An indie development shop’s thoughts on iPhone App Marketing (Part 1)

What we do:
We design and build apps that make a positive impact on your life.

We’ve released titles in the Productivity, Education and Lifestyle Categories.

Productivity: HoneyDo (AppStore Essentials List – Apps for Busy Parents, What’s Hot, New & NoteWorthy, positive reviews from Bloomberg TV, Huffington Post, MacWorld, numerous app Blogs etc.)

Lifestyle: MarioCooks! (#1 Grossing App since the first day of launch in the LifeStyle Category)

Education: Smart Vocab Suite of vocabulary building apps (Consistently the Top Grossing vocabulary app in the AppStore with hundreds of positive reviews, beats Princeton Review and Kaplan)

Why am I self-advertising so much?

It’s important to note that our products are of high quality and made with a sense of love and caring that you will not find anywhere on the appStore. Our customer service is fanatical and we talk to our customers everyday. In short, we know how to build quality apps that people love.

Paid iPhone App Marketing (our options):

When we launched HoneyDo our goal was to get it in front of hundreds of users and get feedback in the first few months. After a relatively quiet launch our numbers started to get better and the constant flow of feedback from users was used to improve the product.

After the first month we finally decided to experiment with paid ads on mobile devices to attract users to our iTunes Landing Page in the hopes that they would convert.

Here are the services we looked at:

Admob and JumpTap.

We decided to can Admob since it took them over 4 days just to activate our account. We never spoke to a live person in that company since our budget was so small they wouldn’t even spit in our general direction.

JumpTap on the other hand had a sales rep call us and guide us through the initial few steps.

We started our 1 week trial run with spends of about 100USD/day with JumpTap.

Conversion? Attribution?

I’m sure there are plenty of options out there just like JumpTap and AdMob. You can go with any – they all have one fatal flaw: attribution is very very difficult when it comes to native app downloads. Here’s why: these services provide most of their ad-impressions on the web. ie a mobile web browser renders your ad in a cookie based session stream and a click through is recorded on their end. You might pay in some cases for the impressions (regular CPM) or for the click throughs. As an app developer though you are interested in purchases.

If a customer purchases an app you need to have a record of the unique device ID (UDID) for that device on which your app is now installed, most developers on the appStore do not have this capability and don’t invest the time in building out some basic analytics of their own on their own hosted servers. Luckily for us, most of our apps have a server side component where we can track unique devices and installs.

When you pay for an ad-campaign you should be very clear with your service provider that you will need to see the list of UDID’s that they claim clicked through to your iTunes landing page. You can then check this list against your list of UDIDs and arrive at an accurate conversion rate for dollar spent on your ad-campaign.

Since we had the data to compare against, we peppered our contact at JumpTap about this data. Emails, calls, more emails have been made and repeated attempts to request this data have been followed by silence and finally a response claiming “technical difficulties” to get the UDIDs that they claim to have rendered the ads to.

Attribution and real conversion are the key to running a campaign online for your apps. Google does a fantastic job of this with Adwords and Analytics working in tandem. In the app space the only thing close to this I have seen is Flurry’s AppCircle (more on this in another post).

Our Results

Spent: 100USD / day for a week long campaign

Results: unknown (*our sales data indicated no measurable gain), UDID data is being hidden from us by JumpTap

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