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Building a Customer Base for your Mobile App

So, you’ve decided to build a mobile application to reach
out to your user base. Good thinking, but have you fully understood the task?

Brands and media tend to underestimate the difficulties
involved in building a large user base on mobile.  A lot of thought goes into the choice of
platform (depending on the target user), the cost of building apps over multiple
platforms and other such considerations. However, the cost of distribution is,
quite simply, not well understood – despite an increasing number of application
options.

So, you’ve decided to build a mobile application to reach
out to your user base. Good thinking, but have you fully understood the task?

Brands and media tend to underestimate the difficulties
involved in building a large user base on mobile.  A lot of thought goes into the choice of
platform (depending on the target user), the cost of building apps over multiple
platforms and other such considerations. However, the cost of distribution is,
quite simply, not well understood – despite an increasing number of application
options.

The key challenge is the cost of marketing and distribution
– the single largest cost in an app strategy. If not planned properly, it can
jeopardise the entire business case.

What distinguish a successful app from the rest are a few
simple factors. In working with, literally, thousands of developers on
Mobango.com, we gained a lot of insight into these issues. I have given below
the key factors and some case studies that could help brands and businesses
seeking to build applications.

Psst…

The secret to reducing distribution costs is not buying the
cheapest media; it’s all about building a great app. An app that does not engage
the user and build a regular user base – or one that’s poorly built – will be
very expensive to distribute as the key conversion metrics could fail.

The choice of platform plays a big role, but is not
necessarily the most important factor. A mobile site may be more successful
than the snazziest Android app in delivering a great user experience.

A recent app that has been very successful for Mobango has
been Vringo. It aims to provide users a great video experience through its
‘Video Ringtones’ application.  From
providing easy search and discovery of videos from a large store to setting
ringtones against your contacts, the ease of use has made it one of the
stickiest apps of recent times.

The right payment
model

At Mobango.com, we pioneered the PPD (pay per download)
model for app owners. The mobile platform enables the PPC (pay per click) model
to go one level deeper – where the actual download is measured and paid for.
This ensures that media spending is more efficient and the
vagaries/uncertainties between a click and download are reduced.

Mobango.com, for instance, offers extensive information,
reviews, ratings, screenshots and other details for potential users to read and
understand before downloading a particular application. This ensures that there
is explicit intent to download and use the app behind every download.

Backed by strong analytics, this enables each developer to
plan and execute the marketing campaigns well. Downloads can cost an
application owner anywhere between 15 cents to $1 depending on the targeting of
users.  Targeting on mobile phones can be
based on several parameters, such as handset, operating system, geography and
even attributes of the device – screen size, for instance.

Mind the Metrics

Understanding the key metrics of clicks, downloads, user
registration and regular users is critical to managing the campaign.

In reducing the overall cost of building a user base, most
application owners use Facebook or Google’s community features so that the
communities generate generic downloads. On Mobango.com, we provide a strong set
of analytics for each developer to track downloads and their performance
strongly.

Developers also need to build campaign-tracking features
within their applications that enable them to measure these key metrics.

Shaadi.com is a great case study of a brand that gets these
metrics. Shaadi.com measured the success of its mobile site through not just
downloads and logins, but by the user-engagement metrics on the app – number of
searches generated and even member interactions through the application.

Building the initial
user base

Building the initial user base will require some
experimentation and driving a critical level of downloads. The owner is the
best judge of the number of app downloads required, depending on the target
group.

Once a critical mass of users is reached, understanding the
customer life cycle and – more importantly – reasons for churn helps understand
subsequent campaigns to manage churn and increase the user base.

Every app at launch, if supported with PR efforts, can
generate a lot of initial enthusiasm amongst users; using this momentum to
build the initial user base is critical. Mobango helped several app owners set
up such a base. For example, UC Browser – one of the most popular mobile browsers
– has nearly 2 million downloads on Mobango, helping it to establish a large
user base. The recently-launched Facebook app was downloaded over 2,50,000
times in 30 days and helped Facebook penetrate the feature phones in targeted
geographies in Asia.

Exploiting the social
graph

Most apps that we come across today have strong social
platforms. While most rely on Facebook and Google networks, some app owners try
and build networks around their users. Exploiting the social graph that users
have through Facebook or Google is seen by most app owners as critical to their
distribution strategy. But the degrees of success around the social graph
vary. 

Mobile marketing and distribution of applications is serious
business today, no longer the domain of evangelists or early adopters. The
channels for distribution and the marketing costs are all well understood, and
there are numerous case studies that app owners can learn from.

The age of the app has arrived. Make sure you’re
ready for it.

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