Reducing the Creative Lag Bottleneck Problem for App Updates
Thursday, March 10, 2016
We visited with Shahar Kaminitz, CEO and founder of Insert, to discuss the problem of “creative lag” – the time it takes app developers to get an idea to get from whiteboard to a consumer’s device and the subsequent delays associated with development, test cycles and app store approval processes. Kaminitz has recently brought out of stealth mode the Insert mobile engagement platform to help publishers deal with the problem of creative lag.
ADM: How are apps currently updated?
Kaminitz: The development cycle for mobile apps currently replicates the way desktop applications used to be updated back in the "old days." Due to the difficulties, time and resources required, many companies do not release new features in the speed they would like to, let alone experiment with features content. This is pretty backwards compared to how websites are built and constantly updated nowadays. You can constantly optimize a site. You can’t do that with apps.
Google's update policy with the Android App Store allows developers to push out updates whenever they want. With Amazon, Apple and Microsoft, however, updates have to go through the same approval process as submitting an app in the first place.
Because it takes time for even bug fixes to get approved, many developers try to lump several updates and bug fixes together in one release. This reduces the number of new downloads the user needs to undertake and prevents the developer from having to wait through multiple approval queues. But the process is nevertheless slow and cumbersome.
ADM: What is the ‘creative-lag’?
Kaminitz: Marketers are creative people who instinctively like to experiment with features and tools for revenue, engagement and retention. But their creativity is stifled by the ‘creative lag’ - the time it takes for an idea to go from the whiteboard to a consumer’s device.
Mobile app owners are forced to depend on the developers and their test cycles, as well as the lengthy app store approval process. It often takes weeks or even months to update new, important features on apps, sometimes rendering these features obsolete by the time they are actually functioning.
The result of this bottleneck: businesses suffer and cannot maximize the full potential of their mobile app. The creative lag is a result of several parallel factors: the fact that apps are downloaded and installed on end-user devices, long development and test cycles; app store approval processes and the need to wait for customers to update their devices to the latest version.
ADM: What is Insert and how will it change that process?
Kaminitz: Insert is a Codeless Mobile Engagement Platform. Our platform is like a ‘candy-store’ of app engagement features which marketers can add instantly to their existing live apps, cutting the creative lag - the time it takes for an idea to go from the whiteboard to a consumer’s device - from months to minutes, without coding.
Insert allows marketers not only to add engagement features (such as messages, coupons, surveys, text editing and more) in minutes, it also allows them to experiment and test them easily against defined segmented audiences and trigger the features appearance in accordance to the users' interaction with the app.
ADM: Who is a typical user of Insert and what does a use-case look like?
Kaminitz: A typical user is a mobile app owner or marketer for an Enterprise brand – who puts a lot of resources in their apps development.
A typical use case: a bank app with features that let users deposit money or pay bills via their smartphones – but those features are largely ignored by users, as most use their mobile bank apps to simply check their balance. A marketer at the bank may want to increase engagement with those functions by highlighting some buttons, by adding a user guide, by getting feedback on why those functions are not being used or via other modifications. Insert's platform makes those kinds of add-on features available instantly.
ADM: What sort of other instant features are available for live apps? Can you give a few examples?
Kaminitz: Currently there are 15 customizable features (‘inserts’) available that can be configured, customized and deployed in minutes. The available inventory of features focuses on user guidance, communication, user acquisition and conversion. Examples: surveys, onboarding carousel, coupons, abandoned cart reminder with a deeplink, text and image modification and more.
ADM: Insert has just exited from beta. Who tested the product and what were your findings?
Kaminitz: Insert’s platform was successfully trialed by a number of leading companies and brands during private-beta including banks, ecommerce companies, digital marketing and transportation companies. Qubit is one example - their infrastructure enables clients to drive smart and targeted customer experience in the market. They found that Insert enables them to give different users a far more nuanced and contextualized experience using their mobile apps.
ADM: Where do you see the platform one year from now?
Kaminitz: Our technology allows us to add more and more feature types all the time. We're encouraging our users to share their novel ideas with us and help us define together where and what our inventory will look like in a year from today. It will take more than a year, but we're expecting that marketing people handling independently the engagement layer of the app in parallel to the dev team developing the core functionally of the app will become a standard in the industry.
ADM: Where did the idea for Insert come from?
Kaminitz: Ten years ago, I founded Worklight, which was later acquired by IBM and rebranded as MobileFirst. Our platform was used primarily by large corporations, helping them build robust applications with a great user experience and integrate those apps with various back-end systems.
The architecture we created, like other competing products, is very much engineering-oriented. It generates beautiful apps, but at the same time is linear – business defines, development builds, business evaluates and re-defines, and so forth. Marketers are becoming increasingly frustrated with this linear infrastructure, often citing months of creative lag in implementing new features aimed at increasing engagement, conversion and retention.
So at Worklight I helped shape the technical foundations of this great industry, and as such am probably also part of the problem, overlooking the needs of marketing and product professionals and creating excessive rigidity. I realized that app owners need to rapidly roll out app features, iterate and experiment. The problem is that they can’t. There was a need for app owners to be able to gain more control over their mobile assets to fully engage their customers. That's exactly what we've created.
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