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Marketing Campaign & Digital Strategies

Empirical Works, with 6 years experience working on marketing campaign apps for leading brands and businesses around the world, can help you define a mobile app focused marketing campaign for your next event or product launch.

Whether it’s for awareness, engagement or both, Empirical Works understands how the marketing industry works, and the type of apps required to grab the eyeballs and attention that your campaign or product needs.

Consumer Mobile App Campaigns, and What You Need to Know to get started

Apps are no longer just standalone games for bored teenagers, or a sidenote in major marketing campaigns – many companies such as KFC (Snack! In the face), Coca Cola (Happiness Cycle), and Virgin Mobile (Game of Phones) have created hugely successful mobile app-centric campaigns with success metrics that have vastly outperformed campaigns using traditional channels.

The trend of mobile growing into a powerful marketing channel is not a surprise to marketers – statistics show that the standard user is spending more hours in mobile apps than desktop web (29/month vs 27/month), and in February 2014, mobile app access (not even including mobile web) of the internet in the USA has for the first time surpassed that of desktop web, 47% to 45%. Users access their phone every 6 minutes, and 91% of adults have their phone within reach 24/7.

These are impressive statistics that every marketer can appreciate, but at the same time, because apps are so new and different to traditional web-based digital strategies, many digital marketing specialists are hesitant about taking that first step into investing in mobile-first campaigns.

At Empirical Works, we’re often asked by digital marketers on how to get started with mobile campaigns, so in this three part series we’ll explore three core topics that every marketer needs to know to get started:

  • Creating Successful Mobile App Campaigns: Mobile-centric strategic thinking – What’s a good mobile-centric marketing campaign? How is it different to web-based marketing campaigns? What are some distinct and unique advantages of the mobile channel, and what can you do to leverage these advantages to achieve tangible results? We’ll show you examples of where apps have produced tangible results, and what kind of results you can expect from your own mobile app campaigns
  • The Economics of Mobile App Campaigns: What are you paying for? – Now that we see mobile marketing campaigns can produce results – how does that compare to traditional marketing channels? Is it cost effective? We explain how much you need to spend for a mobile-centric campaign, and what you will get for your investment, and why it’s worth spending money on mobile campaigns over other channels
  • Subtle differences: Some common questions and misconceptions that may affect your Mobile App Campaign – Finally, there are some miscellaneous questions that we are often asked about mobile apps – around the technology, around distribution, and the legal issues surrounding features and app stores. We’ll answer them here so you understand the differences and complexities around mobile app development, and the benefits and constraints of working in the mobile ecosystem.

Part 1 – Creating Successful Mobile App Campaigns: Mobile-centric strategic thinking

In 2014, people check their mobile phone every 6 minutes on average, spending approximately 2 hours on the phone each day. 91% of adults have their phone within reach 24/7, and 80% of time spent on the phone is in apps, not in the phone web browser.

It’s obvious that there’s an opportunity there to market and sell – if users are using their phone every 6 minutes, there the opportunity is there to present your brand to users and customers every 6 minutes as well (or even just a portion of that), if you know how to do it.

At Empirical Works, we deal with a lot of experienced marketers that understands these trends and statistics, but are unsure about how to implement mobile-centric campaigns. And when in doubt, they often try to apply their tried-and-tested web-based campaign ideas on mobile, only to have it flop or fail miserably.

The first step to building a successful mobile-centric marketing campaign is to take a step back and accept that the mobile world is very different to the web world, and thus there are different advantages to the channel that app campaign strategists need to leverage in order to achieve results.

On the strategic and product design side, before designing the campaign, marketers needs to understand the basic behavior pattern of mobile users. For example, compared to desktop web, mobile users access apps quite frequently, but with shorter durations for each use. This makes sense – you’d sit down in front of your computer at work or at home to look up something as a focused activity, but mobile usage is usually spontaneous, and done while the user is doing something else, whether that’s watching a TV show, hanging out with friends, or on public transportation on the way to work or back home.

As such, mobile products for marketing campaigns need to be designed with simplicity and the short attention span limitation in mind – you can assume they will come back often, but you can’t assume they’ll have the patience to fill out a long form or watch a video.

On the other hand, because they’re out-and-about, and all smartphones these days have GPS functionality, there’s a whole new world of location-based possibilities that you can tap into with mobile campaigns. Want the user to do something when they’re in a certain area? When they visit a certain store? When the repeatedly visit the same area? When multiple users visit the same area? When they scan a barcode or image? There are plenty of new “reality-based” conditions that you can now set in your mobile campaign, which means complex condition-based ideas such as “when 5 of your friends go to this beach together with a can of our soft drink at this day/this time, we’ll offer you this awesome deal!” is now possible to do and think about as a campaign feature.

In addition, mobile campaigns can be much more interactive and push-based rather than passive. In the previous example, if it was to be done by web, then there’s no way to influence the user to do that activity in an incremental manner, other than sending him that description by email or via a separate ad, and then hoping that the description is enticing enough for him to do something about it as a whole.

With mobile however, because we know who their friends are, what time of day it is, where they are right now, and the ability to communicate directly with them through push notifications, you can influence them during their standard day-to-day behavior, and not just before or after. So for example, you can influence them incrementally – “Your friend is in the area – how about going to the beach 40ms away with him and have a drink and chill out?”, followed by “now that you have 2 people, why not start a party? Invite more nearby friends by Facebook!”

It’s a much more direct yet gradual way of getting your message across to your customers, and a powerful advantage of building your campaign across a device that has the technical capability to know everything about its owner.

Successful campaign apps such as KFC’s Snack! in the Face and Virgin’s Game of Phones took into account these mobile-only characteristics, and created immensely successful mobile-first campaigns from it. For example, KFC’s Snack! in the face leveraged time as a factor – in order to increase sale of snacks at a specific time, you had to complete challenges at that specified time (2-5pm), and then used the virtual mobile coupons to redeem the prize in the actual store. It achieved impressive concrete results – a 20% increase in sales over 4 weeks, and the equivalent of 4.85 million TV commercial views.

Virgin’s Game of Phones utilized the GPS, the active out-and-about nature of mobile apps, and the push-based influencer characteristic as the core of their campaign, requiring users to chase each other on foot in real life to obtain prizes, with notifications to remind them when their “prize” has been stolen by someone else. Ideas such as this is only possible with mobile, and it only works because it fits into the user’s day-to-day behavior so well – it doesn’t make the user do something, it simply gives them the opportunity when it comes up as a part of their day-to-day behavior (such as walking around the city). Game of Phones, like Snack! in the face was also a success, generating over 2.5 million screen views in just 3 weeks.

That said – both of these campaigns only utilized one or two characteristics of mobile, and mobile has not peaked in terms of the types of creative and interactive strategies it can pull off. If done properly with the correct mobile-orientated thinking, mobile-centric campaigns can easily generate results as-good-as or better than traditional channels, as shown on those two examples, with less time and costs than the traditional channels.

Now that we’ve established that mobile-centric campaigns can produce results given the correct strategy and leveraging of mobile technology, the next question is – but how much does that cost? In the next part, we’ll look into the fundamentals mobile app campaign economics, and why, despite common misconceptions, mobile can be an extremely cost effective way to market to your target audience.

Part 2 – The Economics of Mobile App Campaigns: Understanding the Costs and the Benefits

All marketing campaigns, and business strategies in general, are built upon the basic concept of cost vs. benefit. In the previous section, we established the benefit part of the equation – we looked at how people are moving away from desktop into a more mobile and tablet centric world, and how you can leverage that statistic to create apps to your own marketing advantage, to get the kind of success that mobile campaigns such as Game of Phones or Snack! in the Face have achieved over the last 12 months.

Now, it’s time to look at the other side of the mobile app campaign equation – how much does it cost, what are you paying for, and, when compared to the benefits mentioned in Part 1, how cost effective is it compared to traditional campaigns?

To start off with, asking for an outright “average price of apps” is like asking about the “average price of buildings”. Just like a building can be anywhere between a tin shed to the Sydney Opera House, an app can be as simple or complex as it needs to be, and the costs can be as little as a few thousand dollars to hundreds of thousands of dollars. Therefore, like property investment, it’s not so much about identifying a fixed price, but rather, how much it costs relative to something else, and comparing the amount of returns you would get per dollar spent on one investment over the other.

Identifying what exactly to compare apps to though is the first difficulty in valuing the cost of mobile campaigns, and understanding the economics behind mobile apps is something that is complex and often misunderstood. Being a new discipline in the realm of software development, the costs of mobile apps are often misquoted and unfairly compared to websites from the Web 2.0 era. However, this is a false comparison, as mobile apps are built with different technology, using different types of engineers, with different development lifecycles and infrastructure, and more importantly, are used in a completely different way to achieve different types of results when compared to websites.

To many marketing professionals, software development is web development, but in reality, modern front-end web development has only passing similarities to traditional software development. Web started from HTML, which is a markup language (think fancy text documents with tags) rather than a pure programming language, and even though front-end Web development has grown in complexity and depth over the last ten years, it still lacks the technical complexity and integrity of C, Java, and other traditional programming languages that’s used to build desktop computer programs. In addition, advances in technology and tools means that websites can be built by designers with very little or no experience in computer science and software engineering, which in turn drives the cost of web development down.

Mobile apps, on the other hand, is based on the traditional software development model, which is much more similar to building Microsoft Word, databases, and X-box video games, and the web browser that websites run in. In fact, whereas you can create a simple webpage in Notepad using the proper tags, save it, and open it up as a webpage in your web browser, even experienced engineers run into issues just setting up the software and environment required to start coding and compiling mobile apps.

Together, it means that rather than websites, a better comparison for apps and the cost of apps should be around IT implementation projects – consider how much was spent on your last IT upgrade, when they had to install a new database or CRM or your new marketing automation system – these costs are much more comparable to mobile app campaigns than a simple website. The investment in an app needs to go into the higher costs of the engineers, the longer duration of development (typically websites development lifecycles are quoted around days or weeks, but mobile apps are in months), and the corresponding infrastructure investment.

That said, while apps are more expensive than websites, cost is also a relative concept depending on your frame of reference regarding what you’re using the investment for.

Functionally, apps, in a marketing sense, are often the lead or core part of a marketing campaign. Whereas websites are more often used in a supporting role to promote a campaign, TV show or live event, mobile apps campaigns like Game of Phones or Snack! in the Face are the campaign. Thus, if you considered mobile apps as a separate marketing channel – if you were to sponsoring a real-life music festival, a TV ad, a billboard next to a highway or a full page ad in a national newspaper – how much would that cost, and what would you be willing to spend on it?

When placed into this frame of reference regarding its purpose, the value of mobile apps becomes a lot more clearer – it’s no longer about “it’s digital therefore it’s similar to websites”, but it’s about “it’s getting me better results than sponsoring an event”. And when you consider the amount of eyeballs and views for Virgin Mobile’s Game of Phones or KFC’s Snack! In the Face, with 2.5 million views/3 weeks and 4.85 million views/4 weeks respectively, how much would it cost if you were to try to get that amount of views elsewhere? How much would a TV ad of equivalent 4.85 million views cost? And that’s not even taking into account the targeted nature of these views, as these apps have been voluntarily downloaded by users interested in the brand and experience, rather than being a non (or little) targeted medium like TV or billboards.

At the end of the day, once the costs of apps are understood and accepted – that it’s proper software, built by software engineers over a relatively long timeframe, it’s simply about treating mobile app campaigns as a complete marketing channel in itself, and comparing what you would get from investing in this channel over other marketing channels. And when you start measuring success of mobile campaigns in millions, it’s clear that the benefits of apps clearly outweighs the costs of strategy, design and implementation.

Part 3 – Mobile App Marketing Campaigns : The practical stuff – Planning, Platforms, Distribution, Legal Issues, and Ongoing Maintainance and Support

In this section, we’ll go through some loose ends and questions around running a mobile app marketing campaign. While planning, distribution, legal issues and ongoing maintenance and support aren’t what marketing professionals first think about when considering marketing campaign apps, from our experience, it’s usually what trips projects up, causing them to fail or go over time and budget.

The first practical thing to consider when planning your mobile app marketing campaign is planning – how much time do you have? While apps can vary in size and complexity, a good measure is that apps are built in months, not weeks – so you’ll need to budget in a few months from conception to release. Furthermore, you’ll need to budget in at least a few weeks to a month around scoping, to ensure that the idea is functional both as a product and technically.

Too often we find that it’s this first step that trips non-mobile specialists up, as they come up with a great concept only to find that it’s not technically do-able or practical for the timeframe or budget they have assigned to the project – but by then it’s too late, as there’s not enough time to re-scope the project, and a hacked-up compromise concept is implemented in its place instead. Therefore, we would almost say that the initial planning and scoping is the most important phase of the project, and around 80% of the success or failure of the project is determined at this step.

The next issue to consider is the platform – in general, we recommend native apps for both iOS and Android for marketing apps, as they require the smoothness and polish that only native apps can provide. It’s also been a long time since Apple has dominated the smartphone market, so in order to reach your target audience, you’ll need to plan for both platforms. Design and implementation will vary from platform to platform, and phone to tablet, so it’s important to consider during the planning phase how much time and budget you have, and which devices are the most important for your campaign. Depending on the nature and functionality of the app, designing for phone and tablet may incur only a trivial amount of time, or it may take up to double the amount of time – so it’s important to have this discussion with your mobile specialists up front.

Distribution is also another task to consider when planning your mobile app marketing campaign. Unlike web products, apps needs to be distributed by the app stores, you can’t just “finish it and put it up for everyone to download”. Instead, you need to think of the process not unlike putting a physical product into a brick-and-mortar store – you need the owner’s approval, and that approval process takes time.

Strictly speaking, it can take up to 2 weeks or more for Apple to accept an app on the app store, although in reality it can take less time. However, given that Apple owns the app store, they have the right to reject apps as they see fit without reason – therefore, it’s not uncommon to receive requests to modify the app in unexpected ways in order to comply with Apple’s policies at the time of submission.

To avoid rejection, the app needs to be managed at every step to comply with Apple’s policies up front – this includes everything from design (using accepted UI components) to development (using the code in the Apple approved ways). In addition, the 2 week submission buffer needs to be a hard deadline for the project, in order to reserve some time to mitigate the risk of a new policy or unexpected requests by Apple.

Google App store submission is a similar process, but it’s a lot less time consuming, and the process for approval is less strict.

Outside of distribution requirements, there are also requirements around sharing and integrating social networks that non-mobile specialists may not be aware of, which may result in rejection not from Apple/Google, but rejection by Facebook or Twitter. For example, Facebook, in order to prevent spam-like posts from appearing on people’s walls, has strict verb-noun requirements for sharing descriptions. Without understanding the implications of sharing and how that may affect the core concept is also another trap that can affect the overall success of the mobile app campaign.

Part 4 – Launching a Marketing Campaign App

Some apps seem as if they were always destined to go viral, and did so of their own accord. Behind them though, there is inevitably a strong and focused plan for their launch. If you’re planning to release an app in the near future, this checklist of strategies will enable you to maximise the impact of your launch.

1. Define your target

Start by defining your target or what you consider to be successful outcome for the launch. Use a measurable goal toward which you can work. For example, you could use the app’s active install rate, retention rate, uninstall rates, and app-store ratings to measure the outcome of your app launch.

Most apps have a high active install rate in the first month following the launch date. After this, the rate tends to level off to around 30 per cent. The average rating for apps is around 3 out of 5. Ensure that your target is realistic and use it for benchmarking purposes after the launch.

2. Test through an invite-only beta version

Use an invite-only beta version in the months or weeks before launch to test and refine your product. This helps you improve your final product by tapping into a trusted community of honest and interested critics, whom you should encourage to post reviews and share news about the app. It allows you to also take advantage of your existing community to create an atmosphere of buzz and exclusivity, which in turn boosts download rates once the app has been launched. You can also use this beta-testing period to continue understanding and refining your audience. It might be a good idea in some cases to try playing to a niche audience rather than a broader market, but this will depend on your app.

3. Leverage social media and search engines

You’ll need to continue finding users for your app after the launch date, so plan your social media campaign in advance for sustained impact. Use social media to publicise giveaways and other launch specials, and to build a strong relationship with your target market.Use organic and paid search engines to target to the specific interests in your app’s target demographic. You should optimise your App Store or Play Store listings as a part of your organic-search campaign; this means using the correct keywords and ensuring that your apps is listed under the correct category (or categories).

4. Focus your marketing content

Offer practical, informative content that will help users understand what your app does and which of their problems it helps them solve. Make use of different types of content for each channel; blog posts, press releases, social media, web copy, and email marketing.Make sure your content is newsworthy. Seek assistance from professional marketers and copywriters who can help you frame a marketing story for your app. Newsworthy content is more likely to be picked up by journalists, reviewers, and bloggers.

5. Set up a one-stop site or page

This seems rather obvious but it’s critical to have a dedicated page or website for your app. This one-stop page tells the user everything they want to know about your app. The one-stop site should contain other useful items such as screenshots, demo videos, reviews, and, of course, a download link or option to sign-up to be notified the instant the app is released.

6. Select only one app store

Selling your app through just one store will give it a better concentration of user ratings. Additionally, selling through just one store makes it easier to provide updates in the first weeks after release. Once the app is established, you can expand to sell through other stores.

7. Pitch the app to journalists and your network

Deliver a strong pitch for your app to journalists and bloggers in the industry. Give them plenty of notice about your app launch, so they have time to write in detail about your app.Provide them with free downloads and make time to answer questions and queries about your app. Pitching usually happens weeks or months before the product launch, so your launch schedule should allow plenty of time for this.

8. Work with partners

Find at least one partner to work with in the weeks leading up to your app launch. The partner should be in a complementary industry. For example, they might be a media station that can give your app more coverage, or they might be in a similar industry and be able to share your app to their database (if their customers could likely become your customers).

9. Review and monitor progress

Once your app has launched, you’ll need to continue reviewing and monitoring outcomes. Your tracking efforts should tell you many things. For example, it should tell you the features your users value the most, app performance standards, active download loads, as well as the uninstall rate.This data tells you when and how to fix any bugs or errors, and it can inform you as you continue striving to improve and refine your app. During this stage, you should encourage users to post reviews and share their user experience. Ultimately, this can generate more positive attention for your app and heighten the impact of your launch campaign.

10. Continue engaging users

Apps are works in progress. Few apps stay the same and remain wildly successful. You should have a plan for retaining users and improving the usage experience. While much of this will centre on the data and feedback you receive after the launch, other types of campaigns can be used to maintain user engagement.Use a variety of channels to keep in touch with users. Email newsletters, push and in-app messages, SMS updates, user questionnaires, and blog posts are all ways that you can continue the conversation with users.You can also use these methods to run and publicise special offers, discounts, useful information, and updates, even as you continue evolving your app to improve the user experience and target new audiences.

Empirical Works can help you with your Mobile App Marketing Campaign and Digital Strategy. Contact us and see how we can help you.