It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. This could easily be said of the life and times of the mobile developer in 2016. The smartphone market is more mature than it has ever been. The fact that growth has stalled is actually a good thing. Developers can stop struggling to keep up with massive changes, and write stable, polished software for devices that will be largely the same from one year to the next. On the other hand, it has never been more difficult to make a living writing apps for the mobile space.
To make money in the mobile space, you need more than a good idea. You need the right analytics to help you focus on what matters, build the apps people want, keep them coming back for more, and generate a profitable return. In 2016, some trends are already emerging. Here are some of the analytics that matter the most in the current market:
First-time User Drop-off Points
One of the most important mobile app analytics to track is anything that will tell you why a first-time user didn’t become a second-time user. As quoted from the above link:
This is a big one. Even when marketing does a good job and the user ends up downloading the app, it’s only half the battle. The “onboarding” of a customer is what takes time, finesse and constant deploy-measure-iterate sessions to get it right.
Developers are having a difficult time in this area. This is partly because of the nature of the app economy. When a person spends $20, $10, or even $5 for an app, they expect to engage with the app for more than five minutes before forgetting about it. But for apps that are 99¢ and under, they don’t expect to engage with it any longer than they would a stick of chewing gum.
Developers are starting to write apps for the one-and-done buyer. They will soon discover this is a losing proposition. As a developer, you need buyers that will engage with, and become hooked on the app. When you put out a paid upgrade, they will be happy to pay for it, and tell their friends. Customer acquisition is hard. Customer retention is easier and more profitable. Pricing apps like disposable commodities is the 2016 trend that is in the most desperate need of change.
One of the most difficult metrics to measure is the happiness index of your users. Ratings and reviews is one part of it. But that never tells the full story. It is well known that people are more likely to review a product when they are not happy with it than when thy are. While there is more to gauging happiness than counting stars in reviews, reviews definitely matter. As stated by Dr. Vásquez in the NYT:
People are becoming literary connoisseurs of the online comment field.
The reason your consumers’ happiness is so important is that they directly influence the difficulty and cost of new customer acquisition. Whatever method you use, you can’t spend better analytic money than on discovering if your customers are happy with your product, and what it would take to make them even happier.
Do your customers keep coming back because of the service and features? Or do they continue to buy your app because they want to support you: the developer? Get the answer to this question wrong, and you will suffer the fate of Smile. They were one of the most beloved companies among tech taste-makers, with one of the most beloved apps: TextExpander.
They made the mistake of confusing support for the company with customer loyalty. They changed their pricing scheme to something less favorable for the customers, and saw their loyalty rapidly dwindle. It is good to have customer loyalty. It is better to know why you have it so you can keep it and increase it. There is a long list of analytics that developers need to track in order to be successful. But retention, happiness, and loyalty should be at the top of the list.