Riding the App Wave

ISSUE #59 – Interview with Erwan Macé, CEO, Bistmedia

Users are highly educated with regards to the smartphone and the apps they have become dependent on

What are the ingredients for a successful app?

ErwanMaceThings have changed over the past few years. When Apple first launched its App Store and the iOS SDK (the tools for developers to create apps) in 2008 (a year after the first iPhone was launched), almost every single app released was a success as there was only 10,000 apps on the App Store back in November 2008. Early iPhone adopters were craving for all sorts of new apps allowing them to discover and maximise the capacities of this mini-computers they were suddenly carrying in their pocket and which had just replaced their old candy bar Nokia phones. Fast forward 7 years and not only can you now find more than 1.5 million apps on the App Store but users have higher expectations, they’re highly educated with regards to the smartphone and the apps they have become dependent on.

There is no more space for the useless quick and dirty apps we once downloaded. With the exception of Games, a successful app must now address an existing need and/or solve an existing pain in a better way than traditional services and existing apps do. It must also feature a dead simple user experience (UX) packed in a sleek and beautiful user interface (UI). Finally, it must incorporate some viral mechanisms to encourage existing users to share and recruit new ones as well as some addictive hooks to retain existing users by making sure they keep coming back to your app. The average retention rates after 1 and 7 days are 40% and 20% respectively, meaning that 60% of the people who downloaded your app will stop using it after one day only!

Finally, one should note that in order to reach a global audience, app developers will in most cases need to develop and publish their app on at least the two major leading platforms: Apple iOS (iPhones and other iDevices) and Google Android (Samsung, HTC, Xiaomi, Sony, etc…).

How to monetize apps?

There are generally 3 common ways to monetise an app:

  • Paid applications which require you to pay $0.99 or more in order to download them are however less and less common as users now expect apps to be free or to at least start using them for free.
  • Free applications can therefore be monetised through advertising, generally by placing small ad banners at the top or bottom of the page, or by showing full page interstitials in between two screens. A new format called “Native ads” is becoming popular as it allows apps developers to integrate their ads within their design in a much less intrusive manner. Think of the ads you see in your Facebook feed or in between two articles on some news app.
  • Finally, the Freemium or “Free to Play” model allows users to download an app and start using it for free with the option to buy additional content or unlock premium features directly within the app (in-app purchases) at a later stage (once they’ve become addicted or dependent on it).

Developers may of course decide to mix the last two models by offering, for example, an optional paid upgrade within the app to remove ads.

With more than 1.5 million apps on the Apple App Store as well as on the Google Play Store (for Android devices), not only must an app be simple, sleek, viral and addictive, but developers must also invest time and resources ensuring the visibility of their app(s) on the main two stores by working on the metadata of the app: the app icon, the app title, the screenshots, the keywords, the app description. It is critical to test and measure various options at this stage to slowly reach the set of screenshots or the title which will help you get found and downloaded.

Localising the app of course, but also the metadata (information shown on the App Store such as title, screenshots, etc…) can help making sure your app will be visible in different markets.

But once again, there is no magic and the quality of the app itself, through the ratings, reviews and rankings, is probably the best guaranty to stand out in this crowded jungle of 1.5 million apps.

Bitsmedia is also supporting other entrepreneurs through early-stage investments and mentoring, can you share a few words about that?

Over the past 2-3 years, Bitsmedia started re-investing some of the profits gained on our very own apps into other technology startups. We started with a local game development studio called Magma Studios, followed by Followatch, a French startup building an EPG platform (Electronic Program Guide) to help television broadcasters optimise their programming and advertising revenues through sentiment analysis on social media. Finally, we recently invested in Krak, a company based between Los Angeles and Berlin which is trying to disrupt the world of skateboarders through connected devices and mobile applications.

What are the next plans for Bitsmedia?

I started Bitsmedia 7 years ago as a service company developing mobile applications for corporate clients and quickly evolved towards the exclusive development and publishing of our own products as soon as our Muslim Pro application became popular in 2010-2011. After focusing on Muslim Pro for the past 5 years and reaching 25 million downloads, we are now very excited to have recently started working on a brand new application which will soon be helping parents find the best private tuition teachers. The best way to describe it at this stage is a “Uber for Private Classes” and it should be coming to your mobile phone very soon.


Interview published in the FOCUS Magazine “The Enterprising Spirit” – Issue #1 2016