San Francisco, the city to host the first ever Mobile World Congress Americas, is where you would have found the App Valley Summit on September 13th. A large networking event where our own panel experts — Tyler Cooper (head of User Acquisition) and Chas Castell (VP of Revenue Operations) had the chance to speak about how TextNow is facing and challenging the industry standards of mobile apps today.
The setting was the upper level of the Moscone Centre West — a roped-off section where the most innovative mobile app experts are huddled around bar tables and colourful bean bag chairs. The discussions are frank, interests are piqued, and there is a keenness to share the best trade secrets in the industry.
Head across to theatre 2018, and you’ll reach the stage where all-day panel discussions and CEO presentations are queued up for your entertainment and edification. One such panel is called Reinventing the App Wheel — Mastering Existing Models and Discovering New, Unexplored Growth Channels. Four of the industry’s leading growth and marketing figures, from companies such as N3twork, Rosetta Stone, Akila One, and of course TextNow, discuss the challenges they face, and how they think the industry will change with the rising technology of VR, AR and AI (voice assistance).
Of the various terms and topics that the panel discusses, there is one that is refuted by all: Growth hacking — the process of rapid experimentation across marketing channels and product development to identify the most efficient ways to grow a business. The reason why so many marketing experts have a problem with this term is explained by Tyler in the form of a viral video.
As a principle, you don’t set out to make a viral video, but rather put out compelling content and due to its quality, it becomes viral. The same goes for growth building — we focus on quality content, and detailed user profiles in order to grow our user base, rather than on sensational advertising that is baseless and lacks potential for retention.
This leads to the topic of fraud in the industry — how do we detect fraudulent users (bots) and prevent them from any future growth disruption? While there are different opinions being voiced at the panel with regards to how significant the threat of fraud is, Tyler sticks to the age-old opinion that what is “critical in this industry is to understand your customer, understand what their normal behaviour looks like, and to not rely completely on your publisher, or third-party help”. At TextNow, we gather daily data with regards to all of our users’ behaviours (session times, click rates, purchase rates, etc), so we can better track the outliers and find the fraudulent users, in order to gain a more realistic and accurate picture of our growth rate.
The Future of Mobile App Growth Practices
The panel ends with the interviewer favourite: “Where do you see yourself five years from now?” Only, this time, the question is directed at the industry — where will we be five years from now, with the emergence of such technology as VR, AR, and voice assistance?
The general consensus of the panel seems to be that 360° video is the future of advertisement platforms, while others have a high stake in voice assistance becoming more and more popular. Tyler’s stance? “We tend to overestimate change in the short term, and underestimate change in the long term”. He does not believe that voice assistance will be as prominent in the next couple years, and is sticking with the approach that we’ve always had — listen to your customer.