New Firebase is likely to become a promising Parse alternative

When Facebook decided to shut down Parse in January, it gave developers who rely on Parse for it’s back-end services 12 months to come up with an alternative. Although Facebook open sourced Parse Server so that developers could keep their apps alive it was the fact that they didn’t have to build back-end on their own that made them choose Parse on first place.

In October in 2014 Google announced that they acquired Firebase known for it’s realtime communication, perfect fit for chat services, interactive apps and websites. However, it didn’t offer pretty much anything else like: reporting, push notifications, ad help, analytics and authentication – all major things  that developers want. But now it will and developers finally have some really promising Parse alternative.

 

Last week at Google I/O  company announced the new Firebase, avaible right now and supporting iOS, Android and JavaScript. They’ve decided to offer a lot of features, e.g. analytics for free so that they can stay involved in how developers are monetizing their apps.  Firebase will allow devs not only to track installations but also purchases and many other customer actions.

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When Google acquired Firebase they had 110,000 registered developers on the platform, now the number has quadrupled and it will definetely grow.

“Firebase becomes the engineer-to-engineer tool to build the apps and then have insight into how to go to market and acquire users” said Brian Gracely, senior analyst at Wikibon, the research and consulting company.

All developers have to do is simply add few lines of code to their apps. This will allow gathering basic user information from the app to Firebasse but developers will be also able to adjust the analysis to their liking so that their user information will be more detailed e.g. when the button was pressed or the purchase made.

firebase-analytics

Thanks to this data, Firebase allows building audience segments and user’s behaviour as well as tracking ad campaigns performance. It can also track ad-driven actions by users across multiple ad platforms such as AdColony and Vungle.

What is Google’s aim?

This new approach to Firebase is proof that Google is aiming at becoming leader in cloud computing alongside with Amazon and Microsoft. Developers will be able to create apps faster and easier and Google will offer hosting those apps on its Cloud Platform. This might be the beginning of releasing more useful and lucrative services in near future.

However, Google still needs to gain developer’s trust, after ‘Parse trauma’ some of them are having hard time commiting their push notifications to big platforms.

Another big change was annouced regarding Google’s Universal App Campaigns. From now on it will work not only on Android apps but also on iOS mobile software. The app campaign service offers targeting most valuable users based on in-app conversions, e.g. booking a flight in travel app or reaching 5th level in game and it will offer option to pay for ads not only based on installs, but also before mentioned conversions.

Google is putting it’s effort into automating as much work they can that is needed to recognize who are the most valuable customers and exactly how much they are worth so advertisers will be able to bid accurate amount in ad auctions.

“We’re doing the heavy lifting with the ad creative and the targeting” said Sissie Hsiao, product management director for mobile app ads.

Why all the effort?

All those efforts are caused by Googl’e key concern – helping developers make more money since they still have trouble extracting revenue from Android users when compared to iOS users.

Google’s mobile ad revenues are growing and it seems that they finally caught up with Facebook in app install ads – they both claim that the number of ad-driven installs reached 2 billion.

Why more features won’t save your app?

Doing too much at once is known to be one of main reasons why product fails miserably when developing a mobile app, more features won’t save your app. Here are some tips that will help you avoid that and create something valuable for your users.

 

80 percent of consumers are using smartphone to browse through the Internet, that’s why so many businesses are keen to develop their own app in order to get into that growing mobile market. Statistics clearly show that 90% of time on mobile devices is spent on apps so it’s only natural to come to conclusion that a branded app will enhance your business growth. That being said, your product’s success requires careful planning and development.

What is wrong with app development

One of obstacles to overcome when developing an app in team is overly long list of features to be included. It can result in customer’s confusion and most importantly not fulfilling his key needs.

Product owner is the solution

By that I mean identifying a person within your organization that will be able to stand his ground. His main task will be to say ‘no’ a lot more than saying ‘yes’ during brainstorming sessions.

Nothing changes without his approval, it will cause quite a stir in your team because of shooting down ideas for features, but it will result in focused product that brings value: a win-win situation.

Identify key features

It’s really hard to say ‘no’ to a person who signs your paycheck, that is one of reasons why identifying product owner in startups is so demanding. One of the most crucial rules in mobile world is that by trying to make your app do everything, you will usually end up with product that doesn’t make anything particurarly well. That’s the risk you want to avoid.

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Solution to that problem is to focus on key features. Apps like Evernote or Shazam are examples of how it should be done. First is an easy way to take notes, the latter helps you find out what is the song you are listening. These are the core features and they are first things that come to mind when thinking about those apps.

shazam_discover_music

Note-taking app should offer taking notes in a fast, easy way. Adding more features such as customized skins or social sharing is not needed.

Before even considering adding new features, focus on making core aspects of the app run smoothly and intuitively.

Testing

User testing helps to uproot features that don’t add much to the user experience. Besides in-house testing, it’s always good to check out what is customer’s reaction.

Tracking tools such as Google Analytics will help you decide which features are worth implementing.

Developing your app is a process

Your app won’t be perfect when it’s first released, however it is always possible to improve user experience. Focus on listening to feedback instead of adding more features, simplifying an app’s design and making them avaible with fewer taps is more effective.

Adding new feature is not always a bad idea but you need to describe the reason behind it correctly. Otherwise you are taking risk of complicating your product.

How to monetize my app?

The day has come, finally your app is ready. This magic moment when everything is possible but still, behind all the confidence, there is just a little bit of doubt. The one that forces you to ask yourself how will it generate revenue when the top charts in App Store and Google Play are occupied by free apps.

Let’s have a look at options that are avaible, I will describe here solutions to current market situation, where users are expecting free app but you need to recoup your expenses and of course gain profit.

Advertising and in-app purchases are the way to make money after you’ve decided to make your app free. However, it takes a lot more than just puting ads or paid premium options, it’s not as simple as that. You need to understand what revenue-generating choices you have, what your market and competitors are exactly and finally you need to process this data into right paid user experience. Then you will be able to choose your app monetization strategy.

What are your app monetization options?

Luckily, there are some when your app is free. In-app purchases and advertising help breaking the barrier of price tag. Choice between them is directly connected to the type of your app and users.

In-app purchases

The most common example of this approach can be found in games. Free version of app that offers paid, optional features. ‘Too bad! Wanna extra live? Here you go! That will be 0.50$’ – consumables.

Second type of in-app purchases can be found outside gaming world, e.g. Apple Music. Once you’ve paid and used that purchase, it will remain avaible to use.

Let’s not forget about ‘freemium‘ – free app with paid component, such as new feature. There are couple of ways to approach freemium app such as: reduced features or allowing all the features initially and then blocking them.

In-app advertising

Here revenue is generated based on traditional advertising models. Size, placement and positions varies. Ads pay differently for impressions, click-throughs, country that user is from and the format. Dynamic tend to be more attractive.

User growth is the key

Really, whatever you choose from options described above, this is what matters: there is only a handful of users that will ever help you generate revenue from your app. Grow large active user base and it will turn this handful into significant revenue.

There are some handy metrics which you should get familiar with and use. Without them it will be a struggle to make your minority of users generate actual revenue.

Who are your users and what is the market?

Good, old-fashioned research. Examine your competitors, you won’t get exact numbers but you will be able to identify their strategy. Once you’ve familiarized yourself with their apps you will be able to ask crucial question – what are they missing? And this is when you strike hard. You will be able to adjust your monetization strategy or even more: turn your app into better product.

Users though are much more important than your competitors. Because a handful of users will ever pay for something in your app or tap an ad, it’s absolutely fundamental to know what triggers it. Tendencies and demographics will come to rescue here. Note that it’s risky with in-app purchases – you need to find balance between value from your free app and desire for paid extras.

Less is more

Mobile users know what they want, they are sophisticated. Be intrusive with ads and they will find something else, more elegant. In order to actually generate some revenue, your app needs to give them value first.

Advertising strategy will depend on purpose of your app and your audience.

The key is to make your users feel like ads are natural part of app, hence the placement and timing should be properly adjust. By that I mean ad during loading of next level/video rather than in the middle of it, we’ve all been there.

It’s also important that your in-app purchases are intuitive, quick, in harmony with user experience.

Conclusion

Define your business goals, purpose of your app, your users and market – then you will be able to choose monetization strategy for your app. Keep an eye on metrics, track data. Once you’ve gathered some of it and your assumptions were proven to be correct, try to innovate. Adjust and adapt and you will be able to find perfect monetization strategy for your app.

Paid vs. Free app – what should you consider?

Choosing a model of how you will offer app to your potential users can be very ambiguous. Do you want to charge for each download? Maybe you want to develop free app which can be upgraded (freemium)? Or maybe you are considering monetising it differently, e.g. by in-app advertising?

As easy as it may sound, choise is crucial and can affect entire future of even the most brilliant product. On one hand – paid apps are considered guaranteed revenue from the moment they launch, but on the other hand price tag can scare off potential users browsing the store – no one likes to buy cat in the bag.

Let’s have a look at some things that might clear this up a little bit for you.

What is the purpose of your app?

If you are lucky enough – this is the only question you should answer. There is great chance that business app user will find in-app advertising irritating and would consider paying for it in the store. However, gamers would most probably prefer to download it for free, prepared to just ignore the ads, click them to discover other games or simply upgrading after they see the app is worth it.

pricing_stategy_in_different_app_categories

The whole point of an app should be to allure users and provide oustanding user experience and because of that, you should consider if they are willing to pay for it. Keep in mind things that affect it directly such as demographics or loyalty.

What is your revenue model?

It is quite obvious that your app will be more popular if you make it avaible for free. It will help achieve major victory in development world, which is breaking the psychological barrier – price. There are thousands of great free apps with awesome UI and various functionalities and if you decide to make your app a free one, you will join this competition and could leave paid apps far behind. Less paid apps are developed now than ever before.

But in order to do that you will have to earn money by creating revenue model where there are advertisers, in-app purchases or content providers. Number of users is directly connected to revenue then and of course you can get more users by offering your app for free.

App will not be always sustainable revenue

This is really important thing to remember – no matter how much you will charge ($0.99 or 100$), a price sticker on your app will be only one-time payment. Even widest user base won’t change the fact that the revenue you can get will be hard cap. No one will pay for the same app twice.

However, if your app is free you will not generate revenue up-front at all.

Conclusion

Deciding to offer a free or paid app is difficult and has been causing headaches for quite a while now. In app development keeping your user happy is most important, so you should find a balance between that and your business needs.