It is always good to hear the inside stories of startups which have tasted success. We know most of the popular ones and it always kind of seems to most of us that you just build "what people want" and like magic you will get hockey stick growth. Except not every idea is an Instagram or Facebook and getting any kind of growth is like real tough. So how do you like squeeze out that growth from what is a small unreachable market.
App in the Air was targeting people who fly frequently and still got to 750,000 app installs. We got to hear from Bayram Annakov how he got App in the Air that far at the meetup organized by Alex Tsyplikhin. Here is what he shared.
The most important thing for any startup founder to be able to growth hack their app is to have empathy for the users.
As developers we know our code in and out and may wonder why don't users get it but our user is the king and queen. Expedia learnt it the hard way when its payment info collection form resulted in users making lot of mistakes and cost them $12 million annually.
Growth hacking is about figuring out where your growth lies. And for that the best trick is to just ask your users.
App in the Air was initially focused on the US market. They wanted to be number 1 travel app in US. But when they spoke with their users they realised that the users were struggling because they wanted multi lingual support. Fixing that helped them get lot of growth from non-US markets.
Always try to make the user the hero. When App in the Air thanked a user publicly (on the update info section in the app store) for helping them with a translation effort than another user immediately offered to help them with translation to another language.
You can even promote users in screen shots you add in the app store. That can get so many shares by the users whom you made hero. Remember to take permission of the users first though.
Once your users are happy with you they will start sharing about you and that will give you natural growth. App in the Air does not call it the viral coefficient but rather the Happy Coefficient ~ the ratio of number of users to number of users added by word of mouth. When they started it was about 3000:1, today it is 246:1.
Make sharing engaging and interesting. It's like your ad on social media. Use interesting pictures and be sure to have your branding displayed prominently.
Native sharing on mobile sometimes does not work because people are concerned about privacy and do not connect their facebook accounts to their devices, event though they use Facebook actively. When it comes to sharing one of Rudyard Kipling's poem says it best:
I KEEP six honest serving-men They taught me all I knew; Their names are What and Why and When And How and Where and Who.
Ask these questions to understand how to design the user experience around sharing.
But out of all the tricks for growth hack, the most effective is app store optimization.
Keywords matter ~ Flight vs flights, airport vs airports. You can user tools like Sensor Tower to figure out the keywords to use.
Use no spaces, and do not repeat keywords in the title. You can then fit in even more keywords.
Frequency of app updates makes a difference too, but if you are too frequent you will start to get user uninstalls. Not more than twice a month. Have meaningful updates.
Finally localization will strongly help. Optimize for each country's app store.
Manage reviews. Know when to ask for one, just do not start to periodically ping a user to give you a review. And when you get a negative review see if you can reach out to the user (doing that requires its own bag of tricks) and address their concerns, persuading them to update their review to something positive. Most users give negative reviews because of app crashes, so test for that extensively.
App development is also a relationship with different vendors, like Apple, Google, Microsoft, Samsung, LG etc. Be great for the app ecosystem vendors.
Be the first to implement new vendor features, like supporting Apple Pay or the Android Watch.
Contribute to their documentation. Open source code snippets to make it easier for other developers to implement new features.
Connect on email with those responsible for developer relationships. Everyone loves to get some positive response back from those they are trying to help.
An even tougher aspect of growth hacking is to growth hack revenue. That is a step full of friction between the app developer and the users.
How you pitch your subscription plan makes a huge difference. Figure out how to increase the perceived value of your offering.
15+5 free is more attractive than 20 !
1 year unlimited is better than just 1 year !!
All of the above does require a lot of analytics and collecting data points. But more importantly it needs some creativity to come up with a hypothesis and test it.
Growth hacking is all about learning on your way up. Ask why even when good things happen. App in the Air saw a decrease in crash percentages with time. Somebody asked how did they achieve that and then they realised they had not changed anything! It was just Darwin's theory of evolution applied to apps at work ~ "Survival of the fittest users (those who do not experience crashes)"
Here is Bayram's presentation ~