The Windows Phone Marketplace Part 2 of 2: A different way to encourage application discoverability, monetization and customer connection

On Monday, I wrote about how the Windows Phone Marketplace provides a different kind of shopping experience from a customer point of view. Today I wanted to describe how the Marketplace experience helps application and game publishers improves discoverability, monetization, and long-term customer connection.

We’ve learned a lot from our experience with the Windows Marketplace on Windows Mobile, and listened to feedback from over a thousand developers that informed the design and experience of the Windows Phone 7 Series Marketplace experience. We took this feedback and distilled 3 key challenges have today that we wanted to address:

  • Discoverability or How can I standout in a catalog of tens of thousands?
  • Monetization or How can I make more money?
  • Customer Connection or How can I ensure users use my app after they’ve acquired it

DISCOVERABILITY

Standing out is hard among tens of thousands of applications and games on a 4” screen, and we’re addressing through the combination of smart design and experience integration to help your app or game get noticed, introduced and found.

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First, we help you make a great first impression, by making your app or game the star of the Marketplace panoramic experience through the usage of a high resolution image as the backdrop to the Marketplace navigation model. If you provide us with this image, we can use it to promote your app or game. We will be changing this panoramic placement frequently on a per country basis to highlight the best and most well-designed apps and games.

Second, we help introduce your app or game to people who might be interested in acquiring it. We do this 2 ways, first we have a feature called deep-linking which enables you or anyone to direct anyone to your app description page for instant purchase, trial use or download. You can put deep links anywhere, in a browser page, in a text or e-mail, or in other apps or games you publish. You decide how you want to use it. The other way we do this is through our “related” recommendation engine, which suggests to the user other apps and games they might like based on things like what the user already has, and what other people who downloaded the same app or game have.

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Third, we’ve taken advantage of the Windows Phone 7 design system to build a marketplace experience that enables users to rapidly sort and filter apps and games to find the ones they might be interested in as well as an advanced search mechanism. We have common views like new, featured and popular to help users find the latest, greatest and most popular apps/games, respectively. New apps or games are listed by publish date, showing the most recent additions. The featured apps or games are editorially selected by a Microsoft Windows Phone merchandising team and are changed frequently to help users discover great new apps they’ve never heard of, or evergreen titles that are crowd pleasers. The popular view incorporates recent downloads and recent ratings and review scoring information to reflect the fact that popularity is not just about quantity but quality. Alternately, if users know what they are generally looking for we provide a straightforward multi-layered categorization view, alphabetical listings, and the omnipresent ability, via the Search button, to do keyword or title search against an index of apps and games in the Marketplace catalog.

Discoverability is the foundation for enabling monetization for paid or ad-funded business models.

MONETIZATION

So once users see or find your app or game, how does the Windows Phone Marketplace help you make money? I think about this primarily in terms of creating a healthy and profitable ecosystem that maximizes the revenue generated by all the publisher participants in the ecosystem, in which participants compete for share. A healthy profitable ecosystem is one where the average revenue per user generated by the ecosystem continuously grows and where competition between titles or business model occurs primarily by quality of experience, not by price alone, and prices therefore are generally stable. I.e. it is not a commodity marketplace.

The Marketplace attempts to create this profitable ecosystem with a structure that enables greater discoverability discussed above, so that users don’t just have to use price as a first order filter.

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Second, we have introduced a Trial API to enable freemium business models, where a developer can build a single application or game, and instrument their code with the Trial conditions they want to apply. Two of the most common ways are time-based or experience-level based, however developers have a lot of leeway to design a try before you buy experience that maximizes conversion rates from trial to paid user. This is optional for developers and not all applications or games benefit from a trial experience, but most will, and provide the single best way for a user to make an informed purchase decision by taking the app or game for a “test drive”. We think the Trial experience provides the most effective way for paid commerce to flourish.

Finally, we help monetization by making it easier and more convenient for customers to buy things. We certainly support credit card commerce, but we also support Mobile Operator billing. Mobile Operator billing does two things for monetization it expands the number of customers who buy things, and increases the amount and value of things they buy, both because of greater customer convenience. The result of this is much greater monetization per user for the ecosystem.

CUSTOMER CONNECTION

The third major challenge we’re focused on helping developers overcome, is customer connection. For most publishers a sale or download itself is just the first step in building an ongoing relationship with that user in order to encourage usage, get feedback to improve the product, or up-sell or cross-sell that customer to the next version or other titles that are published.

We try to facilitate and enable ways for developers to connect more frequently with their customers.

First, we enable every app or game sold to be surfaced and launched by the end user as a dynamically updated “Live Tile”. The Live Tile is both an entry point for launching an app or game and a place to surface notifications, in the form or text or images. These notifications are pushed to the device via the Push Notification service and provide information to the user that prompts the user to glance at and launch the app.

Second, we try to make the app or game, once downloaded more discoverable to the user, by organizing the application in places users expect. As an example, an application that provides music or video entertainment services is placed in Music+Video hub experience or a game is placed in the Games Hub experience. Users can also always find a list of all their applications to the right of the Start experience screen.

Finally we try to make available updates to apps and games more apparent to the user by indicating that updates are available from the Marketplace Hub experience, and when a user selects the Updates text enable a user to download all updates or just the one they are interested in.

Hopefully this provides a little more detail and context around the Marketplace experience for applications and games and describes how we’re trying to improve discoverability, increase monetization for the whole ecosystem, and enable closer customer connection.