The Future Of Application Discovery

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future of app discovery

The panel on the “The future of application discovery” which took place at last year’s App Promotion Summit in London was chaired by Chris Book of Bardowl.  The other participants that took part in the discussion are Ouriel Ohayon, CEO of APPSFIRE, Renate Nyborg, Global Mobile Director at Edelman, now at mobile consultancy Pleo, and Tony Pearce, CEO and co-founder of TEEPEE games and Gamesgrabr. Now we are able to share audio recordings of the panel discussion as well as transcription.  The panel covered a range of topics relating to App Discovery and where the market is heading.

You can listen to the audio or podcast recording here:

For those who prefer reading we have the full text of the panel discussion below:

Chris Book: My name is Chris Book I’m CEO and founder of a new audio book company called Bardowl. Gonna take questions from tables so stick up your hands when we get to that bit, but first of all I want to introduce you to each of the panelist. So I’m going to give each of them one minute and one strict minute only, just to say who they are, where they come from, and what they do every day to promote the apps that some of your guys have developed. Introduce yourself and say what you do and where you come from.

Ouriel Ohayon: Alright good. Hi everyone again. I was in here this morning. I’m not sure I have to present, but I am the CEO of Appsfire which is an app discovery and promotion platform. If you have not downloaded the app yet you have made a big mistake because you could have saved, already, at least $50.00 today, we are helping users finding great apps. You probably heard this week Apple has made a big operation with putting some great apps for free. We’re actually the very first service in the world to showcase that before they were even announced. So, and this happens every day so you should absolutely download it. And on the other side because we have this beautiful app that is used by millions of users we are helping developers growing by being exposed through the app in all sorts of disclosed and beautiful ways. So you should check it out and switch your developer. And regardless of what we are doing to help them grow we are also helping developers keeping their users engaged into their app after the download; which is a critical challenge that every developer has, and we’re providing all kinds of free tools to do that. So check it out at Appsfire.com. So do I have to answer another question or…?

Chris Book: No that’s it, that’s it.

Renata Nyborg: Hello. A lot of you just saw me speak; I’m Renata Nyborg, from Edelman, originally Norwegian and Dutch. A couple people asked me if I was Swedish today, made me very sad. So what we do is kind of everything. So we do app development where we typically sort of work very closely with clients to come up with an idea that is really going to help them drive valuable engagement with people. Then we market those apps, and I’m particularly passionate the kind of data performance sort of thing. So you know, really sort of looking at data to improve their road map. Come up with new features and help clients make money.

Chris Book: Awesome, and last but not least, Tony.

Tony Pearce: I’m Tony Pearce. I’m from games, always been in games. I suppose now, games and apps do cross over. My latest company is a company called Gamesgrabr. The best way to describe it is a way for users to discover games. Very similar to the way Pinterest works. Instead of pinning, you grab, and you grab games content, put them into your collection and then people follow your collection if they have the same interest as you, and it was quite interesting hearing some of the speakers before following friends and getting recommendations from friends. I’m not so sure that that works because my friends don’t care about games, therefore why should I follow them, but I’d like to follow people that have the same interest in gaming as me. So I think that the way that we’re coming about discovery is on a slightly different angle.

Chris Book: Cool. That’s your one minute up, that noise.

Tony Pearce: OK. Thanks.

Chris Book: OK. So let’s open for questions. Si.

Si Crowhurst: Si Crowhurst from Amobee, I work for a big mobile advertising company. My question is really around something that was covered before on social kind of curation. So the concept that you know there’s all this information out there. So having people you aspire to, say celebrities, but also the content that your friends might have and it being useful to you. I see that as really valuable, but if that sort of offering goes towards advertising and then brands start paying to appear is that disingenuous to that social curation model.

Ouriel Ohayon: So when we first launched we thought, wrongfully, that social discovery was efficient, and we built probably what was the very first solution for social discovery. Before there were even a share on Facebook and share on Twitter link on the app store, and we made a fool mistake. People absolutely do not care, opposite to what people think about where their friends have or may be interested in to their smart phone. It’s true that it may be a social conversation in real life and people will start to gather around this topic. But in the reality, people absolutely do care about that, and it’s backed on hard data and people that are trying to solve that problem today will find out that it’s going to be very hard. What people care about are finding apps that are relevant to them, and it’s absolutely not correlated to the fact that your friends are using it; i may be, but it’s unlikely that it is. Number two thing they are interested by is the price of the app. They’re absolutely look at the price of the app of the as a first criteria of decision and the number three thing is the quality of the app.

So to answer your question is an ad discovery solution which is centrally built around social discovery is unlikely to work correctly, and sorry for people who are working on that topic. It’s bad news, but that’s the hard reality, and for brands the whole challenge is to find the appropriate placement to make sure they are not disrupting the non-paid discovery experience. Making absolutely sure they are not mixing content with advertising. First, because it’s illegal. You absolutely have to disclose advertising when it’s advertising and when it’s not that should be very clear, and second because you want to provide the user an experience that is absolutely clutter free and make sure that is here for quality recommendation that can be trusted. In addition like maybe on Google probably, you know, where have all these organic results and then the paid advertising. Have a clear, you know, exposition that brand is there, but pay for that.

Chris Book: Hmm. OK. Any other thoughts?

Renata Nyborg: I think from my point of view, cause I’ve had the same experience. When I was at the Mail five years ago we used to put social share boxes, and I think we had three people use it for apps that had hundred of thousands of downloads, you know, and I think the thing that happens is people try and think about apps in the same way that we think about Spotify or something like that where people find lots of things, put them in a playlist, and discover them. When actually an app is a huge experience. That’s like deciding to go to a store. Because my friend shops at M & S, I’m not going to suddenly go shopping M & S tomorrow. Like it has to be a very big decision to actually physically go there, download it, and decide to spend time there. So it’s much more like email marketing weirdly, where someone opts in to having this constant conversation with you, but you know I think to that point…that’s the thing. Email marketing isn’t, well hopefully not, it’s not spamming, I’ve opted into it and at that point I’m allowed to connect with them, advertise to them, but I’m not spamming them with something that’s not relative to them. Just because their friends may have downloaded the app.

Chris Book: Any thoughts Tony?

Tony Pearce: I’m coming from a game perspective; you know, top games aren’t successful because they went virile. They’re successful because they have great retention and great engagement, and users come back, and that can be through a number of things, and I think part of that is the social side. Is the fact that you can engage with other users that aren’t necessarily your friends, but other users that have the same interests, and they’re two very different things. So having social tags on them can help engage users, that’s for sure, but you need many other mechanisms, not just that one.

Chris Book: Yeah. I think what, you know, thinking of Candy Crush and what they’ve done in terms of Facebook, in order to not pay you know you have to ask, you have to request and that builds a variety of it. So what I’m hearing is that, you know, apps, businesses, and if you get your social media strategy right and you build your application with reality in mind then it will grow and maybe there isn’t a need for a social platform to do that kind of curation for you. I think that’s what we’re hearing from the [inaudible].

Ouriel Ohayon: There is one thing that is true in terms of social is that even if your app is not built in a social way, if it’s a great app there is some kind of magic that is going to happen which is called word of mouth. It has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that you’ve built the app in a social manner, with social mechanism, but people will talk about apps that they really really like. They will do it in many ways, in a coffee bar or on Twitter. In our case, for example, if you do a Twitter search right now on Appsfire, every hour we see ten tweets. Because just people love the application and talk about it, and it’s true for many many apps. So building a great app is usually nearly good enough to create the beginning of virality and word of mouth affect.

Chris Book: Yep.

Renata Nyborg: Yeah.

Tony Pearce: But that word of mouth affect towards social?

Ouriel Ohayon: Yes

Tony Pearce: Cause you talk about Twitter.

Ouriel Ohayon: Yep.

Renata Nyborg: But it’s the distinction between giving someone an idea that they can talk about and express in their own way; versus giving someone a particular technology tool feature to share it. You know people…

Tony Pearce: Yep.

Chris Book: Yeah. Absolutely. OK, who else has got a question on the future of app discovery?

[laughter]

Chris Book: So who are you, and…

Stephen Block: I’m Stephen Block I wear a number of hats, including mentoring early stage..

Chris Book: I don’t see…

Renata Nyborg: I was going to say…

Tony Pearce: Where is your hat?

Stephen Block: I need one, but my question really is where is the future of app search?

Ranata Nyborg: In terms of the search engines, like [inaudible 10:30]…

Stephen Block: Well we’ve heard about different mechanisms including social search. Is there a sense from the panel that you can see a direction of travel, or is it just really that we’re on a frontier and we’ll find out?

Ouriel Ohayon: Alright, huge topic. So search and social. So first thing about search and discovery, search is a tiny fraction of discovery, and like the web where most of the discovery is done through, well basically Google and the activity of search and the way they build a search engine. On apps it’s the opposite. Most of the discovery is in a passive way, because either people have no clue what to search, or they don’t articulate their search, or because the search engine of Itunes is absolutely unusable and the it displays results is not [inaudible 11:19], and most of the discovery is done on a passive way, so ;editorials, top ranks, friends, social, etc. That’s number one’ so it’s not that critical. Number two; the search of apps is not the same thing as search of web. You cannot index an app the same way a website is being indexed because it’s a piece of sandbox software. So that’s number two, so it’s very complex to do it in a very good way. Number three; searching an act corresponds more to searching a need than searching of information.

So this is where the app store has failed so far is that it’s been built around searching meta data versus searching a need, and if you think about it when you search, you want you know, an app for traveling to Italy or you know, booking a babysitter, and try to do that in the app store you will see it’s not designed that way. One thing that we’ve been building and I’d encourage you to try it, is we have built the very first and probably one of the best search engines for need based app search, which is anticipating the needs that you’re going to write even if you don’t know how to articulate it and that we populate the best results in a very very fast way. I’m not sure it’s the ultimate and the best way to do it, but it works extremely well. Is that the future? I don’t know, but I’m pretty sure that iTunes, and the app store and especially Google and Play store are very very far from what app search is, because they haven’t really thought about how to do the indexing of apps, and displaying of such results and all the layers of how you can present your results correctly.

Renata Nyborg: I completely agree. At the moment the way those app stores work is the way Yahoo worked in 1995. You know, sort of ten categories, click into it, here’s ten things, click further. It’s a really archaic way of discovering things. We see that, I think it was something like 80 percent of people were simply searching for a genre. They’re not even searching for a brand or anything like that, they’re just searching for a genre on the app store.

Ouriel Ohayon: Actually just can I say one secret out of our internal data? Do you know what’s the most popular searched key word in our [app suite] small app, it’s just 12 million users but…

Chris Book: Is it audiobooks?

Ouriel Ohayon: Hmm?

Chris Book: Is it audiobooks?

[laughter]

Ouriel Ohayon: Absolutely.

Renata Nyborg: Podcasts

Ouriel Ohayon: No. What’s the most popular search query?

Tony Pearce: [inaudible 13:40]

Ouriel Ohayon: Nope.

Audience Member: Angry.

Ouriel Ohayon: No.

Renata Nyborg: [inaudible 13:45]

Ouriel Ohayon: No.

Audience Members: Google…

Ouriel Ohayon: No. I’m going to disappoint you it’s very boring. It’s free.

Renata Nyborg: Really.

Ouriel Ohayon: That’s what people are searching. Now so if you want to build a great search engine you have to be good at providing a good answer to free.

Tony Pearce: Wow.

Ouriel Ohayon: That’s what people are searching.

Tony Pearce: And then they get price shock.

Chris Book: And then they get paid apps.

Tony Pearce: I think peer to peer recommendation is still key. The problem is you have friends of people saying, “Go and download this app” is by far the biggest way of going to do anything, but with any product you still need to spend money. You know you have to light the fire and the thing that is worrying right now is the cost of acquisition is just getting so expensive. So you know, the business model has to…there’s always risk and finding the cheapest way of getting users to your app, hoping they play it and then recommend it. You know, there’s…it’s tough. You know, budgets going around now, I’ve heard people trying to launch apps and not getting anywhere with 100 grand. I mean most people don’t have that kind to spend. You know, £10,000 gets you nothing right now.

I had an app in a previous business on Facebook and we spent 25 grand which was a lot of money for us at the time, on Facebook ads and I’ve got to say it was incredible targeting. I’ve never seen targeting like it. I mean Facebook as a platform is amazing, and we had 50,000 app installs, so it’s 50 p at cost basically…cost per aquisition; and during that month of advertising. We’ve got 50,000 app installs, we’ve about 120 odd thousand active users, and as soon as we stopped advertising it went Bosch, off a wall I’ve never seen anything like it, so you think you’re doing great but you’re burning cash, and you think you’ve got a great app and people are playing it. Literally if you stop, you know, it’s a shock, you know you really have, I heard someone say it this morning, “test it small”. You know, don’t think you’ve got the best thing ever. The great, I go back into video games so the great thing right now is that when I used to be in video games you shipped a box, right, and you’d spent two years making this game, and you ship a box and you had no idea if it’s going to sell. Whereas now you can test in one country, you test in South America, forget Australia [laughter] and it can cost you not nearly as much. You can tweek it, you can relaunch it, you can do focus testing, you can tweek it, you can relaunch it, it’s gets better and better and better, and that’s quite amazing what you can do now. But don’t blow everything in one go, you know, I made that mistake once.

Chris Book: Mmm.

Renata Nyborg: But also we need to just change up mindset about marketing, still everyone’s obsessed with how many downloads they can get. Like I said tech crunch basically tells people, “I don’t care how many downloads you have”. I’ve got one client who I’m working with, they run an auction base model similar as eBay. Huge ecommerce company in Europe, and they were spending loads of money on Facebook advertising to draw up in-stores only for the IOS apps, it turned out they didn’t have any kind of analytics in their application. I persuaded them to put Localytics in there, which is a great, one of the little great apps on [analytic] platforms, and we saw that the Android apps which were only a tenth of their in-stores were driving huge revenues, a 30 percent conversion compared to sort of 3 percent conversion for their IOS app. So I went OK, so we spent all this money getting app in-stores and people are spending no money and actually it’s a really, you know it’s a nasty environment nothing happens there so it’s not actually driving any kind of engagement. So there is a finite market for how many apps people are actually going to use. Let’s focus on having a smaller [inaudible] in-store base perhaps, but actually driving higher engagement with those people.

Chris Brook: Yeah of course. I mean my experience is, and it’s only on IOS, but, and lots of the talk in the coffee break and lunchtime was about Facebook though and it is, you know, absolutely, but you’ve got have in-stores to be able to track and to see whether they’re users are going to pay, and that kind of stuff, but it is absolutely ripping it up. It’s so well targeted as Tony said. You know, the IOS Facebook app is used massively by people and you present those ads as sponsored apps and they click through. So, will it last six months? Which what was said earlier on, but you know it seems to be ripping up, everything in terms of install drive for your app is kind of very, very successful. Ok we’ve got time for time for one final question. So is that Thibaut.

Unknown Man: That man over there.

Thibaut Rouffineau: Do you know everything.me?

Chris Book: Who are you?

Thibaut Rouffineau: I’m Thibaut.

Chris Book: We know that. They might not know.

Thibaut Rouffineau: Yeah, I’ll be [on stage later, that’s Okay.]

Chris Book: That’s OK.

Thibaut Rouffineau: Everything.me. Have you heard of it?

Chris Book: Yep.

Thibaut Rouffineau: What are your thoughts on the topic and maybe you can explain what it is? I mean, I’m sure Chris, you know a lot about it.

Ouriel Ohayon: So basically, it’s a search engine that displays, instead of displaying links of information they will display the apps that will point you to results. So if you’re searching for Michael Jackson, they will point you to Les Last FM and Spotify, and whatever; instead of putting you to Wikipedia pages. I don’t know. So number one the dropped IOS focusing on Firefox OS; which are, I’m not sure is the [inaudible]that has the most future in the world. Number two I don’t know if this is the future of search on mobile because I still think that web search has to be addressed in a informed manner and not just through apps, and number three I don’t know if the [ergonomy ] of the product has a good user case. Like, it’s very confusing to see apps when you’re searching Michael Jackson, right? I don’t know, I would expect to see something about Michael Jackson and not Last fm icon.

Chris Book: Mmm. Any other [inaudible] about Everything.me? No.

Renata Nyborg: I’m sorry.

Chris Book: No, No. I’m no expert either, Tony.

Unknown man: We have time for an extra question

Chris Book: I don’t think we have.

Unknown Man: Yes we…

Chris Book: Unless there’s one burning question. Anyone got one burning question?
Gentleman at the front here, Tony.

Unknown audience member: If you had an audience, talking about the future about discovery, if you had an audience with the key decision makers at the owners of these ecosystems, Apple and Google, what would you tell them? Is there anything simple and relevant now that they can do to help fix this problem?

Ouriel Ohayon: Yep, absolutely. Kill the top ranks. Just kill them. Remove top ranks from the app stores. Top ranks are the number one reason that all sorts extreme behaviors have happened in the industry from [inaudible] to incentivized downloads, to also sorts of attempts to place apps in the top charts. They are the only reason all those bad behaviors have happened, and they are actually preventing the discovery of the [inaudible 21:44] of applications. So if I was [inaudible 21:46]Google I would just keep exactly the same app store I would just take all those [big sales] away. Top ranks kill them. So it might not be kill them, but I would put them in a very secondary, or secondary or third place all access level at click level and that would drive users to be more active about discovery in searching, you know, sub-categories, and using the search engine, and using the editorial list.

Audience Member: Would you have [top]?

Ouriel Ohayon: No, absolutely not. I mean they would be there, but maybe hidden away.

Chris Brook: But..

Tony Pearce: But, I think people like to see that.

Ouriel Ohayon: Yeah of course.

Tony Pearce: I think [they’re there] for people who like people like to see what the top app is.

Ouriel Ohayon: Yep. I agree, but you have also to make decisions to make sure that, you know, there’s no charts on Google.

Chris Book: No but, and Google know that, and Google are searched, but in play there are top ranking charts. So they know that, so why don’t they hold the same opinion as you?

Ouriel Ohayon: Because they have, you know. First, I think they are thinking about the concept of a store in the way that is built on you know, on billboards and on you know, on popularity versus quality, and those are not necessarily related. You know, you can be very, very popular and very, very not, you know, qualitative. You know, it’s very easy to buy your place in the top charts, and being popular and being a good app is not necessarily true. Number two; not everyone now has the budget to buy placement in top charts. And number three; only a handful of apps are, you know, featured by Apple and Google on a weekly basis; meaning that 99 percent of apps are not featured. So it’s actually an unfair exposure to a few versus the long tail, and it’s not that they should just like, you know remove them and consider chart as not relevant user. It’s just that the predominance of putting them in a central way, one click away, drive people to that section versus other sections that could grow the ecosystem together.

Chris Book: Is there anything that you would say to Apple and Google if you had them in a room about app discovery?

Renata Nyborg: I mean I do like the curated experience personally.

Chris Book: So do I..

Renata Nyborg: But I think of it more as [long] distance. I’ve limited time…I can read one book a month, so I quite like seeing the staff picks, which is different to a chart. I think for me…I think there’s a lot not being able to express the things I do and don’t want to see. I think advertising is moving to a point where it is becoming relevant OK. Particularly when you look at newsfeed content on Facebook for instance, and it’s a fantastic way of driving discoveries and it’s something I’m actually interested in. I’m incredibly frustrated that there are three apps that Facebook keeps on pushing to me over the last month. One of them I’ve already downloaded, the other two are user competitive apps and I’m never going to download those apps. So I’d just want to say actually I’d love to see some other recommendations cause you clearly know what I care about but these aren’t them.

Chris Book: You want an unlike button.

Renata Nyborg: Exactly, and that’s something needs to happen across everything. Amazon in that respect is phenomenal, because I can, you know, if I bought a book for someone that I don’t even like I can tell it, “Don’t consider this in your recommendations”.

Chris Book: Yeah.

Renata Nyborg: And that’s something that I’d like to have start running throughout all app stores, throughout Facebook, throughout all discovery platforms.

Chris Book:Interesting. You can print it yourself.

Tony Pearce: Actually I was about to say, the Amazon thing, actually say, “Stop it, don’t keep sending me this”, and I think Amazon is an incredible tool that’s way ahead of anything else.

Chris Book: Yeah.

Tony Pearce:In terms of actually getting feedback, or recommendations that it thinks you should buy, but you being able to stop it and then take in another direction.

Ouriel Ohayon: Actually, there is one thing that is also very wrong from the app store if you think about it is that they are all built the same for everyone. So if you like golf and I like , you know, whatever [umbrellas] and you like [football] we go to the app store and we are forced to see exactly the same thing; when we could have an experience where we personalize what we like to see.

Renata Nyborg: Mm-hmm.

Ouriel Ohayon: So that’s another thing they could do.

Chris Brook: Yeah.

Ouriel Ohayon: Give back control to the user on what they want and don’t want to see.

Chris Brook: That seems to be the common thing. I wish I could switch off all audible adverts. I mean that would be amazing. Anyway, without further ado I’d like to thank the panel.

Thanks to everyone involved for a great panel and you can find more coverage of App Promotion Summit here