Mobile Growth Hackers @ Pinterest

As attendees began to arrive at the Pinterest Headquarters in San Francisco, there was a buzz in the air. No, not from the complimentary drinks, free pizza, or rekindling of friendships and familiar faces. It was the topic for the night: mobile growth.

After the brief mixer had simmered, it was down to business with John Egan, Lead Growth Engineer at Pinterest. What better way to start a conversation on mobile than with a fundamentally transcendental question:

“If you could be any animal, which animal would you be?”

As a Game of Thrones fan myself I was happy to hear Lili Jiang, PM of Growth at Venmo, start the night with undoubtably the best answer — a dragon of course.

Not all of the questions facing the veritable cast of mobile growth experts were fun and games. John dove straight into asking some of the best questions from app developers. Below we write about them all.

How do you go about getting featured in the app store?

All the speakers agreed that networking is key. Zaid Al-Hussein, VP or Product at Gogobot, added that by networking you’ll inevitably meet someone who has a connection at Apple or Google. Use this to your advantage! He also added that LinkedIn is a great resource and not to underestimate the power of a cold email. Another great point that Susan Surapruik, Director of Mobile Technology brought up was that often, companies are looking for specific features to highlight in app stores. By knowing what they’re looking to feature you can tailor your product to fit this criteria.

In terms of paid advertising for installs vs. incentivized installs, when do you use one over the other?

“You don’t just want a download, you want a quality active user,” said Zaid, adding that Facebook users are typically higher quality than most installs. Be careful when incentivizing installs as this can boost your ranking but it might cost you quality users.

Casey Winters, Product Manager on the Growth Team at Pinterest, added that you can use incentivized installs to increase your rank and non-incentivized to get quality users, but in general you want to be running normal paid installs if you’re getting a good cost-per-user. Susan added that they use Branch for incentivizing mobile referrals , enabling them to cast a wide net of information about their users that helps them make meaningful incentives. Lili continued that “context totally matters.” Research at Venmo found that users who invited their friends have much higher activation rates.

This last point on context deeply resonated with us here at Branch, as context is something closer to our hearts than the links we provide!

When trying to upsell mobile, what is the right way to engage with users?

Zaid took the lead again stating that SEO is still relevant but warned to pay close attention to bounce rates. He added that if you have emails you can always upsell to the app. Another mobile upsell used by Gogobot is through Branch’s text-me-the-app smart banners, which Zaid adds, “are pretty awesome.” Lili mentioned that at Venmo, “we make it hard for you to reach our mobile website” because they believe that it’s simply not as good of an experience as their mobile app.

Casey, at Pinterest, found that it’s really hard to move people from web to the phone. For instance, Pinterest invested aggressively in interstitials before they decided to call it off.

How should I use push notifications to drive retention?

For Zaid, the biggest driver of users coming back to the app are push notifications. He cautions that “this is an easy channel to burn so when you can, try to give good context when sending the push.” Make sure to personalize it and make it more relevant to the user. Susan spoke next, adding that timing is important. For Personal Capital they found that users were more responsive to push notifications that required action on the weekends, while they were away from work. Venmo, however, doesn’t rely on push notifications. Instead they use the inherent social feature of their app to drive retention. Casey and the team at Pinterest personalize every single push notification. They built an in-house tool to test what works and what doesn’t.

Is mobile web worth investing in?

Zaid believes the most important metric that drives growth is retention, which has proven to be higher in the app experience. That said, mobile web is great for growing apps really fast by allowing you to put things up more quickly. Casey mentioned that Pinterest has both mobile web and app experiences. He agrees that you can use mobile web but that you should try to upsell to the app if you’re worried about retention.

At cliche as it may sound, the biggest honest takeaway from the night was that growth can be complicated. However, there are tools that developers and companies can use to help them gain traction. The panelists touched briefly on how Branch Metrics allows developers the ability to incentivize and attribute referrals, route web traffic to specific apps via our web SDK, and provide deep links cross all platforms.