Liveblogging from Inside Social Apps, New York: The Future of Mobile App Discovery & Marketing

We are in New York for the Inside Social Apps conference at the New Yorker Hotel. Inside Mobile Apps Staff Writer Kathleen De Vere  sat down with a panel on the topic of mobile app discovery and marketing. The panel consisted of GREE International Director of Developer Marketing David Chu, AdParlor CEO Hussain Fazal, Xyologic Co-Founder Matthaus Krzykowski and Tapjoy VP of Ad Sales Tom Sipple.

The Following is a paraphrased account of what was said on the panel.

De Vere: Hussein, what are your early thoughts on Facebook’s mobile news feed ads? Is providing social context enough of a “fix” for discoverability issues?

Fazal: Facebook launched mobile app mobile app install news feed ads about a month ago. Results have been interesting, it’s still relatively new. Conversion rates are 10-20 percent range. There are still lots of things that you can do with the social elements of the ads. I think once Facebook starts using more social elements, we will see how successful this ad type can be.

De Vere: The past year has seen the cost of user acquisition increase quite substantially. In your opinion, is this having a positive or negative impact on the industry?

Chu: I think that it’s a sign of the ecosystem as a whole. Developers of all sizes pay attention to how much they are willing to spend. I really do think that this evolution is a good thing for the industry. Some smaller developers can get blocked out of the system. GREE does the platform because it can bring more diversity to the ecosystem.

De Vere: Cross promotion networks are becoming more and more popular. Obviously they present a cheap alternative to more traditional user acquisition channels, but do they work? What has been your experience with them?

Chu: Cross promotion apps can see success for small developers. The GREE platform itself can be made social so that makes it easier to social.

Fazal: Facebook has the largest social context so it is in a way that a cross promotion network. You can target by precise interest which can be a really powerful tool.

Krzykowski: People can’t see if an app is good or not. The average app rating is 3.8 so all apps are around there. So it’s hard for users to discover.

De Vere: What improvements can you find for app ratings?

Krzykowski: 80 percent of people don’t know what they’re looking for. In terms of what are the big problems, app descriptions don’t work. There are tons of things that can be improved and this is why Facebook App installs can be successful. Google Play is making improvements too.

Fazal: Facebook has a great opportunity to app discovery because of how it brings social context and you can see how your friends are interacting with an app.

Sipple: My friend was looking for a math app to help him with his math. Took five different downloads to find a good one. Combining Facebook and all these other discovery types are going to be telling of the future.

Chu: The search of the app store can really make improvements on how things can be made relevant to users.

De Vere: Speaking of relevancy, Xyo Mobile App Search is looking to provide a solution. Can you bring up what they are doing?

Krykowski: The first assumption is people don’t know what they’re looking for. We’re looking to provide a more directed way people are searching for apps depending on what they want.

Chu: I think it’s definitely helping. I wouldn’t call it a bandaid. No matter what the search results, there’s going to be tools out there to help a developer move up the ranks.

De Vere: As TapJoy’s in the business of getting developers’ mobile apps discovered, have you found anything helpful as costs go up.

Sipple: We work with a lot of branded apps. They have an 85 percentage retention rate in our system. They love getting their app in front of new people… it works for them in that capacity.

Krzykowski: It’s more of an art than a science.

De Vere: When it comes to App Store icons, what kind of impact does it make on performance?

Chu: Yes, but now all developers do a lot of iterations around that sort of thing. We’ve seen a lot of improvements as we’ve changed names and changed icons.

De Vere: You have a very short amount of time to make a first impression.

Krzykowski: Take for example racing games: You’ll see the same titles with the same logos. From a consumer perspective, there’s often not much difference.

De Vere: Results tend to homogenize from a consumer perspective. What do you see as a positive attribute for app discovery down the line?

Fazal: I’d like to see more suggestions. I don’t spend much time going to the app store just browsing, but if I could get more apps just pushed to me that’d be great.

Sipple: If you could just make the app as engaging and useful as possible.

Chu: I’d like to see more categorical relevancy. Take for example “steampunk”– you’ll only get results with that term in the name. I’d like to see people who aren’t sophisticated in the app store getting the better results based on their vague ideas they search for.

Krzykowski: I think we’re super early here right now.

De Vere: I’ve heard a lot of people ask for results to hide the apps they already have installed. What about charts in the app stores?

Sipple: Compare it to radio and music. How did people discover music? DJ’s played the songs on the charts.

Fazal: I think they can stay, but they aren’t the best representative.

Chu: Now that we’re entering phases where the market’s segmented, the idea of one chart to rule them all doesn’t make sense. Right now, the charts work great, you get a nice sorting of fairly high quality titles. Most people only see the top twenty apps.

De Vere: Speaking of games, they tend to crowd the discoverability of other apps. Do you guys feel that the chart system impacts lesser-known genres of apps?

Fazal: You need to find other ways around it, like making something location-based. If you walk into a store, get pushed for the store’s app.

Crowd question: What kind of privacy concerns are there when it comes to marketing apps?

Chu: I think it’s the same concern people had when Gmail first came out. People will get used to it.

Crowd question: Going back to the icon strategy- how often should companies consider updating their app icon and do they risk losing user impressions if they do so too often?

Chu: There’s probably some sort of a brand impact in the long term. Not many people aside from large companies have brand gravitas. I think it’s a pretty low risk right now. It’s not really an issue with Apple, but I’ve seen it happen on Android where developers are changing their logo as often as every few days to test out designs.

De Vere: We’ve spoken a lot about Facebook, Apple and Google, but there are a lot more methods of discovery. Where do you see potential coming for new mobile app discovery?

Krzykowski: The big trend I’m seeing is verticalization. App stores are still viable options, driving two-thirds of our discoverability.

Fazal: The app stores are so built into the OS that that’s where you go to download apps. It’s really difficult to foresee where else discoverability will come from right now.

Chu: I think I’m going to go back to what I said earlier: I think at the end of the day, there’s going to be a place within app stores to support outside marketing. No one place supports everybody. Marketing channels will exist everywhere for your particular product… it’s out there and it’s an option if we use it.