Welcome to our Mobile Industry Exposed interview series! This time we spoke with Ariel Michaeli, co-founder and CEO of appFigures, about entering the Asian markets, taking into account more than mere app localization, the future of app stores as well as the new trends shaping the mobile marketing industry!
Ariel has been building platforms and turning them into companies since graduating high school in 2002. appFigures is the 9th start-up founded with his brother, and he’s been CEO for all companies.Before founding appFigures with his brother, Oz, Ariel and Oz ran an interactive agency responsible for the creation of web-based video games for leading brands. In late 2008, they found app development was a huge potential for new business growth. Because the industry lacked business tools at that time, Ariel and Oz built what they needed – an app store intelligence platform. In 2009, appFigures was launched and later that year, Ariel moved all of his focus to appFigures.
Q: Can you briefly present appFigures and its business model?
In 2009, appFigures began as a “weekend project” to answer questions the founders had about the first iPhone game they launched. Today, appFigures is the world’s most powerful app store intelligence platform, serving thousands of app developers and marketers around the world.
App stores have evolved in the last few years and now contain millions of apps by hundreds of thousands of developers. Competing blindly in such a marketplace is difficult. The appFigures platform consolidates data from all app stores and ad networks, and is full of simple and powerful reports that enable data-driven decision-making to help developers successfully grow their business.
Bringing together app store revenue, ad data, worldwide reviews and ratings, hourly rank updates and the tracking of featured apps into one intuitive and informative reporting solution, appFigures delivers actionable insights through comprehensive reports of an app’s performance. Featuring an intuitive user interface and easy-to-use tools that offer members the flexibility to customize how their data is delivered, appFigures has the most important app store metrics under one roof to give developers a complete snapshot of their apps’ performance.
We aim to make actionable insights as accessible and affordable as possible. appFigures is available for as low as $9/mo. with a limited free version available as well.
Q: Which problems in the mobile industry are you trying to solve?
We believe that the best decisions are data-driven decisions. In the app store, however, accessing data is very difficult and in some cases impossible. We aim to bring as much app store data about your app under one roof and display it in an intuitive and simple way, so you can connect the dots.
We currently import and report on downloads and revenue, hourly ranks, translated reviews, ratings, and app store promotions. With this data developers can connect the dots much more easily and make decisions that are grounded in data to gain a competitive edge and grow their bottom line.
Q: What do you count as the biggest challenges right now for mobile developers and publishers? How can indie developers thrive?
With more than 4 million apps competing for attention, discovery is a major hurdle for indies and professionals alike. Getting potential users to see an app is tough, especially when flying blind without any sort of business intelligence.
This is where business intelligence helps. Keeping an eye performance means being able to adjust and react quickly.
Another issue developers are facing is churn. With the advance of freemium apps, getting new users has become easier because there is less perceived risk, however getting those new users to use the app and remain engaged is as big of a problem.
This is a much harder problem to tackle and require in depth understanding on your app. One simple way to get started is read the reviews your users leave on the app store. There are almost always hidden gems that can help you identify issues and even future features.
Q: What will be the biggest trend on the app stores in 2015? Which dynamics are you observing in terms of platforms, categories, geos, etc.?
The major trends we're looking at are: apps (not games) going freemium and wearables (largely the Apple Watch App Store). Both of those are trends that change how users perceive and consume apps and thus are changing the app market.
Freemium apps reduce the perceived risks potential users have when initially seeing the app. Free apps don't require much consideration because if they're not what you're looking for you can delete it and move on. There's no commitment. While this may sound great it's also a big problem. Selling a paid app means that for every download you get some amount of money. Freemium means the developer really has to optimize the app to drive users who download it to pay. This is much harder than it sounds and can easily lead to loss of revenue and higher costs (server traffic, etc) if not done correctly.
The new App Store for Apple Watch apps is another important trend with potentially great impact. Although the Apple Watch won't be the first wearable in the market, the abundance of apps developers are already working on and the fact it will have a stand alone app store make for a very interesting launch. We estimate the Apple Watch App Store will open up with roughly 5,000 apps, giving those developers an immediate discovery boost, and watch wearers quite a lot of apps to play with.
Q: Is there room for a third dominant app store?
Yes and no. Let me explain. Looking at the existing marketplace, running a 3rd party app store in the US/Europe is proving to be quite difficult. Amazon has been trying for a few years and hasn't seen amazing results so far. The main challenge is getting the app store app into devices. For titans Apple and Google this is easy because they own the hardware and/or OS, but for Amazon, who owns neither, it has (and most likely will continue to be) a struggle.
The gist: There is no place for a new app store that isn't owned by an OS/hardware maker.
One caveat is Asia, which is a slightly different kind of marketplace. The cultural differences necessitate a localized experience, which has resulted in 10+ app stores (from companies who own neither the OS or hardware). As that market matures however, I'm sure we'll see the number of popular stores decrease.
On to the yes... In my opinion there is room for an app store that's owned by the OS/hardware maker. This case really only applies to Microsoft, which is a new platform and thus able to control the store experience on devices running its OS.
So far Microsoft's app store hasn't really caught on, but that's largely due to the lack of adoption of it's OS. If you had asked a year ago I would have said that Microsoft is doomed to fail, however with Satya at the helm we're seeing a new strategy that aims to be more open and adaptable, which is why I think it does have a chance at success.
Q: What are the most exciting emerging and booming markets right now and how should mobile publishers prepare and execute their entry strategies?
We're keeping an eye on a couple of new developments -- Asia and wearables.
Localization has been a very common "low hanging fruit" for developers for quite some time, but there's more to localization when considering the Asian markets. Those markets speak different languages, but also have vast cultural differences which may require a whole new strategy and in some situations different UX.
I already mentioned wearables in a different question, but it's worth mentioning again because it's something developers with appropriate apps should really build into their strategy both so they can offer the most flexible experience but also because, for now, it will highlight a small(er) section of the app store. A mini gold rush of sorts.
Q: Which new products can we expect to see on the appFigures platform in the coming months?
We're always busy and working hard to make data more accessible and connect the dots better. The list of new features is fairly long, so here's the gist: new ad network integrations, more flexible reports, streamline data delivery, new reports for optimization, and a really big mystery project to make accessing analytics much simpler.
The app economy has been growing at a rapid pace in the last few years and with it the need for clear business intelligence. As the industry evolves and matures so do our tools.