Posted by Stephen Bateman | Posted in app development, content management, cross platform, design, educational apps, Navigational apps, new product development, user experience | Posted on 11-11-2011
Tags: App development, app stores, best practice, convergent media, deliver engaged loyal app users, discover your app's true potential, Improve app marketing and discoverability, increase app downloads and rank, lower user acquisition costs, mobile app discoverability, mobile app marketing, mobile app user acquisition, mobile applications
As we prepare to launch a new series of branded mobile educational applications for ocean goers, we want to put everything we can on our side to ensure our mobile application does not get lost in all the noise and our discoverability is optimised.
To help ensure greater discoverability we’ve had to have a focused approach to product marketing throughout our creative process.
From kick-off: marketing and the process of creative app development
Before we gather around the drawing board at iGlimpse, we like to start with the analytical stuff (just as we we did when considering a new books and their viability); first we look into what kind of app types and user experiences are currently being positively reviewed. We study rankings, user reviews both in the app store and across the web and we download and play with mobile applications. This enables us to better map the functionality, building blocks, coding and plan the critical stages of development and production.
Only once we’re happy a product matches the needs of a target audience and that there is a commercial gap do we begin storyboarding and wire-framing the application screens. Only when we’re sure we’ve scoped our project fully, do we get stuck into production, applying frequent alignment meetings throughout to ensure we stay track, to make corrections and improvements, spot bugs early and stay on course to hit the milestones in our critical path plan. With testing and bugs, rewriting code is no fun at all, so we aim to get everything right from the start.
What’s our mobile application?
Our mobile application is an educational tool that helps sailors identify the types of vessel and the activities they are engaged in at sea, as specified by the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea (Col Regs).
The app provides “iGlimpse” access to schemas, graphics and descriptions of the lights and shapes in the Col Regs and the rules that apply to them as well as featuring a “Test Yourself” section.
Using a single code base and a bridging mobile framework that supports 7 mobile platforms, our app will be platform-agnostic and ready for distribution in multiple stores simultaneously.
But, like new books, new music releases or new film releases, the app needs to be discoverable through search, promoted and priced correctly to ensure its sale.
Our application is launching into a crowded marketplace in which Col Regs are available in many formats including books, flashcards, videos, DVDs and apps. To stand out from the crowd our USPs are: iGlimpse access, ease of use, convenience. These elements coupled with our designer graphics will ensure people enthuse and review the app positively. Word of Mouth is probably the most important single piece of marketing we’ll achieve.
Who are our users, where do they hang out and what sails their boat?
As well as the many existing sailors of small and larger vessels, our users include trainees on the RYA Day Skipper Courses and their trainers. There are about 155 000 new recruits annually. Our users are of mixed age / gender; they could be Apple, Android or RIM enthusiasts, they are online savvy, they like gadgets, they have disposable income and they actively seek content that helps them improve and grow in their preferred pursuits. We prefer to apply psychometric tagging rather then demographic tagging so are more interested in their likes and pain points than their income bracket or age. Outside the pressure of the Day Skipper Course and the exam, trainees read specialist sailing / motor boat magazines, they are on Twitter and Facebook, they like brands, they search on Google, YouTube, DailyMotion and VideoJug and they are hungry for material that will inspire, inform and entertain them. They also support the RNLI and attend events like the London and Southampton boat shows. London 2012 will be a big focus point for our community. Boating enthusiasts are fascinated and fearful of collisions at sea!! The metrics we’ve studied confirm all the above. Our customer persona is the best guide we have for our marketing decisions.
Routes to market
The app market is a tough and unforgiving place. The app store models are fundamentally optimized to drive pricing down and this is a hard model to build anything other than a hobby business around until you reach notoriety and critical mass.
Discoverability is a big challenge and we’re fully aware that the shelf life of an application, from a revenue earning perspective, is lower than it is for books and music. So the big question for us is: How do we get our application discovered?
We know we’ve got to enable discovery and trial so we can do three things:
- produce a demo video to host on YouTube and embed in social media (blogs, FB, Twitter etc) that replicates the user experience
- segment our product into a full ‘paid’ version and a lite ‘free’ version, so we maximise downloads and can focus on conversion to paid.
- we can also create a storefront around our application, where the user downloads a base application that is free, and, via an in-app purchase, we can augment that users application by adding new content or new functions.
Promotion and PR
With so much available content we’re conscious we need to support and manage our community of enthusiasts. We’ve already found the concentrations of users which means we can target the channels they hang out in online and offline.
We know who the opinion leaders are, who the influential bloggers and press reviewers are and we’ve got the marketing content assets ready to supply when they request them. This is where the video showcasing our application and our promotion codes will seamlessly integrate with our communications.
Mistakes and assumptions we must not make:
We must not ignore paid-for-marketing and make the mistake of thinking word of mouth on its own will drive sales – it won’t
We must not assume that sufficient enthusiasts searching searching with keywords will discover our app – they won’t
We must not forget that there are several app stores we need to be visible in
We must not leave the marketing till launch or post launch – priming our market for readiness is key
The app stores can be a casino for developers but we believe our decision to publish fora clearly defined community of users means that we’re better equipped to anticipate our product marketing. We come from media backgrounds and know the value of great content. Because we are starting our marketing early, we stand a better chance (but not guarantee) of getting our app and supporting marketing materials into the hands of the opinion leaders before we launch. And we will continuously nourish, moderate, manage and maintain buzz in our verticals.
What advice do you have for ensuring better discoverability of mobile apps?