Andy Carvell is the Partner & Co-Founder of Phiture, a mobile growth agency. Here he has worked with some of the biggest apps on the App Store, including Headspace, Spotify, Triller, and VSCO.
Prior to founding Phiture, Andy worked on the marketing and growth teams at SoundCloud. His team built SoundCloud's activity notification system, which delivered over 500 million pushes per month, and increased M1 retention by five percentage points in its first few months of operation.
Andy has been in the mobile industry since the late ‘90s, when he started working at Nokia. Andy has a deep interest in technology, strategy and the execution of ideas.
In this episode, you’ll learn:
- Andy’s user retention techniques
- The most overlooked component in marketing your app
- How to optimize your customer’s App Store experience
- Andy’s formula for maximizing your app’s notification strategy
Links & Resources
Andy Carvell’s Links
- Phiture’s Mobile Growth Stack
- Andy on Twitter: @andy_carvell
- Andy on LinkedIn
- Work at Phiture
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So the impact that you can drive with notifications is reach, times relevance, times frequency. What we learned from the time at SoundCloud was not all notifications are equal, and the really killer ones that are going to really supercharge your business, have high reach, high relevance and high frequency.
And then, then you’re in that golden quadrant.
Welcome to the Sub Club podcast. I’m your host, David Bernard. And with me is always Jacob Eiting. Hello, Jacob.
It’s a thundering in your neck of the woods, I hear.
It’s, you know, it’s cleared up now. I think we’re gonna make it.
I’ve got a plumber. Our guests might have some construction workers. It’s going to be a fun one today!
Is it, David? You’re breaching the magic of podcasting and it’s going to get audited out.
All right. Speaking of our guests, our guest today is Andy Carvell, partner and co-founder of Phiture, a mobile growth agency. At Phiture, Andy has worked with some of the biggest apps on the App Store, including Headspace, Spotify, Triller, and VSCO.
Prior to find founding Phiture, Andy worked on the marketing and growth teams at SoundCloud.
Welcome to the podcast, Andy.
Thanks, David. A real pleasure. Thanks for inviting me on. Excited to be here.
Yeah. So, you and I were chatting a little bit about your background as I was kind of prepping your bio, and you shared a really fun anecdote. So, I think I’m like, “Old man in the mobile space,” you know, or Jacob and I both; we both had apps on the App Store in 2008, you know, we were early. But you started in mobile a little, just a few years before that.
Just a little bit more.
Tell us about that. You were at Nokia making games in 1999.
Yeah, right out of university, I graduated computer science in ‘99. I always wanted to be making games, and I was applying for roles in the games industry, and then the agent that was kind of helping me find those said, “Hey, there’s this company Nokia. They make mobile phones.”
I didn’t own a mobile phone at that point. None of my friends did, but it was just kind of reaching the tipping point, and they wanted to put games on these things, and I’m like, okay, that’s sounds interesting.
I went along to the interview. I really was very kind of amazed at the, you know, the R and D center there. It was like, like pretty space age, you know, they were working on some real next level shit.
And, I was actually pretty excited by the idea of like cramming, you know, decent games into like 16 kilobytes, which is what I had to play with building embedded games on a black and white 84 by 48 pixel display.
So, I was going to ask, are we talking like Snake, or are we talking like Java level stuff?
It was pre Java. It was an embedded game. So, I was coding in C in Assembly, and I basically had to like build the whole game from start to finish. We had this shared designer who did the pixel art, and I had to cram it into 16K and make it fun. Yeah.
I wrote a pretty game called Space Impact there, which was released on the 3310 phone, which I think wasn’t available in America. But in the rest of world a lot of people played that game. It was like the first, side-scrolling arcade, shoot-them-up, on a mobile.
That is amazing.
Well, it’s pretty incredible. Just even think like the iPhone wasn’t that far behind that right? Like you were doing 16K assembly and C, and like eight years later, we were going to have like open GL driven games. So just pretty wild.
Yeah, it’s moved on a lot.
So after Nokia, you spent some time at SoundCloud, and there’s a couple of things you did at SoundCloud that I wanted to dig into, because it seems like you’ve kind of continued that work at Phiture, and it’s really relevant to our audience in subscriptions. So, one of those is the mobile life cycle program, and this is something I think so much about.
There’s such a huge story that’s hard to tell, and hard to really understand. It’s something like, you know, I think we can help with at RevenueCat that I’m constantly thinking of from a product perspective, and I think developers often it’s like, you get an install, you get them to start a free trial and they convert and like, but there’s so many other journeys and so many parts of the life cycle that, that need to be studied.
So, tell me about this mobile lifecycle program, kind of the origins, and then, you know how you see it today?
Yeah. Yeah. I was that SoundCloud for about four and a half years in the end. I was working on various teams, but ended up actually building out a cross-functional team focused on user retention, which is where I got really into the lifecycle topic.
And yeah, it’s, you’re absolutely right. It’s, it’s a pretty complex topic. It’s one that we have continued to develop processes and, and, you know, best practice around at Phiture, where we’re helping companies like Cisco and, yeah. Blinkist actually is a, is another one that we’re working with, recently. But yeah, everybody seems to struggle with this because it is such a, a giant topic, as you say, David, there’s a lot to it.
There’s a lot of different touch points you can have with the user. And it all comes, starts with understanding the user journey, right. And understanding users probably better than you currently do. And that, for me, always starts with asking them questions rather than diving straight into the analytics and looking at funnels.
I think it’s something that’s really overlooked in, in tech companies. You know, we have all this data available. And so the instinct is just to dive in and look at the numbers. Now, I think quantitative tells a very interesting story and for sure you need to be tracking what, what users are doing to, to understand those users quantitatively.
But, you also want to understand the psychology of the user at these different points. What are they thinking? What are they hoping for? What are they expecting? And you know, I think a great lifecycle program from, you know, actually user life cycle starts outside of the store right outside of the app, rather. So it starts in the stores.
Yeah. So did the need, right?
Yes. It starts with a need or what? and then, you know, hopefully. Somehow the user discovers the app. It’s either through an advert or maybe a friend has mentioned it, or, you know, there could be many ways that they come to the App Stores, but then, you know, they’re all going to go through that App Store, which is why the Phiture.
We also put a lot of work into App Store optimization with our clients. You know, you start the user journey there, you’re setting the expectation, in your ad creative and in your App Store page. It’s a great opportunity to. To sell the benefits of the app and qualify your users, you know? Well, because you’re, you’re really then.
You know, setting, setting that expectation, which you then need to deliver on in the very first session in the app. So then you get into onboarding and activation and, you know, that can be both within the product, but also augmented by a multi-channel messaging approach, which is we did a lot of work with that at SoundCloud.
Because this is like, for me, this is the kind of the hack, right? The magic bullet. Is that not that. Not that CRM is the most effective lever for, for engaging users, actually that’s product. but CRM is a great way to circumvent a six month product backlog and engineering backlog and, and, and rapidly iterate on ideas.
And, and also it’s got built in measurement and, and segmentation. So you can do some really interesting stuff. Sorry. You had
So, yeah. So when you say CRM, I mean, like, I know CRM is like in my world, Salesforce, or maybe Intercom or something, I guess, but when I’ve heard, I’ve heard this used in the marketing world, but what is, what is the more, seems like there’s a lot more broad context or a broad definition of that term.
Yeah. And there’s so many different terminology and definitions around it. It’s a, it’s very confusing as with everything in tech, but. Yeah. So when I say CRM, which is customer relationship management, and, and that goes back to the sixties and seventies, you know, classic business, you know, theory actually, it’s nothing new that we’ve invented it just with tech, but, when I’m talking about CRM in a mobile app scenario, I’m talking about leveraging a customer engagement platform like braise or Leanplum or, Iterable maybe.
And, You know, it’s typically what you’ve got available in that kind of stack would be, something sort of rudimentary analytics enough to do sort of targeting and triggering of messages as well as basic measurement around like what the effects of those messages are. Although typically you’d want to pair that with.
Your product analytics to get a deeper view on how it’s affecting retention or, you know, or monetization for that matter. but yeah, you’re able to sort of carve out segments of users and then craft, interaction. So, so the, the tools you mentioned there, Salesforce, IndyCar, definitely still in that mix.
We don’t, we don’t see them so much specifically Salesforce. We see it more in enterprise. most, mostly. Let’s he around email as a channel. but you know, this sort of more modern or mobile first platforms such as prays, for example, you know, really kind of built to leverage, mobile specific channels, like, push and rich push, mobile in-app messaging, which is a killer channel for engaging users who are in the app.
And it’s where it kind of bridges the gap between classic products. Classic marketing, because you can really kind of overlay an old man. New experiences on top of what’s what’s built in the product, which sometimes causes some tension with, with the designers. But, but actually you can make them look, you can make them look super native.
And, yeah, you can test and iterate on them quickly, which is the real benefit I think of using a platform like that is you can, if you have testing on onboarding for example, and you’re looking at day zero users, you’ve got a fresh cohort every day. You can run. You know, if you’ve got enough, big enough cohorts, you can, you can iterate every day if you want, or at least every couple of days.
Yeah. As long As you’re getting a few thousand downloads, right. Or, you know, or even like even hundreds, right. If you’re getting hundreds of downloads, like those are significant enough cohorts, especially if you’re running, you know, tasks very towards that, very beginning of the experience. Right. So you get like lots of exposure, but yeah.
And then it’s typically very high leverage too, right? Because we found this at elevate a lot. just the nature of funnels is that. There were all these like tests and kind of experiments we wanted to do further down the funnel, like, oh, how was like the last step look and all this stuff. And it turns out nine times out of 10.
It was not really that important because what really mattered was the first step or the second step, because that’s just where the most people were. Right. It didn’t matter. We could get half the lift there, but it mattered more because they hadn’t decayed all the way through the funnel. Right. Which is, there’s a lot of these like unintuitive aspects of, yeah.
I guess when you think about a CRM, it’s like, The pre-experience finding you getting into the app. Re-engaging right. That are in some ways, like there’s an overlapping piece with products. Right. But it’s broader, right. It exists like sort of outside of the, the, the specific software itself. and, and yeah.
Thinking about it holistically, as David was saying earlier, it’s difficult. Right. It’s difficult because of the time-based aspects is to, because it’s, multi-platform, it’s difficult because, you know, The tooling still leaves something to be desired. but, but, yeah, I think it’s really interesting to, to, to talk about using your user interviews in that process, because, you traditionally think about doing that in a product process, right.
When you’re like trying to talk to users about what to build, but you actually need to be talking to them about how, how do they, what do they, want? Like, why do they, why are they here? Like, why did you want to inform, like, you know, how are you contacting them communicating with them, et cetera.
Pretty much so.
Yeah. And then. So part of that, life cycle management is this multi-channel notification systems. And you’ve kind of already mentioned that a little bit, but, so in mobile apps and the clients that you’re working with at Fisher Phiture, and then some of the work you’ve done, you did previously at SoundCloud. how do you kind of manage the. The breadth of available channels. Now you’ve got email, you’ve got in-app, you’ve got push. you know, and have you seen kind of patterns in, in certain channels performing better with these kinds of mobile audiences?
Yes, absolutely. I mean, I think to some extent it depends on the, the, the app itself and the audience for that app. you know, we still see SMS, for example, being a really impactful channel in, in some specific categories, like, you know, SoundCloud couldn’t send SMS. I think it would be a bad idea.
Possibly in some markets, you know, maybe they’re a slightly less developed. They have all the funds, but I’d say it’s probably not a great channel for SoundCloud, for example. But, you know, we, we did some work with, with good RX, which is a, like a prescription yeah. discount service in America is huge.
I think they, I think they might’ve had IPO recently, but, yeah, in any case, SMS is still a huge channel for them. because they’re, you know, a lot of their customers are older people. With, you know, with who are not necessarily engaging with, with emails or, or necessarily in app messages. I mean, I think an app is generally a pretty great channel for anyone who’s in the app, but actually with some, some apps it’s not a very valuable channel at all because the users barely in the app, if you’re thinking about sort of very functional experiences, like, I’d say Uber, Uber is a, is a good example.
Like there’s definitely some room. To even with mobility startups to interact with users while they’re in the app, but you don’t want to get in their way because they’re there to book a ride and get in it. So you have like limited surface area. So yeah, really, you know, when we go in this Phiture, you know, our retention team goes into to build out a, an engagement strategy with a customer.
We very much like to understand not just their usage. But also, you know, figure out what is the right channel mix. That makes sense. We actually put up, I think a while back a, a, a matrix, which kind of highlights the pros and cons of each channel and how they can be used in combination. Maybe a I can, I can take out the link and we can include it in the podcast.
Yeah. And you know, it’s funny. I feel like I see all these like threats on Twitter about like, especially from like the kind of indie developer scene about like, you know, don’t, you know, do a newsletter, like email is evil and like, and then I’m always the one that’s like, I kind of liked newsletter. It’s like, as long as it’s not like overly aggressive.
And then same with SMS. I found myself lately, just ended up with a couple of apps, like a thrive market. It’s like a shopping. it’s kind of like Amazon grocery ish kind of stuff. And they’re texting me and I kinda like it. And I never would’ve thought, you know, cause like they’re pushing notifications, they just get lost.
But like I care about when my order shifts and I care. And so it’s interesting how I think, you know, sometimes we in tech underestimate. That when somebody really cares about something, they don’t mind. Getting notified about it, but that’s where you have to like, be really careful of where you draw these lines and how you do your messaging and what the user really cares enough about.
But when they do, you know, you, you know, it’s always felt to me as a developer, like, oh, SMS is like, it’s just off the table. Like, I wouldn’t touch that. But then like, now I’m like, wait a minute. Like if it’s something I use, it really cares about like, it’s a Bible platform and as a
For transactional stuff, right? Like your ship order shipped and things like that. And then, you know, it’s becomes something you can piggyback marketing messaging or expansion or product marketing onto. Right. but I always, I was the, at that point is super validated across to you is your Twitter is not really.
Right. and, and it’s totally true that like the developers and the communities and the styles that we have often as people who make software and our insiders is very different from the, the median consumer, which is not even a thing. There is a median consumer, right. You’re dealing with this huge distribution of users and different, they have different tastes and they have different appetites for, for marketing and all this stuff.
And yeah, I always believe. Give them control. Like obviously don’t do anything on tour. Don’t message people. If they say not to write and give people like an opt in opt out, like, you know, as clear choice in the onboarding funnel. But yeah, you’d be surprised. Like people don’t have as much stuff going on sometimes or have as much noise in their, in their feed.
Really want to engage. And those are the users that you really should be reaching. Right. Because they are like, they’re, they’re not only installing your app, but they’re willing to show some intent to engage with you. Right. Because they have a real purpose to be there. Right. As opposed to like a drive by or something like this.
Right. And so, yeah. I don’t know. I think that that is. Goes beyond just this one particular topic. Cause like we, yeah, we hear developers all the time. Like being like, oh, I don’t want to tell. I mean, I even remember me going back to elevate again, being when we started to, we hired a growth marketer and started to work some of these new notification channels.
I was very against it. Like I thought this was like disrespectful to our users. It was just growth hacking. It was whatever. Then I saw the numbers, right? Like, I don’t know the retention didn’t go down. All the other numbers went up. I was like, well, I guess people don’t care. Right. Or at least like the people that don’t care aren’t big enough to matter.
I mean, they matter, but like, I don’t know, I’m building a business here at some point. Right. So, it’s, counter-intuitive,
This goes to your earlier point though. And I was just going to bring it up up is 12 south. I just bought this forte stand thing. That’s like one of my favorite products I bought in a long time. It’s amazing. It’s like wireless charging for my phone. I can drop my AirPods pro on there and it charges a little ad for them real quick.
But I went to unsubscribe to their email because they were sending me like two weeks. I was like, well, I don’t want to, I don’t want to unsubscribe. It’s actually like 12 south lake. They make good products. I love this product. I just bought from them. I want to know what they’re up to. So I go to unsubscribe because I was like, I just can’t, I can’t do two emails a week from these people.
And then the, the email thing was like, Hey, do you want to just hear from us, you know, twice a week, once a week or once a month, I was like, once a month. Cool. Like, I’d love to hear from them once a month. I wish more newsletters would do that. And the opposite. I subscribed to Kiwi co boxes for my kids.
And they email me like four times a week and I’ve even talked to their Twitter team and they’re like, we’re going to put you on the like slow thing. And they don’t, and I keep getting four emails a week, so I’m just going to unsubscribe.
A lot. It’s a lot, right? Like it’s a lot to, like, we’re talking about, I’m sure, Andy, you deal with this all the time. Like just getting that first version of like a marketing product marketing campaigns going, it’s hard to add in like, well, okay, you’ll have the, the one month and you know, it takes time to build those things up, so it doesn’t surprise me, but it is.
Yeah, I mean, it’s interesting to, well, it’s a tough choice as product and builders. Right. We always have to decide like, what are the corners we’re going to cut? What are the, like the boxes we’re going to shove everybody in. Right. Because we’re not gonna be able to like, perfectly meet. Everybody’s like appetite for this stuff where they are.
Right. That’s going to be impossible. and so, I mean, I feel like that’s where the measurement comes in, right? Andy?
Yeah, so you’ve touched on so many interesting points there. I know we don’t have two hours to discuss them all, but I would love to just quickly pick up on it. before we get onto to measurement and, and personalization, I think it’s all going to flow. So, first point, you mentioned like, you know, developers. Maybe not the target audience for the app. That is so true. And I mean the less, unless you get, get up, you know, for sure. But, you know, for the vast majority of like consumer apps that are targeting essentially, you know, global audiences of more or less like, you know, broad audiences, like, you know, I don’t know, 18 to 30 males and females or whatever, who were into a particular.
Sport or something like this. These people are not, they’re not engineers. They don’t hate notifications. Right? You know, the only way you can prove that as a growth marketer is by getting a little bit of surface area where you are allowed to run experiments. or as, as we, as my team tit in, in, at SoundCloud in the early days, we would run them in places like Pakistan.
We would just, SoundCloud’s going to kill me when they hear this, but, you know, we would just. Just just not send them to Berlin, you know, where all the engineers were based, but we tested me the rest of the world, or if it was particularly something like a bit more daring, a bit more bold and you need to run Volvo experiments.
Sometimes we would run them in Pakistan. We’d get a good feel for like, you know, what the uplift was and then we’d take it to the lawyers. Cause sometimes there was, you know, there were also even legal issues about where we could tread the line with user generated content and promotion. music licensing is a minefield, but, but yeah, my point.
It’s only when you can kind of come back with data and show it to, you know, the exec team and say, look, we just moved retention five percentage points. This is huge. then they kind of give you a bit more leeway to, to send a few more notifications. and yeah, like the, the, but, you know, we had so much resistance from, from the tech team and, you know, the engineers.
Convinced we were going to destroy the product and it comes from a very, very good place. You know, they care about the product. They care about the users, they just, they just are not representative of the users. and that comes to my second point. Which is, I learned a lot from my time at SoundCloud and from building out a, real-time notification system that was, you know, from, was kicking out around 500 million push notifications per month.
So it was, you know, we, we got there in the end with the, with the volume. but, you know, one of the things which I kind of distilled later when I was at Phiture, I kind of thought back to that time and distilled it into a formula. So the impact that you can drive with notifications, is reach times relevance, times frequency.
And I’ll just break that down very quickly. So reach we’re talking about, you know, your overall channel opt-in rate. So how many people are actually opted in for push or in this case? I’d also like what if your segment that, that whole, audience then what stage of the funnel they’re at, which is to David’s point earlier about how you have a greater surface area or a greater reach as I would put it, earlier on in the funnel, because more users are still around.
So. yeah, so that’s your reach and that’s a big lever on, on how much impact you’re going to drive with any particular notification. Is that is your size of your target audience. That’s addressable, second one relevance, which you’ve also touched on, in your examples there. if it’s highly relevant, users will tolerate not just tolerate, but actually welcome a high volume of notifications, which is th th the third, parameter there in that formula that the third variable, which is pretty cool.
How frequently can you send this particular notification before people start to opt out and then it like brings you a reach down. So it’s basically like a, it’s not a Seesaw because there’s three elements to it. Right. But it’s some kind of 3d sea sore, where if you get the right balance and you’re able to tweak, tweak those things, there’s a tension between those three variables.
Right. But if you’re. April to increase relevance by, by personalization, you know, by providing in SoundCloud’s case more relevant recommendations for content. Or, looking at what users have listened to before and, and telling them more things about artists that they’ve been listening to and things like that that would increase the relevance, which means you can proxy that by click through rate, they’re much less likely to turn them off and you can send more of those notifications.
You can increase that frequency. And so what I learned from that, what we learned from the time at SoundCloud. Not all notifications are equal and the really killer ones that are going to really supercharge your business, have high rates, high relevance, and high frequency. And then, then you’re in that, that, that golden quadrant
Would imagine. I don’t know if you, if y’all have built things out internally to, to Phiture, but I imagine that kind of 3d Seesaw is really hard to measure. It’s really hard to understand. Which, which ones are driving relevance, which ones.
And especially once you get into personalization where now you’re not dealing with just massive AB tests, you’re actually like almost doing user level, understanding of what’s relevant and what’s not So
So it brings us to the, to the next big topic and we can kind of dive into that aspect of it later, but you got to build out a stack for this.
And so, and this is something I, I, you’ve done a great job of, of kind of boiling a lot of this down into the mobile growth stack. And I wanted to talk through a few kind of levels of the mobile growth stack. So a lot of apps. You know, I taught as developer advocate. I talked to a ton of revenue, cat customers.
So a lot of apps all the way from like, you know, Hey, we just have an idea where we’re like thinking about subscriptions to Indies, to like huge companies. And, but you have a lot of people super early who are kind of overbuilding and then you have people in the middle, like, what do I do now? So let’s talk through kind of a stack for, for your MVP and then onto your kind of intermediate and then to your kind of growth stage.
Like what’s the like, MVP I’m want to get this out, but I want to have just enough, you know, measurement just enough analytics, just enough data to, to start growing this thing.
Yeah. Great question. And, and, yeah, it’s a, it’s a really good topic actually, because you know, this mobile growth stack framework, which, which, which I published originally at SoundCloud, and we continue to develop a Phiture, you know, it’s, it’s huge, there’s loads of stuff on this. It’s basically trying to encapsulate everything that, you know, Could form part of your marketing strategy and your, your growth approach to growing, growing a mobile app.
So, so sometimes people misinterpret that as, oh, I have to do all of these things have to tick all of these boxes in order to be successful. no, absolutely not. Like, you know, you have to play to your strengths and also to you. So your company stage and your, your priorities, right. And for sure, if you try to overreach, you try to do everything.
You’re going to do it all really badly, or at least most things, so much better to focus. And, yeah, I think this could be another good, blog post actually that I should write. But, but yeah, let’s, let’s dive into it now. Let’s let’s have a go. So like early stage, right. Prelaunch or, well, Let’s skip pre-launch for a second.
Let’s say you’ve just launched into the market, with your, you know, with your new app. I think what I see often is a challenge with early stage customers and frankly why we don’t work with super early stage customers. Because they have unrealistic expectations. They, they think they’re ready for growth.
But in, you know, accepted except in absolutely like, you know, stand out anomalous cases like maybe flappy bird would be a good example, that that was ready for hyper-growth pretty much from day one, I think just, just happened to catch the zeitgeists, but you know, you can’t bank on that. And most 99.9% of apps will not have that kind of success.
So actually what an early stage. Team needs to work on is product market fit. Whether they, whether they think they do or not. They’re probably two, two or three years away from market product market fit. That means they need to iterate on the product and they need to iterate on the marketing and, you know, meet there somewhere in the middle with some level of, you know, kind of a retention curve that flattens out at least somewhere along that curve.
Was thinking about this, this, this product market fit meaning, and I don’t know, it’s one of these words that it’s, it’s, it’s, it’s constantly an enigma to founders and because nobody can tell you what it is, right. I think because it’s different for every product is different for every segment is different for every market.
Like what it actually looks like in our, in this space consumer subscription space, it generally has to do. The, yeah, the, I think that’s the best, a very good definition of it. The pretension curves that do flatten out because like, you don’t get in this face, you don’t tend to get like, exp like super stable user cohorts.
They always like drop off to some level, but you want to see like some reasonable level out in some like shortest period of time, which takes a while with subscription apps to really understand like 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 months, or like for the annual renewals, it takes a year to really understand it. but focusing on the product.
Yeah, it’s really what you need to do at elevate. We actually, before we even launched and we weren’t subscription when we launched, but we. We had a, an just an or, yeah, we just released on, Android. So we had an Android app. We could, it was great. Cause we could release a new version every week, and do a beta list.
And we could, we, we, we curated a list or it was sorry, it was Android and iOS. And we used like test flight, distributions. But, and we measured each cohort. Right. And it’s not talking about, we weren’t AB testing. We weren’t like driving in massive downloads or anything like this, but we were just looking like each, like some subsequent cohort, like what was their first.
10, you know, what were these like how many signed up? How many finished? Like activated and we just watched and like watched we iterated on the app until we felt like that number was pretty good. And then we launched, but we didn’t do AB testing. We didn’t like massively like go over the top and tracking.
Right. It was just like a handful, like really things. Cause the thing is you’re going to score. Right. Like AB testing is really hard. It’s expensive. Not because of the tooling, it’s expensive because operationally it’s really difficult to get. Right. And you gotta put a lot of people on it. So, that, that really starting simple mentality will save you a lot of headaches. I think.
Yeah, we had a great episode with Doris Maura from reflecting on this about just, just that minimally viable, like shoot for product market fit. And, you know, don’t do sophisticated AB testing. Don’t do all this stuff you think you need to do. And then even some of the stuff that they, you know, you could install braise or like try and do these big things early.
You can find ways around it. Like you can do simple email surveys, you can do simple user testing. You can, you can, you know, use Zapier for things to kind of like bridge the gap and don’t go build a ton of internal tooling around it, but like do the simple hacky things that don’t scale early on and then move on.
So then let’s talk about like, okay, you’ve reached some level of market product market fit, you know, your, You know, your, your marketing seems to be resonating. You’ve got some decent retention and you’re starting to really pour money into user acquisition. What’s kind of that next level up, that you think companies should start layering on new new services and new sophistication.
Yeah. So I’m talking here like primarily about, you know, growth stuff rather than Phiture building. I’m kind of assuming that there’s, there’s always more Phitures to build, although, you know, I would actually say. Probably people generally keep building Phitures when they should probably stop. They always think that another Phiture is going to be the thing, which really helps what right.
Exactly. And can I say be detrimental to a point, you know, like when, when it becomes too crowded, so, but yeah, so talking about the, you know, the, the growth stack and the, the, the growth activities that would. Appropriate as, as you’ve got that initial traction and you’re looking to scale it, which is where Phitured can get involved.
By the way like this. Typically we work with either kind of traction and growth stage companies, or actually more mature kind of increasingly like enterprise folks who maybe have a very mature product in the market. And they’re looking at they’re kind of plateaued and they’re looking to scale it, but yeah, in, in that growth place, super exciting phase, there, I think it’s really about.
You know, you want to be able to start to scale. So that’s. You’re going to need to upgrade your analytics, probably in stock, trucking more stuff, to get a better understanding of, you know, deeper understanding of your engagement, your retention, and for sure the performance of your acquisition channels, whether they’re, whether they’re organic, paid or some mix.
Because you’d likely to want to start adding layering in more acquisition, either scaling the channels that are working for you, or when they max out or start getting expensive, you know, layering in other channels. I would also recommend like, you know, I wouldn’t build it right at the start, but in this growth phase, it’s good to experiment with virality.
Like, you know, I always say it’s, you can’t really plan for virality, but you can at least. So the seeds and see if they germinate, right? Like you, if you don’t cultivate the right conditions for virality to occur, it never will. but if you, you know, if you have like, you know, the ability to share content, if there’s a content app, if you put those share Phitures in, then at least you can kind of see what the kind of natural PR, prediction of, of users is to, to share to their users, to share to their friends.
For example, the networks, then you, if you see something. Some traction there, you can, you can optimize it, but even if it’s just doing it a little bit, it may be it’s helping to keep your paid acquisition costs down and you have your blended acquisition. Costco is a bit more sustained. and maybe you see that actually you go super viral.
You know, I’ve seen it happen. So I think like, you know, building potentially referral systems or content shares depends on your app, but I’d say if you do them in a fairly cheap way, but just at least at least put those in and see if that, you know, is going to be something that’s going to help you grow.
Because if you find that it is for SoundCloud, virality was huge, you know, so, but of course it, it works better with, with social apps and content apps. Yeah. Apart from that, you know, I’d say like, you know, you’re going to be, you’re going to be continuing to iterate on the product. I’d say ASO becomes more important at this point.
Like, so optimizing your App Store page for, you know, for organic discovery, making sure that you’re ranking for the right keywords. and also start to think about international. I think a lot of companies. Focus on their coal market and the one that they know best, which is often, you know, us or, you know, whatever country that, you know, the team is based in.
They often start there and they know that market best. But, you know, I think one of the things which going back again to SoundCloud, what are the things they did very well was, you know, even though they were headquartered in Berlin, they didn’t have this German outlook actually that, that the founders were not even from here.
And they built it global from the start, you know? So they, they basically, it was available everywhere. you know, when I came into to help them level up on, on mobile, you know, we made sure that we translated the App Store page into all the languages. When I came in, it was just an idea. but even English is a good start compared to, you know, most of the languages.
But you know, pretty, I’d say at this growth stage, see, it’s about exploring you don’t necessarily, you know where those big leavers are for scale yet, but it’s about discovering them. So maybe, maybe it’s virality. Maybe, maybe there’s a market that you’re not localized in yet, which could. You just, you just catch fire in that market, you know, so it’s not about doing huge installations, the launches and doing a huge, you know, traditional kind of PR push in, in, you know, launching in us or whatever, but, you know, at least making sure the apps available there are, you know, in, in, in as many of your big markets as possible, make sure that it’s translated, you know, localizing the applicant, using the App Store presence and just seeing, you know, getting a feel for.
You know, are you going to be a very local app or you, do you have a global, potential you have really trying to tease out, like, what are the acquisition channels that are going to work for you? And what are the, what are the other leavers for growth, you know? And, probably you want to start doing a little bit more in terms of CRM or customer engagement at this point. you know,
Which, which does also doesn’t make sense when you, when you’re a superstar. But you’re sort of building the foundations for the next phase of growth and then leading into the things which are showing promise.
Nice. And then we are coming up on time, but, can you give us a, like a 92nd, two minute, quick drill? I think, you know, I, I don’t know that that many, like massive apps are going to be listening to this podcast, so maybe it’s not even quite as relevant anyway.
David, I think I like to think every apps can be a massive
Every app. Yes.
Right. The massive apps of the future
Once you get to that stage of a head space of calm of disco, you know, what, what is the stack start to look like there?
So, when you get to that kind of scale and we’re working with folks like, you know, like, like this go, like, Blinkist, Headspace folks, you mentioned, an a and a whole bunch more, some that I’m not allowed to talk about, which I wish I could name drop, but, I’ll get into trouble. but some, some really big enterprise brands and some household names.
And when you’re at that kind of scale, you know, when you’re doing, oh, I can mention Trilla trailer’s is a good one. I’m going to give them a call out there. They’re a customer of ours, awesome platform. anyway, when you’re at that scale where you’re just seeing like, Insane acquisition, just on a, you know, that becomes the norm to get like more than a hundred thousand thousand downloads, you know, like a day, which, which we see with some of the apps, when you, when you’re at that kind of scale.
Even incremental gains can be really, really meaningful, particularly on monetization. Right? So I would say there, you really want to then focus on subscription optimization and revenue optimization, way more than you would in the earliest stages, because you’re, you’ve proven you’ve, you’ve got all the elements in place.
You can really then start to scale. And if you can, you can increase your, you know, average subscription lifetime by a month, or you can increase your conversion rate even by like, Point one of a percent on your, you know, your subscription conversion at that scale, it’s it can be really meaningful.
Right. So, I think activities which maybe you wouldn’t have spent so much time on before, maybe you’ve built out rudimentary stuff for maybe you have rudimentary tech in place for it’s time to start upgrading that stuff and, and going deep on these topics. So things, again, like, you know, ASO, it’s more like.
You know, something which you need to keep doing. You’re constantly kind of optimizing there to get as many organics in as possible. You want to be of course, continuing to optimize your, your acquisition. But I would assume at that point, you’ve kind of got those things more or less nailed and it’s, it’s almost like a hygiene factor.
It’s more than a hygiene factor, but sorry, you said to keep this quick. yeah, I’d say I I’d say like big focus on yeah. Retention because you know, again, it’s a slow moving metric, but if you can move it even, yeah. Point five of percentage point that’ll give such compound growth and also like, you know, knock on gains for monetization work a lot, you know, diligently on conversion optimization and starting to sort of segment your user base further, to provide more segmented experiences, you know, because you will have those cohorts in that scale where you can start to do really interesting stuff and, and lean into AI and personalization to, to really get to that increased relevance in your recommendations and community.
This is why it makes sense to really do AB testing. Right? Cause you can hire a team, right. To focus on it. You had multiple data people. You’ve got engineers, you’ve got, you’ve got to have an entire growth engineering and experimentation team. and that’s what you need.
Bring in Phiture.
Yeah, there you go. Or, yeah, bring somebody in, right? If you need it in a pinch, you know?
So, yeah, it’s, it’s, it’s a different game. This is how all of these things go, though. It’s like, you gotta every incremental compounding something like a business like this, like every, every, the next 10 X is always going to just be different, because, like different tools, different mindset, there’s going to be different, different returns on different actions, right?
And I think, you know, when I talk to people at different stages, a lot of times folks get this, get this wrong. They, they, they think they need you. You were mentioning at the beginning, Andy, like just thinking we’re ready to scale when you’re really not. Right. And so it, there is a lot of value in just understanding how different a hundred thousand downloads is from 10,000, from a hundred, right?
Those are very different numbers. All of those, like none of those tell me, like, you’re dead, right? It’s just a different stage. And, and doing the right things at this stage is super important. So I, I really like how you break this down into like, different phases.
Cause I think that’s how, app developers should be thinking about it.
I think as a, as a summary and talking through this with you and he’s really helped me kind of frame it finally is that when you’re early, you take big swings that don’t need sophisticated measurement to see the result. You don’t need sophisticated A/B testing. You don’t need sophisticated analytics.
You need to take big swings that give you big results. Those obvious results. Then as you grow, you can start taking smaller swings that require a little bit more sophistication. And then as you’re scaling huge, that’s when you get into minutia, and too many small apps are getting into the minutia too early.
So, big swings early, you can take those smaller swings later. But anyways, as we wrap up we’re going to put in the show notes your Twitter, Growth Stack, great places to follow. You’re constantly sharing amazing content there. Anything else you wanted to share with our fine cadre of a subscription app practitioners?
Yeah, actually I’ve got a really exciting announcement. This is the perfect audience for it. At Phiture we’re hiring right now for a Subscription Optimization Lead position. It’s a super exciting role. You get to really be in on the ground floor, building out a team and an essentially a new P and L line that we’re going to breaking out from our existing services.
I’m really doubling down on subscriptions because it’s like such a big topic, and we’re really looking for the subscription expert to come in and lead that team, you know, a fantastic place to work, et cetera, et cetera. You know, you’ll work with some AAA clients, some great names that I can’t talk about today.
You work with a fantastic team of experts if you can come to Berlin and work with us here, because it’s obviously not in Berlin today, but Berlin is an awesome place to move to. We’d also consider remote, I think, don’t quote me on that, but, yeah. Get in touch. you can find the job spec to go to the Phiture site: phiture.com, and go to the careers page. You’ll find it there and to subscription optimization.
Yeah, we’d love to get that out to your audience, because I’m sure there’s some people there that might be really interested in that role.
I’m looking at the requirements, here, proficiency in IAP management, you know, it’s right in my wheelhouse. So maybe I’ll throw my hat in the ring.
Well, Andy, it was really great having you on the podcast. And, yeah, we’re going to have to have you back on there’s so much more, and Phiture does such great work. And we, we share some customers and so, you know, we see the, the results of the work you do on our end. And it’s really great.
so, thanks for being on the podcast, and we’ll talk again soon.
Thanks for having me on. Thanks, David. Thanks, Jacob. It’s been a pleasure.