We see time and time again businesses failing to grow and not utilising their app to its full potential after launch. For most, having a well polished app designed, built and launched is the end journey — but it’s a mere stepping stone to the wider scope for creating a successful app.

We’re often asked how to create the best possible app but rarely asked how to grow, develop and succeed which typically is the main purpose of the product. It’s often a result of one of the following: lack of understanding, not enough hours in the day, trial and error approach in-house, not knowing where to start. More than often it’s not knowing the breadth of practices required to maintain and optimise the current app.

We always recommend to any client, product owner, or start up to design and implement an ecosystem around your app to ensure its success. This article is designed to educate anyone looking to grow their app and demonstrate the success when an ecosystem is implemented correctly.

What is an ecosystem for app growth?

When we talk about an app ecosystem we refer to all connections that link to the app (think of a molecule structure) such as:

  • Analytics — using an analytics suite to collect quantitative data to understand app performance
  • User engagement — understand how your users are currently engaging with your app or not
  • Development — including implementation, bug fixes, testing and integrations within your app
  • User acquisition — how to acquire new users for your app
  • User retention — ensuring your user base continuously active on your app
  • Monitoring — continuous performance monitoring to maintain stability for your users
  • Monetisation — how to generate money from your app whether that’s advertising or a subscription model
  • User experience — does your app layout and user flow work with your current audience and user base
  • Assurance — keep on top of testing, policy reviews and OS updates

This probably equates to more than what is typically assumed, but all areas are just as important than the next. To really excel and succeed, it is important to consider the goals of the products and align the areas of focus and begin to map what should be integrated into your ecosystem.

We have worked with Videopoker for many years and had moderate success using only a sample of the processes outlined above, mainly development, assurance and user retention. It wasn’t until we were able to mould their fleet of apps into one ecosystem using all the connection points did we see massive increase in performance and the end goal of happy customers.

How to implement an ecosystem

We have already listed at a high level the areas needed to complete and implement a leading app ecosystem but we want to drill down into some of the practices within each area which are an integral part of any solution and how they have positively impacted an existing app.

Analytics Software

When any app is launched it requires an analytics suite to measure marketing efforts such as traffic insights, cost, clicks and conversions. In addition for marketing efforts it’s important to measure the performance of the app such as crashes or OS update reception rates, and in-app analytics which monitors user engagement while on the app.

Using an analytics platform helps gather important data across the app including device type, operating system, location, gender, language, new/returning users, etc. to inform decisions on how to improve the overall app for your user base. Without empirical data it is difficult to measure the success of any efforts made to improve the app.

In our work with Videopoker, we were able to identify that most users on average spent over 30 minutes per session and we were able to moderately increase ad frequency resulting in an increased revenue, without impacting user experience.

Ongoing Assurance

An often overlooked process is continuous assurance of your app. An assurance team, or at the very least an assurance process, is pivotal to any successful app. This could be at the start or the end of a project, but users require consistent reliability to maintain trust. Taking a hands on approach to testing and assurance enables you to see your app as your users would, ensuring a stable product free from any issues or bugs presenting themselves without first being picked up.

As the major brands update their operating systems and release new models, there are many updates to devices that can cause app issues.. Keeping on top of this is increasingly difficult but it has to be done to keep your customers happy and loyal. They won’t know it’s an update that caused issues and will feel let down by the business and app.

A/B testing and reporting 

For an app to be truly successful it needs to be user friendly. Not many users spend the time to understand your product and what action they need to take. As previously mentioned, using analytics tools will certainly help identify pain points, key user flows, page paths and main operating systems. Using the information and insight gained through the analytical software, it is important to report your findings, create solutions to the problem, and most importantly test your variations. What you may think is the correct solution may not be for your users and can cause non directed resistance, which is why testing is key.

We always recommend testing your variables (test ideas) for 2-4 weeks depending on the size of your audience, otherwise, the data does not provide sufficient evidence to confirm a hypothesis. On occasion, if it is a particularly risky test, we advise to test your variables with a small percentage of your audience, gradually increasing the percentage if there are no critical concerns, in order to gauge the overall audience consensus. Once you have found your winner, make sure it’s implemented in good time and tested to make sure there are no bugs introduced with the update.

Performance Monitoring 

Similarly to ongoing assurance, performance monitoring is critical to ensure the stability of your app for the end users. We know that not everyone can have a 24-hour support team that is constantly monitoring and testing the application. Performance monitoring can measure and report on responsiveness, crashes, app closures and freezes around the clock and provide details of the error such as device, OS, and line of code (in some instances) to help the development team correct the issue for the new release.

A useful feature of using any monitoring software (such as Crashlytics) is that it can be customised to notify a specific user when there is an increase in performance deficiency and can be acted upon in real time. One example is that we were able to catch and correct a crash (as a result of an IOS update) within hours, which meant that less than 2% of the user base were affected by the change.

App Store Optimisation 

One of the most common and organic ways to acquire users is via App store optimisation, focussing on channels such as awareness, conversion rate and social proof. In essence, the issue is how to get users to your app store page and finally how to convert them.

Awareness basically means how potential users will see your app. This requires benchmarking competitors to track your progress, keyword analysis and description optimisation. As anything that requires input, we recommend testing and amending continuously even if you find something that works.

Once you have optimised your keywords and descriptions to the point you have a strong presence within app store rankings, it will be time to look at converting those users. It’s important to keep your content and messaging consistent so the path the user is on is streamlined and uninterrupted, so ensure your descriptions and titles match your on-page delivery.

However, the app store page is where you will really separate yourself from any competition and your chance to sell your product to the end-user, so consider a well designed and structured flow, making use of strong imagery, icons, videos and a storytelling approach. Spotify is a very good benchmark for app store optimisation with a very clear structure and designed colour pallet. Yet it is important to note that they make constant amendments to their page month on month.

Paid App Promotion

There are ways to pay to increase your customer acquisition with any budget when done correctly. Whether you choose formats such as video, search ads, display ads, store promotions or paid social media, there is an abundance of ways to target your potential users.

It’s important to consider and test different approaches to reach your desired audience and find out what works best for your product and demographic. However, your demographic target is much more important when it comes to paid promotion as you’re paying for users to see your ads, so ensure they fit your demographic and audience rather than spamming the online community and wasting budget.

Finally, the most crucial part of setting up a paid campaign for any app is budget, and we don’t mean how much can you afford to spend. When it comes to the success of your campaign it is ultimately defined by how much return on investment is created, so no matter how much is spent on customer acquisition, if your app doesn’t make a return it’s flawed. Always ensure that there is a significant input on conversion and CPA tracking to work out how much it costs to gain a new user and how much a user generates on your app. This will help you determine if it’s worth the investment.

Review Curation  

Creating a review management system is highly important for both customer experience and also app store promotion. Typically, reviews are used for collecting great feedback from users to aid the promotion of the product, but you’re missing a trick if you don’t use this to collect bad reviews. If users have no place or platform within the app to leave negative feedback, or what we consider constructive feedback, they will go directly to the app store and leave it there for all to see. Essentially your users are your greatest testers.

Your app will rank higher with the more positive review you have. However, it is an extremely useful tool to engage with potential customers who are browsing on your app store listing page and need a little nudge to convert and download. People love social proof and there is no better and easier way than using reviews to demonstrate happy customers that are similar to themselves (if your demographic target is correct).

Why it’s worth investing in the entire app ecosytsem?

Once you have created your ecosystem and refined your processes that work for your app and business, things become much easier to reiterate and quickly grow your app with success. Don’t take our word for it, similar approaches are used for easily recognised brands such as Auto Trader, Instagram, ASOS, Netflix, and so on. We truly believe the creation of the app is only half of the way to a complete product and strongly advise all of our clients to think about the 6-12 months or even 2 – 3 years post-launch. Do they have what it takes to make an app successful, not only in the short term but for years to come, creating longevity and loyalty.

We understand that not all clients and businesses can focus on all aspects of the ecosystem and is tricky to deliver but following our guidelines can really support and help grow your application.Having a dedicated team in house or agency (like ourselves) makes it much easier to develop and enhance your application. We have a dedicated optimisation team that spends days a month assigned to different clients working through the same ecosystem at various points of the project timeline. Whether that may be implementing an analytics tool, data analysis, UX reviews, A/B testing or review curation, we ensure that all of our clients have a robust ecosystem around their app. If you wish to speak to someone on how you can implement or refine your ecosystem, we’re here to help.