3x Revenue and Retention for Big Emoji

At the beginning of 2014 we released a couple of updates to our app Big Emoji with the aims of increasing downloads, retention, and revenue. 

  • Day 7 retention increased from 6% to 18%. BIG WIN!
  • $ per paying customer increased from $1.50 to $4.15. BIG WIN!
  • Day 7 conversion (free to paying) from 1.8% to 2.1% WIN!
  • Downloads stayed more or less the same.

I posted in January listing what we did and what we hoped would happen. Here's what we did:

  • Bundle IAP to get all emoji packs at once, also 4 new emoji packs.
  • Win free emojis every few days in a slot machine, scheduled with local notification. (We repurposed our viral invites system, because it didn't work.)
  • Shared directly to iMessages, and now also Facebook, Twitter, Weibo. New because iOS7 allows sending images to iMessage, iOS6 did not. Big usability improvement.
  • Changed the app name for positioning and ASO.
  • In March, we updated again with the ability to make your own emoji from photos, hoping to make it more personal and hence more viral. Downside is that there is a learning curve for this feature.

The big wins came from the bundle IAP and the local notifications to get free big emoji every few days. People who are spenders and like the content tend to buy what they want on day 1 and they use it for however long they are interested. So they might buy their favorite emoji pack or two, and then use those. Offering them the bundle to buy all at once is a huge win because those 1st day spenders who choose the bundle spend so much more than if they just buy one pack. The bundle is tied as the most popular IAP, and is by far the best earning IAP.

Every few days users get a notification that they have free spins in the slot machine to win a couple of the paid big emoji. This reminds people about the app and keeps them coming back. Anything to get people to come back is great. The whole point of the Big Emoji app is that its somewhat viral because if you message someone with it they often ask 'Hey thats cool, how did you do that'. So keeping the app in mind should be good for vitality not just retention. 

These two changes turned this app around for us from a hobby to real product line alongside out Hit Tennis games. Note that we first released Big Emoji in Feb 2012, so it too a full 2 years (of part time work) to get this app into good enough shape to keep as a real product line! Why didn't we cut it long ago? We just like the app, I always loved working with all the 'sticker' graphics, we always got great customer feedback, and $ per user was always reasonable compared to our other apps. 

The other big change we made in March was to allow people to make their own emoji from photos or imported files. The strategy here is to make it more viral because people can use content they create themselves which is: more personal & content that is not suitable for a public app store. However there's a learning curve with this feature. Seems like those changes did not yet work, because downloads were not significantly effected. However there's more to this strategy, so we may yet work out how to make it drive downloads.

Some improvements we were looking for either didn't work or I didn't track effectively so I don't know. Looking back at all the questions I asked in January:

  • Name change effects ASO, will it rank higher, get more downloads?
    • Nope.
  • Name change is better positioned for what the app actually is, will this result in more happy customers?
    • Not sure, probably didn't make any difference. I think the screen shots set people up with the right expectation.
  • Name change is keyword stuffed with Facebook and Twitter now too!
    • Don't think it made a difference. 
  • Will people use it more now they don't have to manually paste the graphic in to iMessage? Will people start posting Big Emojis to Facebook & Twitter? (not really expecting that they will).
    • Not sure. We get great review. Fewer complaints from people who can't figure out how to use it, so this was probably a good improvement.
  • If we increase retention, will that improve our rank?
    • It seemed to initially, but not much, and has not been sustained. Hard to say either way because app rankings based on search driven downloads have been all over the place for the last 12 months due to Apple changes.
  • We also fixed the asking for a review link, which changed in iOS7. Will that get us more reviews and hence increase our rank?
    • We get great reviews, but I didn't track number of reviews per week before and after, so I don't know.