So, you’ve decided to build a mobile application to reach out to your user base. Good thinking, but have you fully understood the task?
Brands and media tend to underestimate the difficulties involved in building a large user base on mobile. A lot of thought goes into the choice of platform (depending on the target user), the cost of building apps over multiple platforms and other such considerations. However, the cost of distribution is, quite simply, not well understood – despite an increasing number of application options.
The key challenge is the cost of marketing and distribution – the single largest cost in an app strategy. If not planned properly, it can jeopardise the entire business case.
What distinguish a successful app from the rest are a few simple factors. In working with, literally, thousands of developers on Mobango.com, we gained a lot of insight into these issues. I have given below the key factors and some case studies that could help brands and businesses seeking to build applications.
The secret to reducing distribution costs is not buying the cheapest media; it’s all about building a great app. An app that does not engage the user and build a regular user base – or one that’s poorly built – will be very expensive to distribute as the key conversion metrics could fail.
The choice of platform plays a big role, but is not necessarily the most important factor. A mobile site may be more successful than the snazziest Android app in delivering a great user experience.
A recent app that has been very successful for Mobango has been Vringo. It aims to provide users a great video experience through its ‘Video Ringtones’ application. From providing easy search and discovery of videos from a large store to setting ringtones against your contacts, the ease of use has made it one of the stickiest apps of recent times.
The right payment model
At Mobango.com, we pioneered the PPD (pay per download) model for app owners. The mobile platform enables the PPC (pay per click) model to go one level deeper – where the actual download is measured and paid for. This ensures that media spending is more efficient and the vagaries/uncertainties between a click and download are reduced.
Mobango.com, for instance, offers extensive information, reviews, ratings, screenshots and other details for potential users to read and understand before downloading a particular application. This ensures that there is explicit intent to download and use the app behind every download.
Backed by strong analytics, this enables each developer to plan and execute the marketing campaigns well. Downloads can cost an application owner anywhere between 15 cents to $1 depending on the targeting of users. Targeting on mobile phones can be based on several parameters, such as handset, operating system, geography and even attributes of the device – screen size, for instance.
Mind the Metrics
Understanding the key metrics of clicks, downloads, user registration and regular users is critical to managing the campaign.
In reducing the overall cost of building a user base, most application owners use Facebook or Google’s community features so that the communities generate generic downloads. On Mobango.com, we provide a strong set of analytics for each developer to track downloads and their performance strongly.
Developers also need to build campaign-tracking features within their applications that enable them to measure these key metrics.
Shaadi.com is a great case study of a brand that gets these metrics. Shaadi.com measured the success of its mobile site through not just downloads and logins, but by the user-engagement metrics on the app – number of searches generated and even member interactions through the application.
Building the initial user base
Building the initial user base will require some experimentation and driving a critical level of downloads. The owner is the best judge of the number of app downloads required, depending on the target group.
Once a critical mass of users is reached, understanding the customer life cycle and – more importantly – reasons for churn helps understand subsequent campaigns to manage churn and increase the user base.
Every app at launch, if supported with PR efforts, can generate a lot of initial enthusiasm amongst users; using this momentum to build the initial user base is critical. Mobango helped several app owners set up such a base. For example, UC Browser – one of the most popular mobile browsers – has nearly 2 million downloads on Mobango, helping it to establish a large user base. The recently-launched Facebook app was downloaded over 2,50,000 times in 30 days and helped Facebook penetrate the feature phones in targeted geographies in Asia.
Exploiting the social graph
Most apps that we come across today have strong social platforms. While most rely on Facebook and Google networks, some app owners try and build networks around their users. Exploiting the social graph that users have through Facebook or Google is seen by most app owners as critical to their distribution strategy. But the degrees of success around the social graph vary.
Mobile marketing and distribution of applications is serious business today, no longer the domain of evangelists or early adopters. The channels for distribution and the marketing costs are all well understood, and there are numerous case studies that app owners can learn from.
The age of the app has arrived. Make sure you’re ready for it.