Prolific Visits Alex and Ani

Last month, Prolific visited the Alex and Ani® headquarters in Rhode Island for a collaborative design studio session. Working closely together, the teams spent the day brainstorming, whiteboarding and planning key features for Alex and Ani’s new iOS app.

Here’s an inside look at the day.

  • Bailey Bennett

From Brooklyn With Love

It was the beginning of finals, and my summer plans had completely fallen apart.

I’d known I was taking a risk when I chose an internship at a small design firm for the summer but had still hoped for the best. However, only a week before school ended, my employer emailed me and said that they’d lost a big client and were canceling their internship program. Two days into fanatically emailing every design firm in America in an attempt to secure a summer job, I got an email from Prolific. Although I was uneasy about turning to another small company, the team seemed very knowledgeable, enthusiastic about mobile, and really excited to work with me.

Real World: Brooklyn

Before starting at Prolific, I was expecting a small, tight-knit start-up company that worked long hours and would have me doing mostly traditional intern work: deck creation, asset management, internal projects, and maybe some design. I was also afraid I wouldn’t be able to fit into a group of people who had known each other for so long. However, I was quickly proven wrong. When I walked into work, I was immediately thrown into a client meeting. The entire company warmly welcomed me to the team, and I dove right into UI/UX for a big name company. They had everything in order and a tight grasp on mobile strategy.

In my classes at Rochester Institute of Technology, we study a wide variety of subjects, including branding, animation, 3D, and UI/UX for web and mobile. My internship here has shown me how well my department has done in teaching me the ins and outs of mobile design. However, my time at Prolific has been a huge learning experience when it comes to making functional apps and working with developers. Most of my app designs from school are conceptual, either animated or faked to look useable. Working with programming constraints and client feedback proposed a lot of interesting UI and UX challenges that I hadn’t previously encountered.

Innovation and Inspiration

The team here is a fabulous group of inspired, passionate individuals. It’s been extremely refreshing to work with a group of people who are constantly striving to be better, be innovative, be intuitive, and push the boundaries of what they’re working on. It’s hard to describe what an amazing experience I’ve had growing and learning with the team this summer, and what a great time I’ve had in Brooklyn. I can hardly bring myself to go back to school to finish up my last year, but I couldn’t be happier to say that I’ll be back when I graduate.

  • Sarah Armstrong

How To Run To The Moon

It’s crazy how much can come out of a hack day. At a recent hack day event in San Francisco, a couple friends and I found a way to combine two of my passions into an app:

  1. A) Distance running
  2. B) General space nerdiness

The result is an iOS app called “The Final Runtier,” where you can earn space-themed badges to challenge you to run farther and faster!

And this week, the wonderful folks over at RayWenderlich.com have just posted my two-part tutorial on how to make an app just like it!

Part One: I cover how to use CoreLocation to record the locations throughout your run and display them on the map in real time. Even spice up the run summary screen with a multi-colored polyline displaying your relative changes in pace throughout the run!


Part Two: I cover how to set up a personally-tuned badge system that encourages users to improve, no matter the level at which they start.

For those interested in the code from the tutorial, it is available on GitHub.

“The Moon is the first milestone on the road to the stars.”
—Arthur C. Clarke


  • Matt Luedke

Build and grow apps that your customers will love

We build apps for users, not clients. This is our mantra when we begin app development, because if our client’s customers love the app we build, that will drive the app’s business success more than anything else.

So we attended 500 Startups’ Weapons of Mass Distribution last week to learn some awesome product and growth tips that can enhance our app development process.

If you’re looking for help with your mobile strategy, please drop us a note. We’d love to help. And if you need practical advice right now, these are the top tips we took from the awesome speakers at WMD:

Focus on users who love what you do

After brainstorming and settling on proposed features, it’s essential to get in front of as many potential users as possible and start collecting feedback. This is at the beginning of the project, long before app store release.

If you’re not doing this, get started today: it’s not as expensive as you think (we recommend usertesting.com), and it saves weeks of development time, meaning there’s a built-in ROI.

You’ll get feedback from across the board: some users will hate the proposals, some will love every idea. The majority will say something like “I’d love the app if only _______.” It’s tempting to focus on this kind of feedback to see what would get those users across the finish line; they’re almost there!

But Sean Ellis (Qualaroo) took a different perspective. His opinion was that there are only two types of users: those who love your app, and everyone else. Ignore everyone else, because if they aren’t already in love with the app, they likely never will be.

The users who immediately fell in love with the app designs or prototypes have discovered something amazing in what you’re doing. They say things like “This is awesome!! I can’t wait to go download this!!!” (look for lots of exclamation points).

Your job is to understand what features in your app will create that kind of excitement and passion. Only those features can be nurtured and iterated into profitable apps; any other feedback is a red herring.

In user polling, only one question matters

So you’ve got a handle on the features that will drive your customers crazy with excitement. You’ve built and released the first version, and the results are looking pretty good. How do you know when it’s time to stop iterating the core features and start focusing on growth?

Ellis’ advice was to ask How would you feel if you could no longer use this product?The possible answers should be:

- Very disappointed
- Somewhat disappointed
- Not disappointed (it isn’t really that useful), and
- N/A (I no longer use this product).

If greater than 40% of your users say “very disappointed,” then you’re poised for growth. Turn on the firehose!

If less than 40% of your users say “very disappointed,” you’re not there yet. Focus on the users who responded “very disappointed” and find out why they feel that way. These are the obsessed users from Tip #1, and you need to keep iterating and releasing updates until you turn more of your existing user base into them.

To guide that process, ask those users “what does our app do that’s helpful?” And importantly, “why is that helpful?” Open-ended questions that dig into the underlying triggers for using your app should guide you to the features or designs you need to build. Then go back to your feature list and find ways to multiply, highlight, or otherwise enhance those triggers.

As for the “somewhat disappointed” folks (and worse), ignore them. Your app isn’t solving a real problem for them.

When it’s time to optimize your app, focus on your signup flow

Congrats! Your app is delighting your users, and greater than 40% of them can’t live without it.

Now your biggest challenge is signing up and retaining users. The italics are intentional: focus on retention, not just acquisition, when you’re in the growth stage.

Aliisa Hodges (MixPanel) had some great tips for a highly optimized mobile signup flow:

- Always use social auth (Facebook, Twitter, Google+) to sign up users. It’s one-tap, and it comes with data about your user. While you should always be judicious about permissions, MixPanel’s data showed that users are more accepting of sharing data via social auth on mobile than on the web.

- Apps that have social features (messaging, activity feeds, etc) have on average a 6% higher retention rate (measured as acquired users who become monthly active users, or MAUs) than non-social apps. In the case of Venmo, adding an activity feed raised their retention rate by 20%.

- Among all app categories, social apps with Facebook signup had the highest retention rates.

- Firefly found that by adding push notifications to their app, their retention rate increased by a whopping 20%! Everyone knows push notifications can be effective, but it was interesting to see that quantified.

- A good retention rate is when greater than 25% of your newly acquired users become MAUs.

Keep checking the WMD site for the livestreams of the presentations, which should be up shortly.

If you’re looking for ideas for your company’s mobile app, contact me at russ@prolificinteractive.com. I’d be happy to answer any questions and share other learnings from our experience.

  • Russ Wallace

Delighting Users With Push Notifications: Q&A with Kahuna

So, you’ve developed a great app; how do you make sure your shoppers keep using it? Helping users go from install to engage isn’t easy, and it takes some serious focus around mobile marketing to get it right. Kahuna is a mobile marketing automation company that powers personalized push notifications and in-app messages so you can deliver unique, valuable mobile messages to every user. We asked Adam Marchick, Co-Founder and CEO of Kahuna, how marketers are using push notifications to increase mobile engagement and improve the app experience. Read on to learn how you can use personalized push notifications to delight your users and drive brand loyalty and revenue.

1. What is the role of push in a successful omni-channel marketing strategy?

Mobile is changing everything; shoppers behave differently on mobile than on web. These are vastly different channels, and they should be aligned with one another in your omni-channel marketing strategy.

Making sure your app delights your users is a high-stakes game. People are solidifying their preferences for the best apps, and your mobile communications must be strategic and personalized to win their allegiance. Personalized push notifications that add real value to your users’ lives are the best way to ensure that your app comes out on top in the exciting future of mobile.

Push notifications are a great way to contact users in real-time to drive app engagement and brand awareness. Think about fitting push into your omni-channel marketing efforts by asking yourself, “What do users want to learn about? What information are they actively seeking, and how can we provide it to them via push?” Think about how push notifications can contribute to a cohesive, integrated customer experience.

2. How does Kahuna help e-commerce companies with their push notifications?

Here at Kahuna, our goal is to help you become the brand that your mobile customers want to hear from. We believe that every message you send should inspire customer delight, and deliver increased engagement and revenue. Mobile is just too important to be ignored or approached haphazardly. Push notifications can be an extremely impactful way to grow your mobile business, but they require a level of sophistication to protect the customer experience.

First, it is important to have a holistic view of your mobile customer, so that every person receives the right message at the right time for them. For example, e-commerce companies need to understand how their customers are interacting with their brand on web, mobile web, and native app – a customer who is frequently purchasing on web should not receive a “we miss you” notification through the app. Alternatively, customers who browse items on web or mobile web would benefit from receiving a push notification about those specific items. Equally important is understanding how your customers engage with your brand across devices. The majority of app users own both a smartphone and a tablet, and it is critical that brands message their mobile customer accordingly. This is a core tenant of Kahuna, as we track user behavior across multiple devices, as well as across web, mobile web, and native apps.

Also, it is critical that there be a built-in way for marketers to understand what’s working and iterate based on these insights. Equally important is the ability to make changes with dependence on engineering effort. The Kahuna system is built to be fully owned and operated by the marketer, so brands can experiment and optimize within minutes, not days.

And finally, make sure you know the ROI of every push notification that you send. How much revenue is coming from each campaign? How many registrations or social shares? In order to be successful, marketers need push campaign reporting that is honest and actionable – this is something we are very focused on providing using the Kahuna platform.

3. What makes a successful push notification strategy?

A successful push notification strategy starts with understanding your shoppers at the person level, across platforms, channels, and devices. Once you have a full picture of each of your users, you can message them in the right way at the right time.

Mobile is special because you can communicate with your customers in real-time, so you need to make sure you’re having unique and personalized conversations with every shopper to engage them in the moment. Send users push messages that refer to their specific engagement state and leverage recency, affinity, and context to get the best response. Every user should receive a message that is unique to them to incite personal interest and engagement in the app.

4. How can push notifications (done right) increase mobile revenue? What are the potential pitfalls and how can they be avoided?

A great push can perform five times better than a great email. The average email click-through rate for retail and e-commerce companies is hovering around 3%.* Many of the e-commerce and retail companies that we work with are seeing push notifications drive well over 15% re-engagement. Purchase rates are regularly seen above 5% – much higher than any other channel.

Mobile is all about convenience. Push notifications remind users about the value of your brand, and streamline the path from passion to purchase. By adding in extra data layers to your push strategy, you can be sure that every push notification is super relevant and contextual to each individual. For example, if you send a user a push notification about an item they have already viewed, they are much more likely to revisit the application and purchase this item.

Push notifications can also reduce cart abandonment. With Kahuna Conversion Campaigns, for example, marketers can set an automatic message trigger when users add an item to their cart but do not complete the purchase. Within minutes, hours or days after the cart abandonment, shoppers will receive a push notification encouraging them to complete their purchase. Purchase uplift using this strategy has been as high as 18-33%.

However, not all push notifications are created equally. Right now, push is like the Wild Wild West; there are very few rules and best practices. Because of this, push frequently feels like spam. Today’s users expect highly personalized communication, and are bothered when they receive blast notifications. In addition, when push notifications aren’t sent to each user at the right time, it can be very disrupting. Push done wrong can do a lot more harm than good, driving push opt-outs or app uninstalls.

5. Can you give an example of companies who have seen success?

Karmaloop’s daily deals app PLNDR has seen amazing success sending their users personalized push notifications with Kahuna.

PLNDR sends personalized push notifications that are relevant and valuable to their mobile shoppers. They still do daily deal pushes, but have added on multiple layers of personalization to speak to exactly what users have expressed interest in. With this added layer of targeting, they have seen a huge increase in engagement and revenue, with some messages achieving over a 20% engagement rate. In addition, PLNDR has benefited from push campaigns resulting in 4% purchase rate on mobile.

PLNDR is also using push notifications to increase cart fulfillment. By setting up automatic triggers for when a user has added an item to cart but not completed the purchase yet, they are able to drive traffic back to their mobile app in unprecedented ways. These notifications have resulted in an 18% uplift in mobile purchases, as every user receives a personalized message about the specific item waiting for them in their digital shopping cart.

A comprehensive mobile marketing strategy will enhance the app experience. When push notifications are done right, they can foster customer delight and drive engagement and revenue. However, when push is done wrong, you risk spamming your shoppers and hurting brand loyalty. Retail and e-commerce companies need a great app and the communication tools to affect customer behavior. Marketers can change mobile conversion; they just need the right tools and insights to do so. If you send personal, relevant push notifications that people want to receive, you can start delighting your users and increasing mobile revenue.

*http://mailchimp.com/resources/research/email-marketing-benchmarks/

  • Bailey Bennett