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10 Commandments for a Mobile App Economy The key question entrepreneurs are asking is what does it take to get your app distributed and stuck on his/her mobile screen?

By Ankit Rawal

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Mobile phones have truly democratised technology in India, reaching out to remote and rural parts of the country. In fact, dependency on mobiles increases as income falls. This will without doubt make India a mobile economy where all services -- be it from government or companies like financial services, entertainment, education, commerce etc. -- will happen through / facilitated by a mobile phone. This has thus led to an explosion of mobile apps and every brand, company or institution, private or public, wants to get its app downloaded on the users' phones. Real estate on a consumer's phone has become prime property with uninstall rates high in emerging markets as per the app tracking company Apsalar.

This property gets further pricey for memory/space starved Indian mobile consumers who are so price conscious, making them brand promiscuous. Hence the key question is what does it take to get your app distributed and stuck on his/her mobile screen and also get his/her to engage with it regularly.

  • Thou shalt NOT make an App : Off late we have been hit over head time and again with "mobile app" or "mobile only" sermons. But if only mobile is the future why does successful apps like WhatsApp, FB Messenger, Flipboard, Uber etc making their Web Apps for large screens. Flipkart has ditched its mobile only strategy. Many businesses being advised to mobile app should consider how often will the user access you on a small screen for short period of time. What jobs or tasks require her on-the-go convenience vs. accomplishing the same task on a bigger screen later on. Also does it require a native mobile app or can those tasks completed on mobile web especially on low bandwidth. Brutal candid answers to such questions are necessary for you to really make an App in the first place. Lest your app distribution problem will be Facebook / Google's multi-billion $$ business. No wonder both these AdTech companies did very well last quarter while most of the other companies digital or otherwise business struggled.
  • Thou shalt Solve a 'REAL' consumer need through the App : Like the world where 0.11% of World Population holds 81% of overall wealth, app economy is also skewed towards large few big companies. An App should either be Disprin solving some pain point of access, inconvenience, price discrimination or Vitamin for pleasure, joy, happiness. Games, utilities, commerce, social networking, messaging etc. belong to either of these two categories. Make an app only if Disprin or Vitamin is 10X better than the existing solution. Many a times a mobile web experiences is good enough circumventing the challenges of distribution & retention.
  • Thou shalt KISS (Keep it Simple & Slim) : While designing and making the app think of "Frictionless Design". Reducing energy to experience the app that your grandmother can also use is essential if you looking for wide spread adoption. Think WatsApp, Gmail, YouTube etc. Also in a memory / processing power starved nation it is essential to keep it Slim (5-10MB) unless you have a very compelling reason for users to accept bigger sizes ( games like Clash of Clans, Subway Surfers etc.)
  • Thou shalt Develop Local, Earn Global : Many a times when we think of app adoption we think locally or regionally. However App Economy is a global play thanks to App Stores. Games for example have a global appeal (Ironically the Top 20 games only 3 are developed locally in India). Similarly various utility apps like anti-virus, flash lights or memory boosters have global use cases. Also on the other hand realize not everyone is an English speaker. In fact in India next 200-300M mobile users will be vernacular speakers. Also can there be newer formats of engagement like audio / video beyond language?
  • Thou shalt Think Monetization from Start : Many a times monetization through ads or other models are after thought when the app is about to release on the app store. However many highly grossing apps like Candy Crush & Clash of Clans have game design and mechanics that are more conducive for In-App purchases. Candy Crush for example accelerate progression through booster packs, limiting / restricting game play, social sharing or just vanilla but power messages that "So Close; Just Few More Moves". Localization to user constraints of infrastructure (language / bandwidth / incentive model) can also help in driving adoption and monetization.
  • Thou shalt use Indian Thali for Distribution : Like the Indian plate of food that contains liberal helpings of rice, lentils, curries, curd, pickles, dessert and many more app distribution strategy should have a healthy mix of own media (website, blogs, other owned properties), Social media, Earned media (PR, word of mouth, referral) and Paid Media. Also remember Indians are one of the most heterogeneous society with varied media habits so there cann't be ONE size fit ALL. A good mix of TV, print, radio and digital media is the right approach for app distribution depending on app evolution journey and budgets
  • Thou shalt NOT be Penny Wise & Pound Foolish : Don't try to run after the lowest CPI app distribution player. Focus on downstream metrics like "life time value" of the customer, her frequency & sessions time of app usage etc. Also don't try to cut corners on seemingly innocuous but powerful stuff like tracking partner, creative design of your ad units, call to actions as these all add up to improve your download conversions and usage thereafter.
  • Thou shalt Test, Test , Test : If Rome was built in a day I would have hired the same contractors as them. One has to continuously A/B test various Call to Actions (CTAs), imagery, body copy, channels etc. to find the secret sauce that will click for your app distribution. Many a times symbiosis between various channels play a key role in accelerating your distribution.
  • Thou shalt analyze, Analyze, ANALYZE : As someone said In God I trust for everything else I need data. Spend copious amount of your time in analysing various metrics be it around consumers (DAUs/MAUs/ARPU, loyalty retention), Gameplay ( game time, time spent between levels, particular feature ,button etc. ) or Marketing (attribution, CPI, CPS, RPI).
  • Thou shalt Believe to be Lucky : Serendipity, chance or luck like anything in life has a play in your app distribution. Key is to use any such opportunity that knocks at your door to be prepared following the above commandments to strike a home run.

Happy Downloading!

Ankit Rawal

GM, InMobi

Ankit is a mobile evangelist & a scale up guy.  He has worked for 6.5+ years at InMobi where cross multicultural teams across India, SEA, China , Korea and African countries where he converted white spaces into sustainable business revenues. Prior to mobile advertising he worked at Microsoft, Oracle in technical roles. Ankit is an avid marathon runner, Mandarin Learner and prolific writer.

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