Below is the text of a brief email interview conducted with Cezary Pietrzak, Director of Marketing at Appboy, for an article about app analytics that will be published soon to the XDA Portal. If you have any experiences with specific analytics providers, post them in this forum.
What are the most valuable pieces of data that come out of your product? Why? Give examples of how I might get actionable data, make a change, and improve results.
Appboy’s entire philosophy is making data actionable and giving developer tools to drive user engagement within the app. We’re very much against collecting data for data’s sake which is quite common among mobile analytics tools which bombard you long reports and meaningless percent changes. To change this mentality, we start by collecting data on an individual user level rather than on aggregate, because that allows for more flexibility and customization when running marketing campaigns. We then offer a robust customer segmentation product that lets you create dynamic groups of app users across any attribute or in-app behavior. Lastly, we provide a complete suite of messaging tools, a customer support product and HootSuite social integration to influence specific segments and behaviors.
For example, app developers can use an in-app message to drive feature discovery, help customers get through onboarding, and notify them about bugs/issues in the app - something that has helped our clients minimize negative app store reviews. They can also use push notifications to bring lapsed users back into their app and drive regular engagement through timely updates. Many developers forget about the importance of customer support in a competitive app ecosystem, so we provide them with a simple feedback tool to deal with customer issues in a timely manner. And our HootSuite integration lets developers identify their app users on Twitter while enhancing existing profiles with in-app behavior data, which gives them more firepower to drive loyalty and virality.
Appboy’s big-picture goal is to help app developers increase ROI and drive lifetime value of customers, so we’ll continue building features that support this vision and help them turn their app into a sustainable business.
What most differentiates you from your competitors (features, pricing, etc)?
Appboy’s biggest point of difference is our holistic approach to customer engagement. We bring together the most effective app marketing tools on one dashboard, including messaging (push notifications, in-app messages, email), customer support, social and cross-promotion. No company can claim the breadth of our offering nor the benefits that their deep integration brings. For developers, this means managing only one SDK (vs. 4-5) and one standardized customer data set for all of their app engagement needs. Appboy also stands out through its performance-based pricing that is tied to MAUs rather than data points, which aligns our incentives with those of the app developer.
Explain your range of pricing and, if you have a low tier or free option, what features are only available to premium users?
We have a free version of Appboy (complete with all features) available to any app with <10K monthly active users. For those with a larger audience, pricing starts at $199/month and scales accordingly. The reason we use monthly active users for pricing is to properly align incentives, as Appboy only makes money if the app is successful. Most of our competitors charge by data points or API calls, which creates negative incentives to use their tool and collect the proper data. We also have an enterprise product with custom pricing depending on client needs.
Are there any technical aspects of implementation that would be helpful to explain?
On Android, the Appboy client will ship in two parts: 1) an internal jar library exposing the Appboy events and analytics API, and 2) an open source Android library project implementing the Appboy UI and user interactions on top of the API. The open source library will be available as a public repo on Github and licensed with the Apache 2.0 license. With this setup, developers will be able to fully customize the UI/UX of Appboy within their application, while easily keeping up with upgrades and enhancements.
What advice would you give to help make new independent app developers more successful?
Start thinking about user engagement before you launch your app. Once you go live, you only have a small time window to reconnect with the app users you lost before they’re gone forever (on average, apps lose 76% of their user after 3 months). Ask yourself: What is the ideal user flow in your app? Which parts of your apps cause the most friction and drop-off? How can you encourage people to use your app on a regular basis, and how can you incentivize them to come back once they’ve left? What tools will you use to facilitate and automate this task? Because they focus on the long-term, these questions will help you craft a better product and a better user experience from the start.
It’s also important to understand your goals for the app. While some apps may want drive in-app purchases, others are more concerned with time spent in-app and stills others focus on general exposure and branding. These goals often overlap. For example, many app developers are now discovering that monetization is most likely to happen after a customer is happy with the app experience and has spent considerable time engaging with the product.
If you’re interested in learning more about our approach to engagement, here’s a visual presentation we put together on Slideshare that explains it in depth: bit.ly/mobileappengagement.
Related to the above, in your mind what makes an app successful? Why do some "great" apps not get noticed?
Building a great product is table stakes, but it’s only a start. Here some of the important characteristics we’ve noticed among the most successful apps:
Community. Great apps build a community of people who evangelize the app to their friends and across social networks, which drives their growth at essentially no cost. The challenge of community-building is that it requires work, both on the product side - building hooks to make social sharing easy, as well as on the marketing side - systematizing your outreach to customers and encouraging them to promote you. Most app developers don’t invest their time in the latter because they think it takes too long. What they fail to recognize is that the process can be automated across customer segments without losing the personal touch. For example, the smartest apps ask only their most active users to rate them or share them with friends, because they expect a much higher response rate among this group.
Content. Great apps serve great content and make sure it’s always fresh. Most content is served on the product side through the app’s core function (eg latest weather, breaking news, social status updates), but a lot it can be conveyed through various form of messaging. For example, using push notifications or in-app messages to serve micro-content (rather than plain alerts) can drive engagement significantly. Email is also very effective - we’ve seen apps use it to provide their customers with personal stats and weekly summaries of app usage. Giving people something to talk about on social media is also effective, and can be used to bring users back into app experience. When creating content for your customers, think about the story you’re telling and the progression of information, and don’t be afraid to repurpose what you already have.
Context. Great apps have a knack for connecting with people in the times, places and situations where they can provide the most value. They don’t try to be top of mind all the time, because that’s not sustainable. One of the big problems we’ve seen in the last few months is app developers abusing push notifications and spamming their users which generic, one-size-fits messages. This only leads to frustration and encourages people to shut you out. The best apps use location data, behavioral triggers, historical usage patterns and other data to create a very relevant, contextual and personalized experience. For example, Fab alerts you about new sales, Foursquare tells when your friends are nearby and Circa sends notifications about stories you follow.
An “great” app often doesn’t get noticed because it assumes that a great product experience is enough to succeed. That’s simply not true. First, the structural challenge of the ecosystem are much higher than on the web - apps need to get discovered, apps take time to download and apps are easily lost on phone screens. Second, building relationships with people takes time and effort, and apps are no different. If you’re unwilling to invest your time engaging your customers, then you’re inviting your audience to go to a competitor who better at managing relationships.