Leo Giel Talks "Sticky" Apps at AGS NYC 2020 Virtual Summit

Earlier this month, YouAppi CRO, Leo Giel, moderated a panel on building a successful “sticky” app at App Growth Summit NYC’s Virtual 2020 Summit. Panel speakers included Christeen Savinovich, Manager Director of Digital Product Management of E*TRADE, Michael Brooks, CRO of WeatherBug and Frankie Vittorini CEO of uSTADIUM. Here are our top takeaways on the panel about how to build apps that keep users coming back. 


It’s All About Value

The key to building a “sticky” app? Understand why your product should exist and why it’s different or better than other products on the market. As Michael Brooks succinctly said: “That is the core to stickiness: does this product provide value?”


It’s also important to have this discussion early on. Brooks explains further: “If you’re going to have an existential crisis about an app or a program, have it early. Have that discussion of ‘does the world need this?’ and understand the value proposition going into it.”


Focusing on your app’s value proposition is also important to efficiently and effectively allocate resources. There are so many new tools and strategies to try. From a leadership perspective, deciding what initiatives to undertake from the vast menu of potential tools can be daunting. It’s important to think critically about what your app can actually accomplish, what can be measured and where you can identify the wins. In this vein, strategic partnerships can help if your team is under-resourced. Brooks adds, “The partnership piece is super important. Find people that stick in the direction that you’re going, and they can help fill the gaps of a team because it’s OK if you can’t do everything, but momentum is the most important thing.”


It’s Not About the Quantity of New Features, But the Quality To Your Super Fans

Related to knowing your app’s intrinsic value is knowing your key users and what they find valuable. Frankie Vittorini CEO of uSTADIUM said, “Knowing exactly who your target user is and how they want to engage with the product moving forward I think is super important.”


According to Vittorini, feature requests from users will be constant, especially when your app is in the beginning, high-growth stage. It’s important to always go back to the core value of what your app is providing to the market. Vittorini noted a real-life example from uSTADIUM when they considered adding a live-streaming feature to their product early on and realized that while it would be a cool feature, it would also be expensive and not very impactful to uSTADIUM’s core differentiation in the social sports app market. Instead, they added a gamification component that allowed users to make predictions about players’ performance, rate those statements with points, and reward users based on whether they were right or wrong. Vittorini shared “from a product marketing or business development standpoint, we’re constantly going back to our core foundation of ‘yes this is great but does this add value to our target user as a super fan? Is it gamified?’ Gamification for us tends to come hand-in-hand with what our user loves to do and we just continuously use it as a benchmark for us in terms of creating new features and products moving forward.”


As Always, Testing is Your Best Friend

So you’ve dialed in on your app’s core value and built out features aligned with the needs of your super fans. What’s next? You test new features to see just how “sticky” they are.


Christeen Savinovich, Manager Director of Digital Product Management at E*TRADE, noted that hypothesis-driven testing has been important to her team’s ability to evaluate the success of new initiatives: “Starting with hypothesis-driven test design has been very effective for us because you have an answer if it fails. Failing isn’t necessarily a bad thing if you are deliberate about what you are testing, you’re not introducing too many variables and you’re honest with yourself about the change you’re trying to affect. If you believe that introducing this new feature is going to increase MAU by 100% and it doesn’t, why didn’t it do that? What’s the disconnect between you and your client?”


She gave an example of an App Store campaign E*Trade rolled out for its suite of apps to announce its online brokerage would offer zero dollar commissions which her team found was effective for some apps and ineffective for others. Through hypothesis-driven testing they deduced that for apps more focused on active traders who still had to pay commissions for what they trade in, the campaign had little impact. On the other hand, for mainstream clients trading stocks and options, 0 dollar commissions impacted their day-to-day and therefore resonated. This analysis enabled her team to allocate campaign resources more effectively going forward.


Content Can Be a Cost-Friendly Way to Enhance Stickiness

Ok, so you’ve built out the new features, you’ve tested them and optimized their performance, now what? How do you continue getting users back to your app over competitors that might have more resources than you?


Vittorini noted uStadium’s use of content to differentiate and better compete against bigger players: “Where we can compete is from a content/engagement perspective and asking better questions than our bigger competitors because at the end of the day we’re in the tech space. We can’t compete with Bleacher Report moneywise. Where we can compete with them and beat them is with the right kind of questions.”


This includes questions that uStadium’s audience of young, sports-savvy millennials truly resonate with.

“If they feel you’re not up to date with the times or analysis, they’ll churn you out literally. So we are constantly asking very engaging questions to our audience via push notifications or through our instagram account that really can go 50/50, that you can argue on one side but you can argue also on the other side.”


The takeaway? Identify your power users and match their level of insight. Also, constantly invite their feedback and use it to guide your product strategy. That also builds community around your app which enhances stickiness and user retention in the long term. 


The Right Monetization Mix Depends on Your Product

Every app is different and therefore optimal monetization strategies will be different too. Base your mix on your product, audience and resources. While an established brand like E*Trade has the ability to mobilize a large existing business, apps starting from scratch have a different set of options. Brooks noted the 3 main choices today for new apps: subscriptions, in-app purchases or ads. Also, with the advent of technology to assess the propensity of a user to be an in-app purchaser, marketers are now able to better evaluate the particular mix of their monetization strategy. 


Subscriptions offer stability and high value but they’re harder to drive and more expensive. In contrast, ads offer high volume but pose strategic challenges because of the fluctuations of the industry. Finally, IAP is the most scalable but requires the highest level of consistent quality. 


Less pervasive strategies might also be right for your app. Vittorini noted the effectiveness of giveaways and also its impact on getting users back to the uSTADIUM app: “Giveaways are huge for us. For us instead of spending on a comprehensive email marketing campaign, we may put that towards giving away 5 jerseys on the app over the course of 5 days and that will get the Ravens fan who had left because of bugs.”


In summary, we found that App Growth Summit's virtual summits showcase mobile experts and their insights. Since this is our new reality for the foreseeable future, where most of the country is currently under Shelter in Place restrictions, these events offer insightful and engaging content. AGS' proprietary virtual summit platform seeks to enable a simulated conference experience versus the traditional webinar-style online format. We hope to "run into" you at an upcoming virtual summit!