Firebase for Android— the What and the Why

Firebase is one of those products with plenty of buzz around it and the name doesn’t suggest anything. A beginner visiting Firebase’s homepage will see catchy tag lines flying around.

“Forget about infrastructure”, “Move fast”, “App success made simple”. The reader is either pumped up or left confused.

So, WHAT exactly is Firebase?

Well, think of Firebase as a toolbox for app which contains tools for:

  • App indexing and deep linking
  • App crash reporting
  • Push notifications
  • Analytics
  • Remote config
  • and a bunch of other useful tools

WHY do these tools exist?

We live in cut-throat times where simply building an app is not going to put food to the dinner table. An app is just a means of reaching the end-user and the goal is to get their business generating revenue.

Every app has a user journey. Broadly, there are four stages of this:

  1. Acquisition — user downloads the app
  2. Retention — once in a while user visits the app
  3. Engagement — user visits the app quite often
  4. Growth — user does in-app purchases and even recommends the app to other users

Firebase tools exist to maximise the number of users going through these stages. Let’s see how.

Acquisition

Acquisition happens when the user has already downloaded the app. But for users to download your app, they need to know about the app. But how exactly does the user come to know about your hard work?

A TV ad might work well in the short term. But in the long term, its the organic traffic that drives most of the business conversion.

This is where Firebase’s App Indexing and Dynamic Links come into play.

So let’s say you have an app called OrderFood on Play Store. You also have a website OrderFood.com which has dynamic links embedded in the webpages. Now if a user is searching “order food online” on his mobile, OrderFood app will show up in the search results with an Install button. This allows organic users to download the app then and there itself.

Retention

Unless your app is Tinder, Facebook or Uber the user doesn’t care about revisiting your app. They’ll open the app sometimes but they wont do anything different.

Believe it or not, this is a good sign. Users repeatedly coming back to your app are a validation that there is something in there that they want.

To capture user behaviour, Firebase provides Analytics. This is a must-have tool to understand the users base and make decisions backed by numbers.

Engagement

Think Facebook. Users uploading pictures, liking posts, creating events, scrolling through their home feeds. Quite an engaging activity!

Think not Facebook and that’s our app. User visits are random and exits happen pretty soon. Worse, they are not very memorable.

Push notifications are great for staying in touch with users. Firebase Notifications allows you to reach the right set of users (also known as ‘segment’) at the right time.

When your users start engaging with the app via push notifications, its time to go back and check Analytics to see user behaviour.

Growth

This metric varies from app to app depending on what is important to you. It could be growth in the number of users or growth in user generated content or simply revenue growth.

“Word of mouth” user to user growth drives most of the app growth. For rest of the cases, you can use Firebase Invites to get users to refer other users via email or SMS.

You can even monetise your app via ads using Firebase AdMob.

Customer experience

This one can make or break your business. So if your latest app update is causing crashes, you run the risk of users uninstalling the app. Such incidents can also bring down that precious Play Store rating.

With Firebase Crash Reporting, you can get email alerts to when new crashes are detected. Needless to say, developers need to fix those crashes before the number of app uninstalls spike up. 😄

In closing

The Android SDK alone is not enough if you want to acquire users and grow your business. You need a larger tool belt for that and Firebase fits the bill. So, if you have an app or are planning to launch an app, give Firebase a try.

Let me know in the comments below if you liked this post or want more info any topic. Always happy to help!

Links & Resources

  1. Firebase homepage
  2. Firebase App Indexing for Personal Content — Getting Personal Content into Search
  3. Exploring Firebase on Android & iOS: Analytics
  4. Exploring Firebase on Android & iOS: Remote Config

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