Mobile growth hacking is a term we use to describe practices of the smart and the witty people in the industry which we all end up using in two years’ time. The term itself is worthy of attention.
First, we have the word ‘growth’, whose purpose is to describe apps becoming even better, regardless of their current success.
The second word, ‘hacking’ – has two connotations: first, it means you are bending (if not breaking?) the rules of the game; and second – it means you’re really smart and probably doing things very few people are capable of understanding or describing, let alone doing.
Drawing the two words together, it means you’re in possession of knowledge not everyone has. You’re putting it to good use, twisting and breaking the rules, ultimately creating an awesome app experience.
The problem with this term is that it no longer represents everything we’ve just stated above, and that’s for a couple of reasons:
1) The term ‘growth’ does not mean the same things today, as it did five years ago
2) The things we consider ‘hacking’ nowadays (when it comes to app growth) are not arcane, not creative and definitely do not mean setting your own rules of the game
What changed for mobile growth hacking?
The first thing that changed is how we describe growth. Growth used to be the number of downloads an app has gotten through a set period of time. Emphasis on a ‘number’. Everything used to revolve around app downloads, without paying attention to what people actually did with the app, how long they stuck around and if they were actually happy with it or not. Everything was about ‘how many’, and not about ‘how’, or most importantly – ‘why’. All it took was to boost downloads, one way or another, and that was considered as ‘growth’.
Hacking was all about downloads, too. Analytics platforms were used to measure download numbers, peak times, most popular countries, least popular countries – everything was in the numbers. These numbers were used to tweak marketing and onboarding strategies, ultimately leading to what was considered growth. However, in a (not so shocking) turn of events, it turns out that downloads are no longer the metric you should care much about, as a vast majority of users will probably abandon it after less than three days.
As you might have realized by now – the ‘why’, and especially the ‘why not’ were missing from these ‘hacking’ tools, too. If you really want to do things differently, to use knowledge not everyone is using, to make your own rules and bend existing ones, it’s time to start asking the right questions. The 2016 growth hacking tools will have the answers, and those tools we like to call qualitative analytics tools.
Unlike quantitative analytics, which are entirely focused on numbers (as the name suggests), qualitative analytics tools focus on the quality of the experience users have with the app. They can show the little nuances of the app that can make it or break it.
For example, you noticed that a portion of your users have installed the app, had about 30 second sessions, then uninstalled. Maybe your app was too laggy on their device. Maybe there was a bug that prevented them from doing whatever it is that they tried to do. Or maybe they just didn’t understand an aspect of the UI. The problem is – there are too many ‘maybes’ here that can’t be answered with quantitative analytics. Yet they are the kind of questions qualitative analytics platforms can answer. Through qualitative analytics, you get to see what the user sees, and experience what the user experiences. That way, you can literally put yourself in your users’ shoes, without any biases or environmental constraints, and get a better understanding of where your app fails, and where it excels. Usually, you’d go down two roads to get the answers you’re looking for: touch heatmaps and user session recordings.
User Session Recordings
This is basically a database of real-time recordings of users going about your app. With the tool, you literally get to see just how your users are experiencing the app, allowing you to see exactly why they got stuck at certain points, why the app crashed, or why they decided to suddenly quit the app and delete it.
This honest and powerful input can help you understand which parts of your app are in dire need of optimization or change. By acting on this input, you’ll end up modifying the app and getting more active users. The best part is, you get to see just how users react to new features, if they like it or not.
So let’s go back to our little example from earlier in the article. For example’s sake, let’s say you have a shopping app. Users install it, play around for a few moments and quit. You know they installed it, you know they spent some time in it, and you know they left. Quantitative analytics told you all that. Now you take a look at a recording of a session that ultimately led to the app being abandoned and you see that they made it to payment methods, saw what was offered and left. This tells you that this group of users wants a specific payment method, and by offering it in the next version (and properly communicating the change), the app grows. Hacking!
This feature tracks all interactions users have with the app (pinching, swiping, tapping, double-tapping, etc.) and presents them in a visual layer placed on top of the app’s pages. These interactions are presented visually, as a heatmap, showing which parts of the app are most interacted with, and which are the least. It shows what type of gesture interaction is used where, or if there were any unresponsive gestures on particular screens.
Another important way touch heatmaps can help you growth hack your app is through A/B testing. You can analyze two versions of a new feature and see which gets better feedback in terms of interaction. That way, touch heatmaps can help you make informed decisions on how to best optimize both upcoming and existing features.
Let’s say, once again for example’s sake, that you have a cooking app. While looking at a recipe screen, you notice that a quarter of users keep tapping on an ingredient, thinking it is a button, when instead it’s just an image. That gives you many options: one is to redesign the image to make it look less like a button. Or, you can find and connect with a store selling ingredients, and implement a new feature in the next version. Your imagination is the only limiting factor here.
A single insight can help you draw multiple conclusions. In this case, this valuable insight has given birth to a creative new solution(s) which has ultimately helped your app grow. Hacking!
Doing things differently
‘Growth’, and ‘hacking’, both as terms and what they represent, has certainly changed over the last few years. Growth is no longer confined to the prison made of numbers and percentages, and hacking is no longer limited to quantitative analytics tools.
But it would be wrong to say that growth hacking has *moved away* from quantitative analytics. A better description would be that it zoomed out a bit to take a look at the bigger picture, and now realized that there is this little thing called ‘user experience’ that plays a major role in an app’s growth, and which can be measured through qualitative analytics.
Solving the growth hacking puzzle in 2017 means adding another element (qualitative analytics), and by combining it with quantitative analytics, you’ll open the doors to new streams of valuable information that can help you get creative with ideas and bend the rules to make your app truly grow.
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