Push Notifications are the one of the most effective ways of driving recency, frequency and higher mobile app engagement. Used well push notifications can drive up to 20% greater app engagement, reduce attrition and drive more profit from your apps. Research from our friends at Netmera, shows that push notifications an drive up orders by as much as 180%. Check out their infographic.
But just having push notifications installed within your app isn’t enough to guarantee success. You have to work at it. How successful you are at driving users to enable push notifications at first install (30% success is a good number) and how you drive push notification campaigns is what will make a difference.
1. Relevance of Push Notifications
Delivering the right content, to the right user, at the right time is one of the most important drivers of success from your mobile app. For this to be effective you need to carefully segment your customer base and use intelligent segmentation tools to build different customer groups. You then need to build the specific rules that will deliver that relevant content to that segment when they are most ready for your content.
2. Buying Preference
Know your customer and you’ll sell to that customer. Using analytics to understand their historic behavior and how/when they have consumed a push notifications from you in the past. Its likely that different market segments will react to and interact with your push notifications in different ways. Modelling your push automation systems against this behavior will have a huge impact on the engagement you’ll get.
3. Driving Intent into the purchase phase
Engaging someone just as they hit the intent to buy with a well targeted offer is one of the best ways to drive them to buy from you. A well targeted push notification just after they have been browsing your products and services but not bought will give you a huge lift in your sales funnel. There are many push notification services with powerful cross platform engines that can drive very clever re-marketing campaigns.
4. Not every metric is born equal
Its always tempting to measure and judge success based on the measures most easily available. More important is to study and understand what the true purchase lead indicators are and then build your measures of success around those. Be clear what part your push notification programs play in that buying funnel and ensure that the metrics you are using analyse push notification activity results against the specific objectives you set. Be clear that it is push notifications that are driving that and not other factors. A/B testing where you have a control group receiving no push notifications is probably the most effective technique here.
Treat this as an ongoing exercise. Its important to continually measure and refine your push notifications campaigns to make sure you optimize their effectiveness. Buyers behavior changes – your push notifications need to continually adjust to fit. It also important to continually raise the bar of what you expect. Complacency is death to progress.
Push Notification Services have come a long way in the last few years. There is a broad choice of Push Notification Services out there to chose from. Some are very strong at rule base automation engines and intelligent algorithms that are great at predicting behavior and intent. Others are incredibly strong at analytics and segmentation. Some focus hard on delivery with sms fail-over or virtual in-box technology that keep the push notifications visible longer. No one covers all areas. Which one is best will depend on many things, including the size of your data set and most probably how deep your pockets are.
Whether you’re looking to find a new push notification service or are one of the many now looking to migrate away from Parse Push this could help. We take a look at the best push notification services for mobile apps. We are deliberately not just taking the obvious push notification providers, but review the more established alongside some cool players less well known. With any mobile app, push notification services right is critical to drive ongoing engagement and success of your app. Research shows a huge link between the recency and how frequently an app is used and its monetization.
Push Notification Services are one of the best ways to keep users interested and engaged. Push notification services have come on a lot in recent years. The degree of personalized content you can now push at users is staggering. But as the saying goes, with power comes responsibility. Push notification services have to be used carefully and not fall foul of overly enthusiastic marketing departments. A push campaign that’s too noisy will drive folk from your app, either making them “unallow” push notification services or worse triggering uninstalls.
First, they can be highly targeted. Many push notification services allow detailed segmentation based on demographic, behavioral or location based targeting. So the information being pushed to the app user can be highly relevant. Offering a special discount coupon triggered by i-beacons – delivering an offer right at the moment the potential customer passes a competitor’s retail outlet, for example. It can also use cleverly configured analytics to predict when a user’s loyalty could be slipping. Catching them early, bringing them back into the app is shown to have a huge impact on retention. Minimizing app attrition is one of the biggest challenges mobile apps face, so even small reductions can deliver huge value.
Aberdeen Group’s research shows that mobile apps using a precision push notification service can drive a 20% rise in customer engagement.
The second reason why push notification services work is they are 100% permission based. The challenge, of course, is to get push notification services enabled at first install. But get this part right and you’ll be in a great position further down the track. Some say as little as 30% of apps are installed with push notification services enabled. But when push notes are on they’re telling you they’re receptive to push notification messages and they’ll stay receptive, particularly if you keep push notes highly targeted.
So what are the best push notification services for mobile apps out there?
Before you chose which is right for your mobile app project, its important to know which analytics packages the push notification services integrate with. In our top 8 we’ve picked those with a broad suite of analytics integrations, the likes of Flurry, Adobe Analytics, Amplitude, Mixpanel, Localytics and of course Google Analytics.
Kumulos Push – Best Push Notification Services
Kumulos Push is the only Push Notification Service that is purpose built for Mobile App Development Companies. As such it has a range of features that are specifically designed to help make App Developers lives easier, and help them get more apps that they build on monthly retainer. It doesn’t aim to be as full featured as the specialist stand-alone systems. What it is, is a push notification service that offers a good balance between ease of use, functionality and price. It gives the choice of using it stand alone with an existing mobile backend platform, or already integrated within the Kumulos mBaaS platform. Either option also lets you give your mobile app clients access to their own push notification dashboard that allows them to run their own push campaigns and measure the results.
There is also the option of an automated monthly report. This is typically offered by Mobile App Development Agencies to their clients as a service on monthly retainer.
This is one place that Kumulos Push scores highly. Fixed monthly pricing fits well with mobile app developer offering Push Notification as a Service to their customers. Its quota free. $25 a month gives you unlimited numbers of push notification messages and unlimited numbers of devices connected to the service. It also has a 60 day free trial period.
Carnival – Best Push Notification Services
Carnival seem to offer one of the best balanced push notification services. It caters for the needs of developers and the marketing team that will be running the push notification campaigns. Too often push notification services are bias towards developer’s needs, so it’s good to see Carnival getting the balance right.
The things they are doing with push notification services is very very interesting, rich messaging in particular is cool.
Their push notification service offers rich messaging, pretty granular audience segmentation, message automation that includes time-zone (and language) settings and narrow geo-fencing targeting and user behavior analytics that can be automated and sent directly to your inbox.
Push Notification Pricing
This looks to be a closely guarded secret so best to email them if you want a demo or to find out if your project can afford them.
Catapush – Best Push Notification Services
Catapush’s push notification services could be an interesting option if you want to include reliable push and SMS into your mobile app projects. They are the only Push Notification platform with a proprietary XMPP IP channel for delivery. They offer SDK’s for Android and iOS. It has a RESTful API. That said it does offer some interesting features. For example, delivery status tracking and failover to SMS when the app user has lost data connectivity. This gives the option to send an SMS using the standard protocol even if the app isn’t currently installed on the phone. Pretty useful if you’re trying to win back lost app users. That said, not sure how this fits with permission based push notes and how invasive this would feel to the user, so best used sparingly.
As for analytics, this isn’t integrated but accessed through an API. The stats appear to be very centered around note delivery, so less useful to analyze and drive more granular campaigns.
Push Notification Pricing
There’s no free in-use tier with Catapush’s Push Notification Service. Pricing is in Euros for this Italian based company, there is no US $ pricing. Entry price is €29/month (plus purchase tax) for up to 2,500 subscribers. For that you get to send an unlimited number of push messages. More information on their pricing page.
You’ll need to ask them about pricing for the SMS service.
Streethawk – Best Push Notification Services
StreetHawk’s Push Notification Services have good platform coverage iOS, Android, Phonegap, Xamarin, Corona, Telerik, Titanium. They say, and it seems to make sense, that if apps don’t use deferred deep linking properly it can lose 70% of its users day 3 from the first install. So StreetHawk put a lot of emphasis on this within their “Growth Offering”. But their real strength comes in their “Engage” offering. It offers impressive features around segmentation and lifecycle management, highly configurable push notification services and rich in app content. Their iBeacon and geo-fencing functionality is also worth a close look. Possibilities here to keep app users engaged makes streekhawk a very interesting push notification platform.
StreetHawk lets you focus effort on the most valuable app users with some interesting “viral analytics” and some pretty cool engagement automation tools.
Churn within any app is inevitable, but if you can use push to help reduce churn, particularly among your most valuable app users, or use it to increase use frequency of less engaged app users then its value will be immense. StreetHawk has real strengths here.
Push Notification Pricing
StreetHawk’s push notification pricing is one of the more complicated plan structures out there. They set their pricing out based on what you are trying to achieve. Best just to browse streethawks price page for yourself to see if it’s for you.
Urban Airship – Best Push Notification Services
Urban Airship goes beyond what you’d typically describe as a Push Notification Service. It positions itself as a mobile engagement platform offering an impressive array of features including of course push notification, but also a very user friendly message center, fine grain segmentation configuration and location technology including beacons, geo-fencing, location history and location targeting.
This makes Urban Airship a pretty powerful in app marketing automation platform that allows highly targeted (if done right highly relevant) real time customer experience. Also the message configuration settings help prevent spamming the app user with too many push notes.
The analytics package is pretty impressive too. It can give a real insight into what activities, push, in app messages or whatever, are driving the desired behavior. Knowledge is power after all, but its how you use it that counts, of course.
Push Notification Pricing
In terms of plan pricing, Urban Airship keep their Push Notification Services a secret. That’s rarely a good sign. If you need to know the price, you probably can’t afford it.
PushWoosh – Best Push Notification Services
PushWoosh positions its push notification services more at the development community. Highly configurable, loads of great features, but not that friendly out the box, compared with other push notification services. But it comes with a big user community of mobile app developers so your not going to be short of programmers to help you out.
With a technical solution you won’t be surprised to hear that there is a huge list of platforms and formats that PushWoosh works with – it covers 19 platforms in all. By far the most comprehensive of any Push Notification Service platform. Android, Blackberry 5-7, 10, Windows Phone & 8, Nokia Asha, Amazon, OS X, Chrome, Safari, WordPress, Cordova (phonegap), unity, Adobe Air, Marmalade, Corona, Appcelerator Titanium, Xamarin, PhoneGap build and Trigger.io
Push Notification Pricing
Pricing looks decent also with a good free tier, albeit only allowing very limited functionality. But at $49 a month used well it should more than cover its cost.
Xtify – Best Push Notification Services
Always tempting to discount push notification services once their bought by a tech monolith. Xtify was absorbed by IBM (Push.io was bought out by Oracle and merged with their Marketing Cloud offering a while back also). What you lose in access and engagement with the software company you gain in security and the fact that if you go for Xtify (or Push.io) you can be pretty sure the push notification services will be around in a few years. With other providers there’s always the risk that you have to replace your push notification services if they go out of business.
Xtify offers the standard set of SDK’s, and one of the few offering it for Blackberry. It allows you to target either simple or rich text html push notifications. It also offers a “persistent” notification inbox, which is pretty neat. So messages stay visible until they are read or deleted. It also offers a scheduler that can be configured on time-zone and location. It’s also one of the few that lets you integrate with any existing CRM data, so gives a more complete view of customer’s full contact history regardless of medium.
Push Notification Pricing
So it’s from IBM so it’s not going to be the cheapest option for push notification services. It’s not easy to find out pricing, which probably tells you what you need to know in terms of cost.
Quick Blox – Best Push Notification Services
It offers the choice of a shared cloud or dedicated instance. The cloud instance is pretty fast to get going. It offers simple drag and drop configuration to get the SDK into your app code as well as copy past credentials from the QuickBlox dashboard.
Push Notification Pricing
Its free tier gives you 20,000 monthly active users and unlimited numbers of push notes. That said it throttles those to 20 per second. So could be OK for retail location based apps maybe where instant volume isn’t critical, but for a high volume app where you’re wanting to push out large numbers of push notes all at once it can get pricey. You could be looking at pricing in the range of $49/month to $219 per month for the shared cloud option. Up to $2,399/month if you need more than 500,000 monthly users.
Appoxee – Best Push Notification Services
Appoxee is now integrated within the Teradata Marketing Applications offering. Its push notification service is part of a comprehensive range of mobile marketing tools which includes Campaign Builder, Push Messages, In-App Messages, Personalization, as well a smart algorithm that learns the best time to send the push note based on past user engagement.
They offer SKD’s for the usual platforms iOS, Android and offer an iOS Thin Push option.
It offers some interesting in-App plugins, including an Inbox/newsfeed option that behaves as if it’s an inbox within the app. Messages will be more persistent and less likely to get missed with this plugin.
Push Notification Pricing
They offer 3 plan types, Starter, Pro and Enterprise. The Starter plan is pretty limited in what it gives you, with a pretty basic push and in app messaging service. Automation, custom inbox, personalization and deep linking are only available if you take the Pro Plan. Whereas the algorithm that learns when is the best time to send, is only on the top tier Enterprise plan. Go to their website for to find out more on their pricing.
Looking to Migrate from Parse?
If you are one of the many that’s now faced with moving their Parse mBaaS to another service check out the Welcome Terms that Kumulos is offering Parse Developers.
In marketing these days, virility is everything. Why spend thousands on a TV advert that people are most likely to switch off of when you can make something catchy, post it online and bang, you’ve got hundreds of thousands of people talking about you and your company. Just look at Psy (remember him?); despite Gangnam Style seeming to be an accident, it really was nothing of the sort. Go back and watch the video with a neutral eye; it has all the hallmarks of an incredibly clever plan to hook people in.
It’s got a catchy tune, a singer that looks and sounds unique (to western audiences anyways), he’s doing all kinds of zany things that you instantly want to mention to your friends and, of course, there’s a dance that’s as silly as it is fun and easy to learn. Package all that up and you have one of the biggest cultural phenomenons of 2012.
There was no good reason not to share Gangnam Style, and as soon as the shares and the likes started coming, they carried on in a state of perpetual growth. This is the power of social proof at its finest.
Incidentally, Apple understand the power of social proof all too well. Their products are expensive, deliberately so. Sure, the build quality is solid, but that’s no reason to charge an extra $300 for a computer with, let’s face it, average specs for the price. It’s the same with the iPhone. Compare it to any flagship Android currently in terms of tech specs and it falls flat on its face; and yet iPhones are consistently more popular overall. Why is this? To those who value performance over pure aesthetics, it can be baffling; but it’s simple really. Apple is premium, Apple is expensive, and Apple is social proof that you only buy “the best”. It’s the same reason why people buy Sony products for their living room even though, objectively, they are no better than other big manufacturer’s efforts usually.
It’s all about proving yourself to be cool, in the end.
And if you’re trying to market online, this is something you need to tap into. Recent research by Sinan Aral has found that by posting a link that’s already supported by a few likes or other shares, he could artificially boost its popularity by up to 32%. This is supported by the idea that, generally, we want to share things that are positive and/or if they are negative, they’re funny about it. After all, no one wants to be seen as a constant downer.
So if you’re marketing your latest app, bear all this in mind, you never know what will become the latest viral sensation. And if you’re still developing your app and you need a Mobile Backend, look no further than Kumulos.
It’s hard sometimes, as an app developer, to see where certain markets in the app market can go past a certain point. For example, you may want to create an app that finds local bus times for users, but there are hundreds of those already in existence; heck even Google Now does that these days. Is there a way to innovate such a niche and already cornered market? What about an image taking/sharing app that isn’t Instagram? Where can those apps go that hasn’t already been done before? What can you as an app developer do that will get people interested in what you’re creating when they’re likely already quite happy in their own little app worlds that they’ve made for themselves.
It’s the same in the instant messaging world. With Facebook, Whatsapp, Vine, MessageMe, Poke and all the others all vying for attention in various different ways, how do you as an app developer even begin to create something that’s useful, familiar and innovative in the messenger market?
(UPDATE 2017: The Talkz website redirects to an app on the Google store which lets you make Facebook stickers talk and hasn’t been updated in two years. Also notice how there’s mention of Snapchat.)
Well, Talkz, an app that’s just recently been announced at TechCrunch’s Disrupt NY conference, is wanting to change how we message forever.
How is it going to do that?
Well, it wants us to stop typing and start talking. What does that mean? Well, the app allows for every type of sharing you can imagine, so messaging, pictures, video, voice etc, but it’s the voice messaging that’s really putting them on the map as something to watch out for. Every textual message sent is accompanied by a voice message of the same text. At the moment the only voices available are Obama, W.Bush and Romney, but there are apparently big plans for getting celebrity endorsements.
But how does this actually work? What are the “voice clones”?
Talkz uses a very clever piece of voice recognition software that, over time, as you send voice messages, learns your voice. It learns your inflections, your tone and the overall character of your voice until it can create a fairly close replica of your spoken voice. That’s the voice clone in action; where eventually, you can send a text message and it can be read out as a voice message, in your voice, using your own little nuances and inflections as it does so.
Of course, there’s a major market here for celebrity voices and the creators of Talkz are already in negotiations with various, currently unnamed, celebs to get clones of their voices to sell to those using the app. Just as celebrity and other specialised ringtones were the biggest thing in the late 90’s and the start of the 2000’s, Talkz is looking to become the next wave of that particular area of the mobile world.
Combining with that the ability to send videos, doodles, pictures and even arrange chat hangouts (welcome, the chatrooms of the 21st century), Talkz has essentially got every base in the messenger market covered, and by the looks of things, has it covered well.
The sticking point in the whole operation is of course the voice cloning and whether it takes off or not. But having seen the massive viral success of the game Moon Lab Alpha, where users have created hundreds of hours worth of videos on Youtube of weird and wonderful sounding conversations created by the text-to-voice in the game; it could be the Talkz with its celebrity voices could generate a good amount of traction, if even for people to have ridiculous sounding conversations with.
Ultimately Talkz is an example that with enough creativity, an app developer can create a solid app even in markets that are seen to be pretty well full. The key here is, as always, having a good idea and a solid app design plan and implementing that plan properly.
Despite phenomenal growth in the last few years, the Mobile industry has remained, in some areas, quite marginalised. As much as mobile ad revenue, for example, has expanded at a crazy rate; it still only accounts for less than 10% of the total ad revenue takings across all advertising properties. This has confused more than one app user, where it seems to be standard issue to have ads floating around every free app you own. How can something as common as that not generate massive income? Well, it was largely about a numbers game, and for the first time, mobile apps aren’t just a big part of where audiences are going to, it’s becoming the place where audiences go.
Aside from also challenging TV veiwership numbers, app useage numbers are now roughly equal to those who are using laptops and PCs. This is something of an amazing statistic when you realise how common it is for households to have 3 or more computers that are regularly used. But the data doesn’t lie, and according to the mobile market researchers Flurry, there are now 224 million app users to 221 laptop and pc users out there.
App usage is also starting to dwarf more traditional types of media consumption options. Flurry found that during the “prime-time” hours of 7-10pm, there were on average 52 million people using ap
As the above graph shows, app usage is strong throughout the day, with the gradient going up until about 9-10pm where it starts to tail off. Interestingly, unlike other forms of media, weekday and weekend usage didn’t change an awful lot, with weekdays still getting 75% of the usage of the weekends. This points to the flexibility and portability of smartphones and mobile devices being a key component of their success. You can use any app you have, any time, anywhere. This causes much more consistent usage than say, TV, where you’ll get massive spikes and troughs, and maybe newspapers, where you get probably big spikes of use around breakfast and lunch, then a steady trail off into nothing by the evening.
But to even hit the number of 52 million simultaneous users, you’d have to combine the prime time viewing numbers of the 3 top TV shows and the top 200 in circulation newspapers.
So clearly, apps are becoming the thing when it comes to grabbing an audience, which means there’s no better time to be an app developer. Your app could be part of the 500 “prime” apps used across smartphones and tablets in that 52 million person spread. And the only way to make that happen is to get down to business and develop that app.
Sometimes that can be tricky though, especially if you need a Mobile Backend and don’t know how to program one effectively. Well, fear not, because that’s where we at Kumulos step in with our Mobile Backend as a Service. Made by app developers, for app developers, it’s designed to make creating a Mobile Backend for your app that much easier.
Advertising in this day and age isn’t the somewhat simple task it once was. Whereas it used to be you had 2 main mediums, Newspaper and TV and you just had to bombard your readers and viewers, now things are quite different. Keywords, SEO, targeted advertising and the rapid expansion of the web search and mobile sectors have complicated matters hugely. Now a website or business can be pulling in thousands of pageviews, but still getting very little in the way of actual revenue from their customers.
A short while ago, IREP released data on the advertising revenue for all media in 2012:
Print media is spiralling, flaming and smoking, downwards across the board. TV advertising is also starting to see quite noticeable drops as users move from television as being their main screen. Internet search is, predictably, on the rise; with Google snapping up massive sections of that income from every other search provider out there. Of course, the biggest rise in ad revenue goes easily to mobile, with a 29% increase over 2011. That said though, mobile ad revenues are only some 2% of the entire media revenue spectrum.
The numbers of translations in mobile advertising are also very low still. Despite there being an over 100% increase in the number of pageviews and an almost 70% increase in the number of regular site visits, the revenue pulled in has only grown by 29% overall. That’s a massive disparity between the number of “users” and the monetisation of said users.
This, however, is sadly nothing new in the world of mobile.
As we talked about a little while ago, the world of monetisation in mobile apps is a constant problem. Making your app free to download does mean that you are likely to be able to pull in a good number of users quite quickly, but the problem is getting them to stay and getting them to pay.
After all, how do you get people to pay for something they initially used for free? A subscription? Microtransactions? Paygates? Each one of these methods poses its own problems.
The same is true for the modern advertising world, especially in mobile.
You have a massive number of users flocking to websites that are currently not optimised for mobile viewing and can’t target mobile users effectively with advertising because of this. So what to do? Well, they can take the route of the Washington Post, who have been reported to be considering adding a paywall to access the majority of the website, but paywalls tend to act like diversions and they are likely to lose readership. Freemium subscriptions work better, but they tend to have low uptake.
Many websites have started to move towards responsive design, where webpages automatically resize themselves depending on which device accesses them. This is heavy duty work for a CPU though, and whilst cutting edge smartphones are getting much more powerful, the majority of people do not own something that’s bleeding edge and so this will still cause problems.
As an app developer you will share much of the same problems. Monetisation of your app is hard, but very important. And proper management of your apps budget is also highly important, choosing what you spend on can make a big difference.
We talk a lot about the app market and mobile industry here at Kumulos (Backend as a Service), and we’ve more than once talked about how in terms of devices, the mobile sector is still going very strong. Across the board sales of smart-devices have been increasing, and there will be an estimated 1 Billion smartphones shipped in 2013 alone around the globe. The IT sector in general has been doing very well, with steady, if not stunning, growth across the last few years.
After all, it was apps that made the original iPhone the success it was, and they are what continues to drive the mobile industry’s push. And yet we more rarely hear about just whether app developers should be happy or concerned.
Well, with a study just released by app and mobile data analysts Flurry, it seems that app developers can rest easy, the app economy is only growing.
As you can see, when all the separate bits and pieces are put together, apps vastly outweigh browsers on smart devices as the most used software. That 80% is of the average time (2 hours and 38 minutes apparently) spent on a smart mobile device, which is a sizeable chunk of a user’s day spent inside the appiverse (is that a word? Should it be?). By comparison only 20% (or 31 minutes a day) were actually spent inside a mobile browser.
Game apps continue to be the biggest apps in the industry, claiming a hefty 32% of the users time and in a statistic that will surprise no one Facebook has the next highest usage numbers with 18% of users time spent in the social network. Flurry CEO Simon Khalaf has wondered in the Flurry blog whether Facebook is also turning into the users browser of choice. As so many things are now linked through Facebook it is quickly becoming a hotbed for mobile browsing without ever leaving the Facebook app. “We can assert that Facebook has become the most adopted browser in terms of consumer time spent” he said, also adding that Mobile has “become Facebook’s biggest opportunity”
On top of this Flurry has found that daily app launching numbers, at least in the US, have increased year by year. In 2010 Q4 the daily app launch number was 7.2, in Q4 2011 it was 7.5 and in Q4 2012 it was 7.9.
To anyone paying attention, those numbers point to the fear slowdown of the app business being, at least for now, unfounded. In fact we appear to still be growing year on year, and that’s an incredibly positive thing to know for app developers everywhere.
Mobile and web based marketing is now one of the largest advertising areas in the world, and if you’re not part of it, you’re going to have a bad time in promoting your business. Don’t believe us? Businesses that have a mobile app can see up to 26% more business come their way, even if they are not a major chain or well known brand, and Google, well, do you think they became one of the biggest tech companies in the world by having a colourful logo?
But the world of mobile and web marketing is a tricky and labyrinthian place, full of potholes and paths that seem like good ideas but are in fact not. So how to go about it? Well, first we’re going to take a short look at what NOT to do.
First off it’s important to realise that the techniques of old that relied on brand led advertising have lost much of their power.
This graph from Forrester (click the image to expand) shows pretty clearly the way consumers are moving in the advertising world. Brand led, push style advertising is almost universally distrusted, and especially by European customers.
Instead there has been a fairly dramatic shift into the zone of “self regulated” advertising, where consumers no longer just engage with whichever company has the coolest ads. Consumers these days have multiple, internet connected devices and are picking and choosing which advertising they wish to listen to and which they don’t.
So how do you target consumers?
Well it’s no longer a game of telling them to come to you, but to instead put the word out that you and your brand are the best out there and then let them come to you. Content marketing is the new king of the hill in terms of active advertising. So getting good reviews or even mentions on popular, trusted websites like TechCrunch, Mashable, Forbes etc is going to be much more effective than having obnoxious pop-up ads online or pushing your brand through your app.
The most effective way to market via mobile or web though, is to do something that will get people talking about and engaged in your brand.
A good example would be Lynx (UK) or Axe (Everywhere else) Uruguay and their mobile campaign to promote their newest fragrance. They placed pictures in magazines of beautiful models but with all the “assets” blocked out in by white boxes. If customers wanted to complete the picture they would have to text “Axe” to a certain number listed on the printed ad and then they would be sent the completed picture to their phones.
Aside from being a clever way to get customers to engage directly with the brand, the marketers at Axe clearly understood that such a campaign would be talked about amongst friends and would spread awareness of the new fragrance organically as people became curious about completing the adverts’ pictures.
The best kind of marketing is where the user chooses to become involved in it, and if you’re setting out on the path of mobile advertising, and especially through your own app, you need to think carefully about what strategy you’re going to use.
You also need to think about how your app is being supported once its out in the world. If it needs to access databases of any kind, where are they going to be stored, how are you going to manage them?
Having a mobile app idea is like a plot for movies or novels these days – everyone has at least one good one in them. The problem is that most people will never take those ideas further than drunkenly telling their friends the details during a weekend night out.
This means though, that you and many other people could be walking around with a potential gold mine of an idea just languishing away at the back of your heads. After all – how will the rest of the world know how good your idea is unless you bring it to fruition?
That’s why today we at Kumulos are going to give you 4 steps to taking that app idea out of your head and getting it into the app stores.
1. Market Research your Mobile App Idea
This stage is crucial.
Go out and look at what other apps exist right now in the app stores that are similar to your idea.
Ask yourself a few important questions:
How many apps are there? How popular are they (how many downloads)? How do they monetize themselves? Are their developers indie or big developers?
By doing this, you can start to get the lay of the land around your mobile app idea and also start to have an inkling of how successful your app in its current form will be. And here’s the kicker, if you find an app that’s doing the same already – why not take the best bits from their app and combine them with your own idea to make an even better app?
This is likely to give you a major leg up over the competition, as many people will go for the app that is “The same, but better.” if there are already a few apps in the same genre.
And if you feel bad about using someone else’s idea, just remember that the late Steve Jobs was once quoted as saying:
“Good artists borrow, great artists steal.”
Seems to have worked out ok for Apple.
When you’ve finalized your idea, try Microtesting your app. This involves setting up a simple landing page that looks like your app could be bought from it, but there’s obviously no app to be bought. Once that’s set up, run a short and cheap ad campaign to let the market know you exist and then track the clicks on the download button.
It’ll give you a hint as to how much interest there is out there for your particular idea.
2. Plan your mobile app idea out
So you have the basis of a good idea, fantastic! Good for you!
Now what you have to do is take that anomalous, ethereal idea, pull it out of your imagination and start to mould and sculpt it into something actually resembling an app.
To start this process, decide what OS you want to develop for and why as this will impact every design decision you make afterwards.
For example, iOS is more strict about UI design but has the payoff of iTunes users being more likely to pay for a premium app. On the other hand Android’s open source style allows a large amount of creative freedom with app development and free apps supported by advertising have been shown to be powerful money makers in their own right.
Whatever OS you decide on, after this comes the actual planning out of the app design itself.
What will it look like? How do you imagine the UI working? What is the core feature and how are you going to implement it?
Even if you don’t know know exactly how it will work when it’s on a device, just having a plan will make you feel like the project is real and also having answers to these 20 important questions it’s also going to make it easier to brief a mobile developer.
3. Find a developer
This one only applies to those not looking to also develop their own app ideas, but as more and more people who have no programming experience get into the app world it’s becoming increasingly common that this is a stage in turning app development ideas into reality.
After your planning stage it’s time to start looking for a developer to outsource the actual development to.
Whatever you decide to do, it will help you greatly if you have spent as much time as possible clearly outlining exactly what you want in your app. What’s essential to you, what’s non-essential but desirable and what you could live without. The more detail you can give in your initial pitch to the developer, the happier both of you will be.
Now there are plenty of app developers out there who use our mobile backend as a service in many of their app development projects, but who you use is largely dependant on your own personal choice.
You’ll want to pay attention to the reputation of the developer, do some sniffing around and see if there are any standouts, both positive and negative, in your searches. Also, despite them usually being much cheaper, we would recommend you use caution when looking at foreign app developers from say, India or China.
Some of these may indeed be quality developers, but the number of cautionary tales of people being sent nearly broken source code, apps with the wrong features or app breaking bugs and the developer then being near impossible to contact are all too common sadly.
Once you’ve tracked down a developer you like and also have an idea of how much they’re likely to charge, then it’s time to think about funding.
4. The Money
Money is what makes the world go around, and it’s probably why you’re developing an app in the first place, but to make your app happen, you’re going to need to have some the foot the development bill.
Now this will be anything from under $150 – $5000+ depending on how complex your app is and who’s developing it.
How do you get this money?
Well, that’s entirely dependant on what your financial situation is.
If you’re comfortable, maybe you can foot the bill yourself, or perhaps you and a friend can combine resources and they can be the co-developer of the app?
If you’re needing more substantial amounts of money, you can try out Angel Investors. Inc.com has a list of Angel Investors and also a guide on how to catch their attention.
Another option would be perhaps to try crowdsourcing the money, but with hundreds of new apps popping up all the time, you’re going to need a truly fantastic pitch to draw in the money. Still, it’s not impossible, and remains a viable option in the right circumstances.
Hopefully these tips will help you get that app idea into production.
“Be prepared”, the Scout’s motto for generations, and despite it being a piece of old wisdom, it is still prudent advice today. “Fail to prepare, prepare to fail”. As an app developer, that advice is just as helpful. Understanding the lay of the land is essential when developing your app, so Kumulos (Backend as a Service) have put together a short list of the top four areas where doing your homework will let you avoid many of the common pitfalls of app development.
1. The app concept
When you’re creating a new app, it’s very easy to be sucked into beginning the process of creating. From your initial app idea you and your team have sprouted great variations and features and the designer is churning out amazing looking initial UI pieces. It’s only then do you find that someone else has a popular app doing to exact same thing, and marketed in the same way you were planning on. Do your research and be aware of the market conditions.
Your original app idea may seem to you to be the most original, unique app concept you’ve ever heard of, but it’s a good bet that if you’ve thought of it, someone else in the world has had the same idea. So it pays to do your research before setting off to create your new app. Look around the market place, whether Google Play or the App Store, and see whether your idea has been done before, or if the market area (say, organisational apps) is already saturated.
If so on either count, try to think of ways to make your app idea stand out. A new twist on an old trope may be just what the market is looking for. Either that or maybe take the app in the different direction, perhaps find a niche that hasn’t been fully tapped yet and your app could fit right into.
2. App design
The design of your app, how it looks, how it works, how it feels, is at the centre of whether people will like it or not. And again, by doing your research you can make sure that your app will work exactly the way you want it to.
Looking at case studies of other apps, reading literature on app design and investigating similar apps to your own idea will help give you an idea of what customers are expecting in terms of UI and design, which in turn will help you avoid falling into the design traps that your competitors may have. Like the late Steve Jobs said, “Good artists copy, great artists steal.”, and if you see a feature of another app that you like but think “We can do this, but better.”, you’re very likely on the right track.
Researching app design isn’t just for making a better app though; it can also help you get it published in the first place. As we mentioned in our blog on App Design, the iOS App Store has some pretty stringent rules on the design of app they will approve for publishing. If you’re new to iOS development, we would definitely recommend that you check out these rules here before you go ahead and submit to the store. You never know, it may just save you a boat load of time. The full list can be found on Apple’s website here: https://developer.apple.com/appstore/guidelines.html
3. Money and the Marketplace
We said in #1 that researching your market was important for ideas; well we’re going to add that market research is just as or even more important when it comes to making money from your app.
For example, you’ve found a niche market waiting to be tapped in app design, but before you go ahead and put an app there, try looking around at the other apps in that niche and find out how much they are making, or whether they’re successful.
There may be a good reason why this niche is relatively empty, it may just not be profitable. The last thing you want to do is condemn your new app to an early grave by uploading it into a space where it’s not going to be found or bought.
Research will also help you in how you monetise your app. There are many different ways, standard purchase, subscription, freemium with adverts, freemium with micro-transactions, and more. Deciding which model best fits your app is a tough choice, but by researching other apps and seeing how they monetised successfully and unsuccessfully in the market you’re hoping to break into will give you an edge before your app even lands.
Budgeting for developing an app is hard. There are many variables and factors to consider, first of which being the initial costs of developing your app. This is where using numbers from previous projects can save you time and make your budget estimate more accurate.
Looking at numbers from previous projects can tell you right off the bat what your usual initial costs, (man hours, software, licenses etc) were, and as so long as your team hasn’t changed much since the last project, it will give you a good indication of where to set a foundation from which you can build from.
The same can be said for risk assessment. By researching the data from past jobs, you will see essential things like whether your team stayed within their time frame, what problems are most likely to occur, how the scope changed and how you managed it and ultimately whether you stayed on budget. All of these can be great indicators of what to expect with your risk assessment when budgeting and, again, will let you assign a foundation number that you can then work from to tailor it to the project.
With all of these examples the importance is always that forewarned is forearmed. By using the data and knowledge that is out that, you can make a better app, and do better business, which is our primary goal here at Kumulos when we provide you with a Backend as a Service.
Why not sign up for free and see what advice we can give you towards using data to your advantage?
Also, we’re hosting a webinar tomorrow. It will be starring our CEO Mike Romilly and it will be all about doing better business as an app developer.