Have you been thinking about getting your app reviewed by a popular review site like 148apps.com or AppGirlReviews.com? I’ve had a few of my customers come to me concerned because there might be another app in iTunes that happens to be slightly better, done by a large company like EA Mobile or Digital Chocolate, or has more features. Reviews by their very nature are suppose to be unbiased, so – like every 14 year old acne faced boy, they ask themselves the same question:

“What if they don’t like me?”

The fear that a bad review will hurt sales can be justified, but as CNNMoney reports – even bad reviews can drive sales!

Take their example of a the product website AlpacaDirect.com, a purveyor of Alpaca products such as sweaters, socks and yarn, considered by many as an alternative to cashmere.  Recently, they hired PowerReviews, a company that provides the tools which allow consumers to leave ratings directly on your website – both good and bad.

Not all the reviews were good! Take for example this post from a customer in Santa Cruz about a pair of alpaca socks:

** (2 Stars)
Fit: Feels too small
Pros: Durable, Regulates Temperature Well, Wicks Away Moisture
Cons: Uncomfortable
Best Uses: Daily Use
Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this to a friend

Comments: I’ve ordered and enjoyed the old version of this sock but it seems like they have changed and possibly the wool isn’t as “smart wool” as it used to be. Next time I’d order a man’s version, and will avoid these WOMEN’S LARGE. I went by the picture to identify the right sock to order but the product looks slightly different.

Before bringing in the PowerReviewer tool, Alpaca Direct had  a page that hand picked all the best comments they had recieved about products and displayed them for customers to see. Now – they are paying out of pocket – and sometimes to have bad reviews up on their site. So why keep it up?

First of all – no one believes you when you put up your hand-picked reviews. How many reviews did you have to get before you got a good one? Consumers want to know. Sites like Yelp and CNet thrive on direct from the consumer reports because people want unbiased opinions to help guild their spending, especially in a tight budget economy.

The most impressive part however, is that Alpaca Direct has seen sales increase… even on products with bad reviews!

“A month after installing the PowerReviews service, Hobart saw sales climb 23% on items that had customer reviews (even that cardigan, which garnered an average of four stars).”

So what does that mean for iPhone developers?

At Watkins Mobile (the parent company of The Appency Press), we devise reviews into two categories – external and engine. External reviews are done by professional journalists and bloggers and are posted either online or in a print publication, a few steps away from the actual purchase.

Engine reviews are those that consumers leave in the sales engine itself (read- in iTunes, Blackberry App World, Android Marketplace, etc). These are usually gated so that only consumers that have actually downloaded the app are able to rate it and leave comments. These review sites often have major traffic – and can expose your app to new users that would be willing to download and try your program – even if the review given was not the best. This is no excuse for shoddy programming – I in no way want to encourage developers to strive for anything but the highest quality work – but you cant please all of the people all of the time.

Okay... so maybe 2.5 stars isnt what you were hoping for...

Okay... so maybe 2.5 stars isnt what you were hoping for...

In iTunes specifically – when you delete an application from your phone, you are allowed to give it a star rating. The problem with this, is that its not a valid picture of your consumers. People that keep the application on their phones long term often do not go back to the app store to provide comment on an app they use. This leaves us with the majority of star ratings from the (hopefully) smaller portion of consumers that are uninstalling your app.

After an email  conversation with Jeff Scott, founder of 148apps.com and the O.A.T.S. group (Organization for App Testing Standards), we decided to come up with a way for developers to get reviews on their apps within the search engine that is both unbiased and inexpensive to the developers. We have put together a large app review focus group called RateMyApp, composed of consumers from all walks of life with only an iPhone as their common denominator, willing to download and leave their honest opinions of apps directly into the app store.

*please note – we DO pay the focus group back the cost of the apps – they are donating their time and we do not want them to be incurring costs*

Is it worth it? We think so. If you believe in your app, and have put in the time and energy to get it developed, it is important to get feedback from real consumers – even if sometimes its tough love.

To join our app rating panel, or to have your app rated, check out RateMyApp!

WARNING: This is not a posting about iPhone Apps… its about digital media, contests, websites and… my son.

While I may be biased, I think my son has serious child model potential (don’t all parents?). When something like GAP’s Casting Call contest comes around (In conjunction with Disney Family), that allows parents to submit their kids to be the next GAP Kids model, I’m all over it. I figure… with a dad that’s a professional marketer… he just might have an edge.

Submitting Ethan was pretty straight forward. I expect when submitting a photo of a child online that will be posted to the world that there will be a number of forms to fill out, sign in blood, etc etc. No surprises here.

The GAP Casting Call contest however has a component that is the “Fan Favorite” competition – that is a voting contest where anyone coming to the site can vote for their favorites to help them advance. The prizes are pretty impressive (Fan Favorite gets a trip to Jamaica) and the competition is steep. Being that my son is seven years old, and a boy – I’ve resolved myself to the fact that it is very unlikely that he will win the overall fan favorite contest. That spot is traditionally held for baby girls with blond curls and dimples.

So why get votes? My thought is this: If Ethan gets the most (or even top 10) votes in his category, the judges will pay more attention to him when it comes to the judged component of the contest where he DOES have a chance to win. So – like any good marketer father, I start to post the link to all of my friends, relatives, business associates, neighbors, former high school girlfriends, second aunt of former high school girlfriends cousin…. well you get the picture.
It was only then I realized how convoluted the site is for people who are only trying to vote, and not trying to submit their own children.

Ethan K: Contestant ID: 49659097

Ethan K: Contestant ID: 49659097

If you click on the link (http://family.go.com/gapcastingcall/entries/ucshandiego/49659097/) it will take you to the lovely photo of my son taken by family friend Reza Molavi that has a button on the bottom that says “vote”.

Naturally – your first inclination when you see this handsome man is to hit vote, right?


If you hit vote. Your vote will not be counted.

You have to register first – and while the site takes you to a new page that has a login / register – it doesn’t tell you that the “vote” you just submitted didn’t actually happen. For those of you who have had enough coffee to realize this, you are now taken to the same registration page that contestants have to go through. Trust me… its lengthy.

“Disney made me certify that I read all 17 sections of the Terms of Use contained in the box above and agree with all of their terms. I am very concerned that I report to Miley Cyrus now.” – Jeff Foster, CEO, Foster Redmond

Once you register, you then have to find the child you were going to vote for. Since most of the people voting will know the child.. it makes sense that people would search for the childs name.


You have to search for the child’s number (Ethan’s is 49659097) or the parents nickname (Ethan’s mom submitted him, using he nickname UCShanDiego). No one of course is going to know this but you my faithful reader.

Once you have found him, (look familiar, its the same page you saw the first time you followed the link..) you can then click the same vote button you tried to click the first time. This time.. the vote should work. You’ll know because it thanks you and lets you know you can vote again tomorrow.

And please do….

Ethan REALLY REALLY want’s to go to NYC. It’s one of his dreams. Last month he actually packed a suitcase and almost made it out the door before we stopped him. Don’t think he quite realized how far away it was. So please, if you have enjoyed this blog, or any of my other posts, do me a favor and vote for my little man!

Okay.. back to iPhone marketing.

As many of you already know, Apple and AT&T will finally have MMS capabilities for the iPhone this Friday, September 25th (Announced on their Facebook page here).

While many iPhone developers may let this come and go without a second thought – my clients – and other smart developers will be taking this opportunity to implement a strategic price drop

Whats the connection? Traffic. Every time there is a major new update for the iPhone, a significant jump in traffic is seen in the iTunes app store. Many of the consumers who are coming to get their update, will also take a few minutes to browse around the store (even if its harder to do then it use to be) and will choose a few new apps to try out. Typically developers do not have good advanced notice of when an update will be – there is alot of buzz but when it finally happens everyone is scrambling to adjust their marketing accordingly.

In a great presentation by Pinch Media, one of my favorite iPhone analytics engines, we can see the effects of a well timed price cut, even without the advantages of the increased traffic.

PInchGraphUsers who may have been looking at your app before but not wanting to pay full price may take notice of your app and finally take the plunge. There are also a number of sites like 148apps, AppShopper, and FreeAppAlert (if you are dropping from paid to free) that track price drops in apps, alerting a waiting public to sales they can take advantage of.  All of this translates into free eyeballs… and more downloads for the in-the-know developer.

Knowing ahead of time also allows you to get a media buy in place, however with only 48 hours before the event, I’m afraid it would be hard to get your ad and buy together in time. Besides… my clients already got the good spots 🙂

To learn more about promoting your iPhone app, click on Marketing Services or contact me at aaron@watkinsmobile.com

Its not a new concept that major brands have been launching their own branded iPhone apps as marketing tools and new ways for customers to interact. Beth Snyder Bulik at the Silicon Valley Insider has a great post showing some of my favorite winners and losers here.

Today Starbucks announced the release of its second iPhone app, the “Starbucks Mobile Card” app – and I’m here to shout it from the rooftops – this is one of the best uses of mobile technology in the US marketplace today.

Lets take a quick look at some of the features available on the Starbucks Mobile Card app:

1. Check your Starbucks Card balance. While this one is a no-brainer, anyone who has a gift card knows how frustrating it is to use it a few times and suddenly have no idea how much money is left on it. Most gift cards generally have a toll-free number on the back, however its a time consuming process that requires you to type in card number via touch-tone every time you need to check. With the Starbucks Mobile Card app, simply do it once, and the information is constantly at your fingertips.



2. Reload Your Starbucks Card: No need to be in a Starbucks store anymore to get this done – simply use any major credit card and your account is fulled back up with coffee buying purchasing power. As a brilliant marketing ploy to get consumers to start using this – Starbucks is offering a $5 bonus credit to anyone who adds more then $25 through the app the first time.

3. (And here’s where it gets interesting): Pay with your iPhone. Yeah – that’s right – at 16 test store locations, you can now use your iPhone to create a 2D barcode (looks like they are using the QR code format) that is scan-able at the store register. It makes sense that this is a limited trial – each store had to be equipped with a special scanner that is able to read the unique code off of the phone. If this is a success – its not hard to see every major brand in the country that uses gift cards coming around to implement applications like this in the near future.

Changing the way you get your fix

Changing the way you get your fix

As a general question to Apple and the iPhone development teams.. I still wonder why the integration of RFID for contactless payment systems has not been integrated into the iPhone as of yet. It would allow consumers to store their credit card information into their phones (securely) and with a wave of your phone over a special scanner, make a payment without ever getting the plastic out of your wallet.

Current the 16 stores testing the mobile payment trial are these:

  • 20520 Stevens Creek Blvd: 20520A Stevens Creek Blvd, Cupertino, CA 95014
  • 5180 Stevens Creek Blvd: 5180 A Stevens Creek Blvd, San Jose, CA 95129
  • Mountain View: 1037-C El Monte Ave, Mountain View, CA 94040
  • Shoreline & Pear: 1380 Pear Avenue, Mountain View, CA 94043
  • Castro @ High School: 750 Castro St, Mountain View, CA 94041
  • Miramonte & Cuesta: 809A Cuesta Blvd, Mountain View, CA 94040
  • Charleston & Independence: 2410 Charleston Avenue, Mountain View, CA 94043
  • 1687 Hollenbeck Ave.: 1685-87 Hollenbeck Road, Sunnyvale, CA 94087
  • Key Tower: 700 5th Ave, Seattle, WA 98104
  • Columbia Center: 701 Fifth Avenue, Seattle, WA 98104
  • 1st Interstate / Wells Fargo: 999 Third Avenue, Seattle, WA 98104
  • 40th Floor Columbia Tower: 701 5th Avenue, Seattle, WA 98104
  • 7th & Stewart: 1700 Seventh Ave, Seattle, WA 98101
  • 7th & Pike: 1524 7th Ave, Seattle, WA 98101
  • University Village II: 2650 NE 49th St, Seattle, WA 98105
  • Madison Park: 4000 East Madison Ave, Seattle, WA 98112

Currently there has been no word on if Apple takes any percentage of the sale, though I find it hard to believe that Starbucks would agree to that. Then again – it is Apple we are talking about here. Traditionally in-app-purchase has been limited to paid applications (the Starbucks app is free), but utilize the iTunes billing mechanism that this app seems to circumvent.

As part of the promotional mix, many iPhone apps have started using various sales promotions that include a number of different types of sweepstakes, contests and giveaways in order to drive downloads. While a sweepstakes or contest can be great for promoting your app, there are a few things to keep in mind.

GunSmoke uses a Re-Tweet promotion to virally promote their app

GunSmoke uses a Re-Tweet promotion to virally promote their app

One of the most common questions I get from app developers when it comes to these is “What is the difference between a sweepstakes, a contest and a lottery?” Why do they ask? Because a “lottery” has very strict rules and generally can only be legally operated by a state government. There are some legal loopholes when it come to Vegas and Indian Casinos, but as we are talking about iPhone apps here, that have national distribution (If not global – we will get to that in a minute) -you have to be legal across the country. Running an illegal lottery will quickly land you in front of a judge and you could be subject to some pretty heafty fines.

There are three components that we need to take a look at:

1. Prize

Does your promotion include some sort of prize? It can be monetary(Many apps give away iTunes gift cards), physical (some sort of actual gift), digital (software) or even experiential (some sort of experience that would be hard to get someplace else).

2. Chance

Is there some element of chance involved? This is opposed to a game of skill such as having to be the first person to beat a specific level of a game, answer a set of questions correctly or collect specific items from within your application.

3. Consideration

Consideration is a legal term which translates into: “I had to pay for it” (The lawyers will say “an undertaking in response to a promise”). Mind you that consideration is not always financial – it can mean an investment in time or effort as well. A great example is a car dealership that requires you to  “come in and test drive” to participate. Because you had to get to the dealership and probably spend gas money (or bus fare for you first time car buyers!), many courts would define that as consideration. There are ways around consideration however – which is where the infamous “No Purchase Necessary” comes into play. Just because there is a “paid ” method of playing, doesn’t mean there can’t be a free method as well. Often this comes in the form of a sent in 3×5 card or an online form. It doesn’t have to be easy (sure, hide the free online form deep in your site, I don’t care), but it has to be available and explained in the official rules.

So what happens when you have two of the three?

Prize + Chance: This is your typical sweepstakes. You enter, you have a chance to win. Pretty straight forward. What you do need to keep an eye out for is the monetary value of your prize. A few states require that prizes over a specific monetary value (often $500) require your prize to be bonded.

Prize + Consideration: Well… not to be blunt… but this just means you are selling something! You paid (consideration) for an item (Prize)

Chance + Consideration: Not really sure WHAT to call this other then, well, a donation.

Finally… what happens with you have all three?

A lawsuit.

Having all three makes you a lottery, of which is not allowed by anyone but the state.

Looking for help putting together a winning promotion? Give us a shout – we would be glad to help you out, following all applicable state laws of course!

I was going to wait until I had this blog site fully setup before I started posting blogs, but I finally had a chance to really sit down and play with iTunes 9 today and was shocked at some of the changes.

Lets start with the good. I love the Home Sharing music feature. There is probably over 5,000 downloaded songs in my household, while only about 500 of them are mine. The woman of the house is quite the music enthusiast and has a library that would make congress jealous.  Its nice to be able to tap into her songs and not worry about having to re-download them if I want to take some with me.

Okay, enough of the good. (Wait, thats it?). I am a mobile application marketing consultant. I teach classes in how to get your mobile application noticed, how to get it ranked well, and how to use the interface (iTunes) you’ve been given to succeed. I’m writing a book on the subject as well. One of the gold standards of marketing your mobile app in iTunes is to strive for a coveted top 100 spot in your category.  (Top 20 in your category is of course much better, but top 100 and you start getting noticed by soft browsers). With over 75,000 apps  in the app store, its extremely difficult to get into the top 100 overall (not category specific) without a brand name and big marketing budget behind you.

Getting ranked in your category however worked because many people browsing without a particular application in mind would first head into a category and then scroll through the top apps of that section. The higher you were ranked, the more likely someone would see you before they got tired of browsing pages. Its the same concept that drives companies to spend millions on SEO tactics to get higher up the natural search listings in Google.

Missing something? Oh right.... Navigation

Missing something? Oh right.... Navigation

There’s something missing in the iTunes 9 app store… quick category browsing. The bar on the left that listed each category for a quick link into that section? Gone. Replaced with? Well… nothing. In the small print at the bottom of the page there is a “Browse” feature that takes you to the most illogical browsing flow I’ve ever seen. Lets say I’m still intent on checking out what the top social networking apps are.  The browsing function lets me choose App Store -> Social Networking. Okay, so far it makes sense. Down below it populates with a list of 6000 apps in a text list (no icon, no images). The first app in my list……

“Big Red Button”

Category….. (wait for it)


What?? Did I not just specify social networking?  Maybe I’m missing something. So I double click on the app name to see the description. Nothing. No app description page pops up. Nothing at all happens actually. Thinking maybe that I clicked on the wrong spot, I tried clicking on the artist, price, release date…. nothing.  The only thing that is clickable… “Get App”.  Okay, well its a free app, Ill take a risk and click “Get App” hoping that it will actually take me to a description of the app before actually downloading it.

Nope. Sorry. I am now the proud owner of a Big Red Button. What does it do? No idea. I’m a little scared to push it.

Maybe there was just a glitch in Social Networking. Lets try a more obscure category like Health & Fitness. A few clicks in the browsing later and ta-da! The top app in Health & Fitness is…. a Health & Fitness app! Were off to a good start. Unfortunately number two is a Medical app so were still not perfect. I have to assume this is because you are allowed to choose a secondary category for your app that they show up here. I can accept that… though I find it hard to believe this Big Red Button will help me socially network. (No, I still haven’t pushed it).

The browsing apps are ranked 1-6000, however I quickly can see that its not a popularity rank. Actually, its currently being sorted by date released, so my Big Red Button only really had the advantage that it was released on Friday and will sit there till Monday when new apps get added. Its possible to click on the features to change the sorts – by date, by cost, by genre (didn’t I already specify Health & Fitness? Ooh look. Here’s four weather apps that fall into Health & Fitness!). You cannot sort by two variables.. that is – if I want to look at which of the lovely weather-slash-health-and-fitness hybrids are free vs paid, I simply have to scroll through. Thank goodness there are only four of them. What there isnt… is a way to sort by actual rank / popularity.

Dammit.. I want to know what the best free Health & Fitness apps are!

Remember the page from the last version of iTunes? The category page that showed the top paid on the right and the top free on the left? Thankfully I still have an image from a class I am teaching of what it looks like…

Not gone.... just really really hard to find!

Not gone.... just really really hard to find!

Turns out this page isnt actually gone. I managed to find the top free Health & Fitness apps with these, well, 10 easy steps….

1. Open iTunes

2. Click on “App Store”

3. Look for a Health & Fitness app in the promotional categories on the front page

4. Dont find any. Click into the top paid apps section to see if there are any in there

5. Find “iFitness” in the top 100 paid list.

6. Click on iFitness

7. Admire clear use of icon, good description, read some comments…. oh wait. I had a purpose here…

8. Find the location path at the top of the page. The one that says “App Store -> Healthcare & Fitness -> iFitness

9. Scroll over Healthcare & Fitness and notice that its a clickable link

10. Click Healthcare & Fitness and marvel at finally finding what I was looking for.

(By the way… you use to be able to get to this in three clicks. )

I am a fan of Apple and how they have opened up mobile applications to the world and made it accessible to smaller developers. Looking at what is starting to happen here however is disappointing. It looks like what has replaced the category section is a new top list…. “Top Grossing” (ie – What apps are making the developers, and Apple, the most money). Apps that make this list which sits on the front page, will gain more attention, and thus keep driving more revenue…. and staying on top of this list.

iTunes 9 makes it harder for hard working app developers to make it without the direct assistance from Apple themselves to get featured on one of their front page categories. This doesn’t seem like the smartest move from Apple. Instead of the public finding the next best app and driving it to the top, more and more its apps that Apple chooses that make it… which means in a slew of new apps, the likelihood that the newest gem of an app will get missed and instead of gaining traction and driving sales for the developer and Apple…. get lost in a sea of app clutter.

Yup. There’s an app for that.