4 Things We Learned From Expert App Marketers Like Rosetta Stone

Major brand marketers and innovators will gather at the tenth annual edition of Portada Miami in the Hotel EAST on April 18 and 19 to discuss topics like Voice-Based Technology, Gamers and Gambling, Attribution Models for Digital Media Agencies, App Marketing and much more. Register now here!

Innovators and Brand Leaders attending Portada Miami are members of Portada's powerful Council System of Brand Marketers and Agency Execs. We prepared this article to get ready for the conversation.

What: Portada talked to app-marketing experts Rosetta Stone's César Taveras, MBMG's Zach Rosenberg, and a knowledgeable anonymous source to find out the ways in which the proliferation of apps has changed the marketing landscape in the last years.
Why it matters: Nowadays, apps are a big business opportunity. Marketers and data specialists need to work together to make the most of it.

The Hagenuk mt-2000 (left) and the Nokia 6110 (right) were two among the first mobile devices to offer gaming apps

At this point, it's hard to imagine a world without mobile phones and apps. In the technology industry, experts cannot agree on how exactly apps came to be, but they've been around for some time. Since Tetris was the first game ever, installed in the Hagenuk mt-2000 mobile phone in 1994, and Nokia pre-installed Snake in over 350 million mobile devices, computer programs designed for mobile devices have been gradually but steadily gained more importance. Fast forward to 2008 and the launch of Apple's App Store and Google Play forever changed the history of communication, entertainment, and marketing.

According to a study by AppsFlyer, there's an average of 2.5 million apps available for download at the two big app stores for iOS and Android. Users have a myriad of options to choose from, and competition has never been fiercest. However, knowing how to enter the competition is quite necessary; as experts in app marketing explained to Portada, apps are an inescapable business opportunity that can be approached with the right knowledge and tools.


1. Apps Are Gaining More Relevance Every Day

In its beginnings, Rosetta Stone was a CD-ROM package

According to Business Insider, the app market has the potential to grow to over US $100 billion by 2020, but a majority of this revenue is expected to go to only a handful publishers. More and more firms are adding apps to their technology repertory in order to reach consumers successfully. For example, app marketing is very relevant for Rosetta Stone, a language-learning company that was first made possible by the introduction of CD-ROM technology in 1992. "App marketing is becoming more relevant than ever for Rosetta Stone," said César Taveras, Digital Marketing Manager at Rosetta Stone. "Our product has transitioned from a CD-ROM box to an online subscription model with full mobile app access, and it's performing well for us."

As consumers and the technologies they use evolve, the ways to offer products and provide services must get updated as well. In the words of Zach Rosenberg, president of MBMG Media, "Some campaigns call for mobile-first or mobile-only tactics; in-app is a more reliable environment to serve ads vs. mobile web." Needless to say, things have changed. "The focus used to be on inviting people to a physical store, then to a store online, and the most recent move has been from creating mobile-sensitive websites to designing full advertising campaigns for users to download an app," told to us a source who didn't want their name revealed. First lesson: firms need to consider apps in their marketing strategy in order to keep up with the speed at which things move.

2. Just Like Any Other Strategy, App Marketing Requires Accurate Targeting

Rosetta's Stone César Taveras

With over two million apps to choose from, users need some guidance. Luckily, there are basic tools marketers can use to make sure users are finding your app and, ideally, engaging with it. "We are spending more than 30% in media," shared Rosetta Stone's César Taveras. "Most of our media spend is going to Facebook, Google, and Apple, but we also try other small vendors and we are testing online influencer marketing to market our apps."


MBMG's Zach Rosenberg

For MBMG's Zach Rosenberg, app marketing integrates seamlessly on most ad campaigns, but he has noticed that "identifying and targeting people who have certain types of apps on their device" is a useful indicator of consumers' needs. "We use mass media such as television as well as out-of-home to drive awareness, interest and, ultimately, installs," he commented. "We also focus on lower funnel tactics such as mobile, including in-app display, video, and search to generate interest for app downloads."



3. Users Have Downloaded Your App, Now What?

Now you need to make sure they actually launch it and then come back to it. Retention is one of the biggest challenges within app marketing because, as our anonymous source explains, "The quality of most apps isn't at the necessary level; you can create an app, but if it's not well designed, if it's slow, or if it doesn't offer the same benefits the user can find on a website, then it won't work."

According to AppsFlyer's study, apps that don't meet user's expectations are quickly deleted; with so many options out there, there is no time to lose in an app that doesn't deliver. Many factors come into play when dealing with retention, but perhaps the most important one is ASO (App Store Optimization), the app version of SEO. "It's all about search engines," says the source. "Ad campaigns are done extensively within the app stores, both Android and iOS. Apple and Google have their own advertising platforms, so the apps can be found more quickly, and their spot on rankings is monetized." From 2016 to 2017, non-organic app downloads increased by 22%, while organic downloads increased only 4%, says AppsFlyer. Interestingly, retention rates change between app stores: while there's not a significant difference in retention of apps downloaded from Apple's Store or from Google Play during the first month, there is 49% more retention of apps downloaded from Apple after three months.

4. Other Challenges to Keep in Mind

Knowing where to spend your ad dollars is important, but that is not the only challenge when it comes to app marketing. As with any other channel, the focus must be on communicating with the users and making sure your product is appealing and functional. Apps imply a different kind of interaction; as our anonymous source explains, "The level of interaction with a user who downloads an app is much higher when compared to the consumer who has been using the same service online. You have to be in constant communication with the user, and you need to offer new updates and services frequently to renew their interest and get them to use the app again."

The level of interaction with an app user is much higher. You have to be in constant communication with the user.

"Our strategy is to get people to try a free class when they download the app," comments Rosetta Stone's César Taveras. "And then we follow up with push notifications and e-mails that get you excited about purchasing the subscription." This has worked really well for Rosetta Stone to produce positive ROI, and that's also due to the app's design and functionality. The challenge here is that "it's more complicated to work with apps than it is with websites because there aren't as many app experts," says our anonymous source. Not many people are capable of linking an app ad server to an online store, for example. You need an engineer to do app integrations, which is difficult and makes the process slower, but when done well you have a higher competitive advantage when trying to reach your audience."


Janet Grynberg

Janet has worked as a translator and editor for magazines and publishing houses including Expansion and Grupo Planeta since 2014. She is part of the Portada editorial team, and her main interests include literature, traveling, and exploring other cultures. Follow me on Twitter!


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