Most app monetization models are focused on driving purchases or delivering advertising–approaches that are a stretch for indie developers with small teams and limited budgets. But now there is a promising and proven alternative. Our host Peggy Anne Salz catches up with Chris Humphrey, VP of Marketing at Calldorado, the company equipping devs to benefit from the way users naturally engage with smartphones to communicate. Chris talks about the company’s multi-award-winning Caller SDK and walks us through how developers using Calldorado can use the ability to display detailed call information along with relevant features to enhance the app experience for users and increase revenues for their business. He also explains the challenges facing indie developers, details the importance of increasing customer lifetime value (LTV) and directs us to AppChat, the must-read resource devs need to keep on top of app news.
And we’re going to hear about that process, we’re going to hear about ways you can do this and we’re going to go to the source – we’re talking today my guest, Chris Humphrey, he is VP of Marketing at Calldorado. First of all, Chris, great to have you here on Mobile Presence.
Hi and thank you very much, Peggy, it’s great to be here.
So, what I like about Calldorado is you do get it, you understand the importance of engagement, we’re going to talk about how you enable that for app developers but first of all, tell me a little bit about yourself, Chris. I’m not quite clear, I mean, you’re out there in the industry but where did it all start?
Yes, so my background personally is in communication and web development so progression into mobile happened very organically for me as more and more communication and content started shifting from the desktop to the phone and I mean in the beginning, had no idea how big the industry would get or how fast it would develop. I actually still remember the first experience with an app, it was the emptying beer glass app and this was back in the...
I’m going to say I remember that.
It was super-cool.
Yes, tilting your phone, you know, looking like you were drinking a pint and it was a lot of fun but it’s actually been great to see how the eco-system has developed beyond just being fun to being something that can help make everyday life easier for mobile users and it’s also here that Calldorado has sort of found its niche. It is by helping apps that help users make their everyday life easier and creating a little bit of cohesion between what we would call the standard use for a phone as well as some of the great features that app developers have come up with over the years.
So, what types of app developers or what types of verticals would be most interested in Calldorado? I mean, at one level it’s very much communication apps but is it more than that?
So, it’s primarily communication apps, we can also expand into the verticals of utilities, productivity and tools but at the end of the day, it hinges on apps that basically help users communicate and plan their lives, whether this is in the standard way of making phone calls to more non-verbal communication either messaging, email and even standard planning note-taking, list-making, calendar apps, so anything that helps you plan and execute on your daily life or business life.
And I mean, if we look at it more holistically, one, you know, listeners, if you have an app in this space, you’re in a good place because it is the vertical that - I’ve looked into this because I’ve done some research – it’s growing, more importantly user retention is higher than in many other verticals, for example entertainment and to top it off, you know, it probably isn’t a lot of effort to build the app as much as it is to, you know, get a foothold in that market. And you of course have a lot to do connecting with mobile app developers, Chris, what do you see is from your perspective, you know, their biggest pain point?
I think a big pain point for developers especially in these verticals is striking what you would call a healthy balance between acquisition, engagement, retention and monetisation. And I say it’s a balance because I think the pain points and the challenges, they’re up and down, they’re cyclical, what could be a challenge today might not be a challenge next month but what is not a challenge today could be a challenge next month.
So, if you want to turn the dream of being a mobile developer into a career, I think the important thing is to figure out how to strike the balance and understand what you need to do when. As I said, the market does shift and once again it is cyclical. I mean, at some point, the beginning phases, for instance, acquiring users, it could be a challenge when the market is crowded but we have seen moments in history where the stores get cleaned out. I remember in 2017, 700,000 apps were removed from Google Play in one big swoop which means that the clutter was reduced so it was easier to break through but I think then it presents new challenges because the apps that were left behind, these were top competitors in the field, so it really meant that to be able to compete in terms of engagement and retention, that quality and features needed to be kicked up a notch.
So, that’s why I say there’s healthy balance, it’s about striking on all four points equally if you want to make success as a career or a successful career as a mobile developer.
So, I was first watching – I mean, your company’s been around for a while actually and we’ll talk about that but I was watching you and I was thinking, you know, this is very cool, this is another way to build an app business as it were. There are other ways to make money with your app – I wrote an article a while back in Forbes, not so long ago, last year, where I profiled you as one of those ways and here we are, you know, that’s a year ago, here we are, we have Calldorado here on my show which is great but how was that change, how do you see how app developers can achieve that dream, as you mentioned, you know their dream is to turn their hobby or their business into a sustainable business but how do they actually go about doing that with Calldorado?
Yes, so Calldorado, the cornerstone of what we do is by linking app features to phone calls. I mean, at the end of the day, users, they’re still making a lot of phone calls, it is what it is meant for, some people still refer to it as a phone, old-fashioned, folks like myself as opposed to just a mobile device and you know statistics show that users still make around, make or take 5 phone calls per day. When we look at our own internal stats geo-specifics, this can actually be up to 8 phone calls per day. So imagine you could take every one of those 8 opportunities and present a relevant app feature to the user when it makes contextual sense.
This is the exact reason why we’re targeting or focused on verticals within communication productivities, utilities because they mesh and really blend well with these innate activities or native activity of a phone. I mean, just imagine you’re taking a phone call, you agree to meet someone later – what would be more useful than having your calendar open directly after the phone call where you can just plug in a time and a date and click “save” without having to take extra steps?
So, for us it’s also about shortening the journey, so it’s taking what’s available – I don’t think phone calls are leveraged enough considering how, yes, it’s a natural part, I think, of most phone users’ daily lives in many parts of the world, I know there are some parts where they are less popular but actually leveraging opportunities when it makes sense for users to engage with some of the apps on their device and that’s one of the key things Calldorado does and what we would like to share, of course, with mobile publishers and we want to facilitate this connection in a way that makes sense to the user and lets them engage with the app more frequently and consistently because at the end of the day, it’s this engagement that if you’re monetising through ads like a vast majority of utilities do, then this consistent engagement is what drives a good lifetime value.
And to your point, I mean, these are activities that are embedded in our daily routines so we’re already engaging with them, it’s sort of like we’re halfway there in the sense that we’re not having to educate the user to use the app differently, we’re also not being interruptive because it could be monetisation through ads or even reward video - in all its forms and formats, monetisation through advertising can be disruptive as far as engagement is concerned, you’re not engaging the user, you’re sort of almost distracting them depending on where you place the ads. So how are you working within the app – what’s the user experience that it is engaging?
Let me try and put this into context by giving you an example. When I was growing up as a kid, I remember we always had a little notepad next to the landline telephone, some people might not even be aware of what this is, if you grow up in Denmark where we’re from, landlines almost don’t exist, but I remember a notepad and a little calendar being next to the phone as a kid. When the phone rang, the first thing I did instinctively was pick up a pen because most likely you would be shared or be privy to some information that you’d want to note down and act on later. This is a sort of intuitive process, I think for a lot of people it makes sense.
What Calldorado does is facilitate this process without it being interrupted by something like an interstitial ad. You’re not taking the user out of the experience in any way but just making it one seamless continual flow but in that flow, there is also room to advertise. If you think about driving down the highway, you can drive and see a billboard, you can absorb the information of an ad but it doesn’t change your journey, it doesn’t alter your route – you still go from point A to point B in the same timeframe and I think that’s the essence of what we’re trying to do in Calldorado as we are blending these functionalities and native features, we’re trying to help users monetise without disrupting the user journey by incorporating the ads seamlessly into part of this flow.
Well, I couldn’t hope for a better segue, Chris, actually because we have to go with the flow here, we do have to go to a break but listeners, when we get back, we’ll be talking more about how you use Calldorado but also how you engage your users. So lots of reasons to stay tuned, do so and we’ll be back after the break.
And we’re back to Mobile Presence. I’m Peggy Anne Salz, your host, with Chris Humphrey, VP of Marketing at Calldorado. And Chris, right before the break, we were talking about how, well, basically how to engage with Calldorado because it is about engagement with your user but I’d like to go a little deeper into the weeds and understand just exactly how you approach this because that tells us how our listeners, app developers, can be engaging with you. So, how is it done step by step?
To get started with Calldorado is not as straightforward to be honest as with some other SDKs or monetisation models. Because we focus on engagement, we do need apps that meet certain criteria. So if you want to get started with Calldorado, of course you would have to visit our website, familiarise yourself a little bit with what it is we do, the details are there but basically it’s a sign-up process and an approval process so we actually validate and evaluate every single app that signs up to use our SDK. This is also how we ensure top quality and it is relatively simple.
I mean, the integration process, it’s not very complex as far as an SDK goes but what does make our SDK unique is the fact that there’s actually a lot of options for customising the way it engages. We provide lots of native templates that can let your users interact with your app features from what we call the “after-call screen” which is when your app opens at the end of the phone call as it contextually makes sense, you can embed different options for the user there. We have a number of templates but they still need to be configured. The users we see or the developers we see making this feature most successful are the ones that actually bring their own touch to it.
So they will use some of the native templates we provide and they will add features or functionality, they will add features - they know their users better than we do, at the end of the day, this is just the truth. We have an understanding of the industry but no-one knows their users as well as the app developers, so what we do is we offer the ability to customise some of the engagement things – we know the formula but the exact, what could you call it, packaging of the specific formula in a sense that makes it appetising to your users, that’s best left to developers.
Which makes sense, I mean, they do know their audiences best and you’re allowing them to engage with their audiences. Without maybe naming names or going into great detail, it would be great to hear however, you know, a case study or an example, as you pointed out, the app developers sort of add the special sauce on top because they understand the experience they need to be delivering to their target audience but what is the, you know, an outstanding experience or a great uplift? What’s the benefit to developers when they join with Calldorado and do this?
I would say one of the greatest benefits we see is regularity of frequency of engagement. I mean, at the end of the day, if you can take a monthly active user and turn them into a daily active user, I think that you’re actually doing something great for your app commercially because impressions or if you’re monetising by ads of course and this is the sort of pivotal point for us or what we focus on, daily active users are just more valuable than monthly active users because impressions are what matter.
I mentioned a little bit earlier the example of a notepad next to the phone, so I will jump back into this. Notepad apps generally, they have pretty good retention and I am pretty sure that you might have an app on your phone, a notepad app and I would challenge you to think of when last you have used it or even thought about it being there.
For instance, if you had the Calldorado SDK, this would be different, right. The end of a phone call which could happen, as I said earlier, 5 to 8 times per day, and it makes contextual sense your notepad would be presented, the option to take a note would be presented to a user so something that actually has good retention because it stays on the device, it kind of gets forgotten all of a sudden moves from just having good retention to having great engagement and this engagement is what drives the lifetime value of the user because it’s not just about how long the app is installed on the device but also how frequently it gets used, how much the users interact with it and how many impressions they’re generating.
So I would say this is sort of a good way of indicating, in my mind at least, how a notepad can benefit from installing or integrating the Calldorado SDK because you’re moving from one of the four parameters I mentioned earlier – the retention, and then kicking up a notch on the engagement side. This all adds to this formula of lifetime value as I see it.
Absolutely, because as I mentioned at the top, you know, utility apps, apps in this space, they do have high retention already, I’ve seen the data and that’s the case. Now, the data doesn’t tell me how often people interact with the app, how many sessions, it just says that they’re not being deleted and they are being used but the frequency is what you always want to turn up if you’re an app developer, an app marketer, you want to see that people are not just retaining but they’re engaging frequently, so that is a very important benchmark to meet. What about you personally over at Calldorado, what are some benchmarks for you as a company, maybe what you’ve accomplished or what you hope to accomplish?
Yes, I would say one of the benchmarks we look at of course as I mentioned earlier is this balance between monthly active users compared to daily active users. So the more we can narrow the gap between monthly active users and daily active users by bringing the daily active users up to the level of monthly active users, I would say that’s a key benchmark for us. I mean, we want to keep that gap as small as possible because it shows that our product works, it shows the concept works and it’s key for driving our business forward and also for driving our customers’ business forward.
For us at the end of the day to be very honest, our customer success is our success so we benchmark our performance based on the performance of those using our SDK - without them, there is no Calldorado and I know for our customers, without their end users, there is no customer at the end of the day. So it is the sort of long tail, we sit at one end of the spectrum, we have a middle-man but our interest is still in delivering something to end users at the end of the day that they use and engage with on a daily basis.
So, to us, it comes down to daily use. I believe a wise man once said that if you want to be successful, you need to, or be successful, you need to make something that brilliant people would use every day. So it’s this daily use that we focus on - without the daily use, then we’re just back to the issue or the point of retention and an app is only as valuable as the use.
Absolutely, and it’s that frequent use - I’m seeing a lot of thinking and writing out there, thought leadership around we’re back to RFM, recency, frequency, monetary where it’s not enough to say, you know, I have acquired a user but how recently have they engaged, how frequently do they engage, what’s that engagement really worth to the user as well as to me? So we’re looking deeper down into the funnel, we’re also having deeper discussions about what really matters. You’re also very focused on LTV. It seems to me as if like LTV is like the thing, maybe not making a comeback but certainly high on the radar for a lot of app developers. What is the thinking in what you’re hearing out there around, you know, is the industry rallying around this particular metric, is this where it’s at?
I think it’s becoming more and more common term to be dropped in the mobile industry. I mean it’s nothing new, it’s nothing revolutionary, the concept of the lifetime value of a user, in other industries it has been quite a standard metric to measure commercial success or commercial performance. From my point of view, I think what could potentially have brought the LTV issue into focus in the app industry is some shifts in the way that paid user acquisition moved in late 2017/2018 where the competition just increased.
I mean, acquiring users in 2017/2016, it was very cheap if you were running paid campaigns to grow your apps. All of a sudden, there was a shift in the dynamic of how it worked, I mean, we saw Google roll out UAC, it removed a little bit of the targeting options you had as a developer to really push CPIs lower which meant that if you want to compete on paid acquisition, then the lifetime value and upping the lifetime value was the answer to this sort of 2018 challenge, if you could call it that.
And I think that that could be one of the reasons in my experience, being at a lot of conferences, speaking with other industry representatives, it’s a challenge a lot of people faced was overcoming this concept of, well not concept but just the reality of increased acquisition costs and the only way to overcome that was to really focus on the lifetime value of each and every single user.
As I mentioned earlier, the worth of an app is measured by the regularity of its use and this regularity translates to lifetime value, so this is at the foundation of being successful as an app developer career-wise. If it’s just a passion project, it’s a different story but at the end of the day, development takes time, it takes resources, so focusing on LTV is the way to turn any dream into a reality and a sustainable reality, if you can say that.
So, absolutely LTV is not just the mother of all metrics, it’s a hot trend but it’s also one that we’re going to have to get our head around, it’s going to be around for a while and we do have to go to a break right now, Chris, but when we come back we’ll be talking about some of the trends, some of the hot items high on your radar as you look into 2020, so listeners don’t go away, we’ll be right back.
And we are back to Mobile Presence. I’m Peggy Anne Salz with Mobile Groove and we have today Chris Humphrey, VP Marketing at Calldorado. And Chris, we’ve been talking about how your company is enabling app developers to engage with their users, benefit from that engagement because LTV is what it’s all about, frequency of engagement is what matters and that is the basis of a sustainable business – we all don’t want to be just living in our basements or tinkering in the garage, we want to make some money here as well. You’re obviously doing this at Calldorado but you’re doing also a little bit more, you’re fostering an ongoing discussion because, let’s face it, the app economy is fast moving and we have to stay up to date with it. So, tell me about this activity you have, AppChat, what is that?
Yes, so AppChat is a monthly circular we put out at Calldorado. As I mentioned before, our success is built on our customers’ success which is built on end user success, so in AppChat, we actually cover a very broad range of mobile topics from new movements in the industry, folding phones – folding phones aren’t that new but they are not in all the stores yet, they’re not in everyone’s pockets – we cover OS updates, the status of the app economy, industry trends, a couple of light-hearted topics and generally the focus is always on the impact any topic in the mobile industry has for app developers in general and the success of their app, even if it’s not specifically related to engagement which is our core area of expertise.
We do also think about how other aspects can impact the way users react and interact with phones and apps in general going forward. And this is basically what AppChat does, it gets sent out to a user base or a subscriber base on a monthly basis and we share brief insights into what is trending in the industry and then we give some thoughts based on our experience. I mean, we’ve been around, we’ve been in the game for a while, just to put it quite simply, we have made some of the mistakes that other people are yet to make, so why not use our experience to help them get past those mistakes quicker or not make them at all.
So this is something I can subscribe to, listeners listening in, it’s like a newsletter basically but it’s a bit more analysis, a little bit more of like did you know and this is what you need to know – is that summing it up well?
Yes, I would say any listener can subscribe to it and I would say sort of the key phrase and a lot of what AppChat covers is how does this affect developers? You would probably see that sentence ending most subject lines so industry development, how does this affect developers?
So we’re really focused on how these industry movements, updates, new horizons – not just what they have in store but also some insights on how we feel users could prepare or readers could prepare as well as just some conversation-starting topics. It’s perhaps a little bit more seeding the thought of how to start preparing for the shifts in the industry, it is dynamic, it is cyclical as I said before, so often you can learn from something you did a year, two, three years ago – it might not be in the exact same format but the learnings are still there and we’re trying to apply this learning to what’s coming in the future.
At the end of the day, it comes down to making sure that you offer users the best possible experience regardless of the hardware or the software so these are a lot of the directions we’re taking in our thought process and then of course we’re trying to encourage dialogue here. It’s not just a one-way street, the industry is dynamic and for it to be dynamic, we would like people to also come with feedback.
So there is also a direct link to all our Social Media channels there, we like to start some engagement, topics of conversation and share our thoughts but also get other people’s thoughts on what’s happening. I mean, we’re not the be all and end all, we know a lot but we don’t know everything. So, it is about creating this discourse around what is happening in the industry and how it affects developers and how we can prepare for any of the potential shortcomings in software updates or operational system updates, commission requirements, anything like this as well as what is going to be great about the industry – it’s not all doom and gloom so it’s not just about preparing but what you can look forward to coming up in the next releases.
And that’s a great way to get where my next question is which is, you know, you’re obviously sharing all of this through AppChat, how do our listeners stay in touch with you, Chris, how do they stay up to date with you or maybe just if you want to tell them how to find AppChat or whatever, what are the links they need to know as we end our show today?
Yes, first one, calldorado.com, that’s our website, you can find everything from there, you can sign up to AppChat directly from the homepage. Otherwise, Twitter is also where we’re very active engaging with developers, sharing some thoughts and trying to create this dialogue @calldorado, very simple handle there. I would say those are the two best places to get in touch – get out there on Twitter, follow us, engage with us, send us your questions and yes, sign up for AppChat if you want to know what’s happening – you might miss it, we might miss it but at the end of the day, we’re just trying to create a dialogue around the movements in the mobile industry and help – we would like everyone to move forward together, at the end of the day.
Well, I’m sold on that, Chris – I have to say I’m sold on that one because I mean a publication that’s going to be very clear about what does this really mean and cuts through the hype, gets to the point – that’s something that I’m definitely going to take a look at and listeners, if you want to keep up with me throughout the week or find out more about how you can be a guest or sponsor on Mobile Presence, then you can email me, firstname.lastname@example.org, Mobile Groove is also where you can find my portfolio of content marketing and app marketing services and of course you can check out this and all earlier episodes of our show by going to webmasterradio.fm or you can find our shows on iTunes, Stitcher, Spreaker, Spotify and iheartRadio simply by searching Mobile Presence. So until next time, friends – remember - every minute is mobile, so make every minute count. We’ll see you soon.