1 Mobile Content Apps 101 Mobile Content Apps 101 : EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW TO GET STARTED
2 Mobile Content Apps 101 A | The Promise of Mobile Content The goal of the mobile content business is surprisingly simple; it comes down to three things: Reach, Engagement and Monetization. Nearly all decisions that are made in building the business map to one of these three objectives. This whitepaper is an introduction to the mobile app business and will cover fundamental topics to help content businesses grow their mobile presence. Reach Engagement Monetization B | REACH Mobile app and mobile web Where should you build your mobile presence: in mobile apps, or on the mobile web? This debate persists in the market and we will summarize both sides here. It has been said that the “killer app” on mobile phones (ie. the application that users can’t live without) is the mobile browser. The mobile web is a flexible framework for building a mobile presence because it allows work to be performed once and to be viewed across a great number of devices without rebuilding software or waiting on app store approvals. In the coming years, mobile web will become even more enhanced and capable at delivering enriched experiences. Mobile web achieves the goal of reach, but the mobile app phenomenon is hardly a world the prudent business person can ignore. Rapidly emerging since the last decade, mobile apps are doing things once only imagined and have up-ended the typical device manufacturer and mobile operator model. Devices are no longer sold on their own specs, but rather the value proposition of how one’s life can be augmented by the mobile device (and mobile apps) they choose to carry. Why though? Why is such attention being given to mobile applications when the
3 Mobile Content Apps 101 mobile browser can give the average user access to everything they want? Today, mobile apps close the user experience gaps left by mobile web and offer a smoother, richer and more attentive experience for the end user. It only takes a few seconds of hands-on experience to understand how the two differ in the hands of the broad user base. A complete mobile strategy will include both mobile web and mobile app components to truly have a chance to reach the broadest possible user audience in the best possible way. Hybrid apps An emerging class of “hybrid” apps are built using both web technologies like html5 and native mobile app technologies. Hybrid apps allow for the flexibility of design and updates of all web products, while offering the richness of native app experiences. It may very well be the all-encompassing future we aspire to, but thus far there are only a few rare examples that are ready for primetime. The focus of this paper will carry on with an emphasis on native mobile apps, given that they are presently ready for mass use, and are able to achieve the majority of design objectives brands expect to create on mobile devices. C | Engagement How engaging am I? Engagement in an app speaks to the app’s ability to: 1 h ) ave a user return regularly, and 2 s ) pend a significant amount of time in the app on each visit. Approximately 25% of all apps are only opened once and most are only opened a handful of times. To prevent high attrition later in the user lifecycle of your app, the best time to think about loyalty is during the design phase of the app. To keep a user returning to the app after first download, first impressions count.
4 Mobile Content Apps 101 Things like: ntuitive navigation and functionality (remember, it is of no use to build something I that the end user is not able to take advantage of, and no app sends a user manual in the mail) App usage by customers acquired in Q3 2010 26% 26% Share of new Loyal, repeat customers using an customers using an app only 1 time app over 10 times 13% 9% 7% 5% 4% 3% 3% 2% 2% 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11+ TOTAL NUMBER OF TIMES AN APPLICATION WAS USED Source: Localytics s my overall utility in spending time in this app additive or multiplicative (games I use a progress meter or high score; content apps use social network sign-in, bookmarking, and selection of relevant content sections) Next, how do we keep the user in the app for long periods of time? Tactics here include: nsuring a smooth transition between areas of the app to minimize user E frustration
5 Mobile Content Apps 101 nsure load times are minimized, properly set wait time expectations, or entertain E the user while loading. nsure interacting with the app is as easy as possible, so that the user does not E get frustrated by tedium (this is where the translation of designs on paper to on-device experience matters). The right content for the right device When developing content and user experiences previously created for the desktop web, it is important to be conscious of how this content will be laid out on connected devices (NB: Here we use the term ‘connected devices’ to broaden the scope of non- desktop digital experiences to include not only smartphones and tablets available on the market today, but also the evolution of these products and the growing swell of apps for TVs, cars and household appliances that will be launched over the coming years. The app world is no longer a minor business restricted to the world of mobile, but one of the major drivers helping to power the adoption of nearly every type of digital device.) Tablet computers, which reached mainstream adoption at launch of the Apple iPad, are regularly claimed to ‘mobile devices’ in discussion, but most usage is in the home. How does that change what types of behaviours you should build for? What new opportunities exist? Tablets are in fact much closer to laptop computers than they are to phones. Standard setters treat them more like desktop web than smartphones when they consider their use cases and user experiences. In that light a quick scheme would be to consider developing short, “snackable” experiences for smartphones and more long-form experiences for tablets. It is easy to acknowledge that very few users will read a complete feature-length article on their smartphone, while this is the expectation of users reading on their tablet device. Similarly, tablet users may watch entire TV episodes or movies on their devices, but smartphone users are more likely to watch a series of short clips. What you usually forget It is still a surprise that after all of the thought and investment that goes into mobile app development, brands do not treat analytics as a more
6 Mobile Content Apps 101 important part of their product. Analytics are your window into the actual performance of the product you build, and allow you to edit your offering on future iterations. Combined with gathering user feedback from the app stores, and support requests, analytics allows your product and marketing teams to build more useful and compelling user experiences. Pick your analytics provider and dimensions carefully — after your app is deployed, it will be your most useful window for determining the performance of your app in the wild. Two other components that sometimes get forgotten, but have been mentioned earlier in this paper are social network integrations and engagement “Analytics are your window into boosters (like personalization, push the actual performance of the and bookmarking). product you build.” Social integrations can range from the simple ability to post content to your page on a social networking site, to sections of content driven by recommendations from your social network. The key here is to not be caught up in the range of free APIs that each of the social networks make available, but rather to design a more useful experience for end users. C | Monetization Mobile monetization When it comes to monetization, there are only a few major models, each bearing their own merits, depending on the vertical being reached. 1 ) Mobile Advertising (direct or indirect) So far, mobile advertising has moved the greatest amount of money in the mobile ecosystem. For mobile advertising, there are two major considerations to think about: the ad- serving technology and the actual method by which the app publisher chooses to sell advertising.
7 Mobile Content Apps 101 There seems to be an almost endless supply of ad serving technologies on the market, from the ones dedicated solely to mobile, to ones built for the desktop web that are made compatible with mobile devices. In picking a mobile ad serving technology, it is important to understand: Ad specifications — what types of ad experiences (ie. static ad banners, interstitials, video, etc.) is the server capable of providing. This must match with your sales team’s expectations Process for trafficking campaigns to ensure that it matches with your ad operation team’s expectations Business model. These can be extremely varied and usually contain three components: Setup fees A monthly fee based on number of impressions served. Ad network or mediation fees for ads placed through them on an indirect basis. When it comes to mobile advertising sales, some organizations are prepared to sell campaigns into their own apps using their own salespeople or agents (direct sales), while others do not have in-house expertise and rather sign up to ad networks where campaigns are passively placed into their apps based on preset parameters (indirect sales). The big difference between these two approaches is that while direct sales costs more to administer, it can usually earn more due to higher charges commanded for the ability to target specific apps and better integrated branding experiences. 2) Paid app (including time-based, and subscription) Most businesses are shy about placing their app for paid download because pricing and justification are more art than science. There is no doubt that some brands have been successful at charging a price for their app, but this is usually a result of a strong and well-recognized brand with a stripped down free version of the app for folks to try before they buy (the popular mobile game Angry Birds uses this model). O ffering a paid app works well when the publisher has an existing user base that they can rely on. Charging for an app that is a standalone brand implicitly accepts
8 Mobile Content Apps 101 that you will have a smaller user base to evangelize your product because few people are willing to pay to be exposed to a new brand with whom they have no other relationship. I t is for these reasons that many brands are instead opting to offer their apps for free, supported by advertising or by merchandizing goods through them in a freemium model. 3) Freemium (offering an app at little or no cost with products merchandized through them) The freemium model has gained favour in 2011 primarily due to the release of technology that actually makes it easy to sell goods through apps. It also acts as an alternative (or complement) to ad-supported apps that are offered for free. Examples of freemium apps can be found throughout the mobile gaming world where users are offered the ability to buy additional levels, functionality or credit for more experiences. In the content world, freemium allows users to engage with some major sections of content before buying access to additional sections, or getting a free trial before being asked to purchase a full subscription. 4) Free (as amplification for an existing business) This last class of applications has many examples on the market today. Mobile apps from Facebook, Twitter and Google Maps are all offered free to end users, and contain no overt monetization. Each of these brands first achieved huge adoption on the desktop web, but have seen their mobile adoption and usage surpass that in a few short years. These brands, and many others, are watching the shift in time spent from desktop web and older media into mobile and are staking their ground early, ahead of a monetization scheme. The thinking here is that if the mobile user base can be grown and nurtured, it can be monetized at a later date while it adds to the overall brand equity
9 Mobile Content Apps 101 of the business. I n the mobile content world, brands are learning that the audience they may have missed through their print or online marketing are fervent consumers in mobile, and may be able to draw them into the brand’s value proposition starting there. “ rands are learning that the B W hile each monetization model has audience they may have its pros and cons, it is possible to mix missed through their print or models, and content businesses will online marketing are fervent experiment and iterate on possible consumers in mobile.” models in a search for something that works. One caveat: There are other smaller models for monetization, such as collecting and reselling user data from the app, but this paper deliberately focuses on business models with greater adoption and market appeal. e | Other considerations How to get started After all of the discussion around what to build and why to build it, teams often end up at the how. This is the classic build versus buy decision and has many implications for how you will run your mobile app business into the future. First the build decision. Building an app is not a minor pursuit. There is a misconception that because there are many apps available on the market and that the interface for the software is so small that the work of building an app is also a minor pursuit. Building an app from specifications is a process that is more akin to desktop software development than website development. The big difference being that the support and enhancements required after initial deployment are much faster. A general rule of thumb is that an app should receive a major upgrade semi-annually to keep its user base interested. In addition, new devices, operating systems and software services become available all the time, which necessitate updates approximately every month. Lastly, user- discovered bugs (no software is perfect) could necessitate code refreshes at random
10 Mobile Content Apps 101 intervals through the lifecycle. All this points to picking the right team with a good track record of managing uncertainty and a history of delivering on your expectations with regards to your mobile products. Agility and great planning, ideally by a very experienced architect, are key in managing a custom mobile app development. The decision on what to build in-house Conversely, the buy decision has the benefit of allowing you the chance to align with a team that already has the means and mechanics to deliver on your vision. A new cost-conscious option has also been gaining in favour over the past two years, as app publishers look to produce mobile apps with fewer resources, and give themselves a chance at earning some real return on their investment. There are now a number of software platforms, many self-serve, that can deploy quality mobile products in days and weeks, rather than months. Platforms like ones developed by Pyxis Mobile (for enterprise apps) lower the barrier for app deployment because a process for gathering the design of an app is enforced through the platform and “ oftware platforms allow you S software components are already built to get into market within weeks and can be deployed readily. Polar Mobile of the go-decision, and requires has a similar system that is focused on fewer expensive human and syndicating content for the media vertical. technology resources to get off the ground” This type of development process allows you to get into market within weeks of the go-decision, and requires fewer expensive human and technology resources to get off the ground. Most useful is that the deployment process has been defined and refined before you first engage, and this saves you time to market. Branding considerations Your mobile destination is part of a family of products that carries your brand and industrial design. Your users expect no less consideration in design from your mobile product than they do from your other channels.
11 Mobile Content Apps 101 Regardless of what avenue you choose to take for development, it is to your benefit to do some homework with your design team and discuss what colours, marks and fonts your mobile products will carry. These elements will be used in the: 1) Name of your app, and app store account 2) App homescreen logo 3) App titlebar, section headers and main content pages 4) App loading and transition screens 5) Permeate throughout the app in minor decisions Though there are some restrictions on what can be executed in-app (for example, every platform contains a different font package), agreeing with your design team about your ideal state is will save lengthy debates (and subsequent delays) later on. Of course, it goes without saying that any changes to your other destinations, or general branding guideline should also include the relevant updates to your mobile branding. Conclusion The breadth of decisions required to start and sustain a mobile team are considerable. Many teams start with great traction, and falter when it comes to sustaining the growth and evolution of their products. In a mobile world evolving every few months, working with a team that has the experience to solve business challenges with you is going to be your greatest asset over the long-term. We would like to hear your feedback. Please visit our website at www.polarmobile.com for more information. @polarmobile | linkd.in/u0p6dn | BLOG blog.polarmobile.com