VoucherCodes.co.uk has 6 million members in the UK and has had over 2 million iPhone app downloads. At this week’s Mobile Marketing Strategies Conference in London, Daniel Bower, Product Director at VoucherCodes, provided insights into 5 important app development lessons learned since launching the company’s first app 18 months ago:
1. Go native!
Speed is important for a positive user experience and effects engagement and retention. It’s safe to assume that consumers are keen to quickly fire up an app in order to find that all important voucher code during the final stages of checkout. The more data downloaded onto the mobile device with the initial install, the better, although if the app is too large it would use a lot of someone’s data plan if installing on the move. If the app needs to download live data from remote web services, then this will slow down the app functionality.
2. Work with the target operating systems
Organisations with an appetite for innovation can’t be faulted for getting delusions of grandeur when faced with developing a new app. VoucherCodes.co.uk immediately took to designing an intricate user experience and completely different to their own website. Daniel Bower strongly advised to stick to the guidelines given by the app store platforms themselves. Not only will this simplify the design process, but is bound to lead to fewer technical glitches further down the line AND is looked favourably on by the likes of Apple – who have a notoriously strict, complex and human review process – as their technology is utilised as they intended. No doubt this was a tough lesson and certainly a bold admission.
3. Build API’s
Again, to ensure the app can run as quickly and cost effectively as possible, develop API’s to pull in data – as opposed to scraping data – and to save development time further down the line develop API’s that will work cross-platform.
4. Plan for it to break
VoucherCodes.co.uk ran 3 updates before they reached a more stable version and this was only for the iPhone! Since there are around 1,800 different Android devices, expect that there will be more glitches, all requiring updates to fix. Some of these glitches can be identified by using test and crash reporting software such as Crashlytics, HockeyApp or Test Droid. When a more robust version is ready, plan your marketing campaigns around this.
5. Build and develop a user retention loop
User engagement and retention should be a common theme among a developer’s plans. Given app stores are becoming more crowded and competitive it’s more difficult and perhaps unrealistic to expect a top 25 ranking from day one, depending on the category. App store ranking algorithms are becoming more advanced, in fact, already forming an ‘App Store Optimisation’ component to marketing plans. Although these algorithms are not published by app stores, it’s almost certain that reviews play an important part. App stores obviously want the most attractive apps to rank highly and be downloaded by consumers.
People are naturally likely jump into action and post reviews when they have either strong positive or negative experiences. In the first 6 months after launching their app, Vouchercodes.co.uk had around 200 reviews, with an average of 2 stars (out of 5). Daniel and his team quickly realised that negative reviews were not only plentiful, but usually short and had ‘CRAP’ and ‘APP’ in the same sentence, like some kind of cynical rhyming couplet.
Complaints were typically unspecific and difficult to understand what the issues were. However, once up to version 3 and beyond, when most glitches had been ironed out, they introduced an in-app ‘review prompt’. The key was to make the steps quick and easy and prompt when customers were at their happiest – after fulfilment.
The net results? Around 20% review response rate, giving 2,500 reviews which were mainly positive, with an average of 4.5 stars and, coincidentally, a consistent rank within the top 3 in their niche.
Graeme has been in the international search industry since 2005 and is currently the Director of Innovation at Webcertain. Prior to his current position, Graeme was primarily cutting his teeth on apps and paid search and working with some of the most significant advertising platforms across the globe and servicing a wide range of multinational brands with strategic consultancy, campaign planning and bid management. Following this he co-founded and led KeywordFluency, a company specialising in turn-key multilingual solutions ranging from international paid search, SEO, online PR, social media and consulting, specifically designed for agencies.