The more than 600 million users of China’s most popular mobile messaging app WeChat may now have one less reason to buy a dedicated fitness tracker or third-party app, after the company today announced a new official channel called WeRun available from right inside the app that acts as a step counter.
WeChat first stepped into fitness tracking back in February, when parent company Tencent launched a WeChat app called WeChat Sports. But the move was not widely reported outside China at the time.
WeRun joins a host of other official in-app accounts rolled out by WeChat this year, including a payment channel to support UNICEF by allowing users to make donations without leaving the app. (This particular channel was launched in May, shortly after the Nepal earthquake.)
The company said in a blog post that users will “be able to know exactly how many strides [they] have taken every day and see how [they] match up to [their] friends on WeChat who follow the official account”.
With your permission, the WeRun-WeChat official account records the number of steps you take a day. You will also receive a daily message notifying how far you are to reaching your goal. If friendly competition helps motivate you, you can see how you stack up on your daily leaderboard. No matter how you rank, you’ll be able like your friends’ steps, share your results to chats, and even publish them on Moments.
Moments is WeChat’s news feed where users and official company accounts can share Facebook-style updates with their friends and following.
The difference with WeChat Sports, then, seems to be that users can benefit from all the same functionality without having to install the Tencent-built app. Indeed, it’s easier to just click “follow” on an account — than fiddle around with installing something.
Above: WeChat’s new WeRun fitness tracker
When I followed the official account (only available in Chinese) in my own WeChat app, it asked for permission to pull in data from the iPhone’s built-in motion-tracking sensors. Once I clicked OK, I was taken into Apple’s Health app where I had to formally enable WeChat’s permission to read steps data from the app. I clicked done, and was taken back into the WeChat channel.
While this may on the surface look like a continued push to bring users away from conventional fitness trackers, the company points out that it will support pairing with “select wearable fitness devices”.
WeChat is becoming increasingly well known for going beyond traditional ideas of what a messaging platform should be, allowing users to do far more than just send messages and post updates. Users can already seemingly do everything within the app, from ordering a taxi to buying chickens (yes, chickens). In fact, it wouldn’t be a stretch to say that WeChat has spearheaded this push into a new era of what messaging apps like Facebook’s Messenger and WhatsApp will become.
Like a lot of traditional business sectors, the energy management industry is notorious for relying on face-to-face sales. But as a lot of B2B marketers have realized, that’s not a strategy for growth in a digitally-led world.
According to Shawn Burns, “Once you’re able to digitize the customer relationship — and know who you’re talking to, and personalize who you’re talking to — you can massively accelerate the way they buy products from you as you’re chasing growth.”
Burns is SVP of digital marketing for Schneider Electric, a multinational energy management and automation company with 170,000 employees in over 100 countries. For Burns, growth has a lot to do with identity management and building one-to-one customer reationships at scale.
Central to this is building what Burns calls a single source of truth. And it’s what a whole lot of marketers are racing to figure out these days. How to bring together customer data files into one single, holistic source with accessibility to an entire organization — including marketing teams, sales teams, and inbound call centers.
It’s a strong focus for this webinar tomorrow in which a panel of experts, including Burns and VB Insight Analyst Andrew Jones will be joing by others and digging in deep to share what works and what doesn’t works in terms of customer identity management. While Jones will be sharing the findings of VB’s recent report on Identity and Marketing, including VB’s best bets for data collection and aggregation tools, Burns and colleagues will be sharing their best practice tips from the trenches.
“We know there’s an ongoing challenge of too many customer data files, and that only works against you,” says Burns, “So you really have to embrace a single source of truth. And it sounds simple but it’s one of the most complicated things for an organization to do because it requires governance, it requires an immense amount of change manageement, and it requires communication.”
The technology piece is paramount, but Burns also cannot overstate governance.
“If marketing wants to get credit for doing all this amazing effort to create leads and pipelines, then they have to be living and dying off of that technology solution, which in most cases, is the internal CRM,” he adds. And compensation needs to be tied to that adherance. That means compensating marketing teams not on what they do, but on the outcomes they achieve. “Anything short of that begins to look like ‘Hey, I’m running in the yard, look at me — I’m running in the yard.'” And that is how you get people to begin to build a single source of truth.
Yet, as paramount as that digital holistic view of the customer is, Burns has a cautionary note. To say today’s business world moves swiftly is an understatement — people move from job to job more than at any other time in history. Companies are constantly being merged, migrated, acquired, or even going out of business.
“Data has a very short life span. You can spend many, many years building a rich customer database, and you believe that you have this amazing data warehouse to conduct business with and you realize very quickly that the world has changed.” Which is why it’s imperative for him to be using just-in-time data — something too many businesses overlook when relying on customer identity.
Join us for this webinar as our panel explores essential challenges around customer data — and will answer the questions that are burning in your mind.
Windows 10 ships with two browsers: the new, modern Microsoft Edge, and IE11 for legacy sites. When Edge determines that a site is old and meant for Internet Explorer, it will prompt the user to fire up the ancient browser instead. Microsoft is now extending that feature so that it is more automatic.
This functionality is primarily aimed Enterprise customers. That group of users still have business web apps and services that depend on Internet Explorer and the proprietary technologies that it supports.
Yet Microsoft still wants these users to spend the majority of their time in Edge. As such, instead of using Internet Explorer 11 by default, the company is making it easier for enterprises to use Edge by default and automatically switch to IE11 when necessary (navigate to the current page in a new IE11 window, or a new tab if the browser is already running).
Microsoft is accomplishing this by extending Enterprise Mode support to Microsoft Edge. That means any site specified on the Enterprise Mode Site List will open in IE11 even when you’re browsing in Edge.
Again, the goal is to keep Microsoft Edge as the default browser in Windows 10, limiting IE11 to only handle legacy sites. IT Pros can use their existing IE11 Enterprise Mode Site List, create a new one specifically for Edge, or even configure any Intranet site to open in IE11 when a user tries to access it in Edge.
The best part is that because Windows 10 is a service, this functionality doesn’t require installing any new software.
Familiar names dominate the top of the app store charts … how do you compete against Clash of Clans and Candy Crush?
Paid app install campaigns can deliver short terms gains, but also some of the worst user quality scores and ROI. It’s a user acquisition model that requires outbidding the market for an app install, and the ultimate winner is the one with the highest lifetime value (LTV). These campaigns are winner-take-all, with no second place. In other words, it’s a game few can afford to play — unless you can find an advantage.
By developing your organic acquisition channels through app store optimization, or ASO, you can gain an edge on the competition. Not only can ASO net you additional organic users, but it can also make your paid efforts more effective.
Unlock ninja marketing project management skills with Scott Brinker. Register today for a live virtual online roundtable discussion.
How does it work?
Users acquired from organic marketing efforts, or installs from app store search, monetize better than users acquired via paid channels. They typically stay active within the app longer than paid users.
If you acquire half of your users via organic traffic — with these users monetizing better than those from any other channel — your app ends up with a higher average LTV. You can then use this high average LTV to increase your paid ad spend and maintain the velocity required for ranking at the top of the charts, turning leads into more organic installs.
In other words, organic mobile marketing and ASO subsidizes your paid user acquisition efforts.
Enter the rise of organic mobile marketing: You promote your app by positioning it for discovery and conversion by a relevant target audience.
Mobile has matured beyond CPI
App store search is the most common way users discover and download new apps. But with 1.5 million mobile apps in both the Apple and Google Play App Stores, app discovery presents real challenges for both users and app publishers.
App store optimization addresses the entire app funnel, including how to position your mobile app for organic discovery and conversion by your target audience.
Users behave differently in mobile vs. web
There are a host of services that attempt to predict app store search using Google web search data as a proxy. Many of these services have tools that even look like the Google Keyword Planner, which is a free and easy-to-use tool.
You should not use web search as a proxy, replacement, or predictor for app store search, though. Users search in the app stores differently than on the web.
According to moz.com, web search queries tend to be “Do,” or transactional queries; “Know,” or information queries; and “Go,” or navigational queries.
Eighty percent of app store search, on the other hand, tends to be 2-3 word phrases related to app features. Single-word app and brand name searches make up the balance.
A search for “mall” in Google or Bing will yield directions to the closest mall. Searching for “mall” in Google Play will yield a plethora of mall-based simulation games. User intent is different when searching the app stores, and thus the way users search is very different than how they search the Web.
Understanding how their target users search app stores enables publishers and marketers to carefully craft their app listing to include the creative elements and calls to action specifically for their intended audience.
Is your target audience searching for “photo albums” or “photo collage”?
If your app includes both features but your audience is searching for “photo collage,” this impacts your entire app store funnel. If the way to describe the feature is interchangeable, the data is telling you to refer to “photo collage” instead of “photo albums.”
App store discovery and search algorithms
Knowing what features your audience is searching for and the specific phrases they use to find them affects your app’s category, including which keywords you target in your app listing in your descriptions and potentially even the app’s name/title.
The goal is creating the best basket of keywords that maximizes coverage of relevant search terms from your target audience, in a category that best matches the market’s expectation for similar apps.
When selecting keywords, remember that Apple and Google have always been vigilant against inappropriate keyword stuffing. Use keywords only in an appropriate way. Don’t include brands and long strings of keywords that don’t really represent your app.
There have been rumors about an algorithm change within the App Store recently; however, most apps that have seen declines are those that abuse the system. It appears that apps using reasonably consumer-friendly descriptors were not affected, and the change was focused on those with blatantly stuffed keywords in long titles that created a poor user experience.
If users never find you, your conversion rate is guaranteed to be zero. A lot of the optimization effort is spent on how to maximize discovery from an ultra-relevant audience.
Equally important is converting these views to installs and users.
The app name/title, the icon and ultimately screenshots, app preview videos (optional), and ratings are the deciding factors for many potential users.
You already know what features you want to highlight and how to communicate the way your app addresses users’ specific needs because you have app store search data on your audience.
A well-made app addressing an identifiable market that still struggles with discovery would be well served to investigate organic mobile marketing and app store optimization, starting with relevant audience search coverage and optimized creatives that convert views into users.
Organic marketing creates a defendable position
Mobile app publishers without a single paid install can reach the top of the charts by addressing their target audience so well that organic downloads and ratings drive them up past apps that stopped spending (and thus potential users stopped finding them).
Tapping into organic app traffic while strategizing your organic mobile app marketing is a defendable position that returns far greater value and ROI than buying installs.
There is more than app store search
While app store search is the main driver of app installs overall, combining traditional marketing with data gleaned from the app stores provides a valuable and often untapped channel.
The fastest growing channels for acquiring mobile users are social networks.
In fact, the biggest social networks are increasingly mobile apps themselves.
92 percent of time spent on Pinterest is mobile
86 percent of time on Twitter is mobile
More than 50 percent of YouTube views are on mobile devices
Facebook traffic is at least 68 percent mobile, with mobile ad revenues making up 73 percent
Instagram is almost 100 percent mobile
This trend of mobile user growth from social networks is expected to continue to expand as direct app installs and app links are adopted across these and other platforms.
As the world of mobile continues to rapidly expand, organic marketing efforts should begin to shift their focus to reevaluating their apps’ target audiences. Armed with data on what queries users are using to look for apps, marketers are better equipped to position their app for discovery in the app stores and in booming social networking sites.
Dave Bell is the Cofounder and Chief Executive Officer of Gummicube. He is responsible for overseeing the business strategy, including growth and market development. Dave is a pioneer of the mobile entertainment industry with more than 15 years of experience publishing, marketing and distributing mobile applications and games across carrier, direct to consumer and app store channels.
A user by the name of Bryce Williams filmed himself shooting reporter Allison Parker and photographer Adam Ward in Moneta, Virginia. The video on Twitter showed someone walking up to Parker and Ward and pointing a gun at them.
The China stock market downturn and currency changes have started to impact the global market. With 50+ startups in my firm’s global portfolio and a fast growing startup of my own, I thought it would be very timely to discuss what is happening in China and it’s potential impact on startups.
So I jumped on a call with Vaughn Tan, Assistant Professor at University College London (UCL)’s School of Management Strategy and Entrepreneurship Group. Vaughn is also a fellow of the Institute for Data-driven Design and received a PhD in Organizational Behavior from Harvard in 2013. In this chat we discuss the current situation in China, what startup founders should do to prepare for a potential global slowdown/crash, and how to manage for rapid change impacting your business.
Frank: Tell us a bit about yourself
Vaughn: I’m originally from Singapore, and moved to London a couple of years ago. My research deals with how individuals and organizations can deal with uncertain environments, which are different from risky environments. I think about how groups can organize themselves to deal with uncertainty, and help them understand their goals better so they can better respond to events like a stock market crash.
Frank: The issues in China have started to really impact the global markets. How do you see the state of the world at the moment, and will China continue to have a significant effect on the world economy or not?
Vaughn: I would begin by framing how I think about “big countries”, such as China. Firstly, the bigger and more complex the economy — the more uncertain it is. The more things that are interacting, the larger the system, the harder it is to predict what is going to happen in the future. Now, what’s been interesting with China is that not only is it large and complex, it is also moving considerably fast because it is such a large and desirable economy to participate in. People are piling in, and as they pile in, things start to move faster. The movement of capital flows inside and outside of China have been accelerating in the last few years, and when you have the combination of large size, complexity, and speed, you have the situation where you really are very uncertain about what is going on. China is in that situation now.
Adding to that, there is something about the macro economics of China that people have been talking about that deserves a bit more attention. Whenever we look at the macro-economic data of a country, we look at statistics mostly, sometimes from single sources and sometimes from a whole bunch of sources. But with an economy as large and as complex as China, you sometimes have to wonder if if the numbers you are getting are accurate, or indeed if they can be accurate. It’s very difficult to measure unemployment in a country like China with such a massive rural population, and it’s very difficult to keep it up to date. The official unemployment data as seen in the Atlas graph below, has had an eerie stillness to it that suggests that it may not be entirely accurate.
At the moment, China does not feel to me to be as stable as people want it to be, considering how much they are now exposed to it. Added to that is the uncertainty that comes from not knowing whether the measurements of the statistics that we use to understand the state of the economy are themselves accurate or if they can be.
One other thought — the fast moving nature of China has made it a desirable place to go. The speed of production, the vast customer base, the ever evolving economy makes you want to be there. However, things that we want out of an investment environment — stability, predictability — those are things that don’t work very well in the China context simply because of all the things I’ve said before. So all told, China does not feel like a place I would feel very comfortable being highly exposed to at this time, unless I was comfortable with a highly heterogeneous set of outcomes.
Frank: Now, in particular for startups and founders who are looking at what is going on at a world level, what type of advice do you give?
Vaughn: Let me start by saying it is very difficult to prepare for uncertainty, and also make a long term sustainable profit. Across the vast majority of startups, you will have to make a trade-off between being ready for an unpredictable future, and exploiting the present. What I mean by this, is that if you want to make strong profits now, or if you are an early stage startup that has a tight burn rate, that doesn’t give you much slack to prepare for the future.
Being prepared for uncertainty is the same for a large organization as it is for a startup. It means having extra resources that aren’t currently being used — that look like inefficiency or waste — that might be useful when the current environment changes. That change could be a macro-economic change, or a new technology for instance. It’s very difficult to plan for though: even if you invest in extra resources to be ready for uncertainty, you can’t guarantee that your extra resources will be appropriate for whatever change occurs.
Frank: Talking about extra resources, my advice to startups in situations like this, is that if you haven’t got revenue generators in place, you need to think about it and implement them quickly. Because in an investment downturn that is what will get you through the hard times. What do you normally see in situations like this, what do investors normally do and how should CEO’s plan?
Vaughn: What normally happens is flight to safety. When markets turn unstable and begin to be perceived as poor places to make high returns, capital flows toward perceived stability (even when it means low returns) — like real estate and bonds. But low risk real estate, not speculative real estate. I expect money to start flowing into geo-politically stable regions. London, for instance, will probably continue to receive large infusions of external capital.
Your point about concentrating on revenues, rather than depending on external streams of capital makes a lot of sense for startups in times of uncertainty like this. Intermediate product development is what I suggest for a startup CEO working out what to do in the event of the stock market crash accelerating and investors being more cautious.
You should not be trying to build that massive product that you hope will be a total market killer, you should instead be focusing on intermediate product steps that generate revenue and help you figure out what the product might eventually become. Monetizable intermediate product is a good way to learn about the market and do small-scale hypothesis testing, but it is also a way to free yourself from the constraints of needing external financing.”
You can prepare for uncertainty not just by stockpiling cash, but also by:
having a company culture that can assess and adapt to rapidly changing environments.
having product teams that are able to build and release something small that is part of a bigger product without having to build the entirety of the “big product” first.
having investors that are wise enough to support you as a CEO as you work through ideas that may seem very different but are responding to fast change around you.
All of those things are important to build up in your business, so you aren’t scrambling to do them when change is forcing you to.
Frank: My final question is that, as a startup founder looking at what is going on macro-economically, how should you study it? What advice do you give for understanding what is going on and the potential impact?
Vaughn: It’s a great question. There are many correct answers to this. But the key is in trying to look at interdependencies. For instance, in regards to China, if I was a startup CEO and looking at China as a source of supply — then I would look at whether your supply chain/product that emanates from China depends on supply chains going into China that would be severely affected by exchange rate risk. For example, if you are manufacturing product where the raw materials are almost exclusively produced inside China, you are probably fairly well insulated from major fluctuations in the cost of goods sold based on low currency exchange risk. However, if your product relies on raw materials coming into China from all over the world, you might start seeing a lot of your product costs fluctuating much more than you would want.
And if you are thinking about China as a source of demand, then I would consider the possibility that China is not demographically as it is presented — it has been presented in recent years as a rapidly expanding wealthy middle class with strong buying power. But China is a massive country with a much more diverse population than that, and you should watch the retail numbers very closely to see if there is a growing impact of the stock market and currency changes on the purchasing power of this sector of the Chinese economy.
However, let me finish by saying that as individuals, as humans, we tend to think about risk a lot and try to make bets and predict future outcomes. However, as we move into more interdependent economies and rapidly changing environments in which we do business, we need to become a lot more ok with simply not knowing what is going to happen and try not to react too quickly to change. Instead, as a CEO, you should be putting in place the things I’ve talked about above to ensure you and your teams can assess and adapt calmly to rapid changes around you.
Frank Meehan is cofounder and partner at SparkLabs Global Ventures, which has over 50 startup investments around the world and is the sister company to SparkLabs Korea: Asia’s largest accelerator. He is also the cofounder of www.SmartUp.io , a free app for startups that Apple selected among its “Best Apps of June 2015.”
BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, is acquiring FutureAdvisor, a five-year-old, San Francisco-based online financial advisory firm that aims to help people manage their existing IRAs, 401(s) and other investment accounts. According to the Financial Times, FutureAdvisor was picked up for between $150 million and $200 million. The company had raised $21.5 million from… Read More
The top games on mobile in 2015 are the same games that were at the top of the charts in 2012 — and that incessant domination of just a handful of apps is starting to take its toll on the audience.
Gamers spent less time playing on mobile in 2015 than they did in 2014, according to Yahoo’s analytics firm, Flurry. Gaming made up 32 percent of the total time people spent on their mobile devices lat year, but that number plummeted to only 15 percent through this year. That’s a 37 percent decline from 52 minutes each day to just 33 minutes. You can find a lot of culprits for this evaporation of time spent on games, but Flurry blames new technology and the very nature of mobile games.
“Gaming is a hit-driven industry, and there hasn’t been a major new hit the past six to nine months,” Yahoo senior vice president of publish products Simon Khalaf wrote in a blog post. “The major titles like Supercell’s Clash of Clans, King’s Candy Crush, and Machine Zone’s Game of War continue to dominate the top-grossing charts and haven’t made room for a major new entrant.”
Gaming is in its golden age, and big and small players alike are maneuvering like kings and queens in A Game of Thrones. Register now for our GamesBeat 2015 event, Oct. 12-Oct.13, where we’ll explore strategies in the new world of gaming.
I’ve pointed this out numerous times in the past, but gaming on smartphones and tablets has little upward mobility. Clash of Clans makes a big slice of that money, and Supercell uses that cash to increase its marketing to get more players and more money.
Check out this chart from App Annie that shows Clash of Clans hasn’t fallen out of the top 5 highest-grossing iPhone games in the United States since November 2012:
The success of Clash of Clans — as well as Candy Crush Saga — has created a market where other games have tried to copy that gameplay model. So the stagnation doesn’t only come from just the same two to three games continually making the most money, but it also comes from every other developer releasing similar strategy games like Game of War, Star Wars: Commander, and Dominations.
What’s worse is that even when those games do make money, that almost inevitably means that people are paying money to play the game less.
“Gamers are buying their way into games versus grinding their way through them,” said Khalaf. “Gamers are spending more money than time to effectively beat games or secure better standings rather than working their way to the top.”
This led to a situation where people were playing their mobile games less, but developers were making more money.
“This explains the decline in time spent and the major rise in in-app purchases, as Apple saw a record $1.7 billion in App Store sales in July,” said Khalaf.
But people aren’t spending their money in Clash of Clans and Candy Crush Saga so that they have more time to play other games. Instead, they’re cutting out the long, repetitive grinding in their favorite games and then going on to other activities — like watching other people play games.
“Millennials are shifting from playing games to watching others play games, creating a new category of entertainment called esports,” said Khalaf. “This summer, Fortune named esports the ‘new Saturday morning cartoons for millennials.'”
Flurry also points out that Minecraft videos are among the most watched content on Tumblr, another Yahoo-owned website. And maybe that suggests a bigger trend in the wider gaming scene. Maybe the next generation of gamers want to adopt and build communities around fewer games for longer periods of time. That’s happened on mobile, and it’s happening on video sites like YouTube and Twitch where the same esports games and Minecraft are always the most popular.
Evernote will cease all work on Evernote Food on September 30. Users will be able to still use the apps, but no further updates will be provided by the company, including syncing back to the Evernote service.
In a blog post, Evernote’s senior director of content and communications Ronda Scott explained that the shifting of resources was because the core Evernote app and its Web Clipper service are already duplicating the efforts of Food.
Evernote Food launched in 2011 and is available on both iOS and Android devices. The idea was for people to capture individual meal entries, take photos and notes, and then share them to Twitter and Facebook. If you had a great meal, you could snap a photo to remember what it looked like or jot down the recipe.
Users that have recipes and other items stored within Evernote Food will find it on the core app, assuming that it’s been synced prior to September 30. Afterwards, those notes may be gone.
Unlock ninja marketing project management skills with Scott Brinker. Register today for a live virtual online roundtable discussion.
All of this is better explained with a quick video that shows Chrome before and after the change:
Because users often interact with pages more than once in a row, or at least expect some kind of rerendering, it’s easy to see how much a difference this performance tweak can have. Chrome beta’s scheduler now delays impending expensive timers after a tap.
This allows many webpages to be scheduled more efficiently. In fact, Google says this change results in up to a 50 percent input latency improvement on websites that use timers heavily.
This improvement is enabled by default in Chrome beta, but Google didn’t say when it will hit the Chrome stable channel. Chrome 45 will launch next month, though this improvement could be delayed until Chrome 46, which will likely arrive by November.