How to plan for a profitable mobile app launch, by Taptica

Part 1: Know your numbers, or at least plan to

How to plan for a profitable mobile app launch, by Taptica

Matt Tubergen is VP and GM of Taptica, a performance-based mobile advertising platform and has over 10 years experience in the mobile app and content industry, bringing large brands and gaming properties to market. His previous positions include senior management roles at THQ and W3i along with supporting multiple successful start ups as founder and co-founder.

Abraham Lincoln once said, "Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe."

Even Abe knew that planning is critical to any successful venture.

This, of course, does not exclude your mobile application. Far too often, app publishers push apps to marketing without proper planning only to be discouraged with the performance or worse yet, to not know what the performance is.

In this series, we will explore the top tips and tricks for planning a successful app launch. Oh, and I promise, no more cheesy quotes…

First things first: Know thy goals and thy KPIs

The mobile apps business is fierce and full of competition. Whether you are a fully stocked, venture backed team of 20 or a couple of friends in a basement, it's important to have clear goals and a clear plan with which to achieve those goals.

Profitably in the mobile apps business is tough and it's more important than ever to understand what is actually happening with your app when it launches, which brings us to our four key recommendations on what you should be planning for when launching your mobile app:

1. Establish a way to track your performance!

I wrote previously about key considerations when setting up your app analytics, which outlined how to most effectively set up analytics in your app to track success.

With any successful or profitable app launch, it's important to track performance of the initial user experience. Pick both quantitative methods for tracking performance as well as qualitative methods.

Quantitative methods would be an analytics platform such as flurry or Kontagent, tracking specific actions and reporting out binary information. Qualitative methods would be direct user feedback gauging emotion, interest level and non-binary feedback.

2. Focus on initial user experience first - "onboarding"

Onboarding is often referred to as the process in which a user is introduced to the application in the first or second experience.

For many successful app developers, over 50 percent of production efforts and optimisations are focused on the initial user experiences.

It's important to track each behaviour of the initial user experiences in both quantifiable measures (hard data) and qualitative measures (beta testing, which we will cover in a future post).

As developers and producers, it's often hard for us to identify the pain points since we are so close to the product. Define clear goals and prepare to measure them over time. Many popular onboarding goals include: complete a tutorial, login or register for a service, and complete a first level.

3. Engagement indicators

Before deploying globally, many successful developers establish baselines for engagement defining KPI's such as: Time in app, sessions per day, session per week, number of recurring actions.

Most of these can be simple, but it's important to establish expectation and goals ahead of launch. High engagement is key to the success of any app.

4. Focus on conversion

If you're planning for an app launch, its important to have an initial idea of projected lifetime value. If your app is paid this will likely not apply to you unless you have in app purchases.

However, it's important to understand your initial lifetime value before you go full to market. Lifetime value is the most important factor.

Trick of the trade: Establish your initial KPI benchmarks in beta territories

It's becoming common practice for developers to test their apps in beta territories such as Canada, UK and Australia. These territories have shown to be successful as they are English speaking and most accurately represent other English speaking demographics.

Establishing benchmarks metrics for your applications KPI's are challenging without a sizable user base, try launching in one or two of the non-US English speaking territories. If your initial performance is not proving successful, put the global launch on hold and fix the problems.

If users are not making it through onboarding, put your focus there. If users make it through the initial app experience but are not sticking around after 4 sessions, focus on engagement.

Lastly, attempt to understand initial lifetime value of your users. If all signs point to high engagement and usage but no users are purchasing, its worth reconsidering your monetisation strategy.

In the next column, we'll focus on getting actual user feedback before you hit stores can give you a great deal of insight. Your friends, your mother, even your 2-year-old nephew can all give you key insights into your apps strengths and weaknesses. As such, we'll review top ways to get feedback from actual users to help you improve your application before launch.

You can read Taptica's previous column series - A soup to nuts guide to mobile app analytics - here.