The Mobile Growth Stack: A Framework for Driving App Marketing

George Osborn | January 27, 2015

App Marketing

Andy Carvell is Growth Manager for Mobile at SoundCloud and he spoke at App Promotion Summit Berlin 2014 about his home made  Mobile Growth Stack. Providing us a framework for driving app marketing efforts, Andy’s model is a quick and simple way to take an overhead look at the levers for driving growth for apps.

In particular Andy focused on:

  • What are the key components of your app growth engine?
  • The interactions between acquisition, engagement and analytics
  • How to use the canvas to analyse the marketing strategies of successful apps and games

We’re now able to share his talk in this post.

The Mobile Growth Stack: A Framework for Driving App Marketing Video:

The Mobile Growth Stack: A Framework for Driving App Marketing Audio:

The Mobile Growth Stack: A Framework for Driving App Marketing Transcript:

I’m looking at mobile growth and more recently international growth quite a lot. So yeah, it’s great to be here today as James said I’ve been attending these summits for quite a while and I’ve found them actually to be incredibly useful in terms of the kind of learning that I got out of it and the practical stuff that I’ve been able to apply at Soundcloud in terms of mobile growth. Today I’d like to present a little bit about a framework that I’ve been using to consider how to approach growth in a sort of a holistic manner.

First, a little bit about Soundcloud. Just for those of you who haven’t heard of us, we’re a platform designed for creators of audio of all kinds to reach their audiences and really to enable anyone anywhere to discover music and audio on whatever platform they’re using. So we’re not a mobile only platform, we also have web and we’re increasingly on other connective devices such as Sonos. Our primary apps are on iPhone and android, but we also have a html mobile website, and we’re also available on a bunch of other devices.

This is what I’d like to present today. This is what I call the mobile growth stack, and I’ve presented this same slide in numerous forms in other summits and other conferences and it’s generally got a lot of interest from the audience, it’s generally what people ask me about afterwards. So, actually thought I’d come back today and present this in a little more detail. It’s really a work in progress, it’s gone through several restorations, and it’s really just a way that I use to consider the mobile ecosystem and how one might approach developing a mobile growth strategy. So, I’ll just leave it up there for a sec. because there’s quite a lot of information on there and then I’ll go through the various layers in a little more detail and call out a few points and then if there’s time at the end I’ll share a little bit about how we’ve applied some of this at Soundcloud and also to look at how we might contrast that with another popular app that’s out there.

So what you see on the framework there, we’ve got three layers: Acquisition, Engagement, and Monetization. Engagement and Retention being the middle layer. And I’ve got two like layers that kinda transcend that, one being Retargeting, because I think it can be applied to all three layers of the user life cycle, all three different business objectives, and international, which I think cuts through everything. And it’s a lot more than just localizing your app. And then underneath, underpinning all three layers is gotta be a solid base of analytics. So that’s where I’ll start.
Yeah, really, it’s great to be coming on right after Patrick because I think Patrick and Priori Data are doing really great things with data. And I think that having data and understanding and then leveraging that to drive real impact is really key to underpin any kind of growth strategy.

Now, what I’m basically presenting here is not a prescriptive, like, you must check all these boxes in order to have an understanding of your app or the ecosystem, but it’s rather a set of things which you might consider.Some of these things will be more or less important depending on your particular app or your particular business, or the stage in your life cycle, but it’s probably worth considering all of these things should you be tracking them, should you have competencies in this area. Or, is it something you might want to develop over time, and that goes, actually, for the whole framework. It’s not that you need to be doing stuff in all of these boxes, or having initiatives running across all of the lines of the framework, but they should probably be considering all of these aspects and how they might be able to work holistically together to drive more growth, or to layer incremental growth over time.

So these are the kind of things that we consider at Soundcloud, for sure. We’re doing more or less in most of these areas. I’ll come on to Soundcloud specifics in a minute. And there’s probably other things that I may have missed out here, and so as I said, this is kinda like a work in progress and I’d be very keen to get input if you think things are missing on any of these.

So moving on to Acquisition, these are the kinda core areas which I consider to be pretty key in a user acquisition strategy. You’ll see the pay channels I got there is just like one box in the framework. Quite often when people talk about user acquisition, they talk primarily about paid acquisition about advertising, yes, that’s definitely important, yes it’s part of our strategy at Soundcloud too, but it’s definitely not the only part of a holistic acquisition strategy. We’re able to use, for example, cross sell quite extensively at Soundcloud. That’s maybe not so applicable if you only have like maybe one property and you’re just trying to drive one app to the top of the charts and you don’t have like a website or HTML5 mobile web to drive the traffic to, but it’s still something you could consider.

Similarly with partnerships. I’ll pull up a couple of these out in more detail. A/B testing of app store assets. So, app store optimization. This is something that we definitely learn from Stephan in one of his earlier talks. So we’ve been using AB testing technology. We built, basically, a fake version of the app store which we drive some traffic to in order to AB test assets kind of more scientifically. And this has enabled us, essentially, to measure the conversion rate of specific items on the app store, so screen shots, copy, things like that, and it’s made a real difference. In terms of the overall conversion rate of our app store presence.

Partnerships are another way you can really drive a lot of acquisition. This is maybe something Soundcloud is not doing so much of yet, but you can see some of the other players out there are doing a lot in that space, and it’s definitely a way you can boost your reach. Possibly at the expense of some rev share in order to drive growth. So it’s like, that’s what I mean about approaching growth in a sort of holistic manner, you might ask, “well why is Monetization on the framework at all?” Because it’s not strictly a growth topic, but actually, the Monetization strategy will definitely affect how fast you can grow.

Integrations, we do a lot of these at Soundcloud. For example, we’re tightly integrated with Twitter, with Facebook, with Tumblr, that works really well for us because we’re a content platform and we have content that is inherently viral easy to share, and we leverage that in our growth strategy in order to reach more users and to acquire more users. Again, it’s not something that’s necessarily applicable to everyone, but it’s something that you could consider when building out a strategy.

Cross-promotion, I already touched on a little bit. We cross-promote heavily from our mobile website, which is what you see on your left, to our native apps because we see more engagement, more retention on our native apps, so when people land on our mobile website, we have upsell like you see on the left there, which really drives a lot of traffic and a lot of installs of our mobile apps, which then drives us higher on the charts, which kinda creates a positive feedback loop.

So moving on to Engagement and Retention, I’ve identified these areas as pretty key kinda levers for driving Engagement and Retention of mobile apps. So onboarding flow in particular is sort of a big focus for us. Here’s a couple of examples from companies that I think do it pretty well. That’s SoundHound on the left. They’ve got like a nice interactive tutorial mode, so the first time you launch the app it’s like pulling out specific features, specific things which you might wanna do. It’s really kind of easing the new user into the app, making sure they have a good first experience, to boost engagement, to boost retention, and hopefully get them back on day two. Example on the right is a welcome e-mail from Duolingo, again, e-mail’s really critical part of that conversation you can start with the user. To ensure that that user has a good experience when they first join and that hopefully they come back.

So that kinda leads into CRM in general, which is a bigger topic around push notifications, e-mail, bringing timely personalized information to users to drive more engagement and to bring them back to the app at the right time. And that should include things like being aware of time zones. So this is another thing where international would cut right across this whole framework because it’s not just about having your app localized to a particular language, but making sure you’re not sending somebody a push message in the middle of the night is pretty important too.

So I’m gonna head into Monetization. Monetization is something that we’re really only at the start of our journey at Soundcloud. We’ve been monetizing on the creative side for quite some time. So if you’re a creator of music or audio you can buy a pro account on Soundcloud and you can host more audio there. But on the listener side, we just rolled out On Soundcloud in the U.S., which is like an ad supported….basically we’re serving ads now in the U.S. against certain content so that we can basically enable certain brands to reach people who are listening to music on Soundcloud. And that’s something that’s part of our strategy as we roll that out globally. Right now it’s only available in the U.S.

When we look at the framework there, there’s obviously a lot more involved than just deciding whether to be ad supported or to go with subscriptions, or some kind of hybrid model. Things like relevant payment methods, which again hit international as well if you’re considering being available globally, then you better make sure that people globally can pay for your service if you plan to monetize them. Virtual currency is pretty useful, it’s used a lot in games, for example, but I think it’s not something that’s only applicable to games. There’s a lot of research which actually shows that disintermediating a purchase by putting a virtual currency between a user and the good, actually can provide other benefits. Basically it can confuse the user because the user can no longer judge the value effectively, so that’s maybe a little controversial. Then I make pricing also a controversial topic, but can definitely be powerful. And yeah, of course you should always be optimizing for conversion.

I’ve touched on Retargeting only slightly, Retargeting, I think can really cut through all the layers of this, because you can be targeting users who maybe saw an advert for your app but never installed it, hence driving acquisitions. You can be retargeting users who maybe showed some engagement, but maybe they’ve lapsed, or you wanna drive them to a higher level of engagement. And definitely on the Monetization side, you can Retarget people at the point where, maybe they were about to purchase and you can sort of push them back into the purchase funnel, or maybe they already made a purchase and you wanna maybe sort of inspire a repeat purchase, so you might wanna send them a coupon or something like that. So I think Retargeting really cuts across all three layers. So, some examples of Monetization, I think like Clash of Clans does it particularly well, also using a virtual currency, a couple of examples on the right there, sort of relevant payments methods. In Brazil they have this thing called boleto it’s like a barcode system, so basically you can buy credits with these barcodes, and it’s essentially….basically a very common form of payment. You don’t take boleto payment in your app, or enable that in some way, then you’re missing out on a big slice of the Brazilian Monetization potential.

So back to the stack a little bit, I’d like to just sort of explain just briefly how Soundcloud has applied the stack, about how Soundcloud strategy can be analyzed using the stack. So we make as I mentioned, a lot of user cross sell, app store optimization, we’re pretty active in the top two levels of the stack. But I’d say where we’re really just starting out is on the monetization side. Yeah, we’ve rolled out advertising in the U.S., we’ve had creative subscriptions for quite sometime, and we’ve talked about rolling out a consumer subscription at some point in the future. We’re pretty weak on international right now in that we’re really just starting out. We’ve got an app available in a couple of languages. We’ve just recently translated our Android app into Portuguese, for example, but we’re really sort of a long way behind other apps that are out there in terms of internationalization potential. The same goes for the kind of payment methods that we collect. We’re still sort of at the start of that journey. And so, this sort of Monetization level of the stack is something where we’ve got to sort of develop new competencies over time. And the same with international. And we’re also not doing a lot with Retargeting yet.

Had a stab at also analyzing Clash of Clans just briefly using the same stack. So it’s probably interesting just to look very quickly at the differences I would say Clash of Clans is number one, and the Monetization charts for most of this year on iOS so they’re clearly doing a really great job of Monetization. They’re clearly doing a lot of LTV modeling on the analytic side. I think what’s interesting is, if you would talk to Super Cell, they’d probably say they’re actually more of a retention company than a Monetization company in that their real strength is in retaining users by giving them a really great experience and keeping them coming back.

And I think if you can nail that, Monetization generally follows. I’m not sure what they’re doing with Retargeting. It’s pretty hard to know from the outside, this is really just from outside observation and it’s not from any inside knowledge, so this should all be taken just as my impression and analysis of them from just looking at them from the outside. They’re widely localized, they’re available in a ton of languages, and they’re also doing some interesting cross promotion with GungHo, who I think they’re technically partnered with through Softbank, who’s their majority stakeholder. So they’re doing some very interesting cross-promotion in Asia as well. That was just sort of my stab at using the stack to a popular app in the marketplace.

This is the framework that I use to consider mobile growth in a holistic manner.

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