August 11, 2015 1:07 pm

Getting noticed and installed more often (10 by 10)

Welcome to the first week of our Windows 10 by 10 series. To kick things off, let’s begin where your customer engagement starts – with the Windows Store.

To help ensure that your apps are getting discovered and launched by Windows 10 customers, here are three steps to take now:

  1. Update your Store listing to increase your chances of being installed.
  2. Establish a usage baseline using Visual Studio Application Insights and the new app usage report.
  3. Learn how to use the Windows Store’s new campaign tracking capabilities to measure success.

Even spending just an hour this week will not only help you put your best foot forward with Windows 10 customers, but it will also help you establish a strong baseline to measure success against as you evolve and improve your app.

Give your Store listing a makeover

So let’s begin with your Windows Store listing, where customers spend a brief moment looking at your pitch to determine whether they click a button to install your Windows app and give you a chance. This is one of the first touch points you’ll have with your customer.

Make your app easier to get discovered by customers

startMenu_10x10week1To properly show up in Store searches, you’ll want to be sure you’re following our keyword recommendations: you can use up to 8 keywords, and you should only use the ones that genuinely describe your app. If you’re not Facebook or Twitter, don’t waste a keyword implying you are.

We’ve also integrated Store listings into more of the Windows experience, helping customers discover the apps and games that are relevant to them for the task at hand. For example, searching using Cortana not only returns local apps and documents, but it also includes relevant results from the Windows Store and the web – helping you get discovered by the growing number of Windows 10 customers worldwide. Keep these searches in mind when determining which keywords make sense for your app.

Also, we highly recommend that you submit promotional artwork as part of your Store listing – these are images that can be used to promote your app in a number of places if and when the app is featured. Unless your app has these images, the Windows Store can’t feature your app – no matter how awesome it is. With Windows 10, we added a new 2400×1200 image, which the promotions team will use in a number of places, most notably as a hero image in the Windows Store “Spotlight” section. If you want to be considered for promotion, take some time this week and submit the promotional artwork, especially the 2400×1200 size. And while your mind is on the topic, it’s worth reviewing the other Windows Store requirements for promotional consideration. It’s important to stress that while submitting these images and ensuring you meet promotional consideration requirements doesn’t guarantee you a promotion spot; not meeting the requirements does guarantee that you won’t be considered.

Make your app compelling to install

Okay! So you’ve gotten a prospective customer’s attention and you’ve gotten them to your app listing in the Store – what will they see when they get there?

Your Store listing page is the first way most of your potential customers get to know your app, and where they decide whether or not they’ll install it; it’s your sales pitch to the world – your proverbial book cover. Without visually communicating what you have to offer, along with a few words to hook your potential customers, they’re likely to continue on past your app and onto someone else’s.

store_10x10week1

Surprisingly, many developers give the least amount of thought to their apps’ Store listings. To prepare for new customers discovering your app for the first time, now is a great time to revisit your listing and apply some evergreen advice:

  • App descriptions should explain the benefits in the first couple sentences. The Store naturally truncates the listing and only shows the first couple lines (take a look at the Remote Desktop listing above as an illustrative example). Be sure your most compelling statement/pitch shows up above the break, so that customers are interested in seeing more.
  • Keep your screenshots interesting and compelling – particularly your first one (don’t just use your title screen). Ensure that the images properly represent your app or game, and don’t be afraid to mark up the images with text to better explain what they’re looking at. Find a tool to help you create quality screenshots and images. From the donation-supported Paint.net and GIMP programs, to the larger budget Adobe products, there are many options to fit your skills and needs.
  • If your app is localized for multiple markets, ensure that your screenshots and descriptions are localized as well. (And, as a pro tip, if you’re a published Windows developer and you’re considering localizing for other markets, be sure to check out your Dev Center Benefits for some serious price breaks on localization services from Lionbridge.)

Similar to the lack of promotional images, it’s staggering how many apps in the Store have been passed up for being featured because they didn’t have an adequate app description, or had screenshots that were simply their title screen. Don’t let this happen to you!

Start measuring your success

Now that you’ve cleaned up your Store listing page and encouraged new customers to give your app or game a try, let’s examine a few ways to determine if your pitch is landing. The Windows Dev Center recently made some serious advances on the integrated reporting capabilities, let’s dig into two of them – the app usage report and the upcoming campaign tracking feature.

The Usage report provides a detailed breakdown of how your app is being used, and by whom. If you log into your Dashboard and take a look at the report today, most of you will notice that it’s currently blank, and that it prompts you to start using the Visual Studio Application Insights SDK in your app. For those of you not familiar with Application Insights, the service collects telemetry data from your app and uses Azure to store [at no cost] and present it. The Windows Dev Center can access this telemetry data to provide you with a view into how customers are using your app.

You can use Visual Studio 2015 or 2013 to add Application Insights to your app in about 10 minutes. To get started, open up your Windows app (Windows 8 or 10 – client or phone), and do the following:

  1. addAppInsight_10x10week1Right click on your project in Visual Studio and select ‘Add Application Insights Telemetry…’
  2. Application Insights will then launch a wizard that walks you through adding the service into your Windows app. As part of this process, it will ask you where you want to keep your data (if you don’t already have a free Azure account, you’ll need to create one).
  3. Once you’re done with the wizard, it will set up and configure your project for telemetry collection.

appInsight_10x10week1

At this point, you’ll be able to see on Azure, in near real-time, how many folks are using your app in the wild. This telemetry can tell you a lot about your app and where to direct your development efforts – you can measure what features are being used, by how many people, and for how long.

And once you publish your app into the Store and enable the app usage telemetry setting on the Windows Dev Center dashboard (under ‘Account settings’), the data will be visible on the Usage report.

You can then use the TelemetryClient class to gather additional telemetry data like page views (or even pivot/hub control activity), interesting events you want tracked, and exceptions. Beyond the basic page telemetry you get by using Application Insights, you can taking advantage of exception tracking to get a near real-time view into trouble spots (particularly useful when launching an update to the public). To track exceptions, use the following code:

try
{
    // ...
}
catch (Exception ex)
{
   private TelemetryClient telemetry = new TelemetryClient();
   telemetry.TrackException(ex);
}

As you get more comfortable with analytics, you can start instrumenting all kinds of things. For example, this sample code tracks how long it takes to accomplish a task:

var stopwatch = System.Diagnostics.Stopwatch.StartNew();
// ... perform the timed action ...
stopwatch.Stop();
var metrics = new Dictionary <string, double>
   {{"processingTime", stopwatch.Elapsed.TotalMilliseconds}};
// Set up some properties:
var properties = new Dictionary <string, string>
   {{"signalSource", currentSignalSource.Name}};
// Send the event:
private TelemetryClient telemetry = new TelemetryClient();
telemetry.TrackEvent("SignalProcessed", properties, metrics);

For my personal app (which is very web service dependent), I found it very useful to understand where web service calls were leading to bad reviews, and what countries were having the most issues. Over time, as I tried a few different mitigation approaches (service error handling, caching, etc.), I used my telemetry data to increase customer engagement (which I measured by time spent in app) and overall customer satisfaction (app rating improvements in specific regions) to measure success of my approach.

For more information on advanced app telemetry, check out a blog post from the engineering team on the topic last year, written by Kraig Brockschmidt. (Note that when this post was written, we were still developing Application Insights. Now that it’s available, instrumentation is much easier!)

Start promoting yourself

With a baseline understanding of your customers, it’s time to start turning the crank and driving traffic into your app. To do this, let’s look at three really cool ways that the Windows Store helps you to experiment with app promotion:

  • Start running campaigns for your app, and using the campaign tracking feature (being rolled out to developers this month) to understand which campaign is bringing in more customers.
  • Work with affiliates in the new Microsoft Affiliate Program, which provides a new way for referrers to earn a 7% commission on all new purchases via the Windows Store.
  • The Windows Dev Center makes it easier to commission promotional ad campaigns.

Understanding promotion success

Taking advantage of the campaign tracking feature is perhaps the easiest way to understand where new customers are coming from. You can use these much as you might already be using URL redirect services (such as bit.ly) to track traffic patterns with your users:

  1. Append a ‘campaign’ tracking ID to the end of your app’s Store listing URL (which can be found on the App Management section of your app’s App Identity Page in the Dev Center dashboard). The tracking ID is a simple string and can be whatever makes sense to you for tracking purposes.
  2. Start using these URLs, complete with campaign IDs appended to the end of the name, wherever you point to your app in the format https://www.microsoft.com/store/apps/yourAppName/yourAppProductID?cid=yourCampaignID. As an example, let’s say you’re Skype (with a Product ID of 9wzdncrfj364) and you want to promote the app on a variety of channels. You might use the following three campaigns:
  1. Return to the Channels and conversions report on your Windows Dev Center dashboard and view the results (see the sample report below):

pageViews_10x10week1

Note: the Channels and conversions report is being made available to all developers over the next few weeks.

Another interesting data point collected is whether or not the campaign ‘converted’ the customer. The report will track whether or not a customer purchased the app (or an IAP) within the 24-hour period after they followed the link, based on the Microsoft Account the customer was signed in with at the time they followed the link.

Once you update your app to a UWP app for Windows 10, you can further take advantage of the campaign tracking feature by using the CurrentApp.getAppPurchaseCampaignIdAsync() method to determine, at runtime, whether a campaign led a customer to your app (and, if so, which one). You can even tailor the app or game experience to better fit the channel they came from – providing you with the potential to run offers through different partners, and light up specific in-app offers when customers arrive via a particular partner.

Sign up as an affiliate

In addition to making it easier to understand where your customers are coming from, we are investing in many new ways to help new customers discover the Store, including an expansion of the Microsoft Affiliate Program to include everything in the Windows Store – apps, games, music, videos, and more.

The program makes it easy for any partners to earn commissions by promoting Windows Store content. The infrastructure of the affiliate program works in the same way as the campaign tracking feature, except it’s packaged up for third-parties to easily drive traffic to your app through the Windows Store and earn commission on referred purchases. Affiliates can earn a 7% commission on all paid purchases made within the 24 hours, in-app purchases made within 14 days and monthly recurring subscriptions up to 6 months.

If you do app or game reviews on your site or blog (or even via Twitter), I definitely advise that you sign up for the affiliate program and use affiliate links wherever you refer folks into the Windows Store.

Promote your app with ads

Lastly, we continue to make it easier to get your app in front of more customers by creating ad campaigns for your app. Using the ‘Promote your app’ section of the Windows Dev Center, you can create and run one of two types of ads:

  • Pay to run an ad that runs in other apps, targeting your desired device family and app category
  • Run free ‘house ads’ within your other apps, for a device that doesn’t already have your app or game installed on it

Once launched, you can use the App install ads report to measure how your ad campaigns are performing (tracking the generated impressions, clicks, and installs for each campaign), and adjust your promotion strategy accordingly.

This week: Spend an hour with your app’s Store listing

We hope that you enjoyed our kick-off blog post for the Windows 10 by 10 series. For the next nine weeks, we’ll be focusing on what you can do with your app on Windows 10 to drive customer engagement.

But before you crack open your app, we encourage you to spend an hour on your app’s Store listing this week:

  1. Take 20 minutes to revisit your app description and give it a makeover
  2. Take 20 minutes to update your screenshots and add a 2400×1200 promotional image
  3. Finally, revisit how you link to your app and start using campaign IDs to track where your Store installs are coming from

And the next time you update your app, we highly recommend that you add in Application Insights. It’s truly enlightening to see how customers use your app, and even better watching near real-time telemetry (particularly for handled exceptions and app crashes) when you launch a new app update.

As always, keep in touch and let us know what you think below or via @WindowsDev. All this week, the conversation about app promotion takes to Twitter using the hashtag #Win10x10 – whether you have app telemetry pro tips, or just want to highlight what’s worked for you around app promotion, definitely share it with the community.

Updated August 25, 2015 10:49 am