Keep track of all the latest news and events on developer tools and technologies you care about
James Senior is Senior Group Marketing Manager of Windows Apps at Microsoft so he knows a bit about apps marketing. How do you make sure customers can find your app, let alone use it? I caught up with him to get some ideas…
”My team helps developers and designers be successful on Windows. The new app model, the new way of distributing, discovering and buying software and the huge investment in new form factors is huge for developers and designers. There’s the opportunity to target a huge number of screens, to take advantage of the fact you can play on your Windows device yet also be really productive on Windows – you have one device with you at home on the sofa but that’s also great in the office…
1. BUILD A GREAT APP
It sounds basic but to successfully market your app it needs to be great to start with. Use the documentation on design.windows.com to build in all the features of Windows 8. The design and UX of Windows 8 is something people love – it’s engaging, you can present content in unique ways that other platforms can’t. Many developers face the problem of working out how to scope their app – what features do you include? Once you’ve made sure your app focuses on your USP, your core business and how you communicate that to your customers, how do you know when to stop on all the auxiliary features? A unique feature of Windows is the interaction between apps it facilitates. All those features and scenarios extraneous to your core business can be handled by other apps in the system. Quick example: if you’re in the Recipes app, their value prop is to provide the best recipes out there on the net bar none. However what they don’t do is collate recipes from other places, but share the app and Windows automatically finds other apps that can use the data and bingo, up pops Pepper Play and presents the recipes in a way you can shop or cook. The great thing about Windows is the ability to provide all of those scenarios to your customers, cataloguing them into an uber list of apps that interact with yours. 2. REPRESENT YOUR APP WELL IN STORE
A simple step is to make sure you have really compelling screenshots for the user to browse through and see how your app works and what it offers. You need to submit these when you publish your app to the Store. Make sure those images highlight the unique features of your app. If you have a paid app, make sure you leverage trials to let people try before they buy – it’s the most friction free way people can find out what value your app can bring. Sell-through is very powerful. Users don’t know what to expect or what they’re going to get when they download your app, so the more information you can give them in the Store, the more you can let them know what the experience will be. Most people won’t buy an app if they don’t know what value it’ll bring to them or how they could use it. Remember that the Store algorithms are based on user ratings, so if your app is good then it’ll get the ratings it deserves.
3. ENGAGE – AND RE-ENGAGE THE USER
A great way to engage the user is through the design and user experience. Something that surprised us and our partners is the amount of time it takes to create a beautiful app experience – we’re seeing the best apps taking up 40-50% on design. Lots of people don't plan for that - whether it’s money or time and effort that’s needed - but that's what you need to create a really great experience. Back in 2011 we started working on a design agency network. We now have 200-300 companies trained on Windows 8 UI guidelines and the skills to design great apps ready to partner up with developers who don’t have design and UI skills. An example of an app that demonstrates engaging and re-engaging the user is Naturespace - they have amazing audio content, that's what they do, collect record ambient noises from diff settings, like a rainforest, lightening storm, meditation etc., so their IP is in the content. Windows has an amazing audio stack, that lets their HD content really come to life. The Naturespace team took advantage of using Windows to present their IP, and combined it with a very beautiful app. The team are a start-up based in the US who decided to invest in the app design. They came up with design concepts that we hadn't seen before – whereas using templates is a great start it’s not really what the design language was intended for, essentially it’s a framework to use typography, motion and animation in interesting ways. This app breaks out of the mould. They also use in app purchasing, so you download the app for fee including samples of their content which gets customers hooked. to They’ve had great success with that model. Apps need to differentiate themselves and going beyond the templates is one way to stand out from the rest. This is especially important when you’re working with brands – ITV doesn’t want to look like the BBC for example. Of course having a great app, a brilliant design and an engaging user experience isn’t job done! True marketing happens after your app is in Store. Live tiles are a great way to re-engage users to be interested in your app, not only with fresh, immediate content but they’re also another way of getting more screen real estate. The People app let’s you find out what the people closest to you are up to, you can pin specific friends to your homepage and use native features like search and share that give users the opportunity to go back into your app. If you’re not using the search feature you’re not taking the opportunity to re-engage your users - the same applies to the sharing feature. Windows will surface any other apps that can handle that type of data so you don’t have to worry about what other apps a user has installed. In this new model it quickly becomes apparent that you can’t achieve every feature known to man and you can rely on the ecosystem to provide relevant contextual content to your users. This theme of engagement within apps is something that’s really different on the Windows platform. If you’ve got a website then the easiest thing to do is detect if someone's running Windows 8, and then you can upsell them by providing them with a link to download your app. One other thing to think about is advertising through other applications who are using ads to monetise on Windows today. By doing that you’re reaching a captive audience on the hunt for apps and you can target particular users depending on the ad network you use, i.e. Windows 8 users.
4. USE YOUR COMMUNITY
If you’ve got any presence on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest – use it to tell your community about your app. You can connect your Windows Store app to an online identity provider that uses internet authentication and authorization protocols like OpenID or OAuth – so you can get access to Facebook’s open graph API in Windows 8, allowing users to sign into your app using their Facebook credentials. Once there's a relationship between your app, Facebook and the person, you can ask the person to publish stories from your app.As well as Facebook, you can connect to other social media channels like Flickr, Google, Live, and Twitter. Chimpact set up a Twitter account for it’s main character Chuck – basically any way you’d advertise and promote apps on other platforms should be the same way you promote apps on Windows 8. Everyone is used to seeing ads in apps for iOS and Android, advertising gives you downloads, so just promote your Windows 8 app like you’d promote any other app or service you provide. The Fox FX network app does a great job of combining brand colours, typography and beautiful full bleed photography to engage users with their TV shows. They also have a social aspect to their content which is nice, incorporating a social feed based on Twitter and Facebook so you can pan along throughout the day and follow spikes in a discussion. The app also uses semantic zoom so you can get an idea of when the peak was so it’s easy to navigate, you get a roll up of where it happened e.g. on Twitter. 5. BE MORE BUSINESS SAVVY In general anyone building an app is having to get more savvy when it comes to business, to differentiate themselves and using the business models afforded in the App Stores. Devs would benefit from getting even more business focused - everyone tends to go for advertising, but there are better tactics like trials and in-app purchases that are more sophisticated. The games industry are great at doing it – their model tends to be ‘free to pay’. You’ve just got to make sure you disable in app purchases if your child likes games like Zombie vs Ninjas… many devs jump into starting their project as they’re interested, want to find out how to build apps for Windows 8 and are more focused on the build as a learning process than the app itself. For this reason not much thought is given to the marketing that needs to go with the app when its been published. There’s lots of information out there to help devs be more business focused and become aware of how to promote apps and make money, to learn from those models and improve them.