Partner Story: 5 Things Mallzee Has Learned on Its Journey to 1 Million App Downloads

Here at Branch, we love celebrating the milestone successes of our partners! In June, Mallzee, the Tinder-esque high street shopping app, announced 1 Million downloads and firmly confirmed its spot as the most downloaded non retailer shopping app. Marketing Manager Rachelle Garnham shares her insights on what the team have learned on their way to that milestone…


1. Execute, execute, execute

Being a start-up, the early days of Mallzee were very different from how they are now. Before the 25-person team, years of experience, substantial Marketing budgets and fancy city centre office, we had little more than pure determination.

We knew that this wasn’t the time for sophisticated marketing strategies and expensive ad platforms—rather, it was the time for constant execution and, as you might crudely put it, simply giving things a bash. We constantly developed and iterated ideas, investing all of our time into trial and error and execution.

We put out press releases on everything and anything, reached out to thousands  of bloggers, got involved in events, partnered with like minded businesses, built a network of engaged student ambassadors, hit social media hard, developed a presence in the tech and business sectors, blagged competition prizes, swapped favours, got ourselves on TV, and spoke to people in the street—not to mention the many bizarre and crazy things we found ourselves taking part in along the way…

It was an approach that earned us more than 30,000 downloads before we even spent a penny on acquisition. Even more valuable than the downloads was that we learned the importance of trying new things, staying agile, and avoiding over reliance on budget, all of which remain at the core of our strategy today.


2. Analytics are your friend

Despite our ‘get out there and do it’ attitude, as a data company, we’re pretty obsessed with pouring over the figures and measuring what we’re doing. We implemented extremely thorough analytics very early in the Mallzee journey and while it is an area that can be invested in heavily, we found that there are a host of low cost and free services that work superbly well. For example, we’ve used Branch to track ad-hoc marketing links across email and content marketing channels from the early days, and it’s still very much part of our daily routine today.

Thorough measurement has become increasingly important as user growth has ramped up. We’re able to understand where our downloads are coming from, how effective specific marketing activity is, and—crucially—what happens to our users once they’ve been acquired. This process of collecting the right insight has led us to move away from some of the acquisition channels that had previously appeared to be real successes, and to instead invest in those that were traditionally more difficult to assign true value. Most importantly, taking time to digest data before drastically increasing acquisition budgets and efforts has minimised the usual soaring CPAs associated with scale. We’ve managed to achieve a 40% increase in monthly downloads with just a 3% CPA increase in the last year.

Our analytics have been in a great place for a good while, and have worked to a pretty structured KPI framework to ensure our acquisition is driving true value. We’ve never stopped questioning and analysing deeper, however. We regularly adapt and add to the data points we consider, ensuring that our objectives still meet rapidly developing business goals and that we’re challenging our assumptions every day.


3. Users, not downloads

In the early days our emphasis was on download numbers, excited by the growing number of people who knew about us and were willing to give us a go. This quickly changed to a focus on users, with downloads becoming just part of the process. Not every person that downloads our app will become a user and there’s still a lot of work to do to cultivate value beyond that point.

Alongside acquisition strategy, the road to 1 million downloads has had a heavy retention and engagement focus from both an app development perspective and a marketing perspective. Implementing a comprehensive CRM strategy of email, push notifications, and in app messaging has been at the heart of marketing efforts. Consistent iteration and bespoke messaging to different user types has helped us to pinpoint the content and formats that really optimise conversion. We’ve also rolled out a thorough in-app content plan to support this strategy, again aligned to user types, with Branch deep links used to take users straight into the most suitable content for the best possible user experience and engagement.

This focus on the user has allowed us to get far more value out of every download and be ready to make the most of scaled download budgets. By the time we began scaling up downloads, 30 day retention had improved by 40% and user value had risen by over 600%.


4. We love organic downloads

We’ve obviously placed a huge focus on diligently reiterating our paid ad campaigns for optimum paid CPIs, and it’s been a key part of our success. That said, we’re equally focused on organic, our original hero before budget was an option. We now know that organic downloads not only are free, but also tend to result in more qualified users, since organic downloaders have deliberately found and downloaded the app through their own interest, rather than being enticed by an advert.

ASO has been an ongoing focus for us, in terms of both optimising listings to boost our natural App Store rankings for the best keyword searches, and optimising conversion of our App Store content. It was a huge realisation for us to discover that something as small as a different coloured background on screenshots could improve download conversion by as much as 10%, as testing here is often overlooked. We’ve now rolled out thorough testing on all listing changes, and with every new release we freshen up our keyword targets to ensure we’re constantly giving ourselves the best chance of maximising organic exposure. This diligent approach has seen our organic downloads rise by over 50% since February this year.

Social media—in particular, Instagram—has also been a key channel in driving organic growth. With a content plan that extends Instagram imagery into more in-depth in-app content, all linked to seamlessly with Branch deep links, we’ve managed to transform Instagram into more than an awareness channel. It’s been a huge lesson in persevering with a channel, rather than assuming that social media is for soft results only. We’ve now achieved a 98% increase in monthly organic Instagram downloads in 2017 so far.


5. Cumulative Gains

The great thing about being a start-up is all of the exciting ‘firsts’ you get to try. We’ve enjoyed ridiculously exciting and explosive moments; launching the first ever version, appearing on Dragon’s Den, our first ever Facebook ad, the beginning of our referral scheme, and even a complete rebuild and rebrand of the app. These were all massive moments for the team and gave us lovely spikes in both acquisition and engagement. That said, we’ve quickly learned to look beyond the ‘big’ moments that don’t last forever. We’re now all about the day to day iterations that give us long term gains.

We have a constant test and learn approach across all stages of our marketing funnel. From a different approach to an email subject line to testing Branch Deepviews messaging or new ad creative, the opportunities to improve are endless. We’ve quickly learned that suddenly doubling your email click through rate with a random copy test that took 5 minutes to roll out can be (almost) as exciting as watching your CEO sweat it out in front of the dragons!