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.
For the second installment of this series, we chatted with Martin Macmillan, CEO and Founder of Pollen VC. Pollen VC is a financial tech platform that gives mobile developers early access to their app store revenues. Martin shares his take on the funding gap in the app stores and why he thinks the rise of a “middle class” of app developers will be beneficial for the industry.
Why was Pollen created?
I first experienced the “funding gap” myself after co-founding Soniqplay, a music remixing app company. We found that it could take anywhere up to 60 days for the app stores to pay out on our sales revenue, and this made it very difficult to build our user base and grow the company.
I looked for a solution with some traditional invoice discounters, but I found that they just couldn’t get their heads around the way the app stores work. Traditional invoice discounters are pretty hung up on the fact that there is no paper invoice from a digital store, even though you can readily access all the required sales reporting electronically.
It was incredibly frustrating because we knew the sales revenue was there, we just couldn’t get hold of it, and meanwhile we couldn’t pull together external funding for our user acquisition campaigns.
However, prior to Soniqplay, I had worked in investment banking as a bond trader, so I understood how credit risk assessment works and that the app store platforms – i.e. Apple and Google – are some of the safest credit risks in the world. I realised there must be a way to link the old world of finance with the new world of digital marketplaces, and help developers plug the funding gap. This is where the idea for Pollen VC came from.
What challenges keep you up at night?
Getting the word out there! Pollen VC is a disruptive funding model for app user acquisition, so our biggest challenge is education. Many indie developers are a little worried when you talk to them about financial issues and many see the mechanics of app promotion as a black box – they think marketing is a dark art so they are put off. It’s part of our job to get them through the difficulties of launching their app or game, and one of the benefits of using Pollen is that it can provide the financial breathing space for a developer to test and hone their monetization and user acquisition strategy, especially during a Beta launch, because they can self-fund this with their own sales revenues.
How does Pollen utilize data to empower developers?
We utilize data in everything we do. Pollen’s core service bases credit assessments on sales data taken directly from the app stores, and this feeds into our customer dashboard where developers can see how much sales revenue is due from the app store. They can then see how much is available to spend, and decide to either take the cash out each week, or recycle their sales into their choice of ad network. We work with many of the leading mobile ad networks such as Facebook and Tapjoy to make it easier for developers to set up accounts which are funded with the developer’s sales revenue, rather than relying on ad network credit lines or raising additional equity. This empowers developers to do user acquisition campaigns, which they may have struggled to fund otherwise.
Lastly, what trends occurring right now in the app store ecosystem are most exciting to you, and how do you think they will pan out?
We’ve seen an emerging “middle class” of mobile developers – this is a segment of the app store which might not see overnight millionaire success or hold the top rankings of the charts, but they are making anything from $5,000-$500,000 per month. We looked at data from September 2014 to April 2015 and noted that there was an increase in the number of developers earning between $5,000 and $500,000 per month, which can only be good news. I think that the app store economy is stabilising, you’ll see fewer and fewer overnight millionaires, and the current set of big hitters will eventually loosen their monopoly on the top spots as their audience growth plateaus. The so-called “middle-class” of app developers will grow as they take advantage of niche audiences and gain better understanding of those customers over time. These are the businesses Pollen VC is helping to grow.
Thanks to Martin for providing us with some more insights on Pollen VC, and how app owners can resolve the funding gap in the app stores.
Check out all Talking Trends posts for more industry interviews.
Martin has 20 years’ experience in launching and building technology businesses in FinTech, music and media sectors, and a prior career in Investment banking as a bond trader. Prior to Pollen, Martin was CEO at Soniqplay, CEO at Level Four (acquired by clear2pay) and a Director of UBS in London, where he ran the short term credit trading group and conceived and delivered UBS’ first client-facing electronic debt trading platform.
Monetizing your app isn’t as straightforward as selecting a price tier these days. Revenue today can come from ads, app downloads, in-app purchases, and even subscription.
Today, Amazon rolled out a totally new way to make money from your Android app – usage. That’s right, not downloads, but usage.
Amazon has several interesting requirements for inclusion in Underground. Here’s the gist:
- The app must already exist and be available on an app store that isn’t Amazon’s (apps can’t be made specifically for Amazon Underground without special permission).
- The app must already be generating revenue (as a paid or freemium app).
- The app must be available for download on at least one non-amazon device.
- You must create a free version of the app, but its gameplay/functionality can’t be different than the original app.
The complete set of requirements can be found here.
If you already have a qualified app jump over to Underground’s Revenue Estimator to see what publishing would mean for you.
85% of Android apps “just work” on Amazon
According to Amazon, 85% of Android apps “just work” when submitted to the Amazon Appstore. That means that the apps you already published on Google Play should “just work” and potentially provide you with additional revenue, especially with Underground.
Amazon has a free testing service you can use to see if your apps will “just work”. Give it a try.
FYI – Last summer we looked into how many developers actually cross-publish their apps and noticed less than 6% of Android developers post to both Google Play and the Amazon Appstore. Amazon is certainly trying to change that with Underground.
What’s the catch?
Amazon has been a bit ahead of Google and Apple with developer tools since their Appstore went live. The main problem is that their user-base, developer-base, and also app-base are tiny in comparison to their competitors. Unlike Apple, Amazon apps are built on Android, which means they can “share” their user-base.
To us this looks a lot like an attempt by Amazon to attract users with free games. It’s a breath of fresh air for users who are getting tired of in-app purchases, and it provides a great incentive for developers to make more engaging apps and games.
if this works (and is sustainable for Amazon) it’d be a win-win for the entire ecosystem.
Talking Trends is a new series of short interviews where we’ll be chatting with our fellow industry folk about the trends and opportunities they’re seeing in the app economy, and how the solutions they’re building empower app makers.
For the first installment of this series, we talked with Adam Ben-David, Head of Publisher Operations at Supersonic. Supersonic helps developers monetize their apps and advertisers to acquire new users effectively. Adam shares his views on the challenges of the market and why he thinks serialized content might be the key to success in the app stores.
Why was Supersonic created?
Supersonic was born with an overarching agenda to help developers grow their businesses. Every facet of the company and team member is passionately focused on this goal. It’s woven into our DNA.
The power and reach of mobile is disruptive. It has paved the way for developers to reach global audiences at the click of a button. But as the landscape becomes increasingly competitive and cluttered, managing growth becomes an issue for many. We believe the mobile community would be nothing without the developers that support it. We do our part by empowering them with the tools to help maximize and sustain revenue. Through Supersonic’s Supply Side Platform and Ad Mediation platform, developers are boosting their advertising and user acquisition efforts across all their applications — generating fresh, new monetization opportunities.
We work with some of the largest app publishers in the industry, but even our smallest indie developers report success and growth. This is exactly why we were created.
What challenges keep you up at night?
We are constantly thinking of new ways to help our partners build bigger and better products. May it be new and engaging ad formats or deeper insight into acquiring quality users, we consistently push the envelope in making the developer’s life a much easier one.
At Supersonic, we like to look at the app development process as you would a diamond. A well cut diamond has multiple faces – each equal in importance and reliant on one another to form a full stone. Monetization is just one face of that diamond. User acquisition another. What really keeps us up at night is challenging ourselves to become a contributing factor to the rest of the developer’s life cycle.
How does Supersonic utilize data to empower developers?
Supersonic’s Mediation Platform collects and optimizes data across hundreds of demand sources, helping our users monetize more intelligently. Real-time ad network analysis and automated reports allow developers to be informed of their campaigns while reaching maximum fill and revenue.
Developers even empower us with data. We analyze then optimize first-party information collected through our developer base and plug it back into our platform. This allows us to create better user-targeting schemes that result in higher engagement and acquisition.
Lastly, what trends occurring right now in the app store ecosystem are most exciting to you, and how do you think they will pan out?
We’re currently seeing a rise of serialized content in the app store. Developers realize the loyalty that comes from users who are engaged through a consistent brand. A familiar and consistent design encourages users to look for similar titles, keeping them active within their sub app store ecosystem. The Angry Bird Series does this well.
We’re also experiencing huge adoption of rewarded ads in F2P apps. Rewarded ads offer end users premium content in exchange for viewing an ad in full length. These formats are re-energizing the F2P model. As IAPs decline, developers look for novel ways to generate revenue while exchanging digital goods for users to explore deeper app content. Many of our developers report increased user retention and LTV after the introduction of rewarded video ads.
Thanks to Adam for providing us with insights. Supersonic is one of the 20+ ad networks we’re integrated with. See the full list here.
Adam Ben-David is the Head of Publisher Operations at Supersonic where he helps developers utilize Supersonic’s monetization tools to build and grow their app businesses.
I’m very excited to announce that appFigures for iPhone is available on the App Store right now!
For the past several months we’ve been hard at work building an entirely new analytics experience that’s designed for mobile from the ground up. Our new iPhone app is centered around visualizing important figures at a glance for when you’re on the go, while also allowing to drill-down and learn more about your data with ease.
Here are some features we think you’ll love:
- View your combined revenue from app sales, in-app purchases, and ads.
- Easily read all your reviews, translated to your language.
- See quick totals for your entire app catalog or just a single app.
- Pivot any dataset by date, product, country, store, and more for easy comparisons.
- Report sharing, offline mode, and more.
There are many more handcrafted features for you to explore so head over and download it now. The app is available for free to all appFigures members, free or paid.
As always, we’d love to know what you think. So email us, tweet @appfigures, or send us feedback right from the app.
Earlier this week Microsoft officially announced Power BI, a suite of custom dashboards that allows users to plug in data from a variety of sources and visualize it with different types of charts and maps.
We’re excited to announce that we’re working tightly with Microsoft to release a Power BI content pack for appFigures.
A couple of months ago, we announced a similar integration with Adobe, and we are planning to integrate with even more service providers in the future because making data accessible is a very important part of our philosophy.
Philosophy aside, when we first got a demo of the Power BI platform a few months ago we were very impressed. Microsoft is known for building enterprise software, full of buttons and ribbons and clutter, but Power BI seems to disobey the legacy and instead provide a smooth experience that offers as much flexibility as it does functionality.
In addition to flexible dashboards, Power BI also offers a natural language search which translates written questions into instant insights. It’s pretty nifty.
We’re currently working with Microsoft to finalize the integration and polish the out-of-the-box experience, and expect the new content pack to be available this summer. If you’re a Power BI user (or feel like signing up for Power BI now – it’s free) and want to help us beta test the integration before it goes live please get in touch.
For years iTunes Connect had a limited number of daily reports it made available. First it was 7, then 14, and as of last week 30. And although Apple also provides weekly, monthly and yearly reports, looking at more coarse data just isn’t the same. Well, it looks like someone at Apple was happy last week, because that limit has been increased to a whopping 365 days. That’s 365 daily sales reports for apps and also for iBooks.
Small but important note: it looks like although the limit is 365 days, as of right now the earliest date we can go back to is November 10th, 2014 (only 176 days).
We’re in the process of importing every available report, so everyone who signed up after 11/10/14 will be able to go back further than 30 days in daily view.
Importing historic reports should not change your all-time totals. Those totals take into account all available report sets.
If you are on a paid plan this will all happen automatically. If you are not, we highly recommend syncing all of your linked iTunes Connect accounts to get all of that historic data. No rush though, you can now take your time.
Amazon’s Appstore has been a small but growing contender in the app store race. In 2014 the store nearly doubled its size. When we started tracking the Amazon Appstore it was only available in the U.S, but since Amazon has expanded to a few more countries. Today we’re rolling out hourly rank tracking for the Amazon Appstore from 10 new countries.
- Great Britain
Earlier today Adobe announced that appFigures will soon be providing app store data to Adobe Analytics. That’s huge news for us and the timing couldn’t be any better, as next week we’ll be turning six!
We work hard to make app store analytics accessible, so when Adobe reached out to us a few months ago we were very excited to extend the data we’re already providing beyond the walls of appFigures. We know that the more data you have the better decisions you can make, and that’s the key to success.
We like working with Adobe for many reasons, but one that is very important to us is their approach to handling sensitive data, which is very similar to ours – your private data is yours, not ours. That’s why we don’t sell or share it with anyone.
Adobe’s Analytics Dashboards provides a variety of marketing metrics, and coming soon, those metrics will include a variety of app store metrics, including: detailed app downloads and revenue, hourly ranks, and app ratings. The integration, which we’re working to release later in April, will be available as a free add-on to all enterprise and publisher accounts.
We’re planning to start testing the integration later this month. If you’re using Adobe Analytics and would like to help with testing please get in touch.
This past weekend marked the return of Netflix’s popular original series, House of Cards for a third season. Having previously established the main character’s interest in video games, the newly appointed President turns to the popular app, Monument Valley to decompress.
The game doesn’t make its debut in the series until the fifth episode, but if anything can be inferred from the Season 2 premiere where over 670,000 people binge-watched the entire new season during the first weekend of its release on Netflix (a figure which accounted for 2% of total Netflix subscribers at the time), the show’s viewers are a devoted group.
We wondered if and how this engaged audience would affect the already popular game. We kept a close watch on ranks data from the weekend:
Note: The grey lines indicate subcategories for reference.
We can see that the effect of the feature during Episode 5 was immediate. Almost exactly 5 hours after the third season became available to watch, the game began to ascend the ranks at lightening speed. This ascent is much more abrupt in iOS than in Google Play where it makes steady leaps. Next, let’s take a look at the Top Paid Overall:
Again, we see a jump right around the time the binge-watchers would get to the app’s feature. This initial climb is consistent and sustained throughout the course of the weekend. Finally, we analyzed the data for the Top Grossing category:
Unlike most popular games with freemium models, Monument Valley is currently a paid app priced at $3.99, with an additional extension as an in-app purchase available for $1.99. The show advertised the game so well that a large number of people were willing to pay upfront to try it out, which is uncommon.
As we can see, such a prominent feature in a leading series proves to be the ultimate advertisement. At this point, the effect is even greater than that we recently looked at for apps that purchased Super Bowl ads – without the large price tag! It would appear as though this is a much more receptive audience.