7 Things I Learned at the App Promotion Summit in London

Source: Intel Free Press (https://www.flickr.com/photos/intelfreepress/8389435615/in/photostream/)

It is a badly kept secret that mobile is well on track to become the place for digital developers to focus their attention if they want to reach customers. In the UK, more than 60% of the population own a smartphone with a penetration rate of 88% among 25-34 year-olds. Similarly, in 2014, the use of tablets had bumped up to 37% compared to 5% in 2010.

Given the particular nature of smartphones and tablets, the demand for apps that can adjust and enhance the digital experience on these media platforms is increasing rapidly. However, where there’s demand, there’s likely a supply. In the world of apps that means ample supply! As of June this year, more than 1,500,000 apps were available for download in the App Store, which is an increase by 20% on the year before. That makes for an incredibly cluttered space for app developers to cut through in order to get on that lucrative wave of a roughly 50%-increase in app sales in 2014.

Luckily, practitioners in the field of app promotion are not resting on their laurels. That was the clear message from this year’s App Promotion Summit that took place in London on July 9th with speakers from Google, Facebook, Twitter, Applift, Fiksu, ThinkMobile and a bunch of others. There was a ton of nickable stuff from speakers throughout the day, and here are seven key points that stood out for me:

Hand your app on a silver platter

A person’s attention span is awfully short when we are on digital devices. Our patience quickly crumbles with even the smallest of obstacles that get in the way. The concept of ‘deep-linking’ attempts to remove this problem by sending users (who click a link) straight to the optimal location within the app instead of a mobile site or the app home page. Whether that is a link in a QR-code, a display banner, e-mail, or other avenues, you should make sure that the destination is optimized in order to ensure a good user experience that maximizes engagement and leads to user retention.

Create a discoverable app landing page

While your app is the core of your business, developing a good landing page is well worth a chunk of your time. Especially in the pre-launch phase where you are looking to create an interest in your app and get the quality sign-ups, a landing page that allows the visitor to discover your app and keeps them engaged is paramount. Not only does it help you in terms of SEO, but it also allows you much more creativity in terms of demonstrating functionality and creating the right image and emotional appeal than does the fixed app store environment. Also, a landing page enables you to test things such as videos, layout, wording etc., as the page is entirely in your hands.

Be tactical when asking for app ratings

It is a myth that rating is everything in ASO. However, with fierce competition to get in front of users in the app stores, every little tweak could potentially be what brings you those crucial couple of spots higher up in the ranking. Being tactical about how to ask for ratings is one such tweak. Honestly, how often do you rate an app? Chances are: hardly ever. All too often a rating request pops up almost begging you to rate the app. A better way could be to first ask people if they enjoy using the app.  That initial ‘opt-in’ makes it more likely that users will actually consider your asking them for a rating. One thing to consider if users click ‘no’ is to send them to a mail form where they can submit feedback instead of giving you a low rating. All too often, a low rating by a user is due to misunderstandings or minor nagging problems that could easily have been clarified or solved for the benefit of both parties.

Localize in order to globalize

It is easy to think that the world of apps is one. With only a few app stores and operative systems in the game the entry barriers appear low. However, there are several issues such as market potential, internal resources and, last but not least, cultural differences to consider. This is not the place to break down all the issues, but here are a few questions to consider: How will you accommodate price sensibility and purchasing power across countries? Which languages will you translate your app into? How will you adapt your creatives to different cultures? How will you deal with customer service across language regions? What about licensing issues? Where will it be cheapest to buy installs? There’s no one correct answer to each of these and other questions but it is crucial that you find your right answers reflecting your available resources, organizational culture and business strategy.

User acquisition and retargeting should work in tandem

Roughly 95% of apps downloaded are abandoned within one month. User loyalty is almost unheard of even for the best of apps. While you can incorporate push notifications and emails in your efforts to retain users, they have become less and less effective due to the sheer number of apps installed and emails clogging our inboxes. Retargeting through Facebook, Twitter, RTB, and others, could be a valuable addition to your marketing toolbox. A couple of suggestions could be to promote new features, drive in-app purchases with discounts, deep linking, or engage lapsed users with a free time-limited upgrade. The key is to find out what user activity you are looking for and segment acquired users accordingly in order to retarget the high-potential ones.

TV is indeed for apps

It was probably a moment of realization for many when two commercials for game apps aired during the Super Bowl in February. TV can in fact be a viable part of the media mix for app companies in boosting user base. A TV campaign may provide reach, ‘brand awareness’ and spill-over effects better than any other medium if you approach it with an analytical mindset, rigorous data collection – and the necessary budget (which is probably less than you think!). Everything from the creative over channels and programmes to day parts and costs must be taken into account and adapted as you accumulate various data from install waves during your TV campaign. It requires meticulous management and a deep understanding of planning and buying TV spots for optimal performance, but it is very likely that more app companies will follow suit.

CPI is dead. Long live CPE!

Probably the one statement at the summit that resonated with the audience the most was the statement that “CPI is dead.” A typical key metric when running an app campaign is the cost-per-install, or CPI, i.e. how much do you have to pay to acquire one new user. The CPI metric is comparable to that of CPL (cost-per-lead) where you pay for someone that signs up to your newsletter etc., in that it does not factor the lifetime value of that new lead/user. There are lots of figures out there that vary greatly, but the convergent message is that a very small number of users are the source of the main part of your revenue stream. Consequently, CPI tells you little about the revenue potential of your user acquisition efforts whereas CPE (cost-per-engagement) specified as, for example, loyalty, user activity, revenue, and ad engagement,, lets you control the outcome of your spending much better. Basically, it is the classic ‘quantity vs. quality’ discussion. While I agree with the fact that as the market gets more and more competitive and mature so will the level of sophistication in terms of metrics, I do think it is too early to lay CPI to rest – in particular for start-ups and companies with smaller budgets. Partly, CPE requires a greater degree of data sharing between advertiser and publisher, and partly quality is evidently traded at a higher price. However, just like with buying stocks or bonds, the yield significantly depends on how much risk you are willing to undertake and your ability to outsmart (through marketing, PR, product development etc.) other players in the market. There’s still a place and time for CPI but as the key metric, its days are numbered.