In today’s BYOD world where, for most of us, your work phone and personal phone is just your phone, this sounds heavenly.

WWDC21 iOS15 Focus Mode

Apple

 

Even if you do not configure this, iOS15 will also include a new Notification Summary which you can schedule for any time you choose to automatically group and prioritize notifications based on things like time of day.

For brands, this is also an opportunity. First and foremost, there will be an override, so that any time-sensitive notifications can get through – don’t abuse this though, think about how we all react to an IMPORTANT email from a colleague where the subject line is in caps (not well, usually). Secondly, don’t obsess about what if I send a notification when the app is not in focus, instead obsess about ensuring you send your notifications when the app will be in focus! How? Personalization! Make use of features such as intelligent delivery to deliver messages when a user is most likely to want to receive it.

Still need convincing that iOS15 is as much about personalization as it is privacy?

Personalized Healthcare

The Health App will go beyond recognizing when you have fallen, to predicting when you might be at risk of a fall based on analysis of your own personal walking gait. It will then make suggestions as to exercises that might help you improve. All of this data and processing is securely encrypted and on-device… private and personal.

Our Summary from WWDC21 Keynote

Privacy and personalization are not mutually exclusive. Both are constantly evolving. With iOS15, the balance of power continues to shift – giving users more control of the data they share and visibility of with whom.

For brands, forget about the data you don’t have access to and instead listen to the sources you do still control – your app, your website. And obsess, obsess about personalizing the journey and experience for every, single, customer.

If this strikes a chord and you want to know more, let’s talk!

Further Reading

To find out how to build and execute an effective, personalized push notification strategy, download our Push Notifications Best Practices Guide or, schedule a personal product tour to see how Kumulos can help you achieve this now.

APNs Legacy Binary Protocol

APNs Legacy Binary Protocol

After a stay of execution, on March 31st Apple are finally discontinuing the APNs legacy binary protocol used to send push notifications to iOS devices. If you have an app in the App Store with push notification capability or an Apple Developer account, you will have likely already received an email from Apple telling you to update to the HTTP/2-based provider API.

In this article, we’ll quickly explain what this means and what you have to do (spoiler alert: if you’re a Kumulos customer – nothing)!

First, some background…

The Apple Push Notification service (APNs) was first announced in June 2008 as a more battery efficient way to send or push messages to apps than long-running background processes that would continually poll for and pull new messages if there were any. Interest in the service was immediate and led to Apple pushing back the initial launch so they could re-architecture APNs to scale to meet to the overwhelming demand.

APNs was first launched in June 2009, back when iOS 3.0 was the operating system of choice on your iPhone 3GS! Since then, push notifications have become widely accepted as the single, most effective way to reach out to and engage (or annoy if done badly) a mobile user.

APNs Legacy Binary Protocol

Back in 2009, if you wanted to send a push notification, you had to call APNs directly using the APNs Legacy Binary Protocol (of course it wasn’t legacy back then, but keep reading, all will become clear). Writing this as a long-ago Comp Sci graduate, who started out coding C++ on Unix servers for Telcos, even I can fully appreciate that although highly efficient and functional, binary interfaces are challenging to use, unforgiving of errors and therefore not necessarily for everyone. Therefore, it was no real surprise that in 2015, Apple released a new HTTP/2 provider API for APNs.

In the intervening years, and with Google adding Push Notifications to Android in May 2010, some vendors such as yours-truly, emerged as a means to abstract away the complexity of interfacing with the APNs Legacy Binary Protocol and Google Cloud Messaging (GCM – as it was called back then). Furthermore, these vendors such as ourselves, incorporated analytics to expand upon the basic push functionality of APNs and provide sophisticated, intelligent user, behaviour and location-based audience segmentation and targeting, accessible either through an easy-to-use campaign management UI or a transactional, RESTful API that worked with both platforms. However, under-the-hood, these vendors were all using the APNs Legacy Binary Protocol themselves.

Apple supported the APNs Legacy Binary Protocol and the HTTP/2 Provider API alongside each other for the next four years, before announcing in 2019 that support for the APNs Legacy Binary Protocol would be discontinued. At first, this was expected in 2020 but a stay of execution was then granted until 31st March 2021 – perhaps due to the aforementioned vendors who were still using it themselves!

What do you have to do?

First off, if you are a Kumulos customer, nothing! Why? Because we have already done this for you! Kumulos switched over to the HTTP/2 Provider API in early 2020, not long after the initial announcement from Apple. Win!

If you are using another push notification vendor, then the chances are you won’t have anything to do either. However, it might be worth checking in with them, just in case. It is widely believed that the reason Apple granted the APNs Legacy Binary Protocol a stay of execution was to allow some vendors, who had not been as prompt as Kumulos in adopting the HTTP/2 Provider API, further time to migrate. Best not leave anything to chance and give your vendor a call today.

Finally, if you have built your own in-house integration using the APNs Legacy Binary Protocol and haven’t yet updated this use the HTTP/2 Provider API, then you have some work to do, and fast!

Build vs. Buy

The re-opens the debate of build vs. buy. Why pay a vendor such as Kumulos when you can call APNs directly using the HTTP/2 Provider API? If your app is only available on iOS and only ever targets notifications to individual users, this may be a compelling question.

However, there are four significant reasons why using a specialized mobile messaging vendor to send your push notifications might be the way you want to go from now on…

  1. Firstly, and most obvious, is that vendors such as Kumulos, enable you to send mobile push notifications across different platforms including iOS, Google Android and Huawei Android through a single SDK, UI and/or API without having to build interfaces against each platform’s APIs (which we have already done for you).
  2. Secondly, vendors such as Kumulos are backed by analytics and as such provide intelligent user, behaviour and location-based audience segmentation and targeting options, all through an easy-to-use campaign management UI – functionality that increases the impact of your push notification campaigns and functionality that you will have to code and build yourself, should you choose to go down that route.
  3. Next-up, and related to the above, vendors such as Kumulos invariably incorporate other messaging channels such as in-app messaging, web push notifications, SMS and email, enabling you to provide a rich, seamless experience through the complete user journey.
  4. Finally, and perhaps most importantly in this context, vendors such as Kumulos shield you from numerous changes to the platform APIs and the significant complexity in using them. For example, Apple require you to hold open and reuse existing connections to the HTTP/2 provider API for “as long as possible” (for many hours to days) and have also recently required all connections to incorporate a new root SSL certificate. In addition, Google have also deprecated their own legacy HTTP API and are encouraging everyone to migrate to the latest HTTP v1 API – we also migrated to this API in early 2020, so again no action required for Kumulos customers.

Wider Implications

One of the wider implications of Apple discontinuing support for the APNs Legacy Binary Protocol is that many apps and vendors used the feedback mechanism, rightly or wrongly, as a proxy for app uninstall events. The HTTP/2 Provider API will return if a token is invalid it (either by blocking push notifications or uninstalling the app) but, for privacy reasons, this will only happen after a random delay of days or even a few weeks.

However, rather than focusing on the uninstall number, we would instead recommend you focus on retention and engagement – how many users you have retained, engaged and converted to the next step in their journey through timely, personalized messaging? Great! Now what can you do to increase that number!

For those that do drop-off or for those who simply prefer to be engaged via different messaging channels, the Kumulos platform contains a range of features designed to ensure you know and can target users on the channels they are most active on, without having to broadcast across them all (or worse, shout into an empty room). For more details on our reachability checks, Contact Us and we’ll be happy to discuss the options that are right for your app and its audience.

In Summary

Despite the somewhat alarming email from Apple, users of Kumulos and more than likely most other push notification vendors will have nothing to do. If, however, you have built your own integration with the APNs Legacy Binary Protocol, then you now have a decision to make – update this to the new HTTP/2 Provider API or start using a specialist push notification vendor, such as Kumulos. There are a number of factors that will influence this decision, but in our experience, more and more are stacking up in favour of outsourcing the delivery of push notifications to specialist providers, freeing you and your team up to focus on the app itself.

We’d be more than happy to discuss the pros and cons of both approaches with you and promise absolutely no hard sell. Contact Us today and we’ll put the kettle on!

Further Reading

To find out how to build and execute an effective push notification strategy, download our Push Notifications Best Practices Guide now.

IDFA changes – good news for your users, good news for you

Apple IDFA Changes

The Apple IDFA is changing and based on some of the headlines and news reports, you could be forgiven for thinking the sky is falling in. In this article, we’ll look at what this change actually means in practice for you and the opportunity it presents to shift your focus onto engagement and retention.

In doing so, you might find that this has a much greater impact on your bottom line than any new user acquisition campaign ever can.

What is the IDFA?

Not to be confused with Dua Lipa’s 2017 hit single IDGAF, the Apple IDFA or Identifier for Advertisers is a unique identifier generated for each Apple device. Although it doesn’t contain any personal identifiable information, the IDFA enables advertisers to serve targeted, customized adverts based on the actions you have performed in other apps that track in-app event behaviour and associate this with your device’s IDFA.

It also enables advertisers to track and measure which mobile advertising campaigns you then interact with to further refine and target the adverts you and others will then see, the principle around which has spawned the multibillion-dollar mobile app attribution industry.

Why is the IDFA in the news?

Although the IDFA is not new, it hit the headlines at WWDC in June 2020 when Apple announced it would that as of iOS14 (released in September 2020), you would have to give each app explicit permission to use the IDFA (just as you do for push notifications or location tracking). This is one part of a wider Apple initiative called App Tracking Transparency (requiring apps to be completely transparent about the data they collect and hold about you) and a wider shift in the industry away from third-party tracking data (such as Google’s proposal to block third-party tracking cookies in its Chrome browser).

You have always had the option to opt-out of being tracked via the IDFA, but in practice few of us did this, with well over 70% of us not bothering to reverse our implicit consent. However, with the simple change of requiring us to give our explicit consent it is widely accepted that this figure will fall to only 10% – 15% of us allowing apps to track what we do for the purposes of serving targeted adverts.

Why are we still talking about the IDFA now?

As we’ve previously discussed, iOS14 adoption was swift (pun intended) reaching 90% adoption within three months of launch (by contrast iOS13 was only at 76% adoption by that same time).

Apple IDFA - Worldwide iOS14 Adoption after 90 days

So why is the IDFA still in the news now?

Well, for that there are two simple reasons. Firstly, bowing to pressure from mobile ad networks and attribution companies, Apple announced in September a grace period delaying the change to requiring explicit user consent to use the IDFA until Spring 2021. This was to allow the industry time to switchover to using Apple’s new SKAdNetwork (which allows advertisers to measure the overall success of their campaigns, but not to an individual user level).

Secondly, the reason the IDFA is still in the news is because the mobile ad networks and attribution companies want it to be, in the vain hope of forcing Apple to reverse their decision. In a blistering attack in December, Facebook accused Apple of hurting small businesses reducing their sales by upto 60% by limiting their ability to serve personalized adverts (Facebook themselves are expected to take a multibillion-dollar revenue hit as a result of these changes).

When will the change actually happen?

With the sun getting higher in the sky, spring is now well and truly underway, so when will you require explicit user consent to use the IDFA? The answer is no one really knows.

The one thing that could delay the change is the relatively low levels of adoption of Apple’s new SKAdNetwork, currently sitting at around 20% as many ad networks are still evaluating their options. Rather than accept the seismic change, many have simply buried their head in sand hoping that Apple will bow to commercial or legal pressures.

Similar to the ongoing investigation by the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority into whether Google’s proposal to block third-party tracking cookies (that many argue will make advertisers even more reliant on Google than they currently are), a number of legal complaints have been lodged against Apple’s proposed changes to the IDFA claiming they amount to an antitrust violation. However, early indications are that these are set to fail, with the French Competition Authority refusing to order Apple to further delay implementing the changes as the French trade body the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) had been seeking.

Furthermore, in a recent press release from Apple they doubled down on data privacy, improving transparency and putting you firmly in control. So, although we don’t know for sure, we are still expecting the change to happen sometime soon before spring makes way for summer. Regardless, there is now an opportunity to revaluate how you reach and connect with your mobile audience and here at Kumulos, we recommend you take it!

First off – does this change impact Kumulos?

No! Kumulos does not use the IDFA and so this change will have no impact on Kumulos. In fact, we are fully supportive of the principles that are driving this change. You can continue to use Kumulos to track first-party analytics events within your app, remaining compliant with Apple’s privacy policies, and then use this to segment your audience for targeted messaging campaigns but rest assured, this data belongs to you and we will never, ever share this data with anyone else.

Furthermore, Kumulos Deferred Deep Links are deterministic, and we do not use device finger-printing or any other probabilistic tracking techniques to try and identify your users.

Be transparent! B-E transparent. B-E-T-R-A…

Secondly, whether you have to yet or not, be completely transparent about the analytics data your collecting and why! For years, we’ve been explaining that if you want to track users’ location or send them push notification, you need to explain why to maximize your opt-in rates.

“Allow Cloudburger to access your location?” vs. “Allow Cloudburger to access your location so we know when you will be arriving at your local restaurant so we can start preparing your order.”

“Cloudburger would like to send you notifications?” vs. “Cloudburger would like to send you notifications such as updates on opening times and weekly special offers”

The exact same principles apply to analytics, for example “We’ll record what you order from our menu the most, so we can display them first and also make suggestions of new items we think you might like.”

Focus on Engagement and Retention, not just Acquisition

Another thing we’ve been advocating for years is to shift more of your focus from new user acquisition to onboarding, activation, engagement and retention. We’re not saying user acquisition doesn’t matter – of course it does – but acquiring a new customer is much more expensive than retaining an existing customer yet has a much lower chance of conversion! Whereas even just a small increase in retention, can have a significant impact on the bottom line.

Apple IDFA Changes - Focus on Activation, Engagement and Retention

Think about how you onboard new users into your app. What can you do to activate and engage more of them? Measure retention and use analytics to see where and when most users drop-off. Then, make small, incremental changes to increase activation and retention. For example, a timely message with a personalized money off coupon for your first or next order. Measure the impact and then repeat the process moving onto the next drop-off point. Build-Measure-Learn!

Make the most of the other channels you control

Just because the IDFA is going to become less prevalent, doesn’t mean you can’t still connect with your users via other channels. Use the other channels you control to acquire more users into your app (ideally, with a personalized onboarding flow) and re-engage lapsed app users with Deferred Deep Links. Whether this is by email, SMS, social or even a QR Code on the side of a pizza box, you can acquire new users for your app or re-engage and drive existing users back to your app, increasing retention. 

Close the loop

Good things happen to good people! Use Crash Reporting to monitor the user experience, be transparent about the information your collecting and ensure your messaging campaigns are personalized, timely and relevant to each individual user. If done well, you’ll see this reflected in the star ratings and reviews your users give your app, which will improve discoverability in the App Stores, increasing acquisition and so it goes on!

In Summary

Despite what some tech giants might want us to believe, requiring explicit user consent to use the IDFA is coming, and its hard not to argue that putting your users in control is a good thing. It gives us all a chance to think about how we connect with our audience. If this leads to a greater focus on engaging and retaining existing users, away from constantly acquiring new users, then not only will that be better for your users, it will also likely be better for you. If this strikes a chord and you want to know more, let’s talk!

Further Reading

If you want to learn more about how you can use the other channels you control to acquire more users and re-engage lapsed users, download our Ultimate Guide to Deferred Deep Links.

iOS 14 Adoption – Good news for COVID contact tracing apps

iOS 14 Adoption - iPhone

iOS 14 adoption is now over 50% worldwide, but there are some significant regional differences. With the recent addition of contact tracing APIs to both the iOS and Android operating systems, gaining significant adoption of latest updates has never been more important. In this article we’ll look at the detail behind the headline iOS 14 adoption figure and what this means as governments around the world release their COVID-19 contact tracing apps.

iOS 14 Release

Its been less than three weeks since the September 15 Apple Event and while we were all expecting Apple to announce the upcoming release of iOS 14, no one was expecting them to ship it the very next day! With no time available for app developers and publishers to test their apps and games on iOS 14, many of the world’s largest publishers, including Nintendo, took the unusual step of advising users not to update to iOS 14 straight away.

Here at Kumulos, we wondered what impact such advice would have on user behaviour and so decided to monitor iOS 14 adoption using an anonymized sample of 500,000 loyalty, sports, fitness & well-being app installs around the world. This is what we found…

iOS 14 Adoption

Unlike the more complex Android ecosystem where developers have to cater for a long-tail of older Android operating system versions still in use, the Apple user-base has historically been quick to adopt operating system updates. The warnings from publishers that your favourite apps and games may be glitchy until they have a chance to update them would appear have had little impact on this. iOS 14 adoption surpassed that of iOS 13 within two weeks of its release and, as of 6th October 2020, iOS 14 adoption is now at 50% worldwide.

iOS 14 Adoption - Worldwide

However, there are big regional variances driving this adoption. Europe is leading the way, with iOS 14 adoption at 69%

iOS 14 Adoption - North America

Whereas iOS 14 adoption is only at 31% in North America with 64% devices still running iOS 13.

iOS 14 Adoption - North America

In practice, what does this mean for app developers, especially those working on regional and national COVID-19 contact tracing apps?

iOS 13 Adoption

Looking at all those devices still running iOS 13, the good news is that the vast majority (70%) are running iOS 13.7, which includes the COVID-19 contact tracing APIs.

iOS 14 Adoption - iOS 13 Contact Tracing APIs

Combined with devices already running iOS 14, this means that across our sample, 82% of all iPhones should be able to run contract tracing apps right now.

Of the 4% devices worldwide that are still running iOS 12 or earlier, 75% (approximately 15,000 devices in our sample data set) are unable to update to iOS 14. However, the vast majority of these devices were iPhone 6 / 6 Plus and can still be updated to iOS 13.7 to add the contact tracing APIs.

In fact, across our sample data set, the number of active devices that cannot be updated to iOS 13.7 was less than 0.5%

In Summary

Despite the warnings from major publishers, iOS 14 adoption around the world has been as fast as we have come to expect from the Apple user base. Although iOS 14 adoption in North America is lagging behind Europe, concerns around the compatibility of national COVID-19 contact tracing apps with the Apple install base appear to be unfounded. 82% of iPhones have the contact tracing APIs now and less than 0.5% iPhones in daily use will be unable to add them in future.

About Kumulos

Kumulos is an easy-to-use, omni-channel, user engagement platform. We help major brands in over 20 countries around the world to retain and engage their mobile audience and drive real business results from their mobile app. Contact us today to find out how.

Kumulos Features Update – Fall ’19

kumulos-features-update-fall-19

All Kumulos features are designed to help you engage the audience of your app. After all, it is how today’s customers, guests, fans and loyalty card members want to interact with your brand or business. Whether your app is intended to improve the guest experience for holidaymakers who visit your resorts, engage sports fans on match-day, both inside and outside of the venue or to increase footfall to your franchises and improve the in-store ordering experience, effective engagement involves delivering the right message to the right user at the right time.

The Kumulos dev team have been hard at work this fall, adding powerful new features to make delivering the right message to the right user at the right time even easier, so you can retain and engage your audience and drive real business results from your mobile app. Here’s a quick roundup of the new Kumulos features.

The Right Message – Images, videos and personalization

New features to deliver even richer, actionable content across messaging channels.

Images in push notifications

All channels have their role to play, but Push Notifications remain the single most effective way to engage the audience of your app. Our award-winning push notification service now supports images on both iOS and Android. You can upload and save brand images to your media library or find inspiration from the Unsplash royalty free stock image library to send push notifications your audience won’t be able to resist opening.

kumulos-features-update-rich-push-notificationsIn-App messaging and app inbox

The next most important channel to engage your audience is in-app messaging, where you can deliver much richer, full-screen, actionable content to your users. Unlike push notifications, you now have complete control over message layout, style, fonts, content and actions. The downside is of course that only users who open your app will see the message, right? Not anymore, with Kumulos, you can combine in-app messages with push notifications to let all of your users know straight-away when new content is available for them.

Videos

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a video is worth a million (well 1.8 million words to be precise according to Forrester), which is why Kumulos in-app messaging now supports background and foreground videos to increase conversion from your messaging campaigns.

kumulos-features-update-in-app-message

Personalization

Everyone prefers to receive content that is tailor made for them, rather than broadcast to everyone – the users of your app will be no different – so Kumulos features a number of different ways to personalize what you send. You can create and save message templates containing dynamic content tags replaced at send time with content you provide via console or API – this allows you to reuse message templates in different campaigns. You can also include user attributes, for example name, that will be substituted with the value for each user (or a default value) when the message is sent for that extra, personal touch.

The Right User – User, behaviour and location-based segmentation

Getting the right message to the right user is easy thanks to the latest user, behaviour and location-based segmentation and targeting features in Kumulos.

User based segmentation allows you to filter the audience of a campaign according to who the user is and what you know about them. Behaviour based segmentation allows you to filter the audience of a campaign based on the actions the user has taken.

One of the things that sets Kumulos aside from other messaging vendors is that Kumulos supports location-based segmentation out-of-the-box so you can target different content for fans who are in the stadium to those who are watching the big match from the comfort of their own home, for example! When you are creating a Geofence, Kumulos will show you how many users last known location was within the fence, so you can optimize the size and position accordingly.

kumulos-features-update-geofencesWith Kumulos, it is easy to combine user, behaviour and location-based segmentation and targeting for maximum impact. For example: to target a win-back campaign at customers who have opted in to special offers, placed at least five orders in the past six months, have not opened the app within the last 30 days and are within 500m of a participating outlet. As you construct your campaign, Kumulos will show you the targetable audience so you can refine your audience filters accordingly.

The Right Time – Scheduling, event triggers and message expiry

As with comedy, when it comes to mobile messaging campaigns, timing is everything! Kumulos features a number of ways you can get the right message, to the right user at the right time!

Recurring, scheduled campaigns

Whether your audience is concentrated within a few city blocks, or spread out across the world, when scheduling campaigns in Kumulos you can choose whether all users should receive your message at exactly the same time, or at the specified time in their local time-zone. In addition, the Kumulos automation engine lets you schedule recurring campaigns, such as sending a message every Friday in November before Cyber Monday, for example.

Automation – Event triggers

The automation engine in Kumulos features event triggers that will fire when a user takes a specific action. This can be within the app (for example: when they place their fifth order within a 90-day period) or external triggers such as coming into proximity with a beacon or entering or exiting a geofence. This makes it easy to ensure that each user receives the message at the right time for them.

kumulos-features-update-event-triggersMessage Expiry

As well as making it easy to deliver the message to the right user at the right time, Kumulos also makes it easy to ensure the right user doesn’t see the message at the wrong time! After all, no one likes seeing a Christmas card full of festive cheer first thing in January! When sending a message, you can choose when it should expire (after which time it will not be shown to users who have not opened your app). You can also choose how long messages should persist within the App Inbox, so that unredeemed coupons are automatically removed after they expire, for example.

Other News

Big thanks to Chris Caron from the Kumulos community for adding support for Kumulos to his popular apprise server-side notification library.

Learn more or try it out yourself

If you want to learn more, then contact us for a demo. Alternatively, start a free trial today. You can then use the Kumulos Companion App to try it all out yourself and see how easy it is to deliver the right message, to the right user at the right time with Kumulos.

Coming Soon – Web Push Notifications

Watch this space for an exciting announcement coming very soon as we add web push notifications to our award-winning push notification service so you can deliver the right message, to the right user at the right time whether they are using your mobile or web app!

In the meantime, from all of us here at Kumulos, Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!

Reducing the cost of an API outage

In this article, we are going to look at why APIs have outages, what the cost of an API outage can be and therefore the importance for you, as a mobile app developer, to monitor all of the API Endpoints your app depends on to function, in order to reduce the cost of an API outage on your mobile app.

AWS.availability() != API.availability()

The reliability and availability (uptime) of cloud computing providers such as Amazon Web Services or Microsoft Azure has improved massively over the last few years. However, most modern websites, services and APIs that we choose to host on them, are built on a complex chain of dependencies. Every now and again, a link in that chain will break. As soon as that happens, any mobile apps that depend on these APIs to function are going to incur costs. The cost of wasted marketing spend on user acquisition campaigns, the cost of lost subscription revenue opportunities and the cost of putting right the reputational damage from all those one-star “Crashes when it opens” reviews in the app stores.

Cost of an API Outage - Bad ReviewsTherefore, while you may not have control over all of the services and APIs that your app depends on, it is essential that you, as a mobile app developer, monitor their availability, so you can pro-actively take action to mitigate the impact of an outage on your mobile app rather than walking ignorant into the bad news on Monday morning.

Why do APIs have outages?

The concept of code reusability in software development is nothing new. However, where this used to be constrained to the confines of a module, product or at best company, the open-source movement and availability of package managers such as NPM now means that almost all new software reuses code written and maintained by others. This is not a bad thing, it is very the reason developers can deliver rich user experiences in relatively short periods of time. However, it does mean that the quality of your website, service or API is now, to some extent, dependant on the quality of the code that you include. And, if the person who wrote that code has adopted the same approach as you, then you are also now dependant on the quality of the code that they include… and so on.

Of course, this is where software testing comes in – to verify quality before release. But what you may not realise, is that this must be repeated for every release. Why? Because all of the code that you included changesregularly!

By their own definition, NPM “makes it easy for JavaScript developers to share and reuse code, and makes it easy to update the code that you’re sharing, so you can build amazing things”.

By making it easy to update the code being shared, they also make it easy to update the code you are including. Again, this is not a bad thing, especially when it comes to patching security vulnerabilities. However, installing unattended updates every night carries with it the risk that something, somewhere high up in the complicated chain of dependencies breaks… and along with it… everything downstream, including your website, service or API!

Cost of an API outage - npm error

This was perfectly illustrated in the infamous “left-pad incident” of 2016 when a developer unpublished 11 lines of code from NPM and “broke half the Internet”. These 11 lines of code were contained in a module called left-pad that had been downloaded 2.5 million times in one month alone. The removal of left-pad first caused problems with other very popular open source packages such as React, Node and Babel and then resulted in problems for the numerous websites, services and APIs built upon these technologies. Most of those impacted had never even heard of left-pad let alone knew that their software was in some way dependent upon the availability of those 11 lines of code!

So this is why APIs have outages! Not even to mention all of the other regular problems that can happen – hard disks crash, people forget to update SSL Certificates (this little old chestnut alone was responsible for all Occulus Rift VR Headsets shutting down and mobile operators O2 and Softbank losing 4G data services) and every once in a while… even the trusted cloud computing providers themselves can have problems – in March 2018, AWS Eastern Region suffered a power outage taking down Atlassian JIRA, Slack and Twilio!

All in all, it is inevitable that at some point, one of the APIs your mobile app depends on to function will have an outage.

Measuring the cost of an API outage

The cost of any one outage will of course depend on the timing, duration and nature of the business(es) it impacts. A recent report by The Ponemon Institute estimates the average Global 5000 company will incur costs of over $15m USD resulting in a certificate outage (not including any regulatory fines for applicable businesses).

The exact timing of the Facebook/Messenger/WhatsApp/Instagram outage in March 2019 is unclear, but it is accepted that these services were either down or suffering from degraded performance for almost 2 days. According to Facebook’s own earnings announcement, this would put the cost of such an outage to them at over $300m USD.

While Facebook themselves may be able to sustain such (expected) unexpected costs, for those that rely on the platform for advertising and custom, the impact is more severe. For some small businesses the cost of that outage was five figures and much more serious.

Estimating the cost of an API outage on your app

Estimating the potential cost of an API outage for your app is actually quite straightforward if you know your Cost-per-Install (CPI), retention and conversion percentages through your onboarding funnel.

For example, your app retains 25% of installs as Monthly Active Users (MAU) and then converts 20% of these into subscribers. If your monthly target is 5000 new subscribers, you know that you will need 100,000 installs each month (approx. 3300 per day). At an average Cost-per-Install (CPI) across all your different media sources of $2 USD then your will need to spend around $200k USD each month on user acquisition to meet your target of 5000 subscribers.

However, lets say that one of the APIs your app uses changes unexpectedly over the course of one weekend breaking the signup flow in your app. If it takes you three days to diagnose the problem, update your app and publish the update to the stores, the 10,000 potential subscribers who download the app during this time will be unable to signup and will, in all likelihood, never open your app again.

Cost of an API outage - onboarding funnel

At a Cost-per-Install of $2 USD, you will have wasted $20k USD on user acquisition alone. Filtering the impact of this outage through your onboarding funnel, you will be down 500 subscribers, which will have a knock-on impact on your subscription revenue. Not to mention the impact that negative reviews will have on increasing your CPI next month!

Reducing the cost of an API outage on your mobile app

Friday afternoon, everyone is winding down for the weekend with thoughts of beers, pizza and Netflix… and then the phone rings… the app is crashing on launch. And just like that, everyone’s weekend just got a lot less fun. This is not an unusual story.

While the ultimate cause of the crash may, as we have discussed, be nothing to do with your code or even the app itself, the fact that your client or customer, marketing team or even end user finds out about the crash before you does not reflect well on you as a mobile app developer. Therefore, it is essential that you proactively monitor the availability of the API endpoints that your app depends on to function so you are alerted as soon as a problem occurs.

There are a number of different paid and free tools on the market that do this. However, when choosing a tool, pick one that not only checks the availability of the API endpoint, but also inspects the shape of the payload returned. The API does not need to be down in order to cause a problem for your app – depending how your app has been built, even a minor change in the payload shape can cause problems.

Also, make sure that the tool you choose has the option to alert you, for example via Slack, as soon as a problem occurs so you can start to act. The very first thing you need to do is communicate. Let your client or customer, marketing team and end users know there is a problem and that you are investigating. Everyone understands that outages can happen, this will reassure them that your processes are robust and that you are in control.

Cost of an API outage - Slack alerts

Next, stop any user acquisition campaigns. There is no point wasting money driving traffic to the stores when users who download the app may have a sub-optimal experience. You can easily turn them back on once the problem is resolved.

Monitor and pro-actively respond to reviews on the app stores. Again, end users will understand that outages can happen. How you respond will reassure them and minimize the impact of negative reviews on downloads and therefore your cost-per-install.

Finally, monitor Daily Active Users (DAU) and funnel conversion through the key user journeys in your app. This is actually always good practice as subtle changes, for example in the time taken to complete each step, can have a very big impact on conversion. When everyone is fire-fighting during an outage, it is essential you can quantify where and what impact this is having throughout your entire app to ensure there are no side-effects after it is resolved.

In summary, the way modern software is built, means that outages can and will happen. As a mobile app developer, you need to be prepared for this and ensure that you know of the problem as soon as it happens. That way, you can be proactive and take all necessary action to reduce the cost of an API outage on your mobile app.

Want to know more?

The Kumulos platform gives mobile app developers a single-pane-of-glass through which they can manage the commercial and technical performance of their mobile apps, and the APIs they depend on to function. Contact us for a no-obligation demo or take us for a spin yourself and sign up for a free trial.

Increase Retention with Push Notifications

Increase retention with push notifications - compose

In this article we’re going to look at some very simple things you can do to increase retention with push notifications. However, before we start, lets be absolutely clear what we are talking about…

 

What is retention?

There are a number of different ways of measuring retention. For the purposes of this article, we’re going to focus on Snapshot Retention, which shows how well an app is retaining users in the period immediately after they download it. In other words, how many users actually use the app in the days after they installed it. Typically expressed as a percentage and shown as a table, retention answers the question “What percentage of new users are still actively using the app after 7 days or 30 days?” etc.

While the overall percentage is important, analytics tools such as Kumulos also then allow you to drill down and see how retention varies between different groups of users (called cohorts) such as country or platform, which can highlight actions to take to improve. For example: if 7 day retention is higher on iOS than Android, then you should check you don’t have any crashes on Android and that the onboarding flow is as straight-forward as in your iOS app.

Increase retention with push notifications - 7-day retention

Why is retention important?

Every mobile app is built for a specific purpose. Whether a loyalty app (to increase sales), an mHealth app (to increase adherence to prescribed medication) or a utility provider app (to increase digital engagement over contacting the call centre), every mobile app was conceived and exists for a specific goal. However, no matter what problem your mobile app is trying to solve, it will only be successful in doing so if it has an active audience who are engaged with the app. So before you can think about engagement campaigns and conversion, you must first build that audience.

Building an audience requires two things – new user acquisition (downloads) and retention. Now, everyone knows that acquiring new users is hard – there is an entire ecosystem of product and service companies dedicated to helping target users find and download your app. No surprise then that this is where most of the effort and budget is spent. However, retention is equally important and just as difficult. Why spend all that time and money acquiring new users only to neglect them once they have downloaded and installed the app and have to start all over again?

So retention is absolutely critical if a mobile app is to deliver a Return on Investment (RoI).

What does good look like?

Unfortunately, there is no magic number that retention should be although obviously the higher the better. Different apps will have different usage patterns depending on their purpose and this will not only impact retention at different periods, but determine what period you should choose to measure retention against. For an enterprise mobility app that employees use to submit weekly expenses, 7-day, 14-day and 30-day retention will be far more relevant than 1-day, 3-day and 5-day for example.

In addition, retention will be impacted by the quality (relevance) of the new users (think leads) that you acquire (which is in turn impacted by how and where you acquire them – another reason why looking at retention across different cohorts is important – but that’s another topic).

As a typical rule of thumb though, 30% retention at 30 days would be considered good, subject to all of the health warnings above.

Let’s talk money

What cannot be disputed though is that it costs more, a lot more, as much as 700% more to acquire new users than it does to retain existing users. Yet, Bain and Company estimate that just a 5% increase in retention, can result in anything between a 5% to 95% increase in RoI. As your job as a mobile app developer is to deliver the best possible outcome for your clients, while working within their budget constraints, it comes down to simple economics – retaining users costs less and is more effective than acquiring new users.

The good news is that there are some very simple things you can do to increase retention with push notifications and retain more of those hard won users for longer.

Increase retention with push notifications

To increase retention with push notifications you need to:

  • Be proactive – use your retention data to time push campaigns just before users typically drop off
  • Be attentive – if a user falls out of the onboarding flow, use a push notification to draw them back in
  • Be persistent – don’t be afraid to remind users they have the app installed
  • Be smart – target different audience segments with content relevant to them

Be proactive

The first way to increase retention with push notifications is to proactively use your retention data to your advantage. Like jokes, when it comes to push notifications, timing is everything! Your retention table will show you when the major drop offs occur. Don’t be disheartened, you now know exactly when users could benefit from a little nudge or reminder to keep using your app and therefore when a push notification will be most effective!

Setup an automated Push Notification campaign triggered when a user first opens the app with actions to send push notifications that fire on the days when the user is most at risk of dropping off.

Increase retention with push notifications - onboarding campaign

If done correctly, this will change, if not eliminate the drop-offs so it is important to continually snapshot retention and adjust the timing of your push notification campaigns accordingly.

Be attentive

Whether opening a mobile app or going on a date, we all know the importance of making a good first impression. As such, UI/UX spend a lot of time on the onboarding flow, which is the right thing to do. However, the real world has an annoying habit of getting in the way. Don’t assume that your onboarding flow will necessarily work for everyone. Users can also get interrupted and might not get round to coming back.

Increase retention with push notifications - funnelSo, setup a funnel to measure how many new users convert through the onboarding process. If you observe a significant drop-off at a particular step, then of course you should review this step and your onboarding flow. However, that will take time (and any improvement will only impact new users who download the updated app). What about the users who have already downloaded the app, but not yet completed the onboarding flow? Well, setup an automated push campaign to target those who drop-off (fail to convert to the next step) within a sensible timeframe.

A gentle reminder to go back and complete that thing we were doing before we got interrupted can be highly effective (and appreciated).

Be persistent (within reason)

All users who downloaded, installed and then opened your app did so because they were motivated to do it. They thought the app would help them with a specific purpose or solve a specific problem and indeed it probably did for a period of time. However, just like the seasons, user behaviour changes and an app that was recently a vital part of someone’s daily routine can find itself unused.

However, their original motivation for downloading the app will likely still be there, so before you consider these users to have churned, create a segment to target users who have not opened the app recently to try and entice them back in. How long to leave it will very much depend on the expected usage pattern of the app. However, obviously, the longer you leave it, the less successful it is likely to be.

Success rates of campaigns such as this may be low and may lead to some uninstalls as some users’ circumstances will have changed and they may no longer need the app for the purpose it was intended. However, every user retained is one less new user you need to acquire and given the relative cost of running such a campaign this is a very worthwhile thing to do.

Be smart

When building your app, you will have considered the personas of the different users you hope will use your app and designed a different user experience relevant and appropriate for each. So, why would you not do the same when sending a push notification campaign?

If you have instrumented your app with custom event analytics and associated attributes with the users of your app then you know exactly which persona a user fits and what they have done within your app. You can use all of this to create different audience segments and send each content that is appropriate and relevant to them.

Increase retention with push notifications - audience segment

You can also give users a say on what content you send them by subscribing them to the different content channels they opt-in to receive.

Whatever approach you take to increase retention with push notifications, remember one-size doesn’t fit all and targeted, personalized content will always out-perform generic, catch-all messages.

Further Reading

For more hints and tips on how to increase retention with push notifications, see this excellent piece written by Cristina Stefanova from specialist ASO and Mobile App Marketing agency, TheTool.

While we have been focussing on Snapshot Retention, in a previous blog post we discussed the different strategies for measuring retention.

If you want to implement the approaches discussed above in your mobile app, the multi-award-winning Kumulos platform contains all the tools you need to measure and increase retention with push notifications. Request a Demo or signup for a Free 30 Day Trial.

Google Play Store Algorithm

Google play store algorithm for recommendations

A recent update to the Google Play Store algorithm used to recommend apps means that what happens after someone has downloaded and installed your app is as important as how they found it. Crash rates, retention and engagement are now every bit as important as ASO when it comes to discoverability.

What happened?

During the second half of June, several developers started to notice a sudden and dramatic drop in new installs of their apps. With free-to-play games worst affected, initial reports were on reddit threads and the unity forums. However, as more and more apps started to experience a big drop in new installs (and the developers of these apps started to realise they weren’t panicking alone), the issue started to be more widely reported. It was even picked up by mainstream media.

Google Play Store Algorithm update

On 29 June, Google released a blog post confirming that there had indeed been a change to the Google Play Store Algorithm used to recommend apps. Titled “Improving discovery of quality apps and games on the Play Store”, the post states the aim of the update is to “help people find and discover safe, high quality, and relevant apps”.

Over the last year, we’ve been enhancing our search and discovery algorithms’ consideration of app quality and user engagement. This means that apps and games that have high retention rates, low crash rates, low uninstalls, and many other factors, are recommended more often.

Recently, we increased the importance of engagement and app quality in our recommendation systems and users reacted favorably to the changes. With more high quality titles being surfaced in the Play Store’s recommendations, people are playing the games they download more often.

So, App Store Optimization alone can no longer be used to maximize the discoverability of your app. You must ensure that your app is a high quality app. But what does this mean in practice? Read on…

Crash Reporting

The first measure of quality is the crash rate. If you only take one thing from this article, then please let it be the importance of eliminating crashes from your app.

Google Play Store Algorithm - Crash Reporting

Kumulos Crash Reporting & API Endpoint Monitoring alerts you when errors and exceptions occur in your app. Kumulos groups together related issues and provides you with all of the information you need to pro-actively prioritize, diagnose and fix issues before they negatively impact reviews, retention, and now  discoverability.

Retention

The next measure of quality is retention. Of the people who download and install your app, how many are actively using your app one, two… seven or thirty days later? Earlier in the year, we discussed ways to increase retention. One such way is automated push notification campaigns timed to target users when they are most likely to drop-off (e.g. five days after install). Key of course to all of this is knowing what the retention rate for your app looks like. Kumulos Analytics will show you seven and thirty day retention and let you drill down to see how this varies across cohorts such as date, platform and country.

Google Play Store Algorithm - Retention

Engagement

Google Play Store Algorithm - EngagementThe final measure of quality (at least as far as the Google Play Store Algorithm is concerned) is how engaged users are with your app. But again, before you can improve engagement, you need to know what it looks like first. How often do people use your app? How long for? When and on what days? What features do they use?

By integrating the same Kumulos SDK that gives you Crash Reporting and Retention rates, you can also get Engagement Analytics that will answer these questions for you.

Google Play Store Algorithm - Conversion

If the answers to these questions are not entirely to your liking, then look at the common user journeys in your app. How many people start a journey? How many complete? How long did it take?  Where do people drop-off? Kumulos Conversion Analytics lets you build funnels to track and optimize conversion through key user journeys in your app to increase engagement (and therefore discoverability).

App Store Optimization

While the Google Play Store Algorithm used to recommend apps may have changed, App Store Optimization remains an essential part of maximizing the discoverability of your app. Kumulos ASO gives you a quick and easy way to track keyword rankings, reviews and star ratings over-time versus your competitors.

In Summary

The change to the Google Play Store Algorithm used to recommend apps is undoubtedly a good thing for us users as it will, in Google’s own words, “help us discover high quality apps”. For developers, Google have simply raised the bar. No longer can you rely on App Store Optimization alone for discoverability. You must also lower crash rates, improve retention and increase engagement to ensure your app is considered to be a high quality app by the Google Play Store Algorithm and recommended as a result.

While there are several products that can help with any one aspect of this, Kumulos is the only platform that, from a single SDK, gives you App Store Optimization, Crash Reporting & API Endpoint Monitoring, Audience, Retention and Engagement Analytics as well as Automated Push Notifications and In-App Messaging. Why? Because we believe that it is the interplay between them all that helps make an app a success. And now Google do too.

Integrate Kumulos into your app and see for yourself with a free trial.

Further reading

This isn’t the first and won’t be the last change to the Google Play Store Algorithm. The successful apps will therefore be those that evolve and adapt fastest. In our post on creating a post-launch plan for a successful mobile app  we examine why this is not new thinking and the lessons you can learn from the web, sport, the military and even Darwin to create a post-launch plan you can execute at speed!

Push Notifications in iOS 12

Push Notifications in iOS 12

Earlier this week, Apple’s annual developer conference, WWDC 2018, took place in San Jose, CA. In response to pressure from shareholders and amid concern over the impact smartphone addiction can have on mental health, particularly in young people, Apple announced a range of features in iOS 12 to help users better understand and control screen time and reduce interruptions by managing how Push Notifications in iOS 12 are received.

Here we take a quick look at the key changes to Push Notifications in iOS 12 and how you should adjust your push notification strategy to maximise conversion.

Do Not Disturb during Bedtime

iOS 12 includes a number of enhancements to Do Not Disturb, designed to help keep you in the moment by eliminating interruptions during class or an important meeting. This includes a new Do Not Disturb during Bedtime mode designed to help you get a better night’s sleep by dimming the display and hiding all notifications on the lock screen until prompted in the morning.

Push Notifications in iOS 12 - Bedtime Mode

This makes it is even more important to schedule Push Notifications in iOS 12 for the right time, otherwise many users may not see them. Kumulos includes engagement analytics that show what times during the day and what days of the week an app is most often used. This can then be used to schedule push notifications for a time when users of an app will be receptive to receiving them (importantly relative to their local time zone) to maximize conversion.

Manage Push Notifications in iOS 12

Another featureof iOS 12 designed to help reduce untimely interruptions is the new “Manage notifications” feature that allows you to more easily control what and how Push Notifications in iOS 12 are received.

Push Notifications in iOS 12 - Manage Notifications

You can Turn Off notifications completely or choose “Deliver Quietly” directly from the notification center. Selecting “Deliver Quietly” will mean notifications from that app will no longer show up on the lock screen, make a sound or vibrate. Instead, they will silently appear in the notification center with add a badge added to the app icon.

Again, this highlights the importance of scheduling Push Notifications in iOS 12 for a time when users of an app will be receptive to receiving them.

Grouped Notifications

Push Notifications in iOS 12, will now be grouped together, reducing visual clutter and making it easier to view and manage multiple notifications at once. This is good news as it increases the chance that users will see notifications from different applications as they will no longer be pushed down by apps like iMessage that send frequent notifications.

Push Notifications in iOS 12 - Group Notifications

This is a good opportunity to revisit the push notification strategy in an app. How many notifications does an app send? Will they be grouped together? Are they therefore all likely to be read? Are important notifications in an app being hidden behind trivial notifications? Perhaps it might be more appropriate to use the badge instead?

Siri suggestions

Siri will now monitor how you interact with Push Notifications in iOS 12 and, if you do not interact with notifications for a particular app, suggest that you change the notification settings for that app to “Deliver Quietly” or “Turn Off”.

Push Notifications in iOS 12 - Siri

This again shows how important it is that the push notification strategy for an app targets appropriate and engaging content at a receptive audience. With Kumulos, you can use channels to categorize the content you send and let users subscribe to content relevant to them and build audience segments to target specific users of your app based on analytics.

The tech industry has been much maligned over its attitude towards its customers recently, so it is refreshing to see Apple put their well-being first, albeit driven by pressure from their investors. iOS 12 will be available in the fall although the developer preview is available now and a public beta program will be available later this month.

Push notifications in iOS 12 can still be an effective way to keep users engaged with an app. However, the push notification strategy for an app must be carefully designed. Send too many notifications and they might be grouped together or delivered quietly. But send irrelevant content, or at the wrong time and they might be turned off all together!

Push Notifications in iOS 12 - Measure Conversion

Think about how to send relevant and engaging content to a receptive audience at a time they will want to interact with it. Kumulos’ Push Notifications feature has the tools to do this and the analytics and reports to measure and maximize conversion.

Signup for a free 30 day trial of Kumulos today.

Mobile World Congress 2018

As day one of Mobile World Congress (the largest mobile conference of the year) draws to a close, we are starting to get a pretty good idea of the trends that will dominate our industry for the year to come.

The much anticipated product launches from the major Android handset manufacturers that traditionally open the show are back once again. This year Samsung (who noticeably sat last year out while they rectified their exploding battery problem) joined in with their latest flagship model, the Galaxy S9, offering a new and improved super-slow motion camera. Nokia have again re-introduced a retro classic in the 8110 (as featured in the Matrix), alongside the ‘unbendable’ (their words, not mine) steel framed Scirocco that runs pure Android. Sony meanwhile has focussed on the gamers as the Xperia XZ2 rumbles in much the same way as a PS4 controller.

While the above are incremental improvements (and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that), some new trends are starting to gain commercial traction (judging by this year’s exhibiters at least). Augmented Reality is breaking out of the box that Pokemon Go inadvertently put it in, with several stands offering industrial and commercial solutions – I fully expect Mozenix to be joining us in Barcelona next year.

Another theme that has a noticeably larger presence this year is Geolocation with companies such as Sensewhere offering indoor location solutions for enterprise and Beacon Inside offering retailers the data that could lead to the holy grail of knowing where a customer is combined with what they want to buy when they are actually there!

As was wonderfully illustrated in the film Minority Report, this could potentially present some problems (assuming you are Tom Cruise) which would explain why so many companies are offering to secure and protect your digital identity online. They are still out-numbered by the number of companies offering App Publishers their holy grail of targeting acquisition at the audience of related apps. Will be very interesting to see if Verizon’s new AOL/Yahoo combo Oath can deliver on its promise of brand safety at scale.

One solution that could solve all of this is of course blockchain (not BitCoin or other crypto-currencies, which are a different thing built on top of blockchain). For the first time specialist blockchain solution providers such as Wallet Services were exhibiting at Mobile World Congress 2018. I expect they will be back and will have much more company next year!

However, as with Mobile World Congress 2017, 5G is once again dominating the overall show. While the actual rollout remains two years away, at least, what is interesting is that the focus is starting to turn towards performance monitoring and management. Not just traditional carrier-level Quality-of-Service Assurance but across the entire… and I mean the entire technology stack!

Over the next three days, I’ll be meeting three different agencies (and there’s another two more on my hit-list) who specialize in helping their clients optimize the performance of the app listing in the stores. Ciqual can tell you the latency your app experiences on different carriers. 51Degrees can tell you what it experiences on different hardware and chipsets. The massive bandwidth of 5G will be of little comfort to a user if their app is crashing.

Which is why Kumulos is happy to be back here on the Scotland stand in Hall 7. From what I can see, no other platform gives developers the complete visibility of how their app is performing technically, how this is impacting their audience and the analytics to power automated, targeted push campaigns to increase user engagement. As a result, I have a very busy few days ahead meeting software development companies at Mobile World Congress to show them how Kumulos can help them win more projects, retain their clients and grow their app development business.

Speaking of the Scotland stand, it was great to see so many other different countries sponsoring stands and bringing delegates that would otherwise not be able to afford to exhibit at Mobile World Congress… Brazil, Columbia, Morocco, Tunisia, France, Denmark… the list just goes on. Economic development agencies around the world provide a valuable service for companies in their country and if you haven’t already done so, I would encourage you to reach out to your local representative.

What was also good to see was a noticeable decline in “Booth babes” as the mobile industry, like others, finally modernizes to align with the times. This doesn’t necessarily mean there were fewer female delegates at Mobile World Congress. It just means that we’re getting close to a fair situation where all delegates attending are there because of what they know and what they do rather than how they look.

However, the biggest thing I have taken away from Mobile World Congress 2018 is that our collective appetite to socialize, do commerce and conduct business within mobile apps is undiminished. From healthcare to enterprise mobility, the growth we have seen in apps shows no signs of stopping. This presents both opportunities and challenges for the software development companies who specialize in building apps. As the space becomes more crowded and clients’ and users’ expectations rise, it is those developers who can demonstrate how they work with their clients to optimize an app once it has been launched who will prosper.

While many exhibitors have commented that footfall may be down on previous years, that may not necessarily be a bad thing – quality of interaction is preferable to quantity of interaction and, judging by how full my calendar is for the next two days, I certainly think that Mobile World Congress is worthwhile attending.

Final thought for anyone who might be thinking of attending Mobile World Congress in Barcelona in 2019… please be aware that Universitat and Universitaria are two completely different Metro stations… much of this post was written on the Metro re-tracing my steps back towards my hotel once I realised!