appStrategy is a series of posts that feature app developers who utilized analytics to make more insightful decisions and get more out of the app store. This latest post is by Peter Murphy the founder of Pocket Prep.
Pocket Prep is an educational app company that creates affordable test prep for a variety of high-stakes exams. With over 150 apps pertaining to 80 different exams, our small team of three uses app store data to make intelligent business decisions each and every day.
EdTech is a funny word. It’s a fusion of education and technology; two things that seem to change and evolve rapidly with each passing day. As developers, we understand the need to stay at least somewhat ahead of the curve, which is no small feat. Throw education in the mix and you have a business landscape whose foundation can feel more like quicksand than anything else. Keeping our heads above the muck requires smart use of data.
Our business at a glance
When I roll out of bed in the morning, I’m grabbing my phone and checking the new (and awesome) appFigures iOS app. Before browsing email or enjoying my morning cup of joe, I want to know our downloads, our earnings, and our users’ reviews from the day before since these metrics are the lifeblood of our app business. appFigures makes this a breeze as it quickly pulls in data from both iOS and Android app stores.
Our business is somewhat simple: we marry awesome, affordable test prep with a robust, lightweight app and market it to the appropriate audience. All of our test prep is created in house and our writers use a home-built content management system (CMS) to keep track of their progress. With many of the more niche exams, there’s less competition in the app world but considerably more elsewhere. Because of this, our apps have to be a cut above traditional learning mediums in order for our business to thrive.
When the good turns bad
Earlier this year in March, one of our more popular nursing apps, CCRN, saw a surge of downloads and revenue. We attribute this surge to our app’s landing page ranking up in Google’s SERPS, which meant more people were finding the app and making the decision to download without the need for advertising. Awesome, right?
What was not-so-awesome was the customer feedback that began pouring in around this time. Several one and two-star reviews from angry customers hammered us on both iTunes and Google Play storefronts, resulting in a big uh oh! moment for the team. Only 1.05% of monthly Pocket Prep users bother to leave feedback, good or bad, so the frequency of these unfavorable reviews indicated a serious problem.
It seemed like our nursing writer had dropped the ball in terms of quality. We immediately turned to our CMS to understand just how far that ball had dropped, and we were quite disappointed in what we saw. Some questions didn’t make sense while others had some serious grammatical issues. I couldn’t believe this content had made it past our editors!
Realizing that we couldn’t willfully sell a mediocre study solution that would probably confuse customers more than aid them, we pulled it down from sale and got to work. After a grueling three-month stint, we ended up scrapping all 600 existing questions and created 400 brand new ones that dramatically raised the bar in terms of value to the customer.
Back in action
As of August 11th, the app is back in the store and downloads are starting to pick back up. Interestingly enough, the app only fell a few positions in iTunes when searching for “CCRN exam prep.” We had expected the app to suffer more of an ASO penalty for being off the market as long as it was. Fortunately, the app returned to its top keyword positions within 48 hours of being reintroduced to the store.
When managing such a wide array of apps, the team here at Pocket Prep relies on data aggregation and up-to-date analytics to stay afloat. Had we not noticed these negative reviews when we did, our brand would have surely suffered. Fortunately, with the help of the tools provided by appFigures, we made the call swiftly and turned a bad situation into a victory.
In 2009, a small Finnish company by the name of Rovio took a flash game that had been a crowd favorite online and turned it into a casual game for the, at the time, very new iPhone.
Fun gameplay, simple controls, realistic physics, and playful graphics combined with little competition on the App Store, tons of luck, and a string of solid business decisions turned Angry Birds into a household name that kids and adults recognize instantly.
Tomorrow, the Angry Birds franchise will be turning five, and to honor its long standing success, we took a look at the twists and turns the franchise took over the years as an educational adventure in App Store survival and triumph.
In this post we’ll be going back to the beginning and cover three key turns that kept Angry Birds’ initial success going and turned it into a franchise: growing a portfolio of themed games; changing gameplay; and partnering. We’ll conclude the post with a few actionable takeaways every developer can benefit from, because there’s pretty much a lesson in everything.
How did it all start?
The original Angry Birds was not an instant success in the U.S.
Before creating Angry Birds, Rovio had produced 51 titles, selling them to companies like EA and Namco. By 2009, however, the company was struggling to remain afloat. To fix this situation, they took matters into their own hands and decided to produce a game all for themselves. With the iPhone being the hot new device, the company opted for a calculated approach, aiming to produce a game that was so simple it wouldn’t need a tutorial and have simple controls that are easy to get started with but take a while to really master to get users engaged faster and for a longer period.
When Angry Birds hit the US App Store in December of 2009, it was flop, albeit a very pretty one. The game didn’t chart well and had little traction, but giving up isn’t how you build a franchise. Rovio realized the big markets were hard to break into, so they focused their efforts on smaller markets such as Sweden, Denmark, and Greece, where they were able to climb the charts quickly.
In February of 2010, Apple first featured Angry Birds in the UK (after months of pressure from Rovio) and that’s when things started to take off.
Over the next five years, the team at Rovio went on to do some amazing work both on and off the app store. The rest of the post will focus on Rovio’s activities on mobile app stores using our app store analytics data going back as far as 2010.
Building a portfolio
Succeeding with one app is hard, but once Rovio built up momentum they realized that their users wanted more. They wanted constant updates. The problem was that in the App Store, every time a new update is released, the game would lose its ranks and ratings. So in 2010, Rovio released Angry Birds Seasons, a title that was designed to update and would attract attention for its ever-changing themes. Shortly after, Rio was introduced, followed by a variety of new titles. Much of the franchise’s success came from expanding to more titles, and as you’ll see later in the post, the addition of more titles created more opportunities and ultimately more engagement.
We’ve sifted through all of the titles released by Rovio in the last five years and will be focusing on the following six in addition to the original. We feel these six apps tell the story of the Angry Birds franchise in a very concise and focused manner, and will let us take you through the major turns Rovio made on its way to app store domination.
From left to right: Rio, Space, Star Wars, Go!, Epic, and Transformers.
Throughout this post we’ll be looking at these specific apps’ data, individually or in aggregate, and highlighting interesting bits.
Expanding to more platforms
Angry Birds for Android was first published through the Amazon Appstore, not Google Play
Angry Birds was designed for the iPhone and the iPhone’s audience, mostly because that was the hottest device at the time. Over the years, that’s changed. Android gained a fair share of the market and Rovio grew as well.
In March 2011, the original Angry Birds game was released for Android. We expected the game to be released on Google’s own app store, Google Play, but it wasn’t. Angry Birds for Android was initially released through the Amazon Appstore. Eight months later, Angry Birds was released on Google Play.
Experimenting with bundles
With the release of iOS8 earlier this year, Apple made it possible for developers to bundle their apps and sell them for a discounted price. On 9/18 Angry Birds: Ultimate Slingshot Bundle went live and went on to top both the Games and Top Overall charts fairly quickly.
Although it charted well and had great reviews, the bundle was pulled just under two months later. Since there’s no other explanation available, it’s likely that the reason for the bundle being pulled is that the new revenue it generated didn’t make up for the loss it created by cannibalizing the individual apps’ downloads at full price.
We can theorize that this means demand for Angry Birds is fairly inelastic, making a price drop result in reduced revenue, but that’s a topic worthy of a separate post in the future.
Changing up the gameplay
By 2012, the birds had started to lose their ranks. Two years is a long time to dominate the Games charts. Rovio anticipated that, and took an interesting approach, producing a game that used the birds everyone fell in love with but in a slightly different way. They sent them to space with a slightly different gameplay that got new and also existing users excited again. The game opened well and held a top 10 position for quite some time.
Changing gameplay is a technique Rovio adopted after the success of Angry Birds Space. The company then went on to make additional bold changes:
- Space (early 2012) – First deviation from the standard gameplay with the addition of low gravity and multiple Planets.
- Go! (late 2013) – Kart racing, Rovio’s first real shift away from bird flinging.
- Epic (early 2014) – Tower defense.
- Transformers (late 2014) Side-scrolling shooter.
Let’s see how users reacted to the new releases:
Of all reviews received by Angry Birds games over the years, only ~10% are critical
The chart above shows the count of star ratings for all of the apps we’ve been mentioning, combined, broken down by their sentiment. To simplify the chart we created three groups: Negative – 1 and 2 star reviews, Neutral – 3 stars, and Positive – 4 and 5 stars. Examining the chart we can see that with few exceptions, the overall sentiment is decidedly positive. We can also see that users were very engaged with every release and gave feedback right away.
Not every release is a hit
While most app launches resulted in mostly positive reviews, Angry Birds Go! was criticized by users, receiving the worst launch by the ratings. Let’s take a look at this title’s reviews as they paint a very clear picture:
More than 40% of reviews for Angry Birds Go! received in the first few months were negative
You can see the first few days received almost as many negative reviews as it did positive ones. A combination of crashes and lack of support for older devices (iPods) caused a ruckus, but the real problem with Go! was that it wasn’t unique. Where Angry Birds created a category of flinging games, Go! simply competed with every other racing game out on the app store.
Rovio also made another interesting move with Go!. A month before the official release, they released an app dedicated to a countdown to Go!’s release, and half of reviewers pretty much hated it. Let’s look at Countdown to Angry Birds Go!’s ratings:
Although Countdown was only available for a short month, it’s very obvious that there was some sort of disconnect. We attribute the negative ratings to a combination of the app adding very little value and also to users thinking that downloading Countdown meant they were downloading Go!,though that was not the case.
Regaining traction by partnering
First there was Rio
By 2011 the Angry Birds franchise was already in full swing, dominating all major markets and being mentioned on and offline nonstop. It was so well known that to promote 20th Century Fox’s new movie Rio, the studio partnered with Rovio to clone the successful title and theme it around the new movie. In January of 2011, Angry Birds Rio went live and climbed the games charts very quickly, a rare occurrence for paid games at that time. Rio eventually turned free once it lost its ranks in 2012. The price drop gave Rio a short-term surge, only to see a sharp decline out of the top 50.
Then came Star Wars
Having built Angry Birds Space, the franchise was now ready for its next partnership. A different game mechanism meant the franchise could clone Space without hurting the original title or Rio. Released in July of 2012, Angry Birds Star Wars also climbed the Games charts quickly, and like the original partnership, the title claimed a spot in the top 50 for more than a year, a commendable period of time.
And then Transformers
We can see a clear pattern here, new gameplay → new partnership. The third installment, and the last partnership so far, is Angry Birds Transformers, a side-scrolling game released in the summer of 2013. Maybe it’s the common gameplay or that unlike with Angry Birds Star Wars, here Rovio introduced both new gameplay and a sponsored theme at the same time, but as you can see from its ranks, Angry Birds Transformers just wasn’t well received, opening in the top 10 but dropping below top 50 within the first few days.
With all three partnerships we can see a similar trend: every time a new app was released, the original Angry Birds gained a rank boost.
We believe developers and marketers can learn a great deal from Rovio’s success. Here are four takeaways we think will help most developers, regardless of the type of app or game they’re building:
- Releasing in smaller markets tends to be easier and can create a strong foundation for moving into larger markets.
- Users like consistency, so when you make a big change, making it very clear will go a long way to reducing frustration and negative app store reviews/ratings.
- Growing your portfolio around a single selling point enables experimenting with new concepts without hurting your main app. It may not work right out of the gate, but don’t let that stop you!
- Partnerships are a great way to get consistent exposure. While major film studios aren’t easy to come by, look for a smaller company or service provider that has a product or a service that can benefit from your app and partner with them.
Since being unveiled earlier this summer, iOS 8 and the changes it will bring to the App Store have been eagerly anticipated, but what do they mean for iOS developers, and how will they affect discovery? In this series, we ask prominent members of the iOS community to share their insights on what to expect and how to stay ahead of the curve, as we explore the Road to iOS 8.
We’ve all been there: downloading an app for a specific purpose, only to find that it isn’t what we expected. We quickly delete it and return to the App Store in search of something else. With the release of iOS 8 later this year, Apple is hoping to make this tired story a thing of the past, letting developers better establish expectations with the introduction of App Previews. The current prominence of product videos in online markets and other app stores mean this feature is likely to become a differentiator among apps in consumers’ minds, and certainly something every developer will want to make use of sooner rather than later. While App Previews hold great potential, creating a compelling video while adhering to Apple’s guidelines may prove to be a challenge. To help you get the most out of your apps’ previews, we’ve enlisted the help of Sylvain Gauchet, co-founder of Apptamin (a studio specializing in creating previews and trailers for apps).
Can you provide some of the technical details behind app previews (when can they be uploaded, do they get reviewed, are there any restrictions Apple has in place?)
As an app developer, you submit your App Previews just like you currently submit your screenshots : when updating your app. Apple’s staff then reviews and approves the submitted App Previews.
Once in place, App Store users will see your App Previews on your app details page where it will be one of the most visible assets.
The format defined by Apple for an App Preview is pretty specific:
• Device specific (if your app is for both iPhone and iPad you need an App Preview for each)
• Up to 30 seconds
• Composed mainly of device-captured footage (video screen captures)
• Shouldn’t look like an ad (not too flashy, not too salesy)
• One localization
•640×1136 for the iPhone, 900×1200 for the iPad
•1080×1920 (or 1920×1080 for landscape mode) are OK too
If you’re interested in leveraging video on your app details page, make sure to read Apple’s guidelines and to watch the WWDC session on creating great app previews (along with some examples).
Can you give us some tips for getting started, with these guidelines in place?
There are several ways to create an App Preview that follows Apple’s guidelines. You can do the screen captures how you see fit (using HDMI captures, Reflector) and use your favorite video editing tool (if you have one).
With iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite, Apple seems to make it quite easy to do with their tools..
1. You can capture the device footage by using the lightning connector, your Mac and
2. You can edit the captured footage in iMovie or Final Cut Pro X
3. You can then submit your App Previews via iTunes connect
Video production can get expensive which may send some developers down the DIY path. What are some Dos and Don’ts you can give those developers?
The key to creating a great app preview is more or less the same as for any video you’d create to promote your app.
You need to write a script before getting started. Define what your goal is and what your app preview should include. Start by writing an outline (you can use your app description as a starting point then boil it down to the most essential benefits) and then define all the data you’ll populate (or the specific parts of gameplay you’ll show) before recording the screens.
In your App Preview, you want to focus on what’s magical about your app, as well as on the core benefits.
When writing your script, make sure you respect Apple’s guidelines, at least until we know what kind of flexibility will be allowed.
– Don’t make it look too much like an ad
– Don’t show unimportant parts of your app
– Don’t forget to mention it when showing features that require in-app purchases
– Don’t forget to define your goal when producing your video
Besides that, you probably want to have a “testing approach”: the same way you experiment with your app screenshots on the App Store to see what converts more, you want to get a sense for what works best for your App Preview. Which means you’ll have to test and optimize different App Previews, for example with variations on the features/benefits shown, length, voice over, text, music and the “poster frame” (video thumbnail shown in the App Store).
Some App Preview examples:
Here are a few App Previews we’ve done so far at Apptamin. You should also take a look at the ones Apple showed during the WWDC session on App Previews.
What are some potential limitations you can foresee?
In some cases the App Preview format, and the fact that it has to be composed primarily of screen captures, will make it hard to show an app in its best light, especially for apps that require specific gestures, that use the accelerometer or that interact with another device (a connected object, other iPhones, etc.). Sometimes the best way to show an app is to show how it is used in its context.
That said, it’s great to finally see video on the App Store. Even if you still need other types of videos to showcase your app, you will have to pay attention to App Previews from now on.
We’re looking forward to seeing how creative developers will be to leverage this new format and get more engaged customers!
How do you see App Preview affecting downloads in the App Store?
In terms of downloads, I think it will depend on the app itself. I believe that video is the quickest way to assess an app and therefore people will sometimes look at the preview to make up their minds rather than actually downloading the app. However, if they like the preview and decide to download it, this will most likely result in more engaged users.
What type(s) of apps do you think will benefit most from having a live preview?
App Previews should especially be useful for paid apps. Also, for apps in which data is key; seeing the app populated with data will help new users get a better sense of how useful the app can be.
Games are another type of app that should benefit from App Preview. It can be hard to figure out how the gameplay is going to be with static screenshots, and a video will go a long way. Especially if it’s well done.
Do you have any experience with videos on Google Play? If so, can you talk a bit more about their effects there and how you think videos will play out on the iOS App Store?
The situation is a bit different on Google Play, as there aren’t the same format limitations as there are for the App Previews, which means developers can truly show their app the way they want (a good or a bad thing depending on their video production skills and budget).
What we hear from our clients is that Google expects you to have a video (in order to get featured, for example) and it will be interesting to see how much Apple pushes developers to create App Previews.
Regarding download numbers, it’s hard to isolate the impact of video on the Google Play Store, but it’s clearly one of the most visible assets on the page and a good video can convince a user hesitating to download an app.
If other app stores are anything to go by, App Previews are poised to become a differentiator among apps in consumers’ minds, and likely to have a profound effect on discovery in the iOS App Store. In the coming months, having a well-made App Preview may go from luxury to basic necessity. You can best prepare by checking out Apple’s guidelines and WWDC session, learning from examples, and following the advice of video experts like Sylvain.
Thanks to Sylvain for giving us some pointers on making our first app preview video and helping us better prepare for iOS 8. If you haven’t already, be sure to check out our previous installments on App Bundles, and Improved App Store Discovery, and check back for the final chapter in the series where we’ll be hosting a roundtable on what iOS 8 means for indie developers.
Sylvain Gauchet is the co-founder of Apptamin. Apptamin produces app videos and game trailers for developers, startups and companies. Apptamin also has a blog with content on how to market an app, including the iOS App Marketing Guide.
Since being unveiled earlier this summer, iOS 8 and the changes it will bring to the App Store have been eagerly anticipated, but what do they mean for iOS developers, and how will they affect discovery? In this series, we ask prominent members of the iOS community to share their insights on what to expect and how to stay ahead of the curve, as we explore the Road to iOS 8.
In case you missed it, Part I: App Bundles.
With several discovery improvements coming to the App Store this fall, including the return of vertical scrolling, live app previews, Safari’s built-in app search, and store trends, Apple has thoroughly stirred the pot. The implications these changes will have on how your apps are found and downloaded are anything but certain, but one thing’s for sure–the more you know, the better prepared you’ll be. To shed some light on what’s coming, we’ve called on Ouriel Ohayon, co-founder of Appsfire and a well-known industry expert. He was kind enough to share his insights on app search and discovery.
Ouriel, can you review the big changes the App Store will see in in iOS 8?
The App Store is going to enjoy some nice cosmetic changes but the core is actually not going to change much. To start, Apple is going to remove one of its less useful features, Near Me, which unsuccessfully replaced the inadequate Genius feature. Instead they’ll introduce a much more interesting section named Explore, that lets users dive deep into curated lists of apps which are grouped logically by theme.
Apple is incrementally improving search by enabling vertical scrolling in lieu of the painful-to-the-thumb horizontal scrolling and showing two screenshots at once instead of just one per result.
Video previews are another interesting addition, but for now I am taking the position of “let’s wait and see”. Apple is playing catch up with Google Play with videos that are restricted in their duration and what content they can contain.
But the core remains the same; editorial features and top charts will continue to be the main driver of discovery and point of entrance to the App Store. Not a word on whether the ranking algorithm will remain the same (ie: based on download volume and velocity) making it very easy to game.
More importantly, instead of moving the App Store towards a personal, more tailored experience, Apple is keeping the experience the same for everyone. In my opinion that’s the most important change the App store has to go through to make everyone happy.
Finally, one of the most important app discovery improvements is not in the App Store, but in iTunes Connect. Keeping developers informed about their app usage analytics, and where their downloads and engaged users are coming from is a massive step forward. This is the kind of thing that will make developers aware that discovery is the result of marketing efforts that need be constantly adjusted and improved based on the data. No more blind spots (well, except that Apple conveniently won’t provide analytics related to in-Store browsing and search).
Safari in iOS 8 has a built in search for apps. How do you think that will help discovery?
Apple is introducing app search in Safari and also in Spotlight. Apple does not have a great track record of providing great search experiences, especially in the App Store. I am sure it will contribute to more discovery, but I doubt it will be significant. That’s mainly because most people who search in Spotlight and Safari are probably not doing so with the intention of finding a new app.
How do you think Apple’s return to vertical scrolling will affect apps that aren’t in the top 5 for their keyword?
We already know it, most mobile users have little patience and a short attention span. So an additional tap is a chance to zap to something else. I think the vertical scrolling experience is much better, but I don’t think it will dramatically improve the discovery of apps beyond the top five or ten spots. What I would love to see (but Apple isn’t introducing) is the inclusion of smart filters based on price, taste, app types, etc.
How do you see app bundles affecting discovery (ranks, reviews/ratings, etc), and do you see one app being very successful resulting in more bundle downloads due to a higher rank?
App bundles are a great idea. Apple played a nice card here, but bundles can only include paid apps. It is indeed a great way to improve the discovery and sales of paid apps. I wish they extended it to free apps too, but that doesn’t seem to be a part of Apple’s agenda.
Do you think “app previews” will change the way consumers evaluate apps? And, should developers even bother?
Certainly so. But it mostly depends on how much freedom developers will have to produce high quality videos. My understanding is that app previews should not be a commercial but more of a short preview, leaving very little room for voice overs, elegant transition effects, feature summaries, etc.
Ultimately we’ll have to see how developers embrace that feature too. I don’t think anyone will really know how videos affect their sales conversion until Apple provides analytics on video views.
Thanks to Ouriel for sharing his insights to help us prepare for iOS 8. If you haven’t already, be sure to check out our previous installment on App Bundles, and come back next week for the next post in the series where we’ll be covering App Previews.
Ouriel Ohayon is co-founder of Appsfire.com, a global mobile native ad and marketing solution provider for app developers, as well as Isai.fr (early stage fund). Ouriel is an investor in eBuzzing, Outbrain, Eyeview and Ginger Software, and founded the French version of TechCrunch.
Since being unveiled earlier this summer, iOS 8 and the changes it will bring to the App Store have been eagerly anticipated, but what do they mean for iOS developers, and how will they affect discovery? In this series, we ask industry veterans to share their insights on what to expect and how to stay ahead of the curve, as we explore the Road to iOS 8.
In the first part of the series we’ll be shedding some light on App Bundles, a relatively little-discussed feature of iOS 8, which could become the most significant new way to monetize iOS apps since in-app purchases.The ability to sell app bundles opens up great opportunities for developers, but is sure to bring with it a new set of challenges as well. To help you make the best of it we’ve enlisted the help of our friend and industry veteran Joe Cieplinski from Bombing Brain Interactive. Joe has been keeping close watch on app bundles since day one and was kind enough to share some of his insights with us.
What type of apps/developers do you think will benefit most from bundles?
I think indie developers who mainly target the paid up front model stand to benefit most. Game developers, big social media and other corporations who mostly give their apps away for free, stand to gain less from this. They could use bundles, I suppose, as a method of cross promotion, or to charge a small up front fee for multiple apps instead of doing everything as a freemium model. But I think the big winners here will be smaller indie companies who are still selling their wares to smaller audiences at an up-front price.
How do you see bundles affecting discovery (ranks, reviews, etc)?
You could use bundles as a fairly effective cross-promotion tool. We have the “related” tab on the app store, but I wonder sometimes how many people ever look to see what other apps a particular developer has made. With a bundle, there’s a financial incentive to look at what else might be on offer. Again, it helps if your apps are related to each other. Bundling a game with a notes app might not be very effective. But you never know. I’m sure developers will come up with all sorts of creative ways to use this new feature that we haven’t thought of yet.
As far as discovery goes, I do think that the financial incentive to at least glance at a bundle is a heck of a lot stronger than the one to scroll down a list of fifty or sixty search results. Reviews are always tough to get, but I suppose if you sell an app to the kind of person who writes a review, and you can sell another one to that same person, then that other app has a better chance at getting another review.
Rankings might actually get worse for smaller indies, because this may be the strongest incentive for the big, high-ranking apps to use bundles themselves. They could easily crowd people out of the top 100 by bundling ten of their own apps together and getting them all on the top lists. Top lists are never going to be a good place for smaller indies to concentrate their efforts. It’s a lost cause.
Can you provide any technical details behind app bundles?
Apps in a bundle must be from the same developer. So no bundles between developers. (I’d love to see this change, but that rule has been stated clearly.) Bundles are also iOS only at this point. Can’t bundle iOS apps with Mac apps, even from the same developer. In addition, a little birdie tells me (this hasn’t been publicly disclosed yet, and it could be wrong, or Apple could change its mind, but I get it from a solid source) that bundles cannot include an iPhone only app and an iPad only app. In other words, you can’t use a bundle to sell the same app’s iPad and iPhone versions. Same device class only. So two iPhone apps. Three iPad apps. Five Universal apps. etc. Which is a real bummer, if it’s true, because I thought that would be one of the major benefits of bundles to indie developers. My guess is that Apple doesn’t want to give us an incentive to not make our apps universal. They also don’t want to confuse customers, or have customers buying apps for devices they don’t yet own.
Do you see bundles as working better for the same app on different devices (iPhone, iPad, mac) or for different apps for the same device?
As I mentioned in 1 above, it doesn’t look as if Apple will allow us to bundle apps for different devices. We know for sure this won’t happen between Mac and iOS, and that makes sense, given that it could confuse customers who might buy a bundle on iOS without even owning a Mac. With iPads and iPhones, I suppose Apple would make a similar argument. That a customer on an iPhone might buy a bundle, not realizing that the second app is iPad-only, and they don’t own an iPad.
Again, I hope Apple changes this, or that my source is wrong on this matter. But I have a strong feeling this is accurate info. Maybe if bundles prove to be very effective, Apple will find a way to expand the program over time.
How do you intend to take advantage of bundle pricing for your apps? And do you think there’s a good guideline to follow when pricing bundles?
At Bombing Brain, we have our Teleprompt+ app, which is already universal. We have a new app in development, meanwhile, that many Teleprompt+ users may find very useful. So we intend to sell this new app on its own, as well as inside a bundle with Teleprompt+. That way, we can reward our loyal customers who have already purchased one of our apps by offering a discount on this new app, essentially. Because, if my understanding is correct, there is a “complete my bundle” feature, which allows customers to pay the difference between what they paid for the one app and what the total bundle would cost.
This is a huge thing. It’s a massive incentive for indie developers like us to be thinking about targeting our new product ideas toward similar audiences. Which is good business, anyway. But Apple is making it that much easier for us, and I think that’s great.
Obviously, it needs to be cheaper than buying the apps separately. I wouldn’t make it less than buying either one of the apps on its own, either. But anywhere in between could work, depending on your audience. The nice thing about bundles is that you’re not discounting either one of your products. You’re not cheapening the product itself, or making people think your software is worth less. You’re simply offering a reward for buying more than one app from the same company. Customers can see clearly what they would have paid for the apps separately, so they know exactly how much of a reward they are getting.
Thanks to Joe for sharing his insights and providing some protips to help us prepare for iOS 8. Be sure to read the complete App Bundle guide from Apple, and check out our next installment on The Road to iOS 8: Improved App Store Discovery.
Joe Cieplinski is a lifelong musician and technology nerd, now living in Manhattan. He is currently developing UX and Graphics for Bombing Brain Interactive, an iOS and Mac OS X development company. Joe is the creator of x2y, an aspect ratio calculator, and Fin, a timer for live performers, both for iOS. Joe is also the co-host of Release Notes, a podcast about iOS development. Follow him on twitter @jcieplinski.
A few months ago we began strategizing with Moms With Apps, a community of Kids’ App developers. Like appFigures, MWA strives to help developers succeed. MWA and App Friday co-founder, Lorraine Akemann, has played a vital role in our recent outreach efforts within the developer community.
We love connecting with our members to find out more about your needs. With that in mind, we reached out to Lorraine to get her perspective, as both a developer and a community organizer, about how developers can use appFigures, and data in general, to find the insights that matter. Her findings were so interesting, we’ve decided to bring them to you in this three-part series:
Today’s kids are tech savvy, and app makers realize that family-friendly content is filling a growing niche. As independent developers turn their apps into businesses, they rely on data to help chart their course. What circumstances can change an app’s rankings? Which country generates the most downloads? Which day of the week is most popular for sales? You name it, app developers want to track it.
I interviewed several app makers from the Moms With Apps community about how they use data. Three main themes emerged: 1) analyze past data to chart historical trends, 2) monitor current data to evaluate visibility, and 3) synthesize past and present data to adjust future business strategy. In this article I will illustrate key points from each theme with specific developer testimonials.
1. Tracking sales to refine the target market
“Our initial wave of apps is targeted at occupational therapists (OTs) first, and parents second. Two years of sales data indicates that OTs buy apps primarily while they are at work, Monday-Friday. Dexteria Jr. is the first in our second wave of apps, and we are trying to transition our targeting to parents first and OTs second because the parents market is 10x the size of the OT market. Studying the recent data allowed us to confirm that the strategy is working; our traditional weekend sales dip is being mitigated by weekend purchasers of Dexteria Jr.” Frank Jensen, Dexteria
2. Tracking profits over time
“Recently, data from appFigures led to a crucial change in our company priorities. We tracked the percentage of our profits that come from educational purchases, and saw a clear increase over the past two years. Because of that, we’ve just released the Motion Math: Play Pack, a single game bundle that teachers have requested.” Jacob Klein, Motion Math
3. Tracking downloads by country
“We have been getting substantial downloads from China, but relatively little sales. We used appFigures to identify the trends from China, to compare it’s monetization against other markets we sell into, then make some decisions on how much effort we should invest into China as a market.” Andrew Kao, Puzzingo
Lorraine Akemann is co-founder of Moms With Apps, a collaborative network of developers who create apps for kids. After launching her own app in 2009, she recognized the need for knowledge-sharing and cross-marketing to help gain exposure in the App Store marketplace. Lorraine’s advocacy and efforts are focused on supporting apps that are designed to respect children and families, and her partnership with the Association for Competitive Technology is based on bringing best practices in online privacy to the forefront of kids’ app development. You can find Lorraine on Twitter @momswithapps
appStrategy is a new series of posts that feature app developers who utilized analytics to make more insightful decisions and get more out of the app store. Our first post is by Michael Sacca the founder of Tiny Factory.
Bilingual Child was a side project for us that quickly became our main focus for the better part of the last two years. After the initial success we began experimenting with what else we could do with our early language offerings and found some interesting results.
Testing the Market
We launched Bilingual Child right around Christmas of 2011 as an early English to Spanish learning application. This was our first iOS application that we’d ever launched and the first application in the ‘edutainment’ space.
Upon initial launch we saw a good number of downloads come in from China, Saudi Arabia, Ireland, France & the Philippines. The downloads were decent, but the sales on our in app purchases were lacking (Downloads were free and in app purchases were initially 1.99 per book for additional content). We were making an average of .03 cents per install compared to .16 cents per install in the United States.
We were generating interest but because we were translating from English to Spanish our users weren’t interested in purchasing our content.
We knew they wanted to learn one language or the other, but the dependency on both was shrinking our target market.
In order to scale language education internationally we needed an app that was native language agnostic instead relying on translation.
Building For The Wider Funnel
We set out to create a new game that could teach basic English & Spanish vocabulary in any country in the world — regardless of their native language.
We used the same branding, icons and sprites we’d developed for the original game but created a new way to interact with them instead of choosing the vocabulary word once, we made a game where the children would consecutively pop bubbles connecting vocabulary words with their icon multiple times per level.
This new version didn’t rely on a native language and instead taught through immersion so anywhere in the world we could teach English or Spanish.
In a matter of weeks we had a new game in the app store. Upon release we drove our average revenue per install up to .09 cents in those same countries, almost tripling our value showing how much revenue we were leaving on the table by not offering the right product for the market.
The “More Apps” Button
Once our new applications were launched we created a funnel to drive traffic from Bilingual Child to our new suite of apps.
We finally had something to offer our users in addition to our flagship application and they were eager to check it out.
Utilize what you have, chances are you’re not taking full advantage of what you’ve already built.
On average we have 400 visitors traveling through it per day. These were pre-qualified users who are interested in early language education and already enjoy our applications so we saw immediate traffic coming to our new apps which helped to instantly boost their ranking in the app store.
Determining Our Best Selling Days
By analyzing our appFigures data we were able to determine that our best sales days were coming in on Monday and Thursday with Saturday and Sunday always steadily higher than our week days.
We knew that any marketing we did would be most effective on these days so we focused on what we could do to capitalize on this. We didn’t have a large marketing budget so we had to get creative.
Weather Triggered Marketing
When we thought about what drove our sales we took a step back and considered when a parent might download our app. What a better time than a rainy day where kids are stuck inside all day with nothing to do.
Using AdMob’s targeting tools, we ran ads in locations that were experiencing bad weather at the beginning of the day when parents typically take young kids to the park before nap time and again in the late afternoon when elementary schools were getting out.
This allowed us to reach parents when they most likely had their children inside and were looking for ways to entertain them.
This technique not only led to more sales but allowed us to utilize our limited marketing budget at the exact times when our customers were likely to download and use our application.
Growth hacking is about finding creative avenues to get the attention of your audience in strange and effective ways
By taking advantage of the momentum we had already built, reusing assets to quickly create a new experience & some creative growth hacking we were able to add an additional 10k in profit over the last 6 months.
Michael Sacca is a designer, writer & entrepreneur. He is the founder of Tiny Factory, a digital product company based out of San Diego, CA. He has released six early language education apps for kids in the iOS market. You can check out his latest projects, Brandisty.com for app developers to keep their branding in one place and growthtracker.io a goalboard for growth hackers. Follow him on twitter @michaelsacca