Quality App Advice from the Experts

adviceThe app ecosystem is filled with those who offer unsolicited advice; urging you to make certain changes, cater to a certain audience or follow a certain app monetization path, for instance. Most of the time, this advice comes from people with very little experience, and even less success. Our unsolicited advice for you: Take their advice with a grain of salt.

Instead, we suggest to listen to your users, as well as the proven experts – many of whom were on hand for the annual MobileBeat conference that took place earlier this month. With guests like Google’s Global Head of Performance Media, L’Oreal’s Vice President of Ecommerce and Multichannel Business, and Walmart’s Senior Vice President of Digital and Mobile, there was no shortage of unique insight.

Here were four key themes/takeaways that caught our attention:

#1. Customer retention first, new users second

Getting consumers to notice and download your app is only half the battle with mobile app success. As Google’s Global Head of Performance Media Jason Spero said, “Use the foothold of the app install as the starting point of the conversation with the consumer, not the end.”

In other words, success comes from retaining and engaging your customer after they’ve already downloaded the app – not from the download itself.

One of the many ways to do this is by creating an app with features that can be integrated into someone’s daily life. Spero uses the example of GrubHub, which simplifies the user’s experience with a click-to-call functionality, and saves his payment credentials and remembers his food preferences. It doesn’t have to be life-changing; it just needs to make their lives better in some regard.

#2. Stop being so app crazy

To expand on his point about customer engagement, Spero made an interesting point about mobile apps— maybe they’re not necessary. He said that 50 to 75% of companies would benefit from a well-designed mobile website to cater to customer needs.

“Does everything need to be an app?” he asked. “We need to invest in the experience on the mobile web, not just apps.”

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Applause Empowers Enterprises to Deliver Winning Mobile Moments

mobile-momentsEveryday, we all experience hundreds of moments during which we engage with enterprise brands though mobile apps.

I’ve traveled a lot after spending a decade with Forrester Research leading their enterprise mobility research and consulting practices. Nearly two million miles in fact on my primary carrier alone.

Thinking back about all my travels, I engaged with airlines via mobile moments that span my trips – from pricing itineraries, to booking flights, to selecting seats, to checking in, to selecting meals when traveling first class, to checking flight status, to identifying the gate, to boarding, to consuming media, to logging onto WiFi services while 30,000 feet in the sky, to checking my miles balance post-flight, to booking rewards travel.

Each of these interaction points represent mobile moments that all enterprises must master, whether in travel, retail, media and beyond. Enterprises must serve customers in their mobile moments – or else watch as their competitors do. I blogged previously about how a 360° app quality approach aligns Applause perfectly for what I used to – and Forrester still does – call the Age of the Customer.

As my former colleague Ted Schadler described it to The Wall Street Journal:

“When we don’t immediately find what we want, we turn to our phone or tablet and look for a service that can help us directly: Twitter for sharing, Uber for car services, YouTube for entertainment, Google Maps for finding the best train to Florence, Instagram for photo bragging, Lose It for calorie counts before ordering lunch, Yelp for restaurant recommendations, OpenTable for booking a table at that restaurant, and so on, with the help of a million apps and 200 million websites.”

I joined Applause because of the massive opportunity that lies ahead.

The opportunity to define – and lead for years to come – the App Quality Management market. The opportunity to disrupt the software testing landscape. The opportunity to engage with some of the brightest and hardest working talent on the east coast and around the world. And the opportunity to help the world’s largest enterprises deliver the richest digital experiences possible.

Now, it’s time to get to work.

The Era Of Ubiquitous Computing And Why I Joined Applause

 

Charles Darwin sketch by Marion Collier (1878 - Wikipedia Commons)

Charles Darwin sketch by Marion Collier (1878 – Wikipedia Commons)

“There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.”

Charles Darwin ~ On The Origin Of Species (1859)

New Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella likes to use the term “ubiquitous computing and ambient intelligence” to describe today’s technological landscape.

I feel like he stole the words right out of my mouth.

For several years I have held the notion that pervasive computing—the power of a smartphone in every pocket and an Internet-connected sensor in every appliance—is an evolutionary event for the human race. As a collective, our species has hit a point where all of its collective information has been accumulated into one, decentralized system and made available to everyone. And then placed into their pockets.

The beginning effects of this evolutionary event are only beginning to be seen.

Mobile analyst Chetan Sharma and I shared similar viewpoints in this matter. In one a recent research paper titled, “Mobile 4th Wave: Evolution Of The Next Trillion Dollars” (PDF) Sharma notes:

It is very clear to us that we are entering the “Connected Intelligence Era.” These two operative words are going to define the next phase of human evolution and is going to dramatically change every industry vertical from the ground up. Welcome to the Golden Age of Mobile.

Human behavior and the way they conduct business are the first and most measurable consequences of the coming of ubiquitous computing. For instance, take the basic act of communication. One of the very first instances of computerized, digital communication came with the Compatible-Time Sharing System developed by computer scientists at the Massachusetts Institute Of Technology in the early 1960s. It was a crude system by today’s standards, but it allowed multiple computer users to access a connected network system at once by allocating snippets of time from to each individual console. The engineers at MIT used this primary for bug decoding and communication, but it is widely seen as the precursor to the email and online bulletin board systems that were to follow.

Today, communication is going through a wholly transformative experience. From that powerful computer in your pocket you can immediately contact anybody you know or could ever know. Technology companies large and small have come to realize that the power of controlling the means of how you talk to people is extremely potent and can take many forms. Hence we see the explosion of the messaging wars: Google Hangouts, Facebook Messenger, iMessage, WhatsApp, Voxer, Kik, Viber, Line, Snapchat, Tango, WeChat and many, many more.

Now, take this pattern of how communications has evolved in the era of the smartphone and apply it to … everything.

Really, everything.

No aspect of human interaction or business behavior will be spared the changes of the era of ubiquitous computing. Barring some catastrophic human event, technological progress is not all of a sudden going to start going backwards. The evolution (and consequential disruption) of the communications industry has been accompanied by similar explosions in the areas of music, film and television, navigation, books and productivity. Business will change to adapt to the evolving paradigm, touching every industry.

 

Once again, Sharma and I are in agreement. The progress in mobile computing over the last seven years (dated since the launch of the original iPhone in July 2007) has been astounding. Following Moore’s Law, the technology that powers smartphones are shrunk and become more powerful until we truly are carrying supercomputers in our pockets. This same technology is now escaping smartphones like a supernova and transforming everything, from our thermostats to our cars to our televisions.

Sharma states:

While the progress of the past 20 years has been phenomenal, the “connect and mobilize everything” characteristic of the next revenue curve is going to define the industry itself while determining the new winners and losers for consumer’s mindshare.

I remember one of the most surprising pitches I got when I was a reporter was that one of the big oil companies was releasing a mobile app for its oilfield technicians to monitor the efficiency and output of its drills.

A data connection in every machine, a computer in every pocket …

And an app to interact with them.

This is the real reason that I am joining Applause. I recognize that there is massive opportunity in building, maintaining and serving this world of apps that govern everything people can do, might do or possibly imagine doing in the future. Apps are the windows that open to the limitless possibilities that the era of ubiquitous computing brings.

It is my job to help tell this story. To tell the tales of the people that are building these apps and the challenges they face.

Looking Into The Stories Of The Future

Fundamentally, my role here at Applause is not going to be incredibly different than what I have been doing at ReadWrite for the last several years. At Applause, we will build an editorial machine that serves as a resource to app builders. To educate and enlighten, even to entertain.

Look for some changes in how we tell our story at Applause in the coming months. It is not going to happen overnight, but how we tell the story of these apps and the people and business will evolve … along with everything else.

Applause Adds Big-Name Talent To Preach & Teach Enterprise App Quality

Each quarter, we add dozens of new employees here at Applause. And each brings unique expertise, passion and contributions to the table. With that said, in the past few quarters we’ve made a concerted effort to add something new to the water supply at Applause.

First, I’m pleased to announced that Dan Rowinski – whose last day as mobile editor at ReadWrite was Friday – has joined Applause to lead our content efforts. Dan has earned acclaim for his coverage across the mobile industry, including being featured in the Boston Globe and New York Times, as well as an almost scary number of posts for ReadWrite. He’s been their senior writer and mobile editor for the past 3 1/2 years, helping to lead one of the very best tech publications to explore the powerful change enabled by mobile. In fact, part of why I connected so well with Dan is that he truly understands mobile and the impact of apps — on consumers and businesses, alike.  He idealistically believes that ubiquitous computing (a smartphone in every pocket, a sensor in every appliance) is an evolutionary shift in the human condition. And even when I don’t understand agree with what he’s saying, I like that he has a well-reasoned and technically-grounded opinion — and that these opinions provoke deeper thought and understanding. Also, I like that he’s right *83.76% of the time.

I’m equally excited to share that former Forrester Principal Analyst, Ben Gray, recently joined Applause as an Enterprise App Quality Evangelist. Ben spent the past decade at Forrester focused on the subject of enterprise mobility, where he authored 150+ reports; advised thousands of companies on IT strategies; served as a frequent keynote speaker, panelist and presenter at industry events and was regularly quoted in top publications like The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times and Information Week. Ben has a similarly well-researched and thoughtful point of view about how the world’s largest companies should approach the largest challenge & opportunity of this decade: how to survive and thrive in the brave new world of mobile. Said differently, our target audience of enterprise CIOs & CTOs used to pay top dollar to tap into Ben’s mind, and now he’s putting that mind to work for Applause.

Adding top-of-their-class experts like Dan and Ben is great for our company. And it clearly demonstrates that Applause is a destination for the best and brightest in the worlds of mobile, analytics and the apps economy. But in this instance, it’s part of an even larger plan. These two will be working closely with our scary-smart data sciences team in Seattle — who helped create Applause Analytics in the first place (and other high-profile offerings for Google & Microsoft) — as well as outside tech execs, engineers, mobile marketers and journalists.

Stay tuned for more on this very soon, but suffice it to say, we are convinced of (at least) two things:

  1. That “content marketing” has not yet scratched the surface of what it could be — and must be — in order to add any real value to readers’ lives — in fact, it’s heading in the opposite direction (“8 Ways To Spot Linkbait”, anyone?)
  2. That the enterprise segment of the market is hungry for expert, practical and actionable advice about how to win in the fast-moving apps economy — from smart phones, to smart watches, to smart TVs, to smart cars.

* This figure was not verified by the Applause data sciences team; please consider it a CMO’s claim, devoid of empirical backing.

 

The App Economy: Winners and Losers

appsMobile app developers are keenly aware of the challenges associated with creating a successful application. Whether it’s getting their apps discovered, retaining users or generating revenue, the process is arduous, to say the least. As such, it’s hardly surprising that recent studies and commentaries are reporting that the majority of today’s mobile app businesses are not sustainable.

VisionMobile’s latest Developer Economics report detailed its findings based on the combination of a large-scale online survey and one-on-one interviews with mobile app developers. They collected responses from over 10,000 developers from 137 different countries over a period of five weeks from April into May of this year. So yeah, you could say they did their homework.

According to the “Developer Economics Q3 2014: State of the Developer Nation” report, “the majority of app businesses are not sustainable at current revenue levels.” The report notes that 50% of Apple iOS developers and 64% of Google Android developers are operating below what they’ve dubbed the “app poverty line” of $500 per app, per month.

Much like the spread of wealth in today’s United States economy, the top 1.6% of mobile app developers earn more than the other 98.4% of developers combined – leading to what they call the “disappearing middle class of app developers.”

At the lowest rung of the app store economics ladder, 24% of app developers—which includes only those who suggest they are in the game for profit—make no money at all. An additional 23% make under $100 per app, per month. The report notes that this bottom 47% often finds themselves unable to cover even the basic costs associated with app development, including computers, mobile app testing devices, and the account subscription for app store publishing.

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The 10 Most Sought-After Software Development Skills

What are the most in-demand software development skills that hiring managers search for?

Rob Marvin of the SDTimes recently pulled a list from Dice.com, a technology job board. According to the list Java/J2EE came in at the No. 1 spot (to little surprise). Here’s a look at the top 10:

  • Java/J2EE
  • .NET
  • C++
  • C#
  • Senior (Really, “Senior”? Dice could’ve filtered this list a bit more discerningly.)
  • SQL
  • HTML
  • C
  • Web (It looks as if that confounded Interwebs contraption wasn’t just a fad after all.)
  • Linux

0606.sdt-blog-dev-skills

The list goes all the way to 40, and as  Marvin highlights other notables include; JavaScript (no. 12), Python (no. 14), HTML5 (no. 19), agile at (no. 30), Android (no. 31) and iOS (no. 35).

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The End Is Near (For Free Mobile Apps)

the_endCan an app really be described as “free” when a user racks up thousands of dollars’ worth of in-app purchases? The vast majority of app developers say yes. The European Commission says no. Guess who’s winning that argument?

Henceforth, any app that incudes in-app purchases can no longer be labeled as free – at least in the European Union. To get you up-to-speed on this topic (it seems likely such a decision could be coming to America in the very near future) we wanted to explore the motivation for this ruling; why it was made; who it helps and how it changes things for Apple and Google going forward.

As of now, you can actually find “free” mobile-apps in the Google Play or iTunes store that require an in-app purchase to unlock or use the app. So in other words, these apps are not free at all. Only apps with optional in-app purchase can now be called “free.”

The EU wants Google and Apple to re-label the former so that consumers can distinguish between the two. Calling these apps “free” leads to the “extortion” of kids who are not old enough to make purchasing decisions, so say the courts.

As we’ve seen, when kids are the driving force behind the mobile-app economy, claiming that your app is free can come at a high cost to the parents of these young consumers. After a multitude of complaints from parents receiving hefty bills from unexpected in-app purchases their kids, the European Commission called on tech giants Google and Apple to comply with their new in-app laws.

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Mobile App Retention Rates: 5 Key Takeaways from the Swrve Report

takeawayIt’s easy to say  that brands should do their best to make a great first impression with users when it comes to their mobile apps. But without concrete proof in the form of hard numbers and statistics, it’s just that – all talk.

Perhaps this is what motivated mobile marketing firm Swrve, who recently conducted a 31-day study in May 2014, which analyzed a total of 50 different mobile apps, and targeted the activity of tens of millions of users and billions of mobile events. The report evaluates the retention-rates, engagement levels and social sharing metrics of these users.

If you read the report in its entirety – which we highly suggest that you do – you’ll come across a number of eye-popping conclusions, some more intuitive than others. That said, here were our five key takeaways:

#1 Takeaway: 24% of apps installed are used once, never to be touched again.
This is a sobering fact for most app-developers looking to engage their customer. The Swrve study found that the first 60 seconds of a user’s mobile-app experience will tell a lot about the frequency at which that app is used again.

As more time passes from that initial point of interaction with the app, session use rapidly declines. In fact, around 25% of users are active 24 – 48 hours after their first session. That percentage drops to 13%, 7 days later. An app’s ability to bring the user back within a short period of time is a huge factor in developing a valuable relationship with your customer.

#2 Takeaway. 75% of apps are used at least 7x a month.
Apps used for retail purposes will likely get less use than a social media app or a gaming app, for example. But as a general rule of thumb, if your app isn’t being opened at least 7 times per month, there are engagement opportunities that you’re missing.

#3 Takeaway. 37% click-through rate for campaigns using in-app messages.
37% is an impressive percentage, and apparently a great strategy to get your user to click through and engage with your app. Consider this number compared to the 0.6% click-through rate that most campaigns see when using push notifications.

According to a Forbes article written on the report, the Swrve’s data suggests that this is the most effective method of engagement.

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The (App) Development of Today’s Youth

kids_on_mobileApp store success is predicated on several factors, one of which is strict adherence to the old axiom: “Know thy user.” In other words, if you want your app to gain traction, you must understand your target audience and develop according to their preferences (and pet peeves). After all, an app can’t please everyone.

So who should you be targeting? Well, judging by a recent USA Today article, the answer is pretty clear: Kids and teens.

According to a report by Arbitron and Edison Research, 60% of Americans between the ages of 12 and 17 own a smartphone. Believe it or not, that figure is actually higher than those over the age of 45. That’s right, it turns out that kids are the driving force behind the apps economy.

So what does this mean for app developers? Should it alter your approach? If so, in what ways? Let’s take a closer look at some the implications and takeaways:

Raised By Tech
Unlike most us “old people”, this demographic has probably never watched a VHS, never owned an Atari or known the pains of a skipping Discman. Instead, it is smartphones, tablets and the accompanying apps that are second nature to them. This audience has been raised in a society that revolves around technology; they would have difficultly picturing a life without it (insert confused look here).

For developers, this is good news – it reduces the learning curve required to acquaint one’s self with the basic features and controls of an application. In other words, this group is far less likely to complain about usability. This gives developers the opportunity to experiment with new UIs, new layouts and other ideas that the older generation tends to complain about.

Buyer Beware
Of course, since this group has not yet reached the age adulthood, they are legally not allowed to make purchasing decisions. This is a lesson that the tech giants have recently learned the hard way. We made a note of this week in our post, The High Cost of “Free” Mobile Apps:

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Upcoming Webinar and Dashboard Demo, Oh My!

applause_logo_250wideJoin Us Wednesday, July 30th for “Optimizing Your Apps For Peak Performance”

When faced with slow load times or crashes, many customers will abandon your app or website entirely for a competitor. So how can you be sure your app can handle surges and bottlenecks in advance of unexpected spikes in traffic?

Join Tim Barnes, Senior Sales Engineer at Applause, on Wednesday, July 30th at 1PM EST, to discover why today’s modern apps economy requires a new recipe for success and why all winning apps are load tested.

Hear about the load testing services Applause offers to ensure your app can handle your biggest day.

  • Discover how load testing can find performance bottlenecks before your users do, saving them from experiences that fall short of their lofty expectations.
  • Learn how to get started with load testing and how Applause arms companies with managed services that encompasses a premier testing platform, experts, scripts, reports and actionable recommendations you need to deliver apps that win.
  • Explore how your business can strategically partner with Applause to achieve app quality as defined by your users.

Register for the webinar now!

Join us Wednesday, July 23rd for a 360° App Quality Dashboard Demonstration

Want to learn more about what a true holistic approach to 360App Quality is?

Join Ted Weil, Product Marketing Manager at Applause, next Wednesday July 23rd at 1PM EST, for a look at the tools that have been helping top developers and brands deliver winning user experiences—our App Quality Dashboard, Mobile SDK and Mobile App Analytics.

Sign up now to learn how Applause can help you deliver amazing digital experiences.

Make sure to continue to check the blog for information on additional webinars and demonstrations.