Stepping through floods, high water and the remains of the turkey, we emerge bleary eyed into the new year to open the wrapped present marked part three of our top ten tips for creating a mobile startup. Following from our guide to creating a community around your app, we arrive now at the sticky issue of all things number shaped, analytics style.
“How can you get 1 million paying customers? Easy! Get 1 billion users!” Phil Libin, CEO, Evernote
Digital marketing is full of analytics in a way that traditional media still struggles to compete with. Hits, plays, views and downloads are common phrases in the app world, joined recently by the key metric for apps, the Average Return Per User or Per Paying User. To work out whether your app is a success or not, you need to break down the key questions that your data needs to answer, then look to see what solutions are in place to help you measure that. Let’s start with the key questions first and why you need to ask them:
You want to know what…and why?
- Which platform and device are people using to access my project?
During 2013 we saw increasing Android growth to the point where even Android tablets overtook iPads. Typically a mobile startup will be tightly focused on their budget from day one so choosing the right platform and device is key. Our advice here is always match this to the user your startup is targeting and check the most up to date stats of app device ownership and usage you can before you start.
- What level of software OS are they using?
As soon as Apple released the wonder-i-Cloud with iOS5 then the Facebook-friendly-iOS6 which left behind the first generation iPads, the issue of what level of software version your app users will be running came to the fore. Apple now display the level of iOS usage from store analytics, with iOS7 running at over 75%, but if your app is targetting older devices, you need to check whether that unique feature is supported for those devices. Android fans have similar issues with over 75% of their users running over version 4, but arguably better support for deprecated features.
- Which country are your users coming from?
Localisation is now a key requirement for any mobile startup creating an app that instantly has access to a global marketplace. Both Google Play and Apple iTunes allow a rollout across the globe with the ability to create both a store listing and app content in other languages. The key issue for an app owner is to find out which countries their users are coming from and then assess which languages need to be employed. Companies have now sprung up to offer this service, with Google even including this in their app store listings as part of their analytics.
- How many new users are you adding over time?
The golden numbers of any project are new users, being added monthly, so this is a key metric to ensure you are recording. You can then demonstrate user growth as a result of marketing and other promotional efforts you are making so it is worth recording which dates these are made on so you can correlate between the two at a later date.
- How many active users do you have each month?
Following on from the number of new users you are adding each month, is this key metric, whether they are actually active or not over a set period of time. This will differ wildly depending on the nature of your app project. A photo sharing app would expect usage every single week from their analytics, whereas a pet vaccination reminder system might have a monthly or even annual usage base.
- How long are people using your app for each month?
App duration is increasingly important to record, to gauge how sticky or attractive your app is for your intended audience. It will also help you attract in advertising or sponsorship, depending on the business model you have chosen for your app, so you can convince others how many eyes are regularly visiting your app to use your service and may see that brand or organisation willing to get involved.
- Are there any peak times of day or week for use?
The longer that your mobile startup is trading, knowing your peak time of day or night that your users are engaging with you becomes more important. As you start to grow from one country across the globe, rolling out an update or even a price difference requires changes to be made over several days before everyone will see it. It will also allow you to schedule your maintenance windows to target the times when users aren’t busy. With scalable cloud providers powering many apps rolling out autoscaling, even your servers can change to match times of peak traffic, so making sure your analytics can capture this is important.
- How buggy is your app for your users?
For those app owners without a technical knowledge, it can be hard to assess how solid the codebase is that your project is founded on. The speed of agile development often leads to technical debts where code is created quickly to suit a purpose and never re-factored on a stronger footing. As a metric, if you record the number of support tickets or incidents that you get reported then divide this by the number of active users you have, voila, one instant buggy metric! This also helps you project how much time and resource you may need to dedicate to supporting your users as that particular metric grows as well.
- What is the average return per user?
For those paid apps or those with in-app purchases that seem raise the money, the key metric is the A.R.P.U. or Average Return Per User, extended to Per Paid User in some cases is the key element. If you have a user-based method of supporting your startup, then this is simply a product of the revenue you take in each month versus the active user base you have during that period. If you are supporting the app via sponsorship or advertising, then this may still be an interesting metric for you, but altered slightly, to see your average earnings per user to then evaluate whether a particular marketing effort is worth pursuing to add each new user, based on the advertising or sponsorship value they may have.
- What is the overall satisfaction level with your app users?
One for the office wall really, to keep your team focussed on making the best product in the world. Retailers and product manufacturers employ third parties or their own vast teams to carry out user surveys to gauge their customer satisfaction levels. App owners are already one step ahead here as you have access to appstore ratings for each version you publish. These are famously inaccurate so a quick user survey may be a better source for this, to help show the human side of your app users.
Okay, before you start to panic and wonder how on earth you are going to gather all that information, just stop. No, not Hammertime, or time to Collaborate or Listen. Let me run through some of the tools you can use to gather this information so that you can create your own infographic of app use, and ride the analytics wave to success.
How on earth do I find all that out?
1. In-app analytics
Launch an app onto any app store without analytics is madness. Most if not all of these services are free, or have a free account level including ones such as Google Universal Analytics, Flurry, Localytics or BugSense. Each will provide you with user data (new and recurring users) as well as devices (type and operating system) as well as custom goal and event tracking (users clicking on a particular button or using a feature).
Discovery analytics are also becoming increasingly important to add into your app. How did people come to download your app, was it from a website or social media? There are now services from both Tapstream and Parse to allow you to collect this from within your app by including additional analytics services.
2. Appstore analytics
Once your app(s) are published, analytics data can be gathered from the appstores directly about your userbase and sales. This will help you calculate the sales and values per user metrics listed above, updated automatically to include new data. Services such as Distimo again offer a free account for you to use, but they do aggregate data and sell this commercially, in their annual reports and more. Alternatives include Mopapp, AppAnnie and AppFigures.
3. Your users
We covered earlier how to recruit a community around your app and why this is important. One of the great sources of data are the testing services we covered such as TestFlight and HockeyApp. If you open up a beta phase and invite testers to apply, the services automatically log great analytics including user data to help you answer questions above about which devices, platforms, software levels and countries are being used in your mobile startup. If not, tools such as SurveyMonkey offer a free service which is optimized for mobile devices so you can create a quick, simple survey to gather user opinion then include this in the app and highlight it to your users.
4. Other apps or Benchmarking
Most mobile startups are often aimed at doing something better in a busy technological sector rather than being a true innovator. Whichever side of the divide your startup falls under, you can start to benchmark your app(s) against others in many different ways using analytics. Services like MobileDevHQ allow you to add your app then compare analytics with other apps, your competitors, in your particular category to flag up trends and changes in data. Many offer app store optimisation services as a result, there are even enough firms out there competing for your apps, that there is a top ten list of providers, all with some level of free and paid accounts.
Okay, I get the picture, but how many users is enough?
Many mobile startups struggle with this particular question and obviously, it varies depending on the overall goals of your organisation and your company size as well as your overall view on analytics. One interesting answer to this recently was posed by the startup guitar-based network Strumm. For them, they felt that having over 1,000 meant it was a ‘thing’ for them and proved they had enough support from their community to take it further. How many and of what do you think you need for your app-based mobile startup? Let us know and send us your comments below. Next week? Come with us and learn how to, “Choose your design and development partner wisely”. If you have any questions or want us to cover a particular area in a future post, leave a comment below and we can follow up. Thanks y’all and see you next time! [Image credit "Bike outside house" - Florian Klauer via Unsplash ]