The world today is one that is mobile first; a statement backed up by the findings of the Kleiner Perkins Internet Trends Report 2017. Demonstrating the importance of mobile, the report revealed that 26% of total media time is now spent on mobile devices, while only 20% is spent on the internet and a mere 4% on print. And out of this time people spend on their phones, more than ever is being spent in apps, with smartphone applications being primarily used to access information for different verticals more than browsers and their search engines.
For businesses that want to better reach their audience via mobile ad campaigns and targeted content, it is highly important to know an app’s reach within a given vertical. To do so, it’s imperative to first understand how apps actually determine their reach, define what their figures reflect and understand how to access the data. Unfortunately, however, while numerous tools exist to analyse web metrics, access is still limited for mobile, although there are several options to gain insight and to create some sort of a ranking.
Therefore, to better demonstrate how reach can be defined and what that means for advertisers, we’ve compared komoot’s reach with other apps in the area of outdoor activities and trips. Feel free to comment if you’d like us to compare the reach of another app, and if you have any tips for estimating and analysing mobile reach, we’d love to hear them!
The Most Important Metrics
To understand any given app’s specific reach — and what this might mean for ad campaigns — you first need to understand the metrics used to gauge and measure reach in the first place. These are:
- An app’s user base
- An app’s growth
- The number of active users
The User Base
The user base is a reflection of the number of people who use an app, and it is typically measured using two metrics:
- Total registered users
- Total downloads of the app
An app’s total number of registered users tends to be information you have to request directly from the developer. Figures are normally released sporadically and are rarely continuously updated. For example, in March 2017, Outdooractive published material stating they had 350,000 registered users (link Outdooractive), while in June 2017, Bikemap claimed to have over 900,000 registered users (link Bikemap). At komoot, on the other hand, we state that we have “more than 3 million hikers and bikers” (link komoot), and we’re always happy to provide more details for the purpose of transparency. In June 2017, in fact, we had exactly 3,673,642 registered users.
When it comes to total download numbers, as users normally need to download before registering, these stats are almost always higher than the number of registered users. Often, users can also download the same app several times, with published download numbers including downloads on each device of a single user.
To get a better overview of total downloads, ranges are publicly available for Android apps on Google Play — something that’s available for any published app. What must be remembered, however, is that Android apps can also be downloaded from the Amazon or Samsung app store and are consequently not included in Google Play’s download ranges. In komoot’s case, for example, the Samsung store is a relevant driver of downloads. Another problem is that Apple does not publicly release download numbers and does not display these anywhere on iTunes. Therefore, you have to rely solely on the numbers published in Google Play. Our learning is, however, that as long as a developer invests similar effort into both platforms, the downloads are equal according to platform market share.
If you look up the Play Store presence for the apps we used in our registered-user comparison above then, we see that Outdooractive is in the range of 100,000–500,000 installs, which is the same as Bikemap and bergfex Tours. Komoot, on the other hand, is two categories above, with between 1,000,000–5,000,000 downloads from the Google Play Store.
Overall, these metrics fit with the total user base and provide some useful insight into the reach of the apps in our comparison.
Growth of an App
An app’s growth is another valid metric of overall reach and, alongside the user base, it’s something relatively easy to access. The simplest way to view growth is to look at an app’s ranking for any given market/country. And although the terminology is different, iTunes and Google Play both display:
- Top downloads paid apps
This reflects the number of downloads of paid apps, not revenue for this country
- Top downloads free apps
This includes free apps with and without in-app purchases in a specific country
- Top grossing apps
The apps generating the most revenue in a specific country
On iTunes and Google Play, the mechanics for determining growth are quite similar, although Google Play tends to offer more stable rankings as their averages are normally based on longer time periods. If you look at these rankings (especially overall rankings) the following observations become clear:
- Paid-app rankings are a leftover of the past when in-app purchases were not available
Only two paid apps are among the top 50 grossing apps
- Free apps are dominated by social apps
4 of the top 10 are Facebook. 5 of the top 50 are Google, 6 of the top 50 are shopping and 8 of the top 50 are music and video (1 Google)
- Top grossing apps are largely dominated by games
At time of writing, only 7 of the top 25 grossing apps on iTunes DE are not games (Tinder, Lovoo, Netflix, Spotify, Deezer, Babbel, komoot); that is the reason Google Play splits the top ranks into Apps and Games
Besides the three different rankings for each country, Google Play and iTunes break the results down further into different categories. Each category is then split once more into the three rankings listed above. When comparing rankings, you have to keep two things in mind:
- Traffic and competition for different categories are not comparable; the category is chosen by developers, not by editorial team
- The ranking within a list does not correlate linearly with downloads or revenue. The results are more like standard search results where the first places have significantly more downloads and revenue than the following
Therefore, to reasonably compare our three apps once more to each other, we have to take into account overall rankings for different countries. And even though this information is easily accessible, it can take quite a bit of work to track several apps active in many different markets over a long period of time. Thankfully, there are several tools out there that give you instant access to historical data and allow you to compare apps. At komoot, we use AppAnnie, the standard tool for app store tracking. To track and compare several at any one time, however, we use AppTweak, although it’s not a tool we would recommend in its current state.
The following graph shows overall download rankings on iTunes Germany over the last 5 Sundays for the apps in our comparison:
Active users is another metric that apps love to talk about when discussing reach. Before you really get involved in the conversation, however, you first need to define what an active user is. For simplicity and to be able to compare numbers, let’s take the definition of Google Analytics, as this is standard across many websites and apps, as well as several different devices: an active user is essentially someone who accesses an app or a website. Taking a standard like this, it is easy to implement and measure reliably, despite the inability to generate/measure data when an app is used offline. As an aside that is unique to the German market, you must also be careful to distinguish between Besucher and Besuche: Active Users and Visits. Although the difference is only one letter, they are not to be confused.
Timeframes: MAU versus DAU
When defining active users, you always have to pay attention to the time interval a user is active in. At komoot, we look primarily at our Monthly Active Users (sometimes referred to as Unique Users or UU), or a 30-day Active User to be precise. This means that if a user is active in April and May but not in June, that user is counted as an MAU for two out of the three months. Facebook, for example, also measures Daily Active Users (DAU) and reports a DAU/MAU ratio. Considering that only a few users plan or complete tours everyday — users that can not be considered mass market users — DAU numbers are not a useful metric for apps in the outdoor market.
When it comes to media apps, additional metrics are also often considered, including some that don’t include user numbers. These companies might instead focus on consumption-based metrics, such as billions of hours of music streamed. At komoot, we have deeply analysed various metrics and confirmed that — as we deliver services along the whole user journey — Monthly Active Users is the only truly representative metric. That being said, when it comes to inspiration, consumed Collections are also important. Therefore, we measure views and clicks within the feed and analyse the numbers believing ‘the higher, the better’. When it comes to planning, however, as we want to help our users find and save tours as soon as possible, we analyse these metrics believing ‘the faster the better’.
Another point to remember is that during navigation komoot continues to run in the background, meaning users are technically using the app for hours at a time. This essentially renders further metrics like duration delivered by Google Analytics obsolete. Instead, we opt for a mixed approach where we include special metrics for different use cases, such as views of the feed, allowing us to generate a more precise overview of usage as a result.
Apps and websites also often take into account Metric Page Impressions (PI). Historically, this number has been a good general metric for measuring users on sites that actually had pages (i.e. news pages and magazines), though it’s not very representative when you apply it to apps. How many page impressions does a Facebook feed generate (one per active user?)? And how many are generated by Google maps? Reporting page impressions in apps is to report arbitrary numbers — especially when maps trigger many impressions.
Monthly Active Users is also similar to registered users in that it’s a metric only accessible by asking the developer. What’s more — and something that is uniquely important for the outdoor market — activities can be highly seasonal and can change dramatically depending on the time of the year. At komoot, for example, we are incredibly proud to have recently hit two million Monthly Active Users for the first time, although we still prefer to compare our year over year growth rate each month, which has continued to grow by more than 100% for every month out of the last six.
A common way many apps measure active users is by implementing third party SDKs, especially after becoming a member of media/ad networks. In this case, SDKs from the German agencies AGOF and IVW are normally used to generate accurate monthly reach data. At komoot, however, we’re not a member of any such group, and we don’t force our users to download additional SDKs for tracking purposes.
To once more compare our four companies, as well as three additional publisher networks, we’ve collected the published data. This data was mostly sourced directly from the company’s own media, such as information published directly by Outdooractive stating they had 0.59 million MAU and 2.48 million visits in May 2017. You can view the full list here; please feel free to leave a comment.
In the linked table, you’ll see that Outdoorchannel is the only company that publishes mobile metrics, with around 10% of their visits being mobile. As you can see from the table, however, around 65% of komoot’s visits are mobile. When we recall that mobile has outperformed online in media consumption, it is a big issue that almost no mobile reach is communicated by the other brands in our comparison.
Besides tracking usage within sites and apps, another method is to actually conduct a study and ask outdoor users which apps they actually use. The ADFC, a German cycling club, does this regularly and publishes their results as part of their “Radreiseanalyse” at ITB. A comprehensive breakdown of German cyclists’ mobile habits, it is a study worth clicking through, having been conducted with more than 1,000 people.
The study, which also investigated which Internet outlets and apps are used by cyclists during a bike tour, clearly shows that komoot and Google Maps are the two market leaders. It also shows that Google Maps is more commonly used to access information about restaurants and hotels nearby than for specific routing or navigation functionalities, especially as this information is still largely lacking on komoot. And even though there are thousands of destination-specific apps out there, the study shows that they are used much less commonly than other apps, with the same being true for the other apps in our comparison: Outdooractive, bergfex Touren and Bikemap.
Reviews and Revenue Rankings as Active User Indicators
Another common problem when analysing reach is that there is no study/public usage data that shows app usage as a whole. In this case, we have to refer to other indicators publicly available in the app stores: reviews and — if in app purchases are available — revenue ranking. And while revenue rankings work exactly like download rankings but for revenue, reviews are slightly different.
In Google Play, you can only see the overall number of ratings and the average result. There, only the amount of published reviews and the corresponding date helps to understand and compare current usage. In iTunes, the ratings and reviews are clustered for each release, which makes it much easier to compare the number of reviews in a certain time frame and thus determine a rough indicator of usage.
The same is true for country specific metrics: While in Google Play the overall statistics are openly communicated to the user, only the statistics for country specific reviews are available on iTunes.
To really access and understand reviews for different countries, versions and platforms over time, we highly recommend AppAnnie.
For komoot, the ratings overview looks as shown left in Google Play. You can access the list with links to Outdooractive, bergfex and Bikemap’s Google Play ratings here.
Overall, there are three metrics of high importance when trying to figure out mobile reach. These are:
- An app’s user base
- An app’s growth
- The number of active users
Although most of these metrics are not easily accessible and/or standardized across every market, the approaches discussed provide a solid basis on which to better estimate numbers or rank apps among each other.
Please comment and tell us your insights into mobile reach estimates, and let us know of any public numbers you know. Thank you!