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Q&A: Kamo Asatryan, Primer CEO and Co-Founder

March 15, 2016 | By Peggy Anne Salz, Founder and Lead Analyst—Mobile Groove @peggyanne

Mobile and apps have combined to do much more than empower consumers to get stuff done on their terms (and in the context they choose). These channels are creating an increasing sense of “entitlement” and the expectation among consumers that content and experiences delivered by apps should also be personal, relevant and literally aligned with “where they’re coming from.”

On the Web, we expect companies and content owners to connect the dots in our data (cookies, search queries, and past patterns of behavior) to deliver us to where we want and need to be in order to continue our own journey.

On mobile apps, consumers expect a personal and streamlined experience— but it has been extremely difficult for companies to tailor the customer experience. Enter Primer, a startup that has developed technology that enables companies to instantly deploy native screens personalized for every new user and where they are in the journey. Peggy Anne Salz — mobile analyst, nine-time author and Content Marketing Strategist at MobileGroove — interviews Kamo Asatryan, Primer CEO and Co-Founder to gain insight into mobile pain points and how his company is addressing them.
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Kamo Asatryan Headshot

With Primer, you pinpoint a key problem in mobile apps — what was the pain point you set out to address and why?

My own personal background is in growth, which has been my focus for about the past 8 years. Before Primer I co-founded a social media startup where I headed the growth team that allowed the company to grow from zero to +100 million users. In that time, we learned a lot and it’s these learnings that are the inspiration for Primer. At first, we were going to be an agency for companies that are looking to help with growth, and with getting and keeping users through engagement.

We spoke with companies and found they were all challenged — across the board — because their mobile apps allowed them to connect with their customers but didn’t make it possible for them to change the user experience to suit that customer. Companies were used to doing this on the Web, where technology and tracking allowed them to check the referring sites and traffic sources and decide the landing page, article or item they needed to show their visitor. On mobile apps these companies felt like they were taking a huge step backwards because it isn’t possible to change experiences depending on the traffic source. As soon as the user goes into the app store, all tracking information is lost.

There is indeed a disconnect. How are you bridging that gap?

Since companies don’t know where users are coming from they are forced to serve the same experience to everyone, and we all know from our experience on the Web that a generic customer experience won’t cut it. Search queries, intent, and other data that is served up when a visitor comes to a website don’t exist in mobile and that has a huge impact on conversion, engagement and growth because you don’t have visibility into intent. With Primer, companies have visibility into intent and context because our technology allows companies to make that connection.

A big part of this is the unique links you generate that effectively fingerprint the consumer as they move from the traffic source to my app. What is the user experience and what’s going on in the background to make this happen?

Primer can personalize new user screens for every traffic source. After a simple SDK integration, we allow the company to automatically show each new user a highly relevant experience in the app depending on whether that user came from a referral, an ad on Facebook, or any other traffic source. It starts with links that we generate and that the company can place in the various places where they expect to get traffic. That can be advertising, blog posts, social media — all the sources where you are and want to engage with your customers. When the user clicks on one of the links, we basically grab some information from that click. We gather the information around the time — so when they clicked on it — as well as the device, the carrier and other information that basically combines to format the fingerprint. The fingerprint allows us to connect the most important dots in the customer journey and experience.

Normally, when a user clicks on the link and is sent to the app store to download the app, that would be the step where you would expect to lose all the information about that user and the traffic source because that’s the precise point where every piece of tracking information is lost. With our SDK, the user opens the app and Primer can then grab information after that click — the same information, the time, device, IP address and so on. Since the time difference is very small between the moment the user clicks on the link in the ad or the blog post, and the time the user opens up the app they downloaded for the first time, we can determine that the user really is the one that came from the blog post where you reviewed a certain product, for example. No that we’ve made that connection — literally— Primer allows the company to welcome that user with native screens containing content that matches that user.

App shares and invites are proving to be effective app marketing tools, driving downloads because people pay more attention to recommendations from friends and peers than outright advertising. How do you personalize that experience?

So let’s imagine a user is invited by their friend to install the app, our server uses the fingerprint information to determine where the user came from and determines it was shared by a friend. The SDK then defines what objects to create, and that is based on the screens the company has designed in our web-based visual editor. But in this case the SDK builds out the native screens ­that include the friend’s photo, name, and a greeting to welcome the user to the app. The friend invited the user to the app, and that user is greeted by that friend. It’s a personal and powerful way to start the app experience.

What about the context of the share? Surely, knowing why someone thinks I should check out an app would be even more powerful…

Sharing is big and we are supporting that. So we aren’t just showing who shared it with you we are also personalizing it with a message from the friend. So they can have a message that shows: Hey I found this post that is really insightful because of this reason, so you need to check out the content. We provide that context and knowing the reason why someone shared something is important context to the reader, information that would otherwise be lost in that exchange. So imagine you see news on CNN about a team and your friend is a big fan. You can share that and add a message to the email or text that says: ‘hey this is I like this article because it’s about your favorite team, so check it out.’ Your friend sees that, clicks on the article link and then goes to the app. She installs the app and he opens it up and instead of just seeing the article, she also sees your picture, or your name and the message that you sent. It’s all right there.

Primer exposes users to content in a way that appears seamless and meets our expectations for some continuity in our experience. What’s the difference with deeplinking, an approach that also helps deliver content from inside the app?

You are right — deeplinking is exposing content in the app. What we are doing is actually building screens into the app that are about that content. It’s about a better user experience because the content matches the user’s exact expectations — because we know the link that triggered them to download the app and from that starting point we are showing them what they appreciate most when they open that app. And then the other key difference is that with Primer you are not just exposing content.

You can also change how you present that content at any time. Today if you want to change that content, you have to submit the app to the app store, wait for two weeks for the review and every change you make means you have to puts your engineers and designers to the task. It makes sense that you are not going to change your content very much — or very quickly — because it means time and money. With Primer you go in and change it yourself — without engineers and without designers — with our code-free visual editor, which takes 10 minutes. And this is important because you can never let your content go stale. Your content and your traffic changes all the time and if your app just stays static and doesn’t change — because the release cycle is so complicated —then you are missing out on growth. .

Of course, we access content and conduct commerce on apps. What are your plans for other platforms like wearables?

At the core, it’s all about user intent. It you don’t know your user intent then you are stuck building out an experience that is a one-size-fits-all type of experience — and that doesn’t work on any platform. Since users are coming from different places and have the intent to do different things with your app, we need to meet that expectation when they come in to the app because that’s how companies can keep users coming back to their app. There is real interest in serving a continuous and consistent experience that meets people’s expectations across all of their devices. We are starting with mobile because it’s where the traffic is and where the problems are right now. But I think as more devices come out and as content starts to live in more places, then it will become crucial for us to continue to connect these experiences and meet user expectations on every platform, not just mobile.


Peggy Anne Salz is the Content Marketing Strategist and Chief Analyst of Mobile Groove, a top 50 influential technology site providing custom research to the global mobile industry and consulting to tech startups. She is a frequent contributor to Forbes on the topic of mobile marketing, engagement and apps. Her work also regularly appears in a range of publications from Venture Beat to Harvard Business Review. Peggy is a top 30 Mobile Marketing influencer and a nine-time author based in Europe. Follow her @peggyanne.

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