We have developed a new social app for iOS and we have also been accepted into the Consumer Electronics Show's (CES) Eureka Park. We will have launched our app in Sweden and Denmark (where I'm currently living) but will not have launched yet in the U.S. since we don't have the funds or team to run a marketing campaign in a large country like the U.S.
However, it seems like we would be wasting our opportunity at CES if our app were not available in the U.S. App Store during the show. Our plan was to launch strategically in either NYC or Boston instead of nation-wide to make sure users were able to find each other since it's a location-based social service.
What are people's thoughts on how to approach the CES situation? Should we open the app to the U.S. anyway? Any advice on a launch strategy? Thanks!
In my opinion, anything you promote needs to be immediately usable. It's great that you got a spot in a trade show that you respect, but if there is no local user base already established where the trade show is located and you have anyone trying the app during the event, they're going to get a terrible first impression and probably drop you like a hot potato.
A location-based social service is going to be an instant gratification application, not a hope-for-the-future product in development. If users can't try it then it's not worth promoting at an expensive event like CES. It would be weird to build in a fake GPS element for trial where people find themselves in Denmark or Sweden and can't even understand the language other network users are writing in.
When considering CES, think about the demographics of the attendees. Even if you do spend some effort developing a local user base in Las Vegas prior to the event, where are these trial users going to be when they leave the show? Will their new app suddenly become useless because there are no users in their home cities? That's an unforgettably bad experience.
These types of things happen all the time to new dating apps and social connection apps. It is a chicken and egg problem. If you have no customers you need to get some, and if you get some trials to answer the challenge of getting customers and there are too few people for them to connect to, they don't stay as customers and you're back at square one.
You face the same challenges you've always faced. How are you interesting? How do you retain new users until you have a bigger audience for them to connect to? How do you rapidly grow adoption rates? And how to you maintain excitement once people join so activity level is high?
CES or somewhere else, USA or Europe, the challenges are the same. You're partly right it is a problem that money could fix (or at least help fix). So don't throw good money away on CES if you can't complete the loop for the people you will meet there. Yes, there are advantages of being seen as a participant in a big, popular event, but it's just as easy to get lost in the noise of a big event and lose when you can't keep up with the well-funded competing interests.
Think about how your domestic launches have worked. Yes, there's an advantage to having a dense population when launching an app, but there's also a greater amount of effort required to capture the attention of people who are more frequently advertised to and who have so many choices and where advertising is more expensive. I can't guess what has worked for you, or how US culture is going to be different in motivating people to choose your app.
CES is a madhouse. There's too much going on, and it's just too large a venue to try and get anyone's attention. I can't speak to your decision about opening the app's availability, but I would recommend you check out either Showstoppers or Pepcom. Both are press only events that last only for one evening during CES. Within that time you could end up speaking to 30 or 40 reporters/bloggers.
I agree with Edward: it's a madhouse. If your inclusion in the Eureka Park showcase is inexpensive for you, I'd say go for it, but manage expectations. What's your goal? Is it meeting an investor? Getting press coverage? Given your goals and the potential investment you can make a better decision. Edward's advice about the press receptions is a good one if your goal is press coverage, but given your concerns about not being available in the US yet, that might be premature. If, however, you're looking to get market and customer feedback prior to a US launch, and, again, you can do it within a reasonable budget, great.
As to your question about launch strategy, that's more of a conversation than a discussion response. Short-term, CES can be worthwhile if you manage expectations, but a launch strategy is a much, much bigger discussion. Happy to chat about that if you'd like. Good luck!
CES is a huge show and without a well thought-out plan, preset appointments and a strong presence, you'll no doubt get lost in the vendor crowd. It's a very tough show to work due to it's size and geographical layout. I've attended as a vendor several times and each time it was easy to become overwhelmed walking the conference floors. Planning starts very early... vendors and customers attending CES are setting appointments and schedules now.. if they haven't already. As a vendor, we started booking customer appointments in October/November. If you're just starting to make plans now, you're probably too late. Hotels are booked and people's schedules are filling up with appointments and evening events. Show walk-up traffic is there, but as I said the show is so big and there's lot's of competition on the floor for attendee's attention.
You're thoughts on a localized launch into a controlled market makes much more sense. CES is a zoo and it would be a waste of time and money better spent otherwise, in my opinion. You'd get more exposure and qualified prospects launching a digital marketing campaign.