App Push Notifications Deep Linking

App Push Notifications Best Practices: Deep Linking

Optimize App Push Notifications with Deep Linking

In a previous article about the significance of mobile search in an app’s visibility. Indexed app content can appear as “app packs” or individual search results. This is made possible by enabling deep linking capabilities within an app. Aside from the benefit of added visibility, did you know that deep links can also optimize mobile app push notifications? And that effective app notifications increase user retention?

 

Since its nascent years, users expressed contradictory opinions about app push notifications. They love it, yet hate it at the same time. Disrupting and annoying are just two of the words that a lot of users use to describe notifications that suddenly pop-up on their mobile screens several times a day. Still, a lot of users are quick to tap on a notification about a new offer, sale or trending news. But then, the tap only rewards the users with disappointment. Instead of bringing them to that 110% off-on-everything screen, the link dumped them to the home screen, leaving them utterly baffled and lost.

 

This type of experience can compromise the effectiveness of any promotional app push notifications. No matter how great of an effort you make into crafting these app push notifications, it will be all for naught if you don’t give your users the content they want. This is where app deep linking steps in to save the day.

 

How to Use Deep Linking

Deep linking capabilities are not limited to app push notifications. Deep links are useful in reaching out to users with the use of different message types. This includes in-app messaging and mobile emails which are often the methods of choice in multichannel promotional outreach. You can also link from your app’s website for a web push notification that can personalize the onboarding process.

 

But focusing on app push notifications, you can direct users to both static and temporary content within your app. The types of content obviously vary according to your app’s functionality. Always make sure that all app push notifications are in context with the content you are linking. SoundCloud, for example, uses push notifications that tease users about trending songs. Each notification has a deep link to a specific song track within the app.

 

You can set up deep linking capability for app push notifications yourself. There are, of course, companies that offer deep linking and related services. The additional services they offer often centers around analytics, especially the tracking of traffic and conversion from deep links.

 

User-Centered Approach

A User-Centered Approach in Mobile App Development

The Profit vs. Users Dilemma

Last week, we discussed Google’s new strict enforcement of their User Data Policy. We also mentioned the study that shows how a lot of app developers don’t actually abide by their own privacy policy. Apparently, some apps gather sensitive user information without permission and share said information to a third party. This is shocking news for many but for some, it just confirms their suspicions. But this departure from a user-centered approach to a profit-centered approach in app development isn’t actually sudden. It’s not new either.

 

Even with how this betrayal of trust appears, it is most of the time due to need and not greed. The reality is that small-time developers only get little to no revenue from their app portfolio. Some of these developers end up employing aggressive and somewhat underhanded monetization tactics.

 

But is this issue only limited to struggling app developers? There are probably several app development companies that are guilty of bypassing their own privacy policies. Most of the time, there is no ill-intent, just casual disregard to the users’ interests. But where do you draw the line?

 

Rules for a User-Centered Approach

There are no solid rules but there are best practices in app development. These rules serve as a checklist that you can use as a guide producing quality and user-centered apps. Any necessary implementation won’t cost anything except some effort on your part as a developer.

Rules on privacy

  • Respect users’ privacy. This general rule includes sensitive data handling issues like third-party access and monitoring. The purpose of the monitoring is also another issue. As much as possible, only monitor app usage data to improve app performance.
  • Do not request for unnecessary permissions. The type of data you request from users also matters. Do you really need access to a user’s contact list? Is it really necessary in the onboarding to require the user’s phone number? This is where you can (re)consider your intentions.
  • Do not sell sensitive user data. This one is tricky. If you sell anonymous user data to third parties, you aren’t technically violating your users’ privacy.This data is often used to determine usage trends, buying habits, and other insights.

Worryingly, there are data aggregation and sharing practices that go beyond the app’s purpose. If you don’t feel comfortable about your personal data being aggregated this way, just think about how your users would feel

Rules on Honesty

  • Use plain and simple language in the privacy policy. There’s no need to confuse users with legal jargon. Users would most likely feel that you have something under your sleeve if their interpretation of the privacy policy does not coincide with yours.
  • Don’t trick users into spamming their friends and other app users. This became an issue last year with a photo-sharing app. Users inadvertently spammed all their contacts via SMS. This was after the app promised users with “1 GB of storage per invite sent.”

Though the users technically gave consent for the app to access their contact list, they did not expect for the app to spam all their contacts with invites and notifications.

Rules on Respect

  • Minimize disruptions. Disruptions can come in the form of pop-up ads or notifications. Ads and branding features should be discreet and timely. A great user experience is, after all, the main focus of a user-centered approach. This also extends to the practice of sending misleading notifications, especially through SMS.
  • Don’t hog bandwidth. Make sure that added functionality doesn’t cause the app to consume a lot of data. This is especially important with background processes that users may not be aware of. If the use of a lot of data is really necessary, you should be upfront to your users about it.

 

There are more unspoken rules in app development and in the handling of user data in particular. Do you know any other rules for a user-centered approach in app development? Tell us in the comments.

Mobile App Monetization: A/B Test for In-App Purchases

As we previously discussed, In-App Purchase is becoming the primary source of app income. Aside from following implementation best practices, it is important to assess the performance of different in-app items. Assessment can come in the form of monetization KPI tracking or better yet,  an A/B test.

 

The tracking of user behavior isn’t of much use unless you know how to act on each behavior. A/B testing allows us, marketers, to explore and experiment different monetization strategies with minimal risk to revenue loss.

 

IAP A/B Testing Best Practices

 

When is the right time to start an IAP A/B test?

It is advisable to start monetizing with the use of in-app purchases after the app has significant traffic and loyal user base. You can start an A/B test anytime you feel the need especially when you are still tweaking with the IAP monetization strategies. There are times where an A/B test is vital, though. This includes times when you conversion rates seem to be slow or skewed, if revenue is low, and if you add or change any in-app item.

 

Which IAP elements should you test?

It is important to consider first and foremost which stage of the monetization funnel directly affects the result you want to test for. Is the low revenue because of the IAP’s placement, price, or its very nature? Test or add IAPs at each level or part of the app where you feel the users are inclined to spend money on. The test would show if user preference over one item before or after an action.

 

You don’t need to specifically test every in-app item. There are in-app elements/aspects that you can tweak and A/B test for performance:

  • Price
  • Placement (or frequency of appearance)
  • Design (color, layout, etc.)
  • Headlines Wording
  • Nature of the offer (bundles, boosters, extensions, etc.)

 

What types of test should you try?

You can try price point tests, placement tests, conversion funnel performance, and market segment test.

 

There are times when tests generate negative or no conclusive reports. This just means that you need to create and try new hypothesis or combinations.

 

How can you track the results?

App analytics tools are the first option. Google Analytics has a built-in A/B testing tool called Google Analytics Experiments. There are also other A/B testing tools that help in simplifying the testing process and offer special features that can help given an insight into what users want and need.

 

How long should the test last?

It is advisable to continue running the test until a statistically significant result is reached. That is if the aggregated data can be used for objective comparison. The longer the test runs, the more accurate the results will be.

 

But how would you know if an in-app purchase really won over the other? You can use A/B test duration calculators to calculate the amount of time necessary for the test. You can also try the traditional way wherein you just estimate the sample size you would need and then divide it by the daily traffic. The result would determine what sample size you should stop the test.

In-App Purchase Implementation Best Practices

Only about 5% of app users make any in-app purchase (IAP), but the average amount these users spend is about 20 times greater than the average spend of all paying users. In-app purchase is projected to be the primary source of app revenue, amounting to $37 billion by 2017. With these facts in mind, the optimization of in-app purchase design and implementation is vital in order to make the most of the huge revenue potential.

In-App Purchase Best Practices

Don’t Focus too much on In-App Purchases

IAPs should not take the attention away from the main function of the app. First and foremost, design an enjoyable and engaging app, and then design in-app items around it.

 

Keep In-App Purchases Simple and Practical

Don’t flood users with every thinkable item for purchase. Users should be able to use in-app items as commodities that can either aid in the gameplay or optimize the overall app experience. Apps with in-app purchases often alienate users as they see it as a “pay to win” scheme. Make in-app items a must-have but not necessarily the only means to proceed.

 

Be Upfront

Trust is something app users are wary of giving, especially to apps with game mechanics that are geared towards maximum monetization. As much as possible, be transparent especially if there are locked levels or in-app currency that can only be accessed through a purchase.

 

Pricing Strategies

  • Decoy Effect. There is a pricing strategy that looks quite irrational, but it is actually grounded in behavioral economics. One key concept is the perception of value in the context of other options. For example, users would most likely select an item that costs $4.50 over an item that costs $10.25. But if you add a third item costing $13 with an additional booster included, they would jump on the offer thinking that it’s a better deal. The second, more expensive offer was just used as a decoy to emphasize the value of the third offer and convince users to spend more than they would normally do.
  • Dynamic Pricing. This strategy basically entails that you offer flexible price points depending on your users’ spending propensity. There are three basic pricing points based on the main categories of app spenders: minnows, dolphins, and whales. Whales are the big spenders, accounting for 70% of revenue derived from in-app purchases but they only comprise 10% of paying users. Dolphins are considered as mid-level spenders while minnows are low-level spenders. Whales make on average 7.4 in-app purchases per month and opt for special and exclusive offers regardless of price. Dolphins and minnows, on the other hand, make only about 1.75 in-app purchases per month. These purchases also come in smaller amounts so you should offer them items with lower price points or currency bundles to extend the value of their purchase.

 

Create a Sense of Urgency

Free, sale and discount are powerful words in marketing especially if you add words like ‘limited time only’. You can use this to welcome new users and use as an incentive for engaged users. Offers like this can also increase app sessions since some users don’t want to miss out on offers that may suddenly appear.

 

Customize Common In-App Items.

You can get ideas for IAPs from your app users and even from your competitor’s users. App reviews, feature requests, and even social media comments can give you an idea on what users want but don’t fall into the mistake of just copying another app’s in-app purchases. Coins and gems are staples in games but make your offer in context to the app’s theme.

 

Give Purchase Suggestions during Key Moments

So, you’ve been upfront to your users and they know too well that there are virtual goods they can purchase. That means that you can’t just bug them at every move about making a purchase. The same approach when asking for reviews should be used. Prompts should appear during key moments in the user’s progress within the app. This can be during success/failure in passing a level or finishing a task.

 

Don’t Forget to Measure Monetization KPIs

Monitor and measure key KPIs for monetization. Use analytics to track user spending behavior and demographics. You can use data from these KPIs to then run A/B and price point tests.

 

Types of In-App Purchases to Consider

Aside from the regular power-ups, lives/turns, and gems/coins, there are also other popular in-app items that need some exploration. Some of these may not work for your app but can still give you some insightful ideas.

 

Remove Ads

This is considered as the most-utilized in-app offer. This can also be considered as a lifetime purchase so implementation is important. Visibility is the key. The ad removal offer should appear on every session, level, and after ads are shown. It needs to be as unobtrusive as possible, though, and seamlessly integrated into the app’s UI.

 

Bundled Items

As mentioned on the pricing strategies above, you can bundle in-app items together to create an enticing offer that’s difficult to refuse. One way to execute this is to offer bundled features for upgrades, mini-games, boosters, and in-app currency.

 

Lifetime Purchase

Single use or consumable items produce the most number of purchases but lifetime purchases are the money makers. You can offer subscriptions or upgrades and supplement it with secondary purchases like additional features throughout the app’s use.

One strategy that is commonly used in games is to include doublers. Doublers can be used for any booster or any other vital in-app item. The idea is that it will provide a lifetime value for your users.

 

Unlockable Features

This may include levels, mini-games, sequels, and character/item reveal. A common implementation of include users being able to bypass a locked advanced features of the game. This is perfect especially if users are required to wait for a certain amount of time to access said advanced features/levels.

 

Character Customization

A lot of users may not see the sense in collecting virtual goods that can’t aid in the gameplay. That’s where character customization comes in. You can provide accessories for in-app avatars or even entirely new characters they can use and collect. Most often, these collectible characters enable users to explore a new theme (seasonal or not), also somehow enabling them to customize their app experience.

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The Conundrum: Single Player or Multiplayer Apps

What Multiplayer Means in Apps

The majority of the multiplayer apps we see in app stores are asynchronous multiplayer apps. This means that the gameplay doesn’t require for players to be online at the same time. Simply put, the gameplay is turn-based. Commonly cited examples of asynchronous gameplay are apps like Words With Friends and Letterpress.

This seems like a simple concept, but what are the main differences? What about the advantages and disadvantages?

 

Single Player Apps

Advantages:

  1. Single player apps are easier and cheaper to make.
  2. There’s no limit to gameplay design and mechanics.
  3. There’s no waiting for other players to take their turns or worrying about other players abandoning a game session.
  4. The storyline is much more immersive than multiplayer modes. This is especially true with RPG, MMO, and other campaign-based multiplayer apps. Players are also able to learn more about the characters, design, and dynamics of the game in single player mode.
  5. The rewards are immediate and exclusive to a single player.
  6. There’s a sense of control for players.

Disadvantages:

  1. Gameplay can appear linear and predictable.
  2. Single play mode can limit multi-directional thinking due to lack of input and support from other players. This is quite evident in game planning.
  3. Players may not see the need for internet connectivity during gameplay. Single player apps that require online sessions can be cumbersome for those that are just want to pass time while on a break or traveling.

 

Multiplayer Apps

Advantages:

  1. It is easier to gain engaged users, especially if the multiplayer app’s design is that of a social co-op gameplay. Also, co-op and competitive plays improve the gaming experience not only because of the in-game interaction but also because of the skills and reflexes needed.
  2. The frustration of failure is lesser (in co-op plays). The added experience of other players can also aid in achieving the reward of either completing a level or performing a task more efficiently. The sense of accomplishment in competitive plays is also amplified by the very thought of winning against real players.
  3. Multiplayer apps allow for casual gameplay with the basic functionality and storyline of real-time games made for consoles and PC. Most multiplayer apps don’t have immersive storylines, which just plays well with mobile players’ behavior.
  4. You can intentionally design the game to give each player a unique gaming experience. The storyline and ending can basically differ depending on a player’s decisions and play style. This is something that is difficult to properly implement in single player mode.

Disadvantages:

  1. One weakness in the multiplayer gameplay is when players need to depend on each other in real time. This gameplay works well for other online platforms like PC and console. Not much for mobile apps. Mobile games like this generally struggle to scale in terms of users and design.
  2. Some games are just best played alone. Social gaming popularized “help-a-friend” co-op type of games wherein players can easily jump over hurdles in gameplay as long as they have friends willing to bail them out. Levels are sometimes intentionally gated just for this purpose. This is frustrating for many since such a feature does not have any real correlation with the aims of the gameplay.
  3. Another problem is synchrony. Though a majority of multiplayer apps are asynchronous, these apps’ designs still call for players to interact within the gameplay. Sometimes, you need to wait for forever before a friend answers to your requests or take their turns in the game.
  4. The lack of other people to play with is also a problem. A lot of multiplayer games have AIs that mimic or take the place of real players. One example is the AI for the Facebook game Criminal Case. Players can create teams whose members can share some in-game items and give a number of hints. What these members can share depend on how active they are in the game. The problem with this setup is when only a few or even none of your friends are playing the game. Hints aside, the AIs can’t give the three reports necessary for you to progress in the next case. Only your teammates can do so, so you need to wait it out for about three days. This setup causes a lot of players to lose interest very fast. If they want to play a similar game, they’d rather go to the game that their friends are also playing.
  5. The development of multiplayer apps demands more resources compared to single player apps. This is especially true with real-time multiplayer.

Right now, most apps both have single player and multiplayer modes. But not all games need multiplayer modes, even if you build it into the game’s design. Most of the time, the addition of a multiplayer mode doesn’t affect the core game. It tends to appear that there’s really nothing to gain in playing multiplayer mode aside from the social aspect. This often makes or breaks turn-based multiplayer games. The game needs meaningful turns done in a reasonable amount of time. This is, of course, difficult to fulfill in reality.

 

Word and board games are now mostly multiplayer but there are also a lot of misses in the implementation. Sometimes, the asynchronous multiplayer mode doesn’t just make sense. Gameplay will slow down and become less compelling. Examples are games like Angry Birds, Head Soccer, and Asphalt 8: Airborne. The same is true with games with synchronous multiplayer modes.