Forget SXSW, apps need to prepare for the Holidays

Much has been written about the breakout app of South By Southwest (SXSW) each year. If you stand out from the noise there, then you’re set for success on a bigger stage. Or so they say.

Last year it was Meerkat that “conquered all.” Before that, Foursquare “wowed social media.” And way back in 2007, Twitter was the one to “blow up

Sure, there’s some truth to all of this, but the last few weeks have led me to believe there’s actually another setting for which the stakes are even higher for new technology: when we’re all home the Holidays.

Why? People from all over the word come together and spend a week or two in a cramped hometown. All of a sudden, people are exposed to new, very different ideas and discussions at a rapid rate. Some of these conversations involve new technology, new apps.

There’s a lot of idle time for you to look at your phone. You’re sitting around after unwrapping presents or watching reruns all day. You turn to your phone for small moments of entertainment in between, and share what you’re doing/others see your phone.

As a result, people download apps like crazy. Apple just shared their numbers for the Holiday season — a record breaking $1.1 billion in app and in-app purchases in just two weeks.

So, if SXSW is where apps breakout, I’d argue that the 2 weeks between December 20th and January 3rd are when apps have the greatest chance to go mainstream.


Thinking back over the last few years, here’s a list of apps that seem to have finally broken into the mainstream around the Holidays:

2015 — Snapchat (Runner up: FitBit)

2014 — Uber (Runner up: Timehop)

2013 -Instagram (Runner up: Venmo)

2012 — Twitter (Runner up: ?)


Teams often scramble for SXSW — new product builds are rushed, and massive marketing budgets are deployed.

But, how about those two weeks around the Holidays? What can you do to prep for this opportunity?

Bug test. Do lots of user research in communities outside early tech adopters. Try paid user acquisition to double down on the momentum. Make sure your app store presence is buttoned up.

Remember: a few thousand influential people at SXSW matter, yes, but just make sure you don’t forget about/still have resources left for the millions in mainstream America that come next.


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