Why D&D is the perfect team building exercise for your company

“You feel the rotting plank give way beneath your boot, and watch as the shattered splinters fall the hundred-or-so feet that separate you from the roaring rapids of the river below.

You hear the snap of a rope from the cliffside ahead of you, and then feel the bridge jolt.

What do you do?”

This is the kind of situation Dungeons and Dragons players find themselves in all the time. And it makes D&D the perfect exercise for improving your employees’ collaborative, interpersonal, and problem solving skills. No, seriously.

Why? Because unlike other team building exercises, D&D necessitates that everyone involved pretends to be someone else – making it much easier to self-reflect and be open to new ideas. It’s not them in the situation, it’s the character they’re pretending to be. It’s a game about working with what you have, rather than what you want – and how you can use what’s available to you in the moment, in order to solve the problem at hand.

In other words, it fosters the growth – and eventual mastery – of personal qualities and traits that make a great team player. There’s also the added benefit of having a lot of fun while playing it.

So, how do these pretend skills transfer over to the professional world? Let’s get into it:


“I cast grasping vine, originating from the cliff-wall.”

“What’s your target?”

“The rope that snapped.”

Confidence is key to any successful career, but it’s absolutely necessary for a team to remain cohesive and productive – take, for example, a development team in the middle of code review during the end of an agile sprint. The programmers need to be confident in the code they made, so they are able to clearly explain their work – the person reviewing the code needs to be confident in the decisions they make as well – without clear and concise goals, productivity suffers.

Knowing how to set goals – and how stick to them – requires a certain level of confidence. There are moments that (quite) often pop up throughout the work day that could end up throwing a wrench in your plans – having the confidence to tackle those issues on the fly is something D&D teaches extremely well. If you don’t make a decision fast enough, your character, or other party members, can die.

D&D teaches you how to pivot quickly – and not just by yourself, based on your own skill set – for every decision a player makes (and the confidence that decision requires), they must also balance that decision against the needs of the team as a whole. They need to have the confidence to be able to say: “No, Sam has a spell better suited to this situation. I’ll save my spell slot for later.”

You’d be surprised what happens to someone’s confidence levels when they’re pretending to be someone else. It’s a freeing feeling – you can be whoever you want to be – the dashing rogue, the devout paladin, the quick-witted wizard. When you’re playing the role of someone else in a fantasy world, it’s easy to gain the confidence necessary to say “I got this,” or, on the other side of the confidence coin, “I’ve got your back.”

Someone who isn’t comfortable making snap-decisions in real life might find themselves more willing, or even ready to go with their gut. The employee who is insecure about their role in their team has the freedom to make mistakes without worry – as well as the freedom to let go of controlling every aspect of a project – which gives everyone more room to grow, and at a quicker pace to boot.

These are all very transferable character traits to working in an office setting as part of a team.


“I cast feather fall.”

There’s two ways D&D promotes humility – everyone will die if they don’t work together, and in order to pretend to be a different person, you have to get over yourself.

Yes, you can do whatever you want, but that also means anything can happen. The plan you cooked up might fall apart due to one unlucky roll, the GM might surprise your party, a locked door might halt your progress.

A rope bridge might snap as you cross a chasm.

Players learn the humility to accept that bad things happen – as well as the humility of when to bow out and let someone who is more suited to a task handle it.

This goes both ways – a character with high athletics might be able to scale a wall without a hitch – but other members of their party might see it as an unsurmountable obstacle. Players need to learn how to not only pass the torch, but how to reach back down and lift each other up.

This teaches an important team building mindset – taking the time to help each other out. Often, projects miss deadlines because of a hiccup somewhere down the line – not because everyone failed at the task at hand. When your team members are willing to put their work aside for a few minutes, or even a few hours, project derailment becomes a thing of the past.

A rising tide floats all boats – but in order for this type of teamwork to consistently happen, your team members need to be humble enough to pay attention to their teammates – and be willing to “run to the roar” when something happens.

The other aspect of humility that D&D teaches is that it’s okay to be open. From an outsiders’ perspective, a session of D&D can look extremely silly – even a little crazy, depending on what’s currently happening in the land of make believe.

Pretending to be someone else in front of a bunch of professional adults is a very humbling and personal experience. But the game will implicitly teach your team that the more they are open with themselves and the other players, the deeper the story, the better the experience, and the more fun everyone has.

This is a great way to instill an inherent value for diversity amongst your team – it’s the differences in skillsets that make each character invaluable, just like without creatives and strategic thinkers, business can’t happen.

Problem Solving

“How far are we from the cliff?”

In D&D, there’s no limit to the options a player can take to solve the problem they’re presented with. This means the players are using real skills to solve pretend problems – it’s all the skill-building with none of the pressure that comes with real world issues.

There’s one caveat though – no single player can solve every problem on their own. “Don’t split the party,” isn’t just sage advice for D&D players – it’s just as poignant for businesses as well. I can’t believe I’m about to write this sentence, but synergistic collaboration is key to a successful project.

Just like in real life, in D&D, when presented with a problem, you use the tools available to you to solve said problem. The difference is, in D&D, you can be presented with problems that wouldn’t be physically possible in the real world.

When people are given the option to practice skills, such as problem-solving, in a fantastical setting, it’s not as disheartening if you make a mistake – it’s these moments of temporary failure that bring humor and flavor into the game as well.

The comfort D&D brings to a skill-building experience is essential to its ability to teach these skills. The best part is that it teaches these personal skills in a highly interpersonal setting, solidifying your team’s ability to simultaneously solve problems through…


“I give Sarah my rope.”

“I take John’s rope and tie it around one of my arrows.”

If something happens in a session of D&D, it happens to everyone. Because of this, a game of D&D can be broken down into a pretty simple formula:


Again, the medium that a session of D&D exists in plays a key role in the power of the game’s skill building. The problems the party faces aren’t mundane or tedious – they’re exciting. Sometimes terrifying, sometimes desperate, sometimes hilarious. When your (pretend) life, and the (again, pretend) lives of your teammates are on the line, it makes the lessons you learn stick that much more than a typical team-building exercise.

Players have the freedom to figure out how to solve these often (pretend) life-threatening situations, without the consequence of actual death. You get to slay dragons together. Have each other’s backs in the deepest, darkest caves. Save kingdoms, and topple evil empires.

You’d be surprised at the bond a party will build with each other – and not just in-game. You’ll find your party to be much more in-tune in real life as well.


Try out a session of D&D with your team. Downloading character sheets is free, and a set of dice is less than $5. A session of D&D can be as short as two hours. Give it a roll.

NS804 – What we’re all about

We were recently named a top boutique app developer of 2019 by Clutch. It’s kind of awkward, if we’re going to be honest. Not because we think we don’t deserve it, or aren’t honored to be included next to developers like Dogtown Media and Red Foundry – it’s just we don’t usually talk about ourselves.

If you’re a reoccurring reader, you’ll know we pitch the services of our good friend Kumulos more than we do our own. We’d much rather talk about the awesome platforms clients of our’s have invented, like Lauren Bell’s product and safety recall app, Whystle.

This leaves this blog in a sort of grey area for us, stuck in the classic PR branding kerfuffle – write about how humble you are. Awesome.

So, let’s start with the important things:

What did you do over the weekend?

Well, while everyone was enjoying the three day weekend (if you’re in the U.S. at least), we were making the most out of the time we had – with our four day weekend. Our CEO has a family he enjoys spending time with, and we all have families, hobbies, and lives in general outside of work; so we work ten hour days (none of that lunchtime not counting stuff, either), and make every weekend a three day weekend.

Our senior UX/UI designer went to a music festival in Illinois, our business developer spent the weekend soaking up sun by the pool with his family, our senior Swift developer got a new apartment, and our project manager went to Miami, Florida. I spent the weekend hanging out in my favorite city…


A few of us have been here our whole lives. Others hail from Indonesia, Boston, Colorado, California, NoVA, and Atlanta. We all found our way here by forging different paths, but NS804 brought us together. And I’m glad, because…

The people I get to work with are awesome

What do a sommelier, a wildlife rescue volunteer, a soccer coach, two dogs, and a cosplayer all have in common? They all work at NS804. We’ve got degrees from top-10-in-the-nation schools, self-taught programmers (the best kind of developer), and a CEO that’s built more successful businesses than you can count on one hand.

This is the business he always wanted to make, and when you’re here, you can tell. There’s passion present in every project we work on – not only because of the awesome ideas our clients bring to the table, but the fact that working with our CEO, and the team in general, is pretty darn fun.

We speak six different languages here at NS804, and that’s not including Swift, Java, and all the other programming languages our dev teams know. Our senior Swift developer taught herself Italian before she taught herself Swift.

And speaking of women in the workplace – our office is majority women, and in high places too. The following teams are led by women: project management, UX/UI, Swift development, accounting, HR, and content management (your’s truly).

So, thank you Clutch, for ranking us as a top boutique app developer for 2019! It means a lot – but what matters the most is that we get to do work we love, for great clients, with the people that inspire us to work harder – not to compete, but because we bring out the best in each other.

Improving inventory and supply chain management with an internal business app

Inventory management and supply chain management aren’t the flashiest of a company’s operations, nor do they seem like their efficiency could be improved by an app. But just as inventory and supply chain management are crucial to the success of a small, medium, or large business, so to are these core operations the perfect area for innovation – facilitated by an internal business app.

Ever had to search for a barcode scanner? Ever had to run off the floor to check inventory levels on a desktop computer? Is your team constantly playing catch-up at the end of the week to figure out just exactly how much of a product is left in your inventory?

An internal business app can solve these supply problems, and much more. Let’s go over how.

Common inventory management problems

What are the most common challenges inventory managers face in today’s market?

  1. Low product turnover
  2. Excess inventory
  3. Failure to keep track of stock
  4. Poor service levels
  5. Difficult identifying demand patterns
  6. Lack of visibility

Many of these challenges are amplified by the multi-channel marketplace, and the disruption of buying patterns and behaviors fueled by mobile shoppers. While these changes of scale and expected turn-around times can potentially dramatically increase a business’ profits, the rapid changes of today’s market can be difficult to keep up with, or even keep track of. It’s somewhat ironic that the mobile devices that brought about these changes are also the answer to the problems they created.

Shoppers are more efficient now than ever before – it’s time for the companies that supply the products to catch up. If a customer can see how many of a certain product remain in Amazon’s inventory, why can’t you?

You really don’t have to be Amazon to achieve that level of efficiency and inter-connectedness.

Low product turnover

Let’s face it – not everyone has the access to the amount of warehouse space that Amazon can brag about – which means warehouse space is a precious commodity, especially in a fast-paced, on-demand economy. If you’re not properly keeping track of demand, you run the risk of either running out of stock, or wasting space housing a product with little demand that could be used to hold a more popular product.

An internal business app can help here – by integrating your mobile app with your customer facing website and POS system, as well as your own internal database, every transaction is immediately tracked and reported on all of your systems. This gives multiple departments the ability to analyze customer purchasing trends more effectively and in real time – and when enhanced with analytical tracking capabilities, your system can warn you about poorly performing (or over-performing) products before they cause a speed bump in your operations.

Excess inventory

Ever order too much product? We don’t even have a warehouse, and we’re constantly dealing with the problem of finding space for all the extra water cooler refill jugs. It seems like we’re constantly bouncing between two extremes – either at the verge of an inter-office drought, or it’s monsoon season (albeit in the form of large bottle of water).

An internal app helps mitigate the risk of ordering too much product – analytics are very good at recognizing trends that wouldn’t normally be noticed. They can also even help warehouse managers find extra or unused space that could be used to store excess product.

Failure to keep track of stock

It may be a meme by this point, but modern problems do require modern solutions. With the growth of the on-demand economy, keeping track of stock with manual checks isn’t time efficient, nor as reliable as it needs to be to stay on top of fluctuating product demand.

This is a problem that’s compounded by the fact that many sales happen out in the field. Just because it’s called an internal business app doesn’t mean it’s limited to the four walls of your warehouse, showroom, or sales floor. Your sales people out connecting with and selling to clients can update your operations and inventory manager with sales they’ve made in real time.

Accounting errors add to costs – an internal app can cross-reference and compare numbers from all of your departments in real time, so when your crews are counting, you can be sure the numbers they come up with are correct.

Poor service levels

Every business knows customer satisfaction is the number one key to success, and failure to meet customers’ expectations will spell the doom of any company. Knowledge is power – and in this case, knowledgable employees means happy customers.

Internal business apps means everyone is on the same page – from your head of operations to your warehouse associates. Delivery and lead times vary depending on the product in question, and delays can lead to dissatisfied customers. An app helps optimize your inventory management operations so you don’t have to worry about a product showing up a day after it was scheduled to arrive.

Difficulty identifying demand patterns

Keeping track of demand can be made extremely difficult by continuously growing and morphing product portfolios. Product uncertainty is a very real problem these days, especially when some products have short lifecycles.

In order to stay on top of these ever-changing product portfolios, you need to use analytics tools. With an app, you can keep these tools in the warehouse rather than an office, therefore bringing more efficiency to your operations.

Lack of visibility

With a global market, accurate supply chain management is crucial to your success. An internal business app can help with that facet of your business’s operations as well. Let’s look into how.

Common supply chain management problems

Getting the right product to the right place at the right time is – to put it mildly – complicated.

Cost control

The most successful method for reducing operating costs is to make those operations more efficient. Shaving a second here or there can have a huge and lasting impact on your overall expenses.

We’ve used it as an example before, but it’s a well-used example for a reason: consider the decision of UPS to not make left turns; they invested in a software that mapped the United States (as well as most of the world), in order to nearly eradicate left turns from their parcel delivery truck routes. This decision ended up saving the company over 20 million gallons of fuel every year – those seconds it takes to make a left turn add up – and in the same manner as UPS, shaving off seconds from your warehouse operations can save your business a significant amount of capital.

When your entire team are receiving real time updates to incoming and outgoing product deliveries, and collectively can work together to achieve the same goal faster – they are no longer forced to carry a clipboard around to manually keep track of products.

With rising fuel, energy, and freight costs, compounded by a much larger International customer base, having a system that can plan efficient routes is essential to cutting expenditures.

Labor rates are also on the rise (which is a good thing!) – but that means every second spent keeping track of inventory is precious – and those seconds could be better utilized in other areas of the warehouse. With an internal business app, your employees have more time to do what they were hired to do, rather than keep track of shipments and product numbers.

Supplier and partner relationship management

Miscommunication can be a major roadblock to efficient operations. In order for your supply chain to effectively get a product from point A to point B to point C, everyone in every step of the process needs to adhere to mutually agreed standards of operations. This is especially important when assessing your operations in order to understand current performance levels, as well as finding room for improvement in your operations.

When every employee is in the know, and literally on the same page, this standard is simple to stick to. While this can be achieved through a mixture of communication methods, such as web portals, cloud storage, and email, having more than one form of communication results in wasted time and effort on everyone’s parts.

An internal app keeps all communication and analysis in the same place.

Finding talent

Like we stated at the beginning of this blog, inventory and supply chain management aren’t the flashiest of business operations. This is a big reason many employers find it hard to find and identify interested and qualified talent.

An internal app helps solve this issue via two different fronts: making the job more attractive, and lowering the acceptable knowledge threshold.

Any supply chain manager worth their salt needs an extensive understanding of every facet of your supply chain. With an internal inventory and supply chain management app, the burden of knowledge is reduced because it’s so much simpler to keep track of data – analytics can identify demand patterns before even seasoned supply chain managers would, and products are automatically tracked and updated throughout every system simultaneously.

This also helps to make positions more attractive. 70% of the workforce in the U.S. is disengaged – and one of the major reasons for this is lack of direction. An internal business app gives new employees the direction and knowledge they want, therefore increasing your employee retention and acquisition.

Apps aren’t just for consumers

We hope this blog gave you some ideas as to how an internal business app can improve your inventory and supply chain management. If so, keep an eye out for more ideas on how your business can improve its efficiency and bottom line with an internal business app!

How to build a mobile app: Actionable apps

Did you know that within the first three days of an app being downloaded, 77% of the users who downloaded it have already deleted it from their device?

It doesn’t get any better with time, either – after a month, 90% of users will have abandoned the app. There’s many reasons for this – ranging from the app taking up too much storage space, to unresolved bugs like crashes causing users frustration, enough of which leads to the users switching to another, more reliable app.

For a lot of app publishers however, the problem isn’t user acquisition – it’s user retention. Sometimes it’s for the reasons listed above, but unfortunately, it’s quite often due to the app not providing anything solid for its users to act upon.

Actions speak louder than words

There are many tools you can use to drive user engagement through action – too many to cover completely. And for a lot of apps, the pain points they solve are unique, and therefore use toolsets tailor-made to the particular problem they are designed to solve.

There are, however, general categories of CTAs you can use to drive your app’s user engagement:

  • Tools
  • Push notifications
  • Empowerment
  • Limited time offers and other classic CTAs

Actionable tools

Sometimes, the only thing you need to make an actionable app is a good idea. These can come in many forms – apps like Uber solve a particular pain point brilliantly, Instagram gives users the tools to make every photo look good, and games like long-gone Flappybird toe the line perfectly between simplistic, eye-catching, and just downright fun.

All of these apps listed above are million dollar ideas, or to be more accurate, multi-million (or even billion) dollar ideas. If you’ve come up with a truly ground breaking solution that effects a wide ranging audience before anyone else, or you solve a common pain point better than anyone else, your app fits into this category. After acquisition, you’ve got little to worry about – your app will drive it’s own user engagement.

Not every app built from a good idea will achieve this rockstar status, however – and shouldn’t be compared to giants like Uber. Taxis have been a widespread thing in even the smallest of towns for a long time – Uber just provided a smoother user experience. The whole ride share industry is booming due to its enormous demand – everyone needs some form of transportation, whether it’s a car, bike, or scooter.

Some good ideas focus on smaller market segments – and that’s not a bad thing. A smaller market segment means a close-knit tribe to engage with. Take, for example, Whystle. It’s an app that provides its users with alerts about product and safety recalls announced from government agencies like the FDA or FTC, and the industries they regulate.

While an app like that won’t appeal to as many people as an app like Instagram, Whystle solves a pain point facing many users – health and safety conscious consumers no longer have to scour a multitude of websites for news about recalls – they can just open up Whystle and scroll through a list in a matter of seconds.

Creating an inherently actionable app is the hardest type of actionable app to achieve; but the best way to go about this isn’t to search for a moment of inspiration – it’s all about doing market research, identifying a pain point that has yet to be solved by an app, and then figuring out how to make an app that provides the solution.

For more tips about app ideation, check out our blog on the topic.

On the other side of the coin, you can look at what apps are doing well, and then provide the same tools for a different segment of that market. Think of Uber vs. Lyft.

The equation behind any successful app that serves users as a tool is: pain point + solution + user experience + ASO = high user retention and acquisition.

Push notifications

Push notifications are a powerful CTA tool – they can increase user retention by up to 180%, and users that opt in to push notifications engage with apps 88% more than those who don’t.

The trick is to remember that a push notification will almost 100% of the time be seen as an interruption to your users – the only time it wouldn’t be is if the user is currently navigating to open up your app.

Due to their inherently disruptive nature, push notifications must always have at least one of the following traits (and optimally, both):

  • Provides an immediately tangible benefit
  • Is a personalized reminder or offer

Sending spammy or plain broadcasted push notifications to your users doesn’t have the same impact as personalized ones – broadcasted push notifications have an engagement rate of 15%, while personalized more than triple that with an engagement rate of 54%. Take the time to analyze your user data and craft personalized messages for push notifications – it will pay off.

Look at user metrics like the time of day they engage with your app, the countries they live in, the device they use, the products or content they click on, and then make messages specific to those interests. If you have a segment of users that live in Portugal, craft them messages in Portuguese. If they’ve looked at a specific product a few times and then left their session, send them a push notification with a 5% off code for that product.

The more personal the better. They can also be used to make the most out of a bad situation – for instance, if a user experiences a crash while using your app, send them a push notification apologizing for the issue, and that you’re working to fix it. This kind of personal engagement gives you a much better chance at retaining the user after a bad experience.

An easy way to keep track and make sense of personalized user data is with an analytics platform like Kumulos. Kumulos also gives you a platform to both send out and analyze the results of personalized push notifications.

Due to geofencing and location services, push notifications can now be more personalized and poignant than ever with proximity marketing. These can be used to engage users when they are near a physical location pertinent to your app; for example, if you ran an e-bike service, you could send a user a push notification when they are within two blocks from a bike station.

For more information about proximity marketing check out our guest blog on the topic by Kumulos Marketing Manager Caroline McClelland.


These are apps that somewhat fall into the tool category, but rather than providing a service or tool, give users encouragement to complete tasks. This can be achieved in many different ways; an exercise app can keep track of a users gains or times in order to demonstrate their accomplishments, or a sandwich shop can use an app to keep track of how many lunches a customer has had, and reward them for every tenth meal purchased.

Apps that empower their users like this will often see high engagement – they give users a goal to continuously strive towards – whether it’s losing weight or buying that tenth turkey club. In order to check their progress, users have to open up your app, which consequently leads to higher engagement.

Limited time offers and other classic CTAs

Most marketing and sales tactics are transferrable to apps, and the most common channel for these strategies is through push notifications. Let’s revisit that proximity marketing example – not only can you alert a user that your service is close to their current location, you can make the offer even more enticing by adding fear of loss into the mix: Hey, we noticed you’re close to one of our scooter stations, but there’s only 2 left! Hurry before they’re all gone!

These tactics don’t have to be applied to only push notifications, however. Other digital mediums like newsletters, social media, the app store, and any other channel you engage users through can be used to promote limited time offers.

Personalization and user benefit

Those two features are the bottom line to creating an actionable app. Create pertinent CTAs that provide users with an immediate benefit – whether it’s through the tools your app provides, push notifications, or encouraging the completion of goals. Remember to specifically tailor your CTAs to both your brand and the users you’re engaging with, and don’t be afraid to try new things, as long as you follow the golden rule of user engagement – engage users like friends, not like customers.

Improving your business operations and culture with an internal app

Very rarely does a change in your business’ process relate to a boost throughout the entirety of your company’s systems and departments – and you’d be right to be wary of anyone claiming to be able to facilitate such sweeping reform.

But there is one change you can make that will increase your company’s efficiency, communication, collaboration, training, and employee retention, as well as inventory management, accounting, service, and sales – all of these facets of your business can be improved simultaneously by creating an internal mobile app for your employees and operations.

Most companies understand the power of reaching out to their audiences using a consumer-facing mobile app. Global mobile traffic hovers at around 50% of all internet usage, and 82% of all mobile users in the U.S. made at least one online purchase through their mobile device as of December 2017. Out of all that mobile traffic, 90% comes from time spent using apps.

Stats like these are compelling – and make for good figures to show to board rooms. But here’s another stat to consider: A study conducted by the Society of Human Resource Management found that large corporations (~100,000 employees) reported an average loss of $62.4 million per year due to miscommunication, and small companies (<100 employees) on average report a loss of $420,000 a year for the same reason.

Those are the direct opposite of insignificant figures. Let’s look into the various ways a mobile app can boost your business’ bottom line and employee culture at the same time.

Improve your employees’ communication consistency

Have you ever called an employee’s phone, and not gotten an answer? Of course you have. Does your team struggle to keep on top of emails from other team members? More than likely, at least sometimes.

With your own internal app, you can keep all communication under one roof – a good way to ensure employees with multiple emails or phone numbers are kept in the loop. This also helps keep past conversations organized, which makes referencing data supplied by co-workers a much faster process for employees working on a project or being trained, lessening the amount of interruption in workflow they face on a daily, hourly, or even minute-by-minute basis.

Workers switching between programs or even devices might not seem like the massive time sink that it actually is – but consider the decision of UPS to not make left turns; they invested in a software that mapped the United States (as well as most of the world), in order to nearly eradicate left turns from their parcel delivery truck routes. This decision ended up saving the company over 20 million gallons of fuel every year – those seconds it takes to make a left turn add up, and the same is for employees waiting for that one program that always takes so long to boot up.

Email is the left turn of inter-office communication. An app keeps everyone, at all times (at least during work hours), in real-time communication with each other – no delays or time spent finding someone.

Your internal app doesn’t have to be limited to the four walls of your office, either – we actually include our clients in their own specific channel in order to ensure clear and quick communication, as well as transparency in the development process. Our business developer regularly sends us photos of cool things happening in the city during his client meet ups – or a photo of his passenger seat laden with donuts on their way back to the office.

If you work in collaboration with any outside teams, agencies, or freelancers, or have a sales or service team in the field, a mobile app keeps them in constant communication as well.

Communication is the key to a strong & collaborative culture

Everyone likes being heard – and from reasons ranging from remote workers to introverted employees, it can be difficult for some of your employees’ voices to be recognized. According to a Gallup poll, 70% of the work force is disengaged – and reasons reported include:

  • Lack of feedback or direction from their manager
  • Lack of socialization with their team
  • Lack of understanding of their company’s mission and values
  • Lack of proper communication between them and their manager

All of these issues can easily be solved with an internal business app. For example, a few months ago, I experienced a death in my family; in the following weeks, the messages and encouragement I would receive from our CEO and my team members were enormously beneficial to my productivity, my well being, and my connection to NS804.

All of our communication is done through this channel. The connection it provides is the backbone of our culture – it’s surprising how empty even a small office can feel without some form of instant communication available.

Our CEO can randomly quiz us on our core principles, and give out rewards to the person who responds the fastest; non-punitive competitions like this help keep employees engaged with your core values, promote healthy, lighthearted conversations between managers and employees, and empower introverted team members that might not be comfortable shouting out “Humble, passionate, unified, grateful, service!” in the conference room.

It’s a level playing field for all types of communication, and keeps employees focused on your goals, and engaged with the work necessary to achieve them. Remember that figure of 70% of the work force being disengaged from their employer? They cost organizations $450 – $500 billion annually – with an internal business app, those organizations could re-engage with a portion of that 70%. Even an employee engagement rate increase of 10% would be equivalent to a $50 billion increase in revenue for those organizations.

That’s not a paltry sum.


An internal business app doesn’t just provide your employees with a new way to talk to each other – it gives them the knowledge and tools of your entire company – and it’s all just a few inputs away.

There’s one word that will make any retail or manufacturing company shiver: inventory.

Between your accounting, sales, and service departments, there’s bound to be a discrepancy in numbers eventually – or, for example, a service employee could grab a part from your stock for a customer in your store, but accounting isn’t made aware of it in time to warn your sales rep that they can only guarantee that new client of yours 49 parts instead of the 50 they were just promised.

An internal business app can stop those handshakes from happening. With an internal business app, your business developer will never again make promise your company can’t keep because you’re one part short from a full order – instead, they’ll impress their client with: “Oh, looks like we just had another sale from that lot. I can get you the partial order right now for a discounted price, or get that order to you in full tomorrow.”

When a client sees that your business developer is that in tune with your company, and that knowledgeable about your capabilities, they are subtly shown that your company will be the most attentive to their needs. Rather than saying, “We take care of our clients,” you can show them in real time.

Internal business apps give these systems (inventory management, accounting, service, and sales) the ability to work off of the same number sets, the same SKUs, and the same reports. If your service department accesses inventory, accounting, sales, and the inventory manager are made aware of the change instantly. With the growing on-demand economy, the ability to report accurate numbers in real time will be imperative to your growth and success.

Internal business apps boost your workflow, make you more adaptable, and improve your client and customer relations

Mobile apps have undoubtably had an enormous impact on the way customers and clients engage with businesses – the companies that migrated to mobile engagement are reaping the rewards right now. The same will be true for companies that utilize internal business apps – they will be more efficient, providing a better customer experience, and they’ll boost employee retention and culture.

A company that boasts high customer and employee satisfaction? That’s one that I’d bet on.

Richmond Inno’s Tech Madness

When we first heard we were officially nominated to be a competitor in Richmond Inno’s Tech Madness, we were honestly floored. While we’re proud of our work culture, our partners’ ideas, and the apps we build, we do our best to remain humble – when you’re a small tech company, there’s no time to pat yourself on the back. You either stay hungry, or you go by the wayside.

Out of our five guiding principles, being humble is the first and most important tenant we stick by, so it’s a little weird to write a blog post such as this – but another guiding principle of ours is to always remain grateful – for every opportunity, every learning experience, every client – and especially, when others appreciate our work.

When we saw the line up of amazing companies we would be competing against, we were honored to be included among them – and to be a frank, a little hesitant to hope for much in terms of advancement in Richmond Inno’s Tech Madness bracket.

Our first round of competition had us paired up with ARtGlass – an innovative company with a truly amazing vision for AR implementation in cultural sites like art galleries, museums, and historical landmarks. It was honestly difficult to post on social media asking for our followers to vote – this whole event is based around who you would invest in, and I’d invest in ARtGlass.

They were a number one seed, and we were just happy to be included. And then, we were in round two, the sweet sixteen.

There was a lot of celebration on our Slack office channel the next morning – but then everyone quickly got back to work – we live and die by sticking to an unending push forward, after all.

Our next competitor was SSUPP Foods – another company doing great things for RVA. They make plant based, vegan, gluten free dips packed with essential nutrients (and flavor) using a sustainable farming method that is both quick (an incredible 7-day growth cycle) and a lot less impactful on the environment than conventional farming methods. Not to mention, this is all done indoors in an urban environment – they’re truly solving the issues civilization will face in the future when it comes to the effects of climate change on agriculture and food production.

Sustainability is something we as a company (and individuals) care about deeply, so it was with a humble heart that we asked our social followers to once again vote for us. It was a close race, but we won the round. We took a moment to once again congratulate ourselves, and the “Tada!” Emoji on our Slack office channel was utilized plentifully on the morning of the 20th. But yet again, it was back to work – mobile development waits for no one.

And now, it’s the final day of Richmond Inno’s Elite 8. We’re up against TraceRX, a supply chain management company that provides tracking from start to finish with their app that uses cloud computing and secure blockchain to empower humanitarian aid workers, and provide them with a tool that helps organize and manage their important and essential mission.

Another truly amazing company – just like every competitor in Tech Madness. There’s a little over ten hours left in this round, and no matter the outcome of the votes, we’re humbled to have made it this far, passionate about our current projects and our ideas for the future, unified in our vision, grateful to be included among such amazing RVA companies, and excited to continue providing our fantastic partners with a service that helps them build great apps.

UPDATE: We’re in the Semi-Finals!

We’re floored! Once again, we didn’t expect to make it out of the Elite 8 (especially up against an amazing venture like TraceRX), but here we are! TraceRX, we’re sad to see you go – you have a truly impactful mission for good. We’re now paired with Occasion Genius, a powerhouse in Richmond. No matter what happens, we’re honored to have gotten this far! Thank you to everyone who has voted for us, and Richmond Inno for putting on this amazing event!


App Trends – If we were going to build an app, what would it be?

So, I’ve been writing content for NS804 for about six months now (congrats, me!), and for four of those months, I’ve had a singular question written at the top of my cubicle’s whiteboard:

What is the number one question people ask about making apps?

It’s a question I’ve been mulling over when I’m trying to sleep at night, and it’s something I try to consider during all of my content ideation. But it’s a pretty open-ended, context-subjective query.

I’m not even attempting to say I figured it out – I believe it’s an important question to continuously ask because it’s so chase-able and mutable. But I do think the subject of this blog post, at the very least, skims the surface.

The insider’s perspective

Just because I’ve only been creating content for NS804 for six months doesn’t mean I only have access to six months worth of mobile development experience – we’ve been around since 2012, after all.

I wanted to write a piece about app trends (which, if you’re looking for more content relating to current trends of the mobile market, check out this fantastic blog post by Kumulos’ Marketing Manager, Caroline McClelland). I also wanted to at least try to answer this question I’ve been chasing continuously.

So, in my best attempt to answer this previously posed question, I grabbed our CEO, Nick Jones, in our motivational poster-lined hall and asked, “If you were going to make an app, what would it be?”

Without hesitation, he responded with “On-Demand.” He’s a man of few, but pertinent words.

I also proposed the same question to our Business Development Manager, Jon Osborn. As his headphones blasted Biggie in the background (turn the volume down, Jon! Your poor ears!), he answered with:

“Enterprise AR, Process Consolidation (think a master platform), and games.”

So, let’s talk about those.

On-Demand apps

“Wait,” you might find yourself thinking. “On-demand isn’t trendy. Uber was 2009.”

And you’d be right about that – but just because the taxi service industry was flipped upside down a decade ago, doesn’t mean every industry has had its own shake-up. Both millennials and Gen Z have incredibly high purchasing power (in the billions), and love on-demand services – I might belong to the “industry-killing” millennial generation, but I would tout it’s much more accurate to say we like what we like, and we don’t what we don’t. I’ve always failed to see why “the customer is always right” doesn’t apply to millennials for some reason. The inability to adapt spelled the doom of the dinosaurs, just as it’ll spell the doom of Applebee’s. But, I’ve gone on a tangent.

There’s more ground to cover in the on-demand industry than just transportation and entertainment. The amount of service-based sectors that could evolve to work within an on-demand business model is truly staggering – and that’s why it’s expected to become a $335 billion industry by 2025.

The on-demand business model is the greatest boon to local and small businesses since, well, anything. On-demand services benefit from an intensely personal relationship to the consumer, so smaller companies actually have a leg up when compared to big box retailers and the like. Small companies with low overhead also have a strong potential to tailor their services to the demands of an on-demand business model, unlike their larger counterparts.

This isn’t to say large companies can implement their own on-demand services – just look at Kroger’s Pickup. The difference is, however, the potential for growth. If you’re a small business owner, this is the time to build an app to create an on-demand service within your business. It might seem like a heavy investment, but the payoff is worth it.

Millennials don’t like talking on the phone. It takes a lot of time, it’s not conducive to accurate dissemination of information, and it’s not on-demand enough. If your business uses phone calls to communicate with customers in any step of your funnel, you can implement an on-demand form of communication for booking, delivery, or any other service. If millennials are given the chance to place an order online or through an app versus over the phone, they’ll go with the online order every time – even if it takes a little longer.

Enterprise AR

This isn’t the first time I’ve written about AR at the enterprise level, and it certainly won’t be the last. Right now, with a lack of truly pervasive and useful wearables, AR or MxR isn’t entirely ready to make a splash. This is, however, soon to change; wearables are on the rise, and MxR headsets like Microsoft’s HoloLens 2 are soon going to be making waves in the manufacturing industry.

If you want to get ahead of the game with an evergreen, scalable app, go with AR. Once companies realize AR’s potential to dramatically cut training costs, improve worker efficiency, and increase quality, everyone is going to want an AR app to enhance their potential revenue.

Most of the logic behind AR apps is adaptable to many situations, so it’s incredibly scalable. If you build out your logic now, your business could focus on front end development for AR apps, and basically re-brand your backend to fit with the needs of your current client.

The “master platform” app

Time is money. That’s nothing new – but the potential to streamline a business’ internal processes has never been greater.

A master platform app is the perfect way to cut through the chaff of running a business – your accountants can access their books on their desktops, while your sales team can jot down and track leads through their phones, and your customer service reps can engage customers on their POS.

With one platform containing all of these different systems, it cuts down on training time, subscription fees, and time wasted transferring data between incompatible enterprise services.

The best part is, just like AR apps, the backend of a master platform app would largely be the same between one company or another, so it too is scalable.


There’s nothing trendy about games, per se. Gaming trends come about with the advancement of technology – from mancala to jacks, to Pac Man and Flappybird.

There is a new trend coming about with mobile devices, however – foldable phones. This will be a huge boost for the UX of mobile games – right now, mobile games need to account for the fact that at least a quarter of the device’s screen will be blocked by the users’ thumbs. This will all change with foldable phones.

With the ability to interact with two screens, one can be dedicated to controls, opening up the possibility for more intricate or challenging game design. Visuals will also be enhanced as an entire screen can now be dedicated solely to display, rather than acting as a hybrid between visuals and control schemes.

The clamshell design is the optimal design for mobile (what was previously called hand-held) gaming – Nintendo adopted this style with the Gameboy SP in 2003, and with the release of the first generation DS three years later, solidified the UX of this design. Nintendo has been creating addicting games that utilize two screens in truly inspiring ways – and now mobile gaming will have the ability to do the same.

If you’ve been considering making a mobile game, but have been overwhelmed by the amount of saturation in the mobile gaming market, think about what you could do with a foldable phone. Many existent games will attempt to adapt their current UI to foldable phones, but it’ll be the games that were made with two screens in mind that will truly shine.

Think about the user

Trends are called trends for a reason – they’re not permanent, nor fool-proof rules. Whenever you’re in the process of ideation for a mobile app, always focus on achieving one goal – solving your users’ pain point. Nothing is as powerful (or profitable) as an app that creates a positive change in your users’ lives, and that’s not a trend – it’s human nature.

How & when to monetize your app

When we’re speaking with clients about their app, there’s one question that pops up more than platforms, UX, features, and maybe even development cost: How will my app make money?

For good reason too – it’s an important question to ask – apps need to make money somehow. Fortunately, there’s lots of ways to monetize your app:

  • Advertising
  • Initial install cost
  • Freemium content
  • Subscriptions
  • In-app purchasing
  • In-app currency
  • Sponsorships

We’re going to get into each of these methods in a second, but first, we need to ask another important question: When is the right time to monetize your app? We’ll look into that after we go over the different ways you can monetize your app.


If implemented correctly, ads can bring a lot of profit to your mobile app. This is the most common form of monetization within apps, and for those with large user bases, it can be remarkably profitable. There’s a lot more methods to advertising than the classic banner ad:

  • Interstitial – Fullscreen ads that appear during natural transition points, usually between two different screens in an app
  • Video
  • Native – These are ads that appear to be built into (or native content of) the app – like LinkedIn’s in-feed advertising
  • Rewarded ads

The trick to advertising within your app is making sure the ads both demand a user’s attention and mesh with the UX simultaneously. This can be achieved in a number of ways, a classic example being only selling ad space on your app to companies that offer services or goods your users would be interested in.

Possibly one of the most interesting forms of advertising is rewarded ads. With an eCPM of $16 on iOS, these ads have a very low CPC compared to other methods of advertising. Rewarded ads accept that users really don’t want to be bothered or interrupted by ads – and because of this awareness, they reward the user for viewing them with in-app currency, discounts, extra content, and many other digital rewards. Due to their self-aware nature, rewarded ads see the highest engagement and conversions when compared to other forms of advertising.

Initial install cost

For a lot of apps, an up-front install cost is going to stifle your growth. There are a few types of apps users are willing to pay for, however:

  • Health and wellness
  • Fitness
  • Productivity
  • Specialized services

ASO plays a huge role in convincing users to pay to download your app. As we’ve gone over before, keywords are your key to success on the App Store and Google Play. Your in-store efforts should work in tandem with your website’s SEO and Adwords campaign – utilizing the same keywords for both SEO and ASO gives you a better chance at capturing and funneling users into download conversions.

One thing to keep in mind is that if this is the only method of monetization your app utilizes, your user base must continually grow, or your profits will stagnate. Only the top performing apps really see a huge profit from downloads. For example, in Q1 of 2018, almost 20% of apps on Android saw 10-50 downloads total, while the top 0.1% saw over 5 million – a huge discrepancy.

Freemium content & subscriptions

Both of these methods of monetization work using the same general idea; show your users what there is to offer, get them hooked, and then ask them to pay for more. It’s try before you buy with apps.

Free trials that allow users to explore an app for a set amount of days work well for both consumer facing and internal business apps. If your app’s UX is strong and solves your users’ pain point (and they’ve had enough time to associate your app as the solution), getting them to subscribe is easier than you’d think. You can even have different levels of subscriptions, to catch a wider range of users – some may not need a “premium” package, but still want to use other features in your app.

Subscription based apps are great for audiences that might not grow, but engage. If your app has less than a thousand users, but every user is paying $10 a month, that’s a lot better than one thousand 99 cent downloads.

Freemium content can be a little trickier. This is a careful balancing act – your app must have enough free features to draw users in, and show your app’s value in their lives, but leave them wanting more. Just enough to keep them coming back, but with the promise of a better UX if they pay for it. This is a popular way to monetize your app – 64% of users of freemium mobile games make a purchase every month.

This method works very well with consumer facing apps like mobile games – a few levels or missions can be offered as a demo of sorts, which gets your users hooked by the gameplay or storyline, and then (when the app holds perceived value with the user), you offer them more.

In-app purchasing & in-app currency

Both in-app purchases and in-app currency are fantastic ways to monetize consumer-facing apps, especially games. One great aspect of in-app purchases is that they actually rank for keywords in the App Store, which can be a tremendous boost to your ASO efforts.

In-app purchases can be a one-time deal, or last throughout the user’s lifetime of engaging with the app. For example, a user could purchase a new costume or skin for their character that would be available to switch out at any time, or they could purchase actual in-game items that are depleted once used. Both are very tempting options for gamers.

In-app currency works much in the same manner – but these purchases are only consumable – meaning once they’re purchased and then used, they’re gone. Think $10 = 1000 coins, or whatever conversion rate makes sense for your mobile game. Just like tiered subscriptions, offering multiple packages at different price ranges is a great way to catch more conversions.


If your app has a decent sized user base with high engagement, but is still struggling to turn a profit, you might want to consider sponsorships. Unlike ads – which are constantly changing, utilize different tactics to grab attention, and sometimes interrupt the UX and flow of an app – sponsorships are an unobtrusive way to advertise a company’s brand.

This is what happened with Runkeeper, an app that tracks workouts and rewards runners based on their fitness goals. Asics, seeing the value of the engagement users had with the app, sponsored it, giving them a continuous stream of users associating their brand with an app that was a part of their daily lives, and brought a great method of monetization to Runkeeper.

When to monetize your app

This is the most important question of all when coming up with ways to monetize your app. And, unfortunately, like most important questions, there’s no concrete answer. Users are fickle, and they’re more likely to delete your app than engage with it. Put yourself in your users’ shoes; would the method of monetization you’re considering interrupt the UX? Would it tarnish their relationship with your app? Do the ads bring extra value to the solution your app provides? Is your monetization pertinent to your app? Do you expect to grow rapidly, or slowly, but with high user engagement?

These are all great questions to ask, and one of the best ways to find out is with A/B testing. What happens to user retention when you add a sponsor to your app? Do users exit your app after being presented with an interstitial ad?

Don’t be afraid to test out different methods – but make sure they make sense.

How to find the perfect mobile app developer

So, you’re an appreneur (or a CTO), and you want to make an app. Great! Do you already have a development partner? If yes, even better!

If you answered “no,” don’t worry. We’re going to go over everything you need to know and do to find the perfect developer, just for your specific needs.

Before you get into the trenches and start your search for a developer, it’s important to ask yourself a few questions:

  1. What do I want my app to accomplish?
  2. What platform(s) do I want my app to be on?
  3. What is my competition?
  4. What is my time table?
  5. What is my budget?

Once you can answer these questions, you’re ready to move to the next step – finding a development partner. But first, let’s delve into the reasoning behind these questions.

What do I want my app to accomplish?

This is probably the most important question you can ask yourself, as it sets the stage for all the questions that follow. You should be able to describe what your app does in no more than two sentences. For example:

I want to make an AR app that expedites the training of my technicians and assists them with diagnostics while on the job-site.

What platforms do I want my app to be on?

This question is important to ask; as development, publishing, available markets, and user behavior can (and does) vary wildly between the two main platforms, Android and iOS.

While this question is largely based upon what you want your app to accomplish, there are a few factors to consider when deciding the best answer to this question:

  • In the U.S., Android owns 54.6% of the market, and iOS owns 44.4% (Android is the clear winner globally)
  • More iOS users purchase apps than Android users (11.82% vs. 5.76%)
  • iOS apps have a higher retention rate than Android (1% to 3% higher)
  • Android has a lower publishing cost than iOS (Android has a one-time-fee, iOS is yearly)
  • iOS development is cheaper than Android (by about 30%)

For more information, check out our Android and iOS dev pages, as well as a deep look into iOS development (we’ll be going over Android development soon).

What is my competition?

Knowledge is power. Knowing what you’re up against is a huge boost for your app – while researching your competitors, you can see what works for them, tailor it to your app’s brand, and do it better. If one of your competitors has a high user rating score and good reviews, download it. Take the time to use their app, and take note of features you’d like to include in your own, as well as ways to improve upon your competitor’s flow.

If you’ve searched and found no competition, you might want to consider starting with an MVP, to capitalize on your untapped market.

What is my time table?

The answer to this question is largely dependent on what you want your app to accomplish. A simple app can take less than six months to develop from inception to launch, while a complex app can take upwards of a year.

If you want to get to market ASAP, your best bet is an MVP.

What is my budget?

Again, this is largely dependent on what you want your app to accomplish. A complex app usually costs over $500,000, and simple apps can cost less that $37,500. A few things to keep in mind before setting your budget are:

  • Each feature adds to the overall cost
  • Certain features, like backend integration or heavy graphics have a higher cost
  • Simple apps on average take 250 hours to develop, medium take 1,000, and a complex apps’ development time can take 5,000 hours.

For more information about how to formulate a budget, check out our blog post on the topic. For a personalized estimate for your own app idea, use our mobile app cost calculator.

All of these questions are necessary to answer before you speak to a developer. This will help you communicate more effectively with your developer, and they’ll be able to give you a more accurate estimate about time and cost based upon your answers.

For example, let’s say you want that AR diagnostic app to include a backend data set linked to a server so you can access system data in real time, but you only have a budget of $50,000. Your developer would be able to address these issues before making headway into the project, reducing the chance of wasted, sunken costs.

Don’t use Google to find developers

There are already companies dedicated to finding developers for you. Two sources you can trust are Clutch and The Manifest. There are a lot of sites out there that showcase development companies – but these two you can trust, as they use information from a developer’s client history, client reviews, and ability to deliver in order to determine rankings, rather than a payment hierarchy method.

If you’re already working with a developer who’s not ranked on Clutch or The Manifest, and they’re a good partner, don’t fret – personal experiences should always be weighed over site rankings. You might, however, want to tell your development partner about these sites, as they are just as beneficial for developers as they are for clients.

Using Clutch

Clutch gives you the ability to find developers, set what parameters you want to use to find them (by platform, vertical, or location), and provides you with a breakdown of that developer – from client reviews to service lines, industry focus to what types of business they’ve worked with in the past.

Clutch Profile

Shown above is an example from our Clutch profile of how information is presented on the site

Clutch also hosts a blog where you can find information covering everything from B2B marketing to ASO and beyond.

A nice feature Clutch offers are badges, which developers can display on their site to show that they’re trustworthy. If you see a developer with a Clutch badge, they mean business, and you can rest assured they know what they’re doing.

Clutch Badges

Shown above is an example of our Clutch badges

Using The Manifest

The Manifest operates in largely the same manner as Clutch. The Manifest offers industry leader shortlists, and a blog (that we’ve been featured on!) hosting great thought pieces and business advice.

The Manifest listing

Like Clutch, The Manifest will offer a short bio and client history for each development firm, so you can get a feel for what each developer brings to the table.

And with that…

You’re all set! Happy hunting!

Just remember that you’re always going to have questions – and that’s okay. A good developer will either have an answer for you, or do what they can to find one. Most importantly, your personal preference and business needs should always be taken into account, and if a website is telling you x is the better choice, but you have a good feeling about y, go with your gut.

Out-of-the-box tools you can use to make a targeted ASO campaign

A trend we see a lot in this industry are great ideas with no legs. Sometimes it’s for the usual reasons – lack of monetary investment, insufficient market research, or a belief that anything is possible with tech – but all too often, the hurdle that’s most difficult to cross for an appreneur (or even a large company for that matter) is planning how their app will succeed once it’s on the App Store or Google Play.

What to expect:

  • A quick look into how and why combining ASO with SEO campaigns is a strategy for success and efficiency
  • An instructional tour of SEO tools Answer the Public and Keywords Everywhere, and how to merge these into your ASO campaigns

Plan your ASO now

The app store is a big and scary place for a fledgling app – and it’s all too easy for your great idea to drown in the seas of the App Store and Google Play. ASO (App Store Optimization) is not only your app’s lifeline, however – it’s the vehicle for your app’s growth. Your ASO efforts should constantly evolve with trends in the marketplace – but setting a solid foundation before your app is launched can save you the trouble of future headaches.

While still relatively new, ASO is as important to your app’s success as SEO is to your website’s, (to be fair, SEO is still new when compared to traditional marketing channels) and should be treated with the same care as your company’s brand. ASO, in fact, is your branding and the channel simultaneously.

I like to think of the App Store or Google Play like a giant mall – stores in a mall use signage to draw in customers, and then provide a unique experience for shoppers while they’re in the store. ASO works in pretty much the same manner – apps use keywords and their icon to entice users to look at their page on the App Store, and the page itself serves to provide those users with a unique look into what their app offers, and how it can help them solve a particular pain point.

That’s the driving force behind every app – a pain point. It’s almost too simple to look at apps everyone knows about and determine the pain point they were created to solve; Uber wanted to give users the ability to hail a cab without waiting for one to find them first, AirBnB gave travelers a network to find affordable accommodations in expensive areas, and WhatsApp was made to serve as an all-in-one communications channel for voice, video, text, and almost any form of media under the sun.

All of these apps have grown in scope and functionality, but their adherence to providing a specific solution to their original pain point remains, undoubtably due to their market research. The market research findings that dictate the pain point your app focuses on should also dictate what your ASO focuses on.

This is why when you’re conducting your own market research, and you’re entrenched in campaign ideation, it’s the perfect time to plan your ASO. You can then directly utilize your market research findings and implement them into your ASO campaign. There are plenty of ways to do this, such as classic market research tools like focus groups or surveys, but there are a lot of online services that can help jumpstart your ASO campaign, and provide insight into your customer profile. We’ll cover two:

  • Answer the Public – This is an SEO tool first, and an ASO tool second. Luckily, what works for one usually works for the other.
  • Keywords Everywhere – This is used to provide insight into specific keywords’ value and competition. Again, this is an SEO tool, but it’s just as valuable for ASO.

So how do SEO tools help my ASO campaign?

Ever since the advent of Google, the idea of searching has morphed into “Googling,” and people tend to use the search function of any site or service in much the same way as they would Google.

According to MOZ’s Beginner’s Guide to SEO, (the best SEO resource out there) people use the search function in three main ways:

  • To do something – A user would search “buy hiking shoes” to find different options of hiking shoes to purchase.
  • To learn something – A user would search “what are the best hiking shoes” to find out what hikers are saying about different brands.
  • To go somewhere – A user would search “Made-up Brand hiking shoes” to go directly to an online store.

People on the App Store or Google Play largely use the app store’s search function in the same way. Searches on the App Store and Google Play generally fall into the “do something” and “go somewhere” categories.

According to Statista, while the largest channel for app discovery is through the search function of the App Store and Google Play, more apps are discovered from channels outside of the App Store and Google Play. These channels (ordered from highest percentage of discovery to lowest) include:

  • Friends and family
  • Social Media
  • News, reviews, and shows
  • Websites
  • Web Ads
  • Traditional Ads

All in all, those six channels account for 58% of all app discovery, and out of those six, five are influenced by SEO.

Answer the Public

So, let’s say you’re working on an app that sells hiking shoes. In order to find out what people are searching for when it comes to hiking shoes, it’s best to start with Answer the Public.

To begin, simply start by typing in a phrase (it’s best to start with generic, non-specific phrases). In this case, the phrase “hiking shoes” was used.

Answer the Public example

Answer the Public will break down that phrase into five categories:

  • Questions associated with the phrase – e.g. “Which hiking shoes to buy?”
  • Prepositions associated with the phrase – e.g. “Hiking shoes for kids”
  • Comparisons associated with the phrase – e.g. “Hiking shoes vs. trail running shoes”
  • Alphabetical listings of words added to the phrase – e.g. “Hiking shoes Amazon” and “Hiking shoes black Friday”
  • Popular related searches – e.g. “Hiking shoes near me” or “Hiking shoes for sale”

This is a great tool to not only help your SEO keyword ideation, but also your ASO. While you add keywords to your website, (a channel that accounts for 10% of app discovery) add those same keywords to your app’s page on the App Store and Google Play. If people are searching for “Hiking shoes” on Google, they’re most likely searching for the same thing on the App Store.

You can use Answer the Public to stay in the know about what people are searching – and continuously update your keywords to reflect those searches. Unlike SEO, however, ASO should be limited to five keyword phrases (which should repeat throughout your app’s title, subtitle, and description for maximum effect) so keep that in mind when updating your page on the App Store. For example, our hiking shoe app would most likely always include the keyword phrase “Hiking shoes for sale,” as that’s the app’s main purpose; other keywords can be implemented and switched to capitalize market trends.

Keeping up with search trends is a powerful tool for maximizing your app’s success. For instance, more people hike in the summer, so adding key phrases such as “summer sale,” or capitalizing on nature-centric holidays like Earth Day with phrases like “Earth Day sale” can bring temporary but powerful boosts to the amount searches your app will appear in. By continuously using services like Answer the Public, and updating your keywords to reflect current trends, these temporary boots can become your norm.

Keywords Everywhere

An add-on for Google Chrome, Keywords Everywhere is easy-to-use, free, and tremendously helpful. When paired with Answer the Public, this tool really begins to shine.

This add-on will automatically detect keywords and display the monthly search rate, cost per click, and competition for each keyword. When paired with Answer the public, it looks like this:

Keywords Everywhere example

And when used with a Google Search, looks like this:

Keywords Everywhere example

Working from the above example, let’s look at “best hiking shoes” versus “hiking shoes womens.”

“Best hiking shoes” was searched 22,200 times in January globally, its cost per click (CPC) is $1.71, and its competition is 1 (very high).

“Hiking shoes womens” was searched for 270 times in January globally, its CPC is $1.18, and its competition is 1 (very high).

By comparing the two, we’re able to glimpse some important trends:

  • “Best hiking shoes” is about 82 times more popular than “hiking shoes womens”
  • While both searches are highly competitive, “best hiking shoes” fits into category 2 of types of searches: To learn something. “Hiking shoes womens” fits into category 1 of types of searches: To do something. Due to this, “hiking shoes womens” is the more valuable key phrase.

So why is “hiking shoes womens” the better option? Intent.

Someone searching for “best hiking shoes” probably isn’t looking to purchase anything (at least immediately) – they’re most likely conducting their own research into what brand of hiking shoes would be their best option. While it’s a popular search on Google, the number of conversions that directly come from “best hiking shoes” is most likely low. There is, however, great value in a key phrase like ”hiking shoes womens,” as someone searching this key phrase isn’t asking a question, or searching for more information – they’re looking for a store from which to buy hiking shoes for women.

This knowledge can then be transferred and utilized with both your SEO and ASO campaigns.

Both of these key phrases would be good for our hiking shoes app’s ASO; “best hiking shoes” because it is searched so frequently, and “hiking shoes womens” because people searching this phrase already know they want an app that sells women’s hiking shoes. With such high competition for both of these keywords, however, it would be pertinent to add in keywords with lower competition, such as:

Keywords Everywhere example

This key phrase shows two very promising factors:

  • While the volume of searches is low, every search is implicitly describing the intent to purchase hiking shoes
  • It has low competition, so the low volume of monthly searches is balanced with a more accessible playing field

All in all, it’s a balancing game between finding keywords that are searched for regularly, and making sure the competition you’re facing is accessible.

ASO early, ASO often

While it always helps to come out strong with your ASO campaign, it’s never too late to start. These tools are free for anyone to use, and can provide great insight into both your SEO and ASO efforts. By pairing your SEO and ASO, you can more effectively target and capture audiences, and create conversions from clicks.