Many startups and entrepreneurs are now going mobile first with products. Developing and launching an app is relatively easier compared to gaining traction, downloads and user engagements. App distribution is one of the biggest challenges today for mobile app entrepreneurs or a business trying to reach out to customers. “With over two million apps, it’s virtually impossible for organic discovery of apps. Most apps die or go into oblivion simply because they fail at distribution,” says Rahul Varshneya, Founder, Apprise, a startup which aims to address these pain points.
Rahul Varshneya and Karthikeyan Krishnaraj, both with several years of experience in different areas of marketing, founded Apprise, a full-fledged mobile app growth marketing agency.The two are also founders of Arkenea LLC, a company that has been building apps for startups as well as enterprises for about four years, and have seen many failures as well as successes. They have been personally involved with most of their customers; helping them with craft marketing strategies. Some of their successes include apps such as Canvsly, Sleep Easily (462,000 customers) and apps for Glenn Harrold (over three million downloads).
Services they offer
While they feel retention and engagement are crucial factors in the success of any mobile app, limited traction or user growth can hinder apps from focusing on these. So, the focus of Apprise is on getting their clients traction, with strategies that focus on customer acquisition through content and email marketing, digital PR and social media marketing (paid and organic).
They also want to help their customers in processing feedback to iterate on their product and increase engagement and retention in the app. While they offer marketing services across the spectrum, they feel that the most effective mediums are content marketing (including email marketing) and digital PR for mobile apps. “Content marketing costs 62 per cent less and generates roughly three times as many leads as traditional marketing,” says Rahul.
In a conversation with YourStory, Rahul Varshneya shared his views on what it takes to develop and sustain a successful mobile app. Here are excerpts from the conversation:
Learning from mistakes and growing
Rahul feels that there are several mistakes that many app developers make at various stages of their startup, but none of them come close to the gravest of them all – assuming they’ve got a bad product at hand when they fail to get traction. “Most products aren’t bad if you start with customer insight. But every product has to go through an iterative cycle through customer feedback. This could be as drastic as a pivot – Burbn to Instagram,” says Rahul.
Don’t drop the product if you fail to get traction in the beginning. It could just mean you haven’t managed to reach out to your target audience yet. App developers have to get to a point where they have enough traction from their audience to validate and get to product/market fit. If the app doesn’t work in its current avatar, look at what customers are saying or how they’re using the app currently and adapt your app to that behaviour or demand.
Develop, analyse, collect feedback and iterate
To build a successful mobile app business, you have to listen to your customers, analyse what their challenges are and how your app is or isn’t helping them. Based on that feedback, continue to iterate, which will help you build a product that resonates with your audience. To be able to get that level of quality feedback from the right target audience, app developers should focus on distribution right from the word go. Only when you have significant traction will you have enough data to support what’s working and what isn’t.
“Engaging an audience from the beginning also helps app developers establish a connect with them. I would any day opt to build my product with customer traction than in a silo with a focus group,” says Rahul.
Apprise feels that email marketing, though often ignored, is one of the most effective marketing strategies in the long run. Acquiring a database of email addresses from outside sources and blasting people with regular email amounts to spam. However, when people voluntarily opt to receive emails; that’s the basis of email marketing.
“At Apprise, we focus on creating channels and creative avenues that offer something of value to our customers’ audience. One of our most successful initiative is Fifty2.in, our audience opts-in to receive emails (growth hacks) that are of value to an app developer, on a weekly basis. Through these initiatives, we create a highly engaged audience that has a far more brand/product recall. ”
Push notifications or email updates should both be sent only when necessary for the user; and not when the product/app developer deems fit. A push notification on an app once a day shouldn’t be annoying if there’s a compelling reason for one; and one email a week is ideal for email marketing (barring transactional emails). Although, depending on your app or marketing strategy, you should test what’s optimum for your audience.
While AppVirality founded by Ram Papineni and Laxman Papineni, InMobi founded by Mohit Saxena and other global players are in the same sector the founders of Apprise feel that they have built their startup on the back of the same marketing strategies that they are adopting for their customers. They have tried and tested these strategies not just for their customers, but also in their own business growth. So they feel that their edge lies in marketing that generates long-term, sustainable traction and credibility.
"There are only a few ways to build traction where the results last longer than the efforts. Two of the most powerful of those are content marketing and digital PR that encompasses influencers across platforms and not just traditional journalists. Apprise has established credibility on delivering across both these channels," says Rahul.
The Future: Mobiles or wearables?
The mobile app economy is still relatively new. Even with over two million apps, it’s a drop in the ocean if you compare it with the number of internet businesses. There’s a long way to go for mobile apps, but with the leaps that technology development is taking in recent times, the ecosystem of mobile apps is also evolving simultaneously.
There is no doubt that technology is moving towards portability. It is at the point where it can be embedded in consumer’s devices and that has fostered the growth of Internet of Things and Wearables, making existing devices smarter.
There are many sectors one can see, such as healthcare and fitness, that can have a lasting impact on consumers; bringing medical care and data closer home. “Mobile apps play an integral part in this ecosystem as wearables are still peripherals for a smart phone. Both mobiles and wearables will co-exist, just as the web and mobile apps have and always will,” concludes Rahul.