Four tips for app success from Bolser15 November 2013
I run a digital marketing agency called Bolser, which was founded in 2001. The business has published over 75 apps across 5 platforms, for both global brands and for ourselves. Across these apps, we have achieved more than 6 million downloads. As an independent digital agency we are often asked how we make our apps successful, and it's no mean feat in such a diverse and changing landscape. For us, it's back to basics and down to four key things:
No matter what the app is; whether it's a state-of the-art, highly complex app or an endearingly simple one, making it successful is down to the same core principles. At Bolser we test our theories with our own apps so we don't have to make assumptions with our Clients' budgets. A recent app we developed was 'Keep Calm', which gave us some valuable learning.
Firstly, the app itself needs to be interesting, engaging and relevant to its audience. It needs to be something people want to download in the first place - otherwise no amount of marketing and promotion will ever work. We know painfully how true this is!
We developed the Keep Calm app for exactly this reason. The concept ranked #1 paid for entertainment in iTunes at the time and the propaganda posters and merchandise had just started to take over the UK. We knew it was popular so we decided to put our own spin on it and we designed and developed it for the Windows 8 launch on both desktop and phone. It's a fun app that engages with users, allowing them to personalise their own propaganda posters and save and share them on Facebook.
The app needs to get noticed! It needs to be in a relevant category (which so many apps can get wrong) and have accurate, promotional store copy and amazing screenshots to showcase the main killer features. Follow all the rules meticulously to make sure you do the best job you can here, and be sure to upload your promotional assets when publishing to store so that it stands a chance of being featured.
Once it is discovered, it needs to have great ratings too - more than 3 stars at least or it won't be considered. People do look at reviews and trust the opinions of others so it's vital to encourage users - particularly your active users (as they are your advocates) to leave you a 5 star review. We have recently added in some prompts to our Keep Calm app to encourage this and in just two weeks we have increased our rating from 4 stars to 4.5 stars which in turn is having a positive effect on our downloads and revenue.
We don't have the budget to promote the app by advertising or slick PR, but we do encourage simple sharing on social media as this can be vital for downloads.
Making the app user friendly and intuitive is vital to its success. The key here is to think like the consumer, what are the key user journeys, what device features can be simply incorporated and will your app use them in a way consumers are familiar with? A great tip is to hand the app to someone who has no prior knowledge and see how they get on - 9 times out of 10 they stick at a point you are not happy with. Sort it out before launch! No one wants a one hit wonder and if you get usability right, people will keep coming back to your app, leave it a nice review and maybe even share it with a friend. It's all part of the success cycle.
Every developer wants to make a quid or two - right? There are so many options available now; Freemium, Paid, in-app purchases, advertising etc. Ultimately the pricing model you choose really depends on what type of app you have, what downloads and revenue you want to achieve, how much it has cost you to develop and how much you need to make to maintain it.
For us we learnt that for simple apps like Keep Calm, you need to do this in small steps by building your audience first with a Freemium (taster) version that allows your users to have a great experience and leaves them wanting more. More that they are willing to pay for.
There are no hard and fast rules here. Trials are great if you want to build audience, but getting the balance right of what features to give away for free can be tricky. You won't make money giving everything away but if you get the right model here you've cracked it and people WILL upgrade if you give them enough!
Integrating ads in the Lite version is a popular way to monetise and users tend to expect this now in a free app. We've made a few dollars from in app advertising in the past, but while it's never been enough to pay for a great multi-featured app it's plenty for a simple app!
When it comes to pricing your full product it really comes down to how people will value your app, how useful it will be to them and how it compares to other similar apps in the same category on the Marketplace. It's worth doing lots of research of the market and your competitors first - analysis tools such as Distimo.com are a great starting point and will give you some great insights.