Zutobi Drivers Ed is a gamified e-learning platform focused on online drivers education to help teens get their license. Tim Waldenback, the co-founder, explains how he managed to get over 3 million downloads in less than 2 years and how you can too! Here’s what he learned..
The path to the kind of explosive growth that leads to the accumulation of millions of downloads in just two years is riddled with obstacles to overcome and achievements to learn from.
There is rarely such a thing as an overnight sensation when it comes to mobile app development. It takes hard work, constant attention, and regular updates that respond to market research results and ever-changing user habits.
Even some of the most skillfully developed and marketed apps can fall short of expectations and fade away not long after being launched.However, while not all properly coded, built, and marketed apps will succeed, apps that are not will surely fail.
Due to the sheer number of apps available on the market, there are plenty of examples of successes and failures that can be examined to determine the influencing factors of each result.
App Success Requires Ongoing Effort
The process of app development and launch preparation is stressful and time-consuming. It takes thousands of hours to build and market an app before it is ready for launch. All effort seems to be applied towards launching the app and making it public, but that is just the start of the work it takes to make it a success.
The app’s framework and foundation will remain the same, but it will take constant effort to manage and adapt the functions and features to reach maximum exposure and retention rates. Time will be split between ongoing marketing efforts and implementing the changes reflected from testing and usage analytics data. Analytics information is used to influence targeted marketing strategies designed to maximize current consumer trends and user habits.
App Store Optimization
Another ongoing technique to help increase downloads and retention rates is to perform the painstaking task of app store optimization (ASO). Similar to search engine optimization (SEO), ASO is designed to have your app show up as high as possible in-app store searches. Getting your app in front of those users searching for your kind of business and the services you perform will help grow your numbers and increase engagement in your brand.
Getting ASO right can be the big push for an App from obscurity to mass downloads. In Zutobi’s case, by getting our ASO right, we not only grew downloads but also won recognition by Apple twice for driving apps on the App Store.
The foundation of ASO is creating and updating a list of the most-used set of keywords and phrases app users use while searching in app stores. Those keywords are then used in titles and descriptions to draw the attention of complicated algorithms that determine app store search rankings. ASO marketing is a long-term strategy that requires regular maintenance, keyword research, and analytical breakdowns. All that hard work is worth it when high rankings turn into significant boosts in download activity.
Build Your App For Growth
You go into the development of an app with the expectation of success and growth. Too many developers of mobile apps fail to build in scalability elements to handle rapid growth and increases in downloads and user activity. Your app needs to be constructed technically in a way that will be able to take on massive usage and functionality. Part of your marketing and development plan also needs to include strategies for handling and maximizing skyrocketing demand. You may only have one chance at seizing an opportunity for exponential growth, so you better be ready for it.
Market Research Drives App Development, Updates
The competition for app downloads has never been higher. The sheer number of apps on the market presents makes it challenging to get noticed. It is more important than ever to take the time to understand the market by closely examining what similar apps are doing to increase activity and figuring out which features and functions are not connecting with users.
From the earliest stages of the idea and development phases, exhaustive market research will play a vital role in your app’s initial and ongoing success. Knowing as much about your target audience allows you to put into place those elements that will appeal to the most users and compel them to return as regular, loyal customers. When you take the time to get to know your audience, it also allows you to better market your app and your brand, resulting in faster growth and a more enjoyable user experience.
A/B Testing Gauges Function, Feature Performance
The best way to tell if a new function or feature is well-received is by performing ongoing comparative testing with groups of target audiences. A/B testing is a continuing effort to understand what users like and what needs improvement or replacement. The testing process should start early on in the development phase and continue after the app is launched. Series of testing should always be conducted before the rollout of any new feature or significant update. The more ongoing testing you can perform, the better understanding you will have of your users and what they want and need.
Choose Sustainability Over Revenue
Ultimately, it will be nice when your app is able to generate a direct revenue stream. However, that will only happen after establishing the app as a trusted resource for reliable information and valuable incentives. Providing solutions to existing and potential customers will build up a user base that relies on your app and returns on a regular basis. For a live example, at Zutobi our success is in preparing our users for their learner’s permit and driving tests. So naturally most people think practice tests, but if that is all we did, the experience would be very one dimensional. In order to cultivate an experience that has users returning, we create features, modules and content that constantly addresses the user’s wants and needs.
For example, we constantly obtained feedback from users. By obtaining feedback we found that many of our users had very specific areas of driving that they wanted more help in learning. This included how to parallel park, what hand signals are, uncontrolled intersections and other more granular topics. So of course, we immediately built the courses to help!
Making your app habitual for your users while you grow the base promotes the kind of sustainability that allows you to expand to money-generating strategies. It takes time to develop the loyalty needed to add revenue streams without risking alienating your users.
Have a Purpose For All Features, Updates
It is crucial to be consistently adding engaging features and updating your app with exciting new functionality on a regular basis. However, it is essential to add value for the user and promote your brand. One-dimensional apps do not perform well, regardless of how spectacular and useful that one function may be. Promote the things your app does especially well while developing other new features to add along the way.
If you are adding bells and whistles to your app that provide more style than substance, users will notice, and retention numbers will reflect their dissatisfaction. Consistently adding elements that enhance the user’s knowledge and engagement will compel them to return confident they will find new, valuable content and features.
Incentives Spur Engagement, Loyalty
Today’s consumers expect mobile apps to add true value and convenience to their daily lives. The best way to encourage return visits and long-term loyalty is to offer a variety of incentives to existing and potential users of your app. Whether you offer discounts on products or services, free items, accumulating in-app rewards, or a combination of all three, incentives effectively increase total downloads, user visits, and brand engagement. Use market research and user feedback to determine the incentives that will appeal most to your target demographic audience.
Manage Push Notifications
Push notifications are effective at communicating with users about updates, new features, and incentives. Getting a push notification will remind users to check-in and encourage engagement. It is important to be mindful of sending too many notifications, or users will turn them off or worse, disengage or uninstall the app if they are inconvenienced by too many notices. Ensure each notification has true value that makes it worth the users’ time to open and act. You will also need to be mindful of time zones to avoid early morning or late-night delivery of messages.
Be Unafraid to Make Mistakes
Here is a spoiler alert when it comes to developing, marketing, launching, and managing a mobile application: You will make mistakes. There are too many details to attend to and too much uncertainty to avoid tripping up at some point. The key is to embrace those mistakes, understand them, and learn from them.
In many cases, users of the app will point out mistakes, glitches, and functions that are either not working or not engaging. Sharp declines in user engagement often indicate a bug in the app or a new feature or function that is not properly performing. After fixing any obvious or major issues, it is important to let your users know you are back up and running to maintain and continue to grow retention rates.
Grow, Enhance Social Media Engagement
Billions of users log onto social media networks like Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and Instagram every day. These massive digital communities offer marketing opportunities to reach large groups of target audiences. Free business pages, groups, and paid advertising are effective vehicles to promote app downloads and update notifications.
Creating and managing an app for your business can serve as a valuable marketing and communication tool to help grow your business. Amassing millions of app downloads in the first two years after launch is possible, but it is far from easy. Designing and implementing strong marketing plans that drive users to an app with new, exciting functions and features added regularly can have you see substantial increases in downloads and return visits.
Author: Tim Waldenback
Tim Waldenback is the co-founder of Zutobi Drivers Ed, a gamified e-learning platform focused on online drivers education to help teens get their license. Tim founded Zutobi to make world-class driver’s education fun, affordable, and easily accessible for all.