Our Journey @Zoomdeck : It gets even more exciting!

Zoomdeck is a beautifully designed, engaging new experience for photos.

When you look at photos, you realize that almost every photo has different interesting stories and elements in them. Yet, how many of them are you able to discover or share? Haven’t you always had questions when you came across a photo – What model of a Ferrari is this? Who is that person? What top is she wearing? How much does it cost, where can I buy one?

Zoomdeck lets you “spot” things inside photos – add notes, audio, video, places, people, links or anything that’s relevant (or simply fun!). Spots are rich, interactive, smart and unobtrusive – so others can easily discover and engage with the photo in ways one could never imagine before. What’s more, the conversations on Zoomdeck are based on each “spot” – so they are always contextual. More context equals better engagement.

The Journey

The journey for us started in 2012. Deepak, my co-founder, has always had a big passion for photography and I have often found him to be crazy at times with his attention for details! But that’s exactly what led to Zoomdeck. Zoomdeck was born out of his need to have a better experience to talk about the details in photos that he was posting on his blog. It was after a few months that I joined him and it has been an eventful journey for us all this while.   

We built our first prototype and did an alpha. Got in and graduated from the first batch of the GSF Accelerator Program. It was a great experience being part of the GSF first batch interacting with a few of the brightest minds in the country, getting feedback and suggestions on what to try and what not to. During this time we also interacted with hundreds of users including a few publishers. It has been fun interacting with users trying to understand their experience while using the product, understanding each action of their’s using the product and iterating on a few minor and at times a few major changes to the design elements.

 

This is how we started :

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                                               Zoomdeck in early 2013      

Being a platform with both consumers and publishers having a major say, we have been fanatical in our focus on building an awesome user experience. We worked with some of the best designers to dig deep and build a product that we think users really want and enjoy. Saneef Ansari – who worked with us for designing our experience is from NID and has worked with some of the best design firms in the world. He is one of the best interaction design expert you could find, is a little expensive though!:-) At times, we have had heated debates, arguments, disagreements on various features, functionalities, interactions and design elements, a few sleepless nights on redbull, caffeine over-dose and whole lot of shawarmas!

We have used almost all parts of our office space trying to figure out features, elements and the design interactions on the platform.

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Figure 1: Trying to figure out all the elements that makes Zoomdeck

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Figure 2: Digging deep to figure out Interactions and elements that make a Photo beautiful

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Figure 3: Figuring out each each Tab/ Action on the Site

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Figure 4: Cracking our brains trying to figure out the UI

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Figure 5: Designing the UI Element: Spot Description

Meanwhile, during this time we had also got on-board Sumit Gupta, the face behind our iOS app. Designing the web was challenging, however getting the experience right on a phone app was even more challenging with the limitation of the screensize. But it was a challenge we found to be fun and exciting and I must say, Sumit is one of the most passionate guys I have seen.

All this while our community was slowly but steadily growing as well, actively spotting stories and elements giving us valuable feedback. We have grown to more than 10,000 photos and 30,000 spots during this time with an active and vibrant community across US, Europe, Australia and India.                                                  

And, here we are today after a few months of hard-work & toil, valuable feedback & amazing spots from our beloved community and a whole lot of exciting moments along the way, on the verge of another awesome moment: We make Zoomdeck go public and we are so excited to see all of you awesome people pour in and enjoy the endless stream of interactive photos discovering and sharing the stories and elements that make them.

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We have built Zoomdeck with a lot of heart and we do hope you take Zoomdeck to your heart as well! J

~Re-posted from my blog on Zoomdeck

Mobile App Retention : One of the most Important metric marketers tend to neglect

Apple and Google have created a new era of mobile computing whose rapid growth is rivaled by the Internet boom of the 1990s. A recent research from ABI Research revealed an estimated 70 Billion app downloads in 2013 – 58 Billion to smartphones and 14 billion to tablets, that’s a total of over 10 apps downloaded per human being on earth.  The App Store has an estimated 775,000 apps as of Jan, 2013 and the Google Play/ Android has an estimated 800,000 apps as of Jan, 2013 ( Refer Fig.1)

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Figure 1

 With the market for apps being extremely crowded and the quality bar rising continuously, the era of the get rich quick apps have long gone by and the real challenge for the marketers/ App Entrepreneur is to gain a significant mindshare of their user base.

This is where the significance of Mobile App retention comes in. With so many apps to download and use on the app store, most of the apps get lost among the collection of apps downloaded by the user or gets deleted soon after download. It is estimated that in case of most apps within a period of 3 months, over ¾th of your customer base is long gone,

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Figure 2

Web marketers don’t stop marketing their product to the users who visited their website once. They use various techniques and channels to re-target that user. This is important because they understand the value of an existing customer or a user who has passed maybe a couple of stages in the Customer Funnel. However more often than not, in the mobile world marketers tend to forget the value of an existing user both in terms of the positive effect it can bring in driving more word of mouth and downloads and also in terms of the amount of additional revenue it can generate.

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Figure 3

In case of app store, the avg. cost of acquisition of a user is >$1. This leaves a common App Entrepreneur with a single purchase price of $0.99 with losses financially. Hence, it’s important for an App Entrepreneur to understand the financials involved in acquiring a user and the amount of money that can be generated from that user, which is nothing but ARPU ( avg. revenue per user).

Having a look at Figure 3 tells us that:

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Figure 4

As you can see , for your profits to increase basically you would have to increase your count of Active Users and ARPU and reduce the avg. cost of acquisition of users.

One basically improves on the Active User count by having the right techniques for retaining and engaging with existing users.

ARPU is again influenced by the user retention percentages. The more the user retention percentages, the more the avg. time spent on the app which directly correlates with the average revenue per user (in app purchases). With retention the LTV (lifetime value of a user) goes up significantly adding to the top-line.

There is also an indirect factor which people often tend to forget: With good retention and happy users, one drastically reduces the Cost of Acquisition of Users as through Word-of-mouth, the happy users will recruit a significant number of new users.

A small increase in your app’s user retention numbers can go a long way in adding a few more dollars in your kitty directly as well as indirectly. An eg:

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How does one improve User retention?

There are various things one should ensure as an App Entrepreneur to ensure a high user retention figure for your app and to create a brand of faithful users:

  • Create an app that is awe-inspiring, an app that is extremely useful or fun to use, an app that solves a particular problem or is extremely engaging and entertaining, an app that is beautiful in design. I could go on and on but the bottom-line is one has to create a world-class app for the user to come back again and again and open the app from the dozens of app one downloads on to their smartphone.
  • Analytics: Use analytics to understand user engagement on different pages which includes the bounce rate, avg. time of visit, frequency of visits, . Try and identify pages which have a high drop-off and do split testing to weed out the reasons for the same. Use free tools such as Flurry for analytics. Provide a mechanism for your users to reach you instantly either with an issue or a suggestion. It is critical in a lot of ways:
  1. Avoiding negative ratings on the app store from the few disgruntled users which would discourage new users from downloading your app.
  2. Understanding issues faced by the user which you wouldn’t have thought previously.
  3. Get suggestions and ideas for new functionalities. Use the app user for your research and survey actively to further improve the app.
  4. Giving means for users to contact you when in need just forms one part of the coin. It’s equally important for you to respond back immediately to further improve your relationship with the customer and make the user feel that he is cared for. This goes a long way in making the user an advocate of your app.
  5. Updating and improving the app constantly is yet another important factor. It is important not just because the app should improve both in terms of usability and functionality at a rapid pace but also because with each update the dormant user is prompted to come back to the app. Hence utilizing this is really effective.
  • It’s important to segment users based on their in-app behavior and interact with them differently. Craft a different strategy for different segments of users. There are a number of strategies apps in different segments use to engage with such users. Eg: In a travel app : Send special offers to a particular destination to people who have constantly kept track of the travel packages to that particular destination.
  • Communicate with dormant users with relevant content or any piece of information which would prompt them to log back in. Always use in-app messaging and push notifications to increase retention. Studies from Airpush have shown that push notifications increases engagement 4x times and increases retention 2x times. For eg: a Social media app could send a notification/message to one of its dormant users highlighting the activities of his/ her friends or by highlighting what’s new/ trending.
  • Engage on Social Media to build a good relationship with your users. This would result in a higher mindshare for your brand name in the minds of the user which would indirectly increase retention and word of mouth.
  • Create a reason for the user to log back in regularly either to win points or get a shot to enter the leaderboards. Gamification is yet another important aspect that will encourage users to come back to your app.

Hence, what I would say is that we App Entrepreneurs have a retention problem rather than a discovery problem. The ASO techniques are extremely important in getting you visibility on the app store and maybe a few downloads but with the plethora of apps on the app store and the relatively low barrier to delete an app from a mobile, the major challenge for us is to increase the user retention and with it the Lifetime value of our users.

Why has India failed to produce awe-fucking-some Tech Consumer Product companies?

A population of around 1.4 Billion and we hardly have a great Technology Consumer Product company like a Google or a Facebook or an Apple. No doubting the fact that we have a few of the best Technology Services Companies in the world like TCS, Infosys, HCL, Wipro which would have market caps way above the likes of Pinterest, twitter, Linkedin, Stripe, AirBnB etc but when it comes to building tech consumer product companies we lack something.

It’s difficult pointing out one single factor that makes up for this. There are a number of things that act in tandem that’s hurting the startup culture in India.

Society and Culture: I don’t know if many would agree but I consider this as a crucial factor that’s limiting the vast majority of Intelligent and smart young minds in our country to take up the mantle of doing something maverick, creating something that has tremendous value to the society. With parent’s asking their young ones to focus only on getting good grades and taking care of their educational expenses we hardly get a chance to be Independent early on in our life. By the time we complete our education & hit the mid twenties, Parent’s are busy getting us married to someone whom they think would be our ideal partners. If you try and resist any of this, you are classified as a spoilt brat who is a problem to the entire family and that leaves a normal person in India with hardly any chance to don the hat of an Entrepreneur early in his life. By the time you get a grip on your life and think about doing something life changing, you are in your mid-thirties, time long lost! Compare this with the culture outside, in the US for eg where people feel the urge to do something life changing right when they are in college or maybe even before that, that’s a big headstart they have.

Setting Local goals: I’m not really sure why we do this, but then the more Entrepreneurs I meet the more vindicated I’m on this thought of mine. We hardly have ambitions to create a Global product. We are quite content to create a product in a niche that would do well in a couple of states or may be the whole of India. That’s the dream and with a dream like that it’s hard to build a google or a facebook. Compare this to the guys in Silicon Valley, they always dream big. The focus is always on building a product that’s world class and used all over the world even though they might start building their base locally.

The Indian Consumer: Imagine a product like Pinterest or Twitter having a huge audience here in India during its initial days? I don’t really know the reason for this but for any of the Consumer tech Products, we somehow have the tendency to accept it only after it has significantly scaled. We are not early adopters of anything. I guess a lot of it has to be because of the way we live as well. The few who are tech savvy are busy working from dawn till dusk, majority of the sites blocked in 90% of the offices, post which they have to commute for hours (which is a major pain), have to be on Facebook and Gmail, then where do we get the time to try out something new? The rest either don’t have connectivity or hardly know how to operate a computer/smart phone. General rule for any startup is to be in a place where your customers are. So the fact is, Indian Market is a very small market for consumer tech companies, be it tech gadgets or internet marketing. There is not enough money to be made there, although this will change in the coming years. The only market that could have supported companies like Facebook, Apple or Google is the US which has a large market and a big set of early adopters of anything related to technology.

Lack of Startup Ecosystem: Having a great ecosystem for startups to flourish is yet another key missing component in India. Startups thrive when there are Investors, entrepreneurs, lawyers, best companies all at a single place. We in India can hardly expect to walk into a Coffee shop or go for a morning walk and expect to find Paul Graham or Peter Thiel. It could never happen. Having a group of extremely brilliant Entrepreneurs has a effect on everyone around. It rubs off. Getting frequent opportunities to listen to Mark Zuckerberg or Larry Page or Bill Gates does inspire you in ways you would have never thought.  Not just the entrepreneurs even the lawyers matter. Having an ecosystem that gives you ample opportunity and encourages talent is something we should genuinely start building here in India. Must say, things are signs of change but I guess we here in Bangalore or Mumbai or Chennai or Delhi are still 10-15 years behind the valley in this regard.

Mentors: Having great mentors who have carved out brilliant products and technology companies is yet another crucial piece in the jigsaw. We have the likes of Narayana Murthy, Nandan Nilekani etc but with no due disregard for their achievements, these are not the people who could guide you in creating Product companies like Google or Apple.

VC Market : The Indian VC market is at least 20 years behind the American VCs. It’s hard to get valuation at an early stage which is crucial for a Tech Consumer Product company to grow. Investors need to show confidence in their founders and expect to not rake in profits right away. A company like Pinterest with Ben Silberman could have hardly survived had Pinterest been started in India. For that matter even a Twitter or a Facebook. The VCs would have written it off right from the beginning. In India the only segment that gets funding are the E-commerce space and maybe the travel segment. The irony is that neither of these segments have been highly profitable at least till date.

Angels: Angels are crucial for startups during its initial days. In India one could hardly find any angels in reality. I find it odd that the few who invest in companies as Angels more often than not eat up a big pie of the founder’s share leaving them with hardly anything. The more the Angels exert themselves and the lesser the freedom they give to the founders, the higher the chance that the company would fail.

Brilliant Universities: The education system in India somehow does not encourage students to create products, become entrepreneurs. It’s highly text book oriented and all we are expected to do is produce on the answer sheet  are the things we have mugged up the day before.

App Store Optimization Strategy : Insights, tips and tricks

I have been doing a lot of research lately in trying to understand the various ways by which one could promote one’s app in the most cost effective way. In fact in my previous post, I had covered a lot of things a budding App Entrepreneur must take care of in order to get good traction during launch.

The Appstore is a gold mine for App Entrepreneurs and there is no questioning this fact. However the reality is that the money is eaten up by the Big guys more often than not. It’s extremely difficult for a new guy to get his App rated in the Top 10 or even the Top 100. I agree it’s a must that one should build an awesome app, but many a times having an awesome app doesn’t result in your app getting featured in the Top 10 if it doesn’t reach enough audience. And for that for a new entrant it’s important that he takes note of each and every thing that would boost the visibility of his/ her app and especially the ones that’s free ( for now, let’s forget the fact that Time’s money! J )

There are various channels one could use in advertising one’s app. A research from Apptentive shows the percentage distribution of the various App discovery methods.

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As you can clearly see, general browsing in the App Store forms the most significant chunk of this distribution chart. This is why it’s important for you to make your App Discoverable in the App store. The process of optimizing mobile apps so that it ranks higher In the App Store is known as ASO or App Store Optimization. The increased visibility on the App Store results in increased downloads for your app. There are a number of other studies that shows the same pattern. A study from Forrester also confirms the high volume of traffic generated through app store searches.

What are the parameters that determine your ranking in the App Store and hence require an optimization strategy for?

Title – The title of your app contributes heavily on your ranking in the App store, in fact I would say it has the maximum weight. Hence, it’s extremely important that you do your research before deciding on the title of your app. You can always try changing the title with every submission of a newer version however I wouldn’t suggest you to keep changing your app title as your app would have got mentions at various places and constantly fiddling with your title might in fact lose you a few new users.

Keywords- This is an equally important component that determines your ranking in the app store for various search queries. I will cover in detail, the various techniques and tips on doing your Keyword research and optimal use of these keywords in your app’s metadata.

App Description – It’s extremely important to have a clear, catchy message in your app description not only because it gives you a better chance for getting rated for a particular keyword but also because once your app gets discovered people read your description along with viewing your screenshots and reviews before taking a call on downloading your app. The keywords in your App description might not have the same weight as the ones in the Title and the Keywords section of your metadata but it is important nevertheless.

App Ratings and Downloads – This is yet another factor that indirectly influences your ranking for a particular keyword. This makes it very important for you to consider getting yourself rated for keywords that does not have extreme competition from apps that already has raked in thousands of downloads and reviews. Here in, the recent velocity of downloads and reviews matter rather than historic numbers.

Key things to understand and follow in ASO:

ASO is not something that you do once and you are done with. If you think you can put in enough effort on a regular basis to do your research, optimize and track the results then I would suggest you to not waste your time on ASO. ASO requires repeated monitoring of the performance of your Keyword strategy and chopping and changing the ones that does not perform or get you rated for, reasons being any.

Localizing the metadata of your app is extremely crucial if you want to further improve your chances of downloads. This might be an extended topic to cover in one single post, however I would highlight the gist of it. One easy way is to hire someone on Odesk, Elance or Copify and translate existing keywords where required, however, such a strategy won’t always bring you the best of results. I would suggest you to use a mix of tools like Google Translate, Google Keyword Tools and Google Trends to get you an idea of the volume of traffic various keywords can generate. I will do a separate post in detail on Localizing App metadata.

 Use some fantastic products out there in the market that does the heavy-lifting for you.

Appcod.es

MobileDevHQ

Appstoreranking

Searchman

App Annie

Xyo

These are some fantastic tools that you could use to understand the rankings, search volume, traffic etc for various keywords/ apps on the App store. Few of them would require you to pay a monthly subscription for getting access to their entire list of features but I must say it’s totally worth it. I however use a mix of Straply, Xyo and SensorTower without paying a penny for getting my keyword research done! J

While choosing your keywords you need to keep in mind a few things. The important factors that should determine your keyword selections are:

Search Volume – Target only those keywords that has a high search volume

Competition – Target keywords that has less competition

Strength of your Competition – It’s also important to understand the strength of your competition. If there are a number of popular apps with thousands of downloads using the same keyword you are thinking of using, then it’s better to avoid those as it would be highly difficult for you to get in to the top few for that Keyword.

Let’s understand the way people search on the App Store. According to a study this is how the search would be split:

80% of Searches are “Category” or “Genre” type searches

5% are for specific app titles

5-10% of searches are Inspiration Searches such as “great apps” or “new apps”

The remaining 5% are transactional searches where the users are looking for a particular app function like “write notes” or “filters for photos”

The problem with trying to get a slice of the Category or Genre based search is that the competition is just too high for a newbie. Targeting search for specific app titles and feeding of them is somewhat Blackhat in a way. However it’s entirely up to you to decide the methods you use. It might give a few initial downloads which is crucial for a new app, we can debate if it’s ethical or not later! J However try and use apps that are in your same niche and share similar audience which would give you a better conversion ratio.

The way I do my Keyword Research is:

Make an extended list of keywords used by apps In the same niche/ similar apps. Use Appstorerankings for getting this information:

imagePost making an extended list of keywords I use Straply to figure out related search terms, search volumes and Competition. I cross-reference the Search Volume on appstorerankings.net as well.

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I will create a list of Keywords for which the Search Volume is relatively high and the app competition is less. Again, the question is how do we estimate a reasonable level of competition? Remember that in an iPhone for every search, results are displayed one at a time. Hence it’s really important to avoid Keywords for which you think you cannot achieve a rank higher than 8 for good results.

Next I scan through search ratings against various Keywords for individual apps in my niche. This gives me even more Keyword choices. What you need to do is

Search for an app that is in your niche after you login to Straply (remember it’s free).

Click on the App name listed in the search results ( the one in the Apple Store)

Straply will show you a list of keywords for which the App is rated. Sort the list based on Search Volume and you will have the high volume list of Keywords for which the app is rated. Now try and figure out keywords for which the number of apps is significantly lesser.

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It might be a good idea to use Keywords that are specific app searches but there seems to be a big error in the spelling searched for. It might be an indication that the person would have just heard about an app and wants to try it out. Guess people like this are more open to trying out new stuff, so it’s always a good idea to present your app also in front of them! J (Grey hat I would say)

Also, use the Missed keyword Opportunities given by Straply to further see your options. There are a few that might be relevant to your niche/ app. It’s extremely important to use keywords that you can associate with your app or else you will finally end up losing downloads.

Now you have an extensive list of keywords you can play around with. Few important tips to note in finalizing your keyword list:

App Store allows you a maximum of 99 characters for the Keywords metadata. Try and utilize as much of this quota as possible.

Don’t use spaces after the comma that’s used to separate Keyword list. For eg: “pic,photo,cam,camera,filter”

Try and avoid using long keywords as far as possible

Split search queries like “tag photos” into “tag,photos” . You will get rated for both the keywords and the “tag photos” search as well.

Use the keyword set you have finally decided upon through all of your efforts and then track how you are doing for various search queries and keywords. Try and change quickly the keywords for which you aren’t performing well. Keep trying out various combinations to get your best set of keywords. I would suggest you to localize at least the metadata of your app as well to see great results.

To conclude, ASO is a great tool for you to greatly improve your app discoverability. However, it involves your time and effort. Get discovered and you are half way there to succeeding on the App Store.

References:

http://blog.kissmetrics.com/app-store-optimization/

http://makeappmag.com/how-choose-keywords-apple-app-store-seo/