A descent app marketer would keep bugging developers, asking them to implement 3rd party tools. I know I do. It’s time to provide some explanations and share some recommendations while I am at it.
The basic truth is this: SDKs save lives… app marketers’ lives, that is. I remember myself begging developers to add features I badly needed, back in the pre SDKs age. I needed communication channels, analytics, and so forth. But, getting all I wanted was just not feasible as the development effort was huge. Improving core functionalities was always prioritized at the expense of marketing features. Till SDKs came and opened up a whole new world of possibilities.
Time passed and I witnessed a huge supermarket of SDKs emerging in front of my eyes. When there’s a need, there’s an ecosystem.
My challenge shifted to selecting which SDKs to use and staying up-to-date with what’s new, as there are so many (can’t complain, though)
How do I make the selection? Which is a “must” on my list? Well, first things first, I organize SDKs in categories, and made sure I covered all my bases (a.k.a categories).
You can think of mobile app marketing using three main building blocks: “Distribution”, “Retention” and “Monetization”. These are also a great way to organize your thoughts around 3rd party tools.
In the Stone Age (yeah, maybe 5 years ago J) we used to operate multiple distribution channels (PR, buzz, media campaigns and so on) with very little knowledge of which channel works best in terms of installs and retention parameters. Then came Distribution / Attribution SDKs.
These SDKs help you track your installs across many channels easily, without needing to implement a new SDK per channel. They also help you analyze the quality of users per channel, and even track traffic when you promote your app via “organic channels”. Using distribution/attribution tracking tools (outbound tracking) enables you to optimize your campaigns so you can bring in quality users at minimal cost.
Attribution SDKs will not only help you shed light on the results of your distribution efforts, but will also spare you the need to integrate multiple ad-network SDKs (as they serve as mediators). So if you wish to have a CPI trial with a new ad-network, no need to implement its SDK, just use your attribution partner and generate a unique tracking link (just like the UTM-based tech in online attribution)
It takes time till you really gain the crucial understanding that an install is just like a web click, no more. Users install and uninstall apps without a second thought. They can just get curious, maybe hear about an app, search for something… and then uninstall it in a heartbeat. Bottom line is this: by no means should installs be counted as users. Installs must be analyzed and retained. Installs are just the starting point of your journey.
If you have any aspirations to optimize your retention (and monetization), you must arm your marketers with something they can use, otherwise their hands are tied… The SDKs below (categorized) are perfect in this respect.
Before you start optimizing anything within your app and start working on your retention, you should take the time to learn and understand your benchmarks. Inbound (in-app behavior) analytic tools such as Google Analytics, Mixpanel, Localytics, Appsee , Apsalar or Flurry (probably left at least 10 others out, sorry for that) can help gather this kind of information for you.
Communication with your users
Once you know your benchmarks and decided exactly how you’re going to go about increasing your retention rates, you’ll need to open communication channels with your users. In-app communication channels often prove to be the best channels. This means you will need analytic tools (as long as you are interested in communicating with specific segments) that will enable you to generate lists that you can use to fire out your messages. You will also need communication capabilities – such as server-based push notifications, in-app messages, in-app chat and so forth. In the retention category you may find SDKs like: Urban Airship, Mixpanel, Hipmob, Intercom.io, Appboy, Kahuna, Artisan mobile, Apptentive and so many more.
The hype these days is “mobile marketing automation”. These are tools that can help you push personalized messages to specific segments, automatically, through different formats that are coordinated (such as emails +push notifications + in-app messages). That way, technology is there to help you “chase” your installed users and convert them to retained and paying users, similar to what our bigger brothers in the online industry have already mastered.
I very much agree with this trend. The key to increase conversion (besides the core product features themselves, of course) pretty much lies in:
- Personalized Messages
- The Right Context
- Cross Platforms (across all screens)
- Measurements and Analytics.
Gladly, today there are SDK-based platforms that offer all-in-one support for the above.
AB Testing & UX Enhancement
Besides increasing retention through communication with your users, optimizing and enhancing the quality of your app’s UX can dramatically increase user retention rates. This area is part-marketing-part-product. The boundaries aren’t that clear. I think it’s both. Well, think of it this way: Advanced SDKs can help you improve your retention through minor changes in your app, without the developer’s interference. Those small optimization tweaks tend to be operated by the marketing team, while ‘heavier’ UX changes are usually moderated by the product.
At the end of the day, most apps are there for the purpose of making money. Thankfully, there is a wide variety of SDKs that enable you to do just that. You can’t really make money from in-app ads without hooking to relevant players. This is why ad-networks exist. They offer you the chance to make money of your ads’ real estate and vice versa – to allow you to promote your own app via ads. Most of the retention enhancers mentioned above will also help you work on your monetization (for example, communicating with users through push notifications or in-app messages about special in-app purchase deals), but Monetization SDKs can make a better contribution when it comes to generating cash. Adcolony, Flurry, AdMob, Brightroll, Inmobi, Facebook audience network and more.
Maximize your monetization through mediation:
As there are so many ad monetization SDKs, other mediation tools were developed, so you can monetize trough a couple of ad networks in parallel, with minimal headache – AdTapsy SDK is one example.
How to choose your specific must-have SDKs?
While it may seem like a good idea to cram in as many SDKs as you can, it’s simply not practical in the long run. It’s always better to implement just the amount of SDKs you need. Too many isn’t optimal!
So how do you choose the right must-haves for you?
- Use SafeDK’s free App X-Ray tool to see which 3rd party tools your competitors are using.
- Validate your choices to make sure you are on the safe side:Once you have a list of potential SDKs, search each SDK and find real reviews from real developers. This will give you valuable information on which ones perform dependably and consistently to a high standard.If you can find SDKs that solve a couple of challenges, of good quality and offered at a reasonable price, you may want to prioritize them over others (one such example is Flurry which offers both Analytics and Monetization solutions).
The SDK industry is quite overwhelming. There are endless options to choose from. Considering you want the best app marketing you can have, I really believe you can’t make it without some of the SDKs mentioned above.
While developers and product managers are masters of implementation, they do need your marketing guidance in which specific SDKs to prefer.