How to Launch a New App
Part 1: How to Launch a New App
Launching a children's app requires a lot of planning. Best practices include (1) finding a great idea for an app and conducting market research on it, (2) choosing how to monetize the app, (3) making sure the app complies with COPPA, (4) making sure the app is compatible with Android, Apple, or both, (5) designing a comprehensive media campaign, and (6) testing the app thoroughly.
- Any app requires a great idea, and this is especially true for children's educational apps.
- The app must appeal to both parents and children: parents because they will pay for it, and children because they must use it enough for the parent to be satisfied with the cost.
- The market research process will include a competitive analysis to discover who the competitors are in the children's educational app market, what the competitive apps offer, what the new app will do differently or better than other apps, and how successful the existing apps are.
- The new app's concept must not copy someone else's app. It must be original, but use insights from successful apps to create value and advantages that distinguish the new app from other apps.
- Market research will help define the target audience for the app. It's vital that the app developer understand the audience. The audience is children, but which age group? Is the app directed to toddlers, preschoolers, kids 6-9, kids 11-13, or teenagers? How will the children use the app for learning? Is it going to make their lives better? What do children in the target age group like to do? Can they read? In what language or languages will the app be produced? Are their cultural or religious or regional issues that must be addressed or considered in developing the app? Thorough research will help to make the app the best it can be.
Decide How To Monetize the App.
- Apps are produced as money-making vehicles, so it is very important to decide how the app will bring in revenue for the developer. This is called "monetizing", and can be done in several ways.
- Although the proﬁt potential of children's educational apps is not as great as for adult apps, there is still demand for them and money to be made when organized correctly. Several monetization models work effectively in the children's educational apps market. Each model has advantages and disadvantages, and the developer needs to study these to make the best choice.
- The monetizing models are in-app advertising, in-app purchases, paid apps, and subscriptions.
- In-app advertising means that advertisers supply video ads to the app that will run at predetermined intervals, and a payment is made to the app developer for each user who sees the ad. The app is downloaded for free, but the user is subjected to the video ads.
- In children's educational apps, parents have the option to turn off ads in both Apple and Android apps in the Parental Controls section of the app.
- In-app purchases happen when a user clicks on an offer of more games, or more levels, or some other choice that has a currency amount tied to it, like 99 cents, or $1.99, or $2.99. This can be an issue in children's apps, and the government has addressed it in the COPPA rules (see below). Parents can also block in-app purchases through parental controls.
- Paid apps are divided into Pay to Play and Pay to Play Free formats, which are just like they sound. The Pay to Play apps charge the user for each login to an app, while the Pay to Play free apps make a one-time charge to the person when downloading the app as a purchase from an app store.
- The subscription models charge by the month or year for use of the app.
- Another possibility is the offer of a free trial to a new user, who is allowed to access the app for a certain number of plays, or a certain period, like 7 days or 14 days, after which a fee would be charged depending on the choice of the buyer (Pay to Play, Pay to Play Free, or subscription).
Be Sure to Comply with COPPA
- The federal government has created rules for developers to follow if they "develop apps or run websites directed to children under 13 years of age and collect their personal information...."
- COPPA is an acronym that is formed from the first letters of the law, the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, that was passed by Congress in 1998. COPPA "required the Federal Trade Commission to issue and enforce regulations concerning children’s online privacy." An amended version of the Rule became effective on July 1st, 2013, and there have been additional updates.
- There is a long list of children's personal information that cannot be collected by apps without parental notice and consent. This set of information includes geolocation, photographs, and video images or audio recordings of a child's voice. Other forbidden information items include name, address, email address, screen or user name, phone number, social security number, IP address, and many others.
- To be successful and have a long use of an app, a developer must comply with these requirements of COPPA.
- Google Play updated its Families policy and Designed for Families program requirements on May 29, 2019. An app may be removed from the Google Play store if the developer does not complete "the Target Audience and Content section of the Google Play Console. "
Design a Comprehensive Media Campaign to Prepare for Launch.
- A comprehensive media campaign will position the new app for a successful launch.
- Such a campaign includes several facets, including reviews of the app from influencers who can test it before launch, outreach to bloggers to offer them chances to give promo codes to their readers, promotion on social media to offer unique or special content about the app, and submission of the app to industry award organizations to help gain third-party credibility.
- It's also important to have a website and a Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest page for the app.
- A developer must be prepared to promote a new app before it is launched. A marketing plan for a successful app can be divided into three "campaign phases: pre-launch, launch and post-launch", with careful planning going into each stage.
Make Sure the App is Compatible with Both Android and Apple.
- The two major sources of apps are the Apple Store and the Google Play store. A developer of children's educational apps must choose which store to submit the app to, or decide to submit it to both stores. Deciding whether to build an app for Apple or Android is one of the first things a developer must do when preparing to launch an app.
- A developer needs to know the best practices and standards of the stores to distribute the new app to, and to do this, the developer must review Official Submission Checklists.
- Both Apple and Google have checklist guides for the necessary tasks connected to launching apps. Developers should check these official guides before launching an app. There are some key differences.
- The final step in preparation for Apple and/or Android compatibility is to apply to the stores. After completing all the preparations, the developer should release the children's educational app to the Apple App Store and/or Google Play Store.
Test the App Thoroughly
- The app should be tested at the beginning, middle, and end of development. The test at the beginning would consist of recruiting some children of the right age to try the earliest version of the app. This test will show the developer what is missing from the app, and revision should take place.
- Once there is a real prototype of the app after the first test and revision, it's time to test the app with potential users, i.e., more children.
- Finally, just before release, the developer should conduct beta testing to get real-world experience about how well the educational app will perform with actual users. Parental cooperation is necessary for any of these test types for a children's educational app.
Part 2: Case Studies of Successful App Launches
Successful launches of children's smartphone apps were made by GoKids! and Pokemon Go using specific marketing techniques and some of the best practices for children's educational app development.
Case Study #1: GoKids! App Launch
- Objective: to release successfully a new children's educational app from a well-known publisher, using KIDOZ technology.
- KIDOZ is the world's largest platform for children's content in games and videos and helps developers make money through ad placement. KIDOZ makes sure that all the apps that it accepts are COPPA compliant.
- Since 2012, GoKids! has published many educational mobile apps for kids. After GoKids! early apps like Animal Farm and ABC for Kids, the company wanted to release a new app called "Learning Professions for Kids". They designed the app for children aged 2-5.
- GoKids! owner Kirill Lazackovich said in an interview, "The most important thing is to test your app on the kids audience. Before releasing you should create a prototype and get feedback from kids. Adults think differently than kids, and you never know what they like or don’t like without testing.
- Lazackovich explained how GoKids! does testing: "We work with several kindergartens who test our games. We look at how they play and feel with the game to get a sense of what components need to be updated before launching."
- For the new app, "Learning Professions for Kids," Lazackovich wanted to create immediate momentum for the app at its launch, so he needed a marketing campaign to reach a large group of users who would like the app.
- For this to work, the GoKids! marketing plan would show ads to kids aged 2-5 who were the target audience for the new app, and encourage them to ask for it. Before the launch, the marketing plan had to reach the target audience and their parents.
- Since tracking-based targeting is not allowed in kids’ apps, the KIDOZ company used content-based targeting to find the right audience for the GoKids! new app's marketing campaign. Because thousands of kids’ apps were connected through the KIDOZ Network, marketers could direct the promotion of the GoKids! app to those apps with a similar user base-- kids aged 2-5 who liked to learn, enjoyed challenges, and participated in role-playing. A more comprehensive marketing campaign was not desired, since kids aged 2-5 were not reachable by other means.
- The campaign of promotion to kids 2-5 who used apps in the KIDOZ network resulted in the downloading of the app to 31,000 new users in less than two weeks, although it was only developed for Android users. It became available on Apple later on.
- The client was pleased with the launch of "Learning Professions for Kids."
Case Study #2: Pokemon Go Smartphone App
- Objective: To promote a newly-launched video game app and get highly engaged users to install it.
- Pokémon Go is a free smartphone app that uses "location tracking and mapping technology to create an 'augmented reality' where players catch and train Pokémon characters in real locations. ... Users must be 13 or over to sign-up for the game." The use of GPS and AR was unique at the time.
- Pokemon Go began in 1995 as a video game owned by Nintendo. The marketing team for the new smartphone app called Pokemon Go (owned by Niantic) designed a pre-launch promotional campaign in 2016 that used YouTube videos and press releases to raise teenagers' and twenty-somethings's awareness, knowing that they might be familiar with the video game from 20 years earlier or with the children's cartoons.
- The app is free to download but has an in-app purchase feature. There is an "option to use in-game currency called Poké Coins, [which] can be used to buy Poké Balls (used to capture Pokémon)." The app does not require users to buy the currency to play the game. Parents can use parental controls to control app purchases on their own smartphones and on their child’s phone.
- The app's use of location-based services (GPS) and augmented reality (AR) made it a popular choice for ages teenagers 13 and up, who were the target audience. Since the target audience was users over 13, the game did not have to comply with COPPA rules.
- The users of the app promoted it on social media. The "advanced features" (the GPS and AR aspects) of the game encouraged word-of-mouth marketing that increased downloads and players.
- Pokemon Go had 26 million daily active users in 2017. "The average player [spent] more than 40 minutes a day on the app. ...[T]he game continues to attract 500 downloads every minute or 700,000 downloads per day."
- According to PCWorld, "Pokémon GO sparked over 250,000 news articles across the world, and more than 2.5 million global social media conversations using the hashtag #PokemonGO since its launch. The app was so popular, it surpassed Twitter’s daily active users within the first week of its launch."
- Pokémon Go was familiar to a generation that grew up watching Pokémon cartoons. It also connected with people's enjoyment of treasure hunting. The Pokémon characters were treasure that people could hunt for in their neighborhoods or elsewhere.
- Pokemon Go is compatible with both Android and Apple operating systems. This made it widely available to households with smartphones.