Friday, 18 January 2013

Segmentification: app store category strategy 2013

First the apps were the focus of attention; how many we have, how many we are adding; then the UE was polished and we now have a pretty slick UE in every major app store... the one thing that still strikes me as needing attention is: Segmentification.

Firstly, let's get the scientific diagram out of the way :)
Appus Evolutio - How We went from collection to segmentification in app stores 
So why is 2013 the year of segementification?

1) the categories themselves, their selection still seems random, copy and paste; if a category is empty "we must find content for that category" seems to be the rule rather than asking "do we need that category?"

2) the focus of these categories' content  has until now been base upon what was avalailable and what developers made, now there are 10,000 ifart apps, and we have moved from early adopter to mass market, we should now segment around usage, target audience and supply apps aournd a type of handset usage, not an app availability and not what developers create or where we can get content for.

Its getting the push-pull balance right in 2013.

In short, we have enough content, slick UEs; we now need to refine categories

While we still have some people saying "we are adding x thousand apps per day to our store" that process will get to the question I am asking quickly, and ideally will ask this question now to spend money more wisely and get a better user experience.

I have been looking at this for a few app stores and worked in this way for smaller app discovery portals / app stores that I have worked on for handset manufacturers to help specific customer groups discover content, and guess what: it works; uptake is quicker, wider and moreover, continues for longer. The positioning here has even broken down into different propositions and product groups, usually based around the handset manufacturer's own customer segmentation.

I was reminded of this when I saw a recent article on how people use mobile on HBR which showed used graphically on a "wheel" in a similar way to how I showed content vs downloads by category on a recent app store project.
Are your categories, and their content in line with how your customers use their mobile?
Diagram Harvard Business Review
And it struck me that this does not translate well to how categories are filled even in the most mature app store, like the Apple app store, and is not too dissimilar from what WAP was, and most mobile operators portals today. What is worse with operator mobile web portals, is that unlike apps, a lot of the content is paid for! Paying for content that does not match your customer... does this sound familiar? :)

So let's have a look. The chaps at 148apps have been logging appstore metrics since the heady days of 2008 when Apple had a then "incredible" 10,000 apps... presently it looks like this:
148apps.biz category map of Apple app store at present. Read segments clock-wise from Games@16%
What we immediately see is that, with the exception of education, but we will come onto that later; the top categories that make up the majority are in-line with the "me time" in the top chart from HBR.

However, from there, not so sure, and even then, how much of the "me time" can now be done better via a mobile web page than via the app? for which customer segments Are "Games", "entertainment", "Lifestyle" and "ebooks" - "me time".

Then you look at productivity and getting things done, and we are somewhat "underserved". We could say the same regarding social and shopping, however the counter argument is that just one, two or three social apps do all the social we need, and the same for shopping.

So what?

As someone I used to work with used to say: "the so-what of that is" 
  1. are we addressing the right customers with the right apps, are we attracting the right apps to our platform and how should we influence?
  2. should we "segment" the app store by customer type

Attracting the right apps

The first point is looking at trends like gaming and the dreadful word that was "gamification" (I do not know if its worse in the tech or culinary world), and is it evolving the right way into more "me time" or is it becoming social. You could argue that these categories move with a life of their own, however if you promote one type rather than another on your store you can influence the way developers prioritise their roadmap of updates and how you sway your content.

From the other side, its clear that people are using their mobile more to accomplish things, however are the utilities and productivity categories innovating to match this? I think not, and this could be where we should be devoting our app store evangelisation, developer resources, competition and other developer incentives to nurture this hitherto neglected category even for app stores like the Blackberry store, which brings me to my next point....

Segmenting the app store(s)

A product that recently caught my attention was a "Hello Kitty" tablet, I hasten to add not for me personally, and it caught my attention in two ways:
  1. it was "not that bad" (7" screen, Android 4.0) and only cost £80
  2. it had its own app store and music store, you guessed it: focussed at its target market, as well as the de rigueur hello kitty wallpaper, theme, UI skin, etc.
We can easily make the education category the only section of the app store that is accessible during the week, for example, to attract the parent buying for the child market, the question is: do we have enough content here.

A second question was raised via a colleague in the industry who bought a kindle hd for his son, and did not even consider a nexus 7, for example. His view was that if you are going to get an ebook; more or less get an ebook with frills, not a frills-pad with ebook... And when we look above at the frills-pad stats and see books at only 7%... he has a point...

There are many more of these examples, from cameras with android in them, to....

"Segmentification" is among us

So the segmentation at the device level has started, the customers have started diverging, the question is, are the device manufacturers, mobile operators and developers ready for "segmentification"! or will it sneak up on them like every evolution so far???