Nov 7, 2013 · 2 minutes

Knowledge is power. This truism, often used to convince lackadaisical students that their schooling will eventually mean something, applies especially to software developers. They need to know how to identify a problem, how to solve it, and how to convince other people that their solution is the best available. The more they know, the more powerful and popular their software becomes.

It's no surprise, then, that a growing number of companies are promising to help developers learn about their users. Amazon announced earlier this week the release of an analytics service for iOS, Android, and Kindle Fire developers; Appboy recently raised $7.6 million to continue developing a similar service; and Appsee recently re-branded and raised $1 million to build a tool that would allow developers to learn essentially everything about how people are using their products.

These services aren't just focused on the passive collection of data, however. They're starting to focus more on allowing developers (and marketers) to act on this data, because what good is knowledge without the power to act on it?

Many companies are no longer worried only about downloads. People download and delete too many apps for that to be a reliable measure of a product's success. Instead, they need to focus on making their product something that people return to every day. And that takes more than just an analytics platform -- it requires a comprehensive service that can monitor and interact with an app's entire user-base.

“Two years ago, there wasn't a place for us because everyone was so focused on downloads, downloads, downloads," says Appboy CEO Mark Ghermezian. "But I think today you’re seeing more people worrying about the active users, what their retention is like, and how they engage with people.” That realization has taken Appboy from its developer-focused roots and made it focus more on marketers.

It might soon do the same for Appsee, which was built after a small development team realized that none of the available analytics platforms did quite what it wanted them to, so it developed an analytics tool that eventually proved more compelling than the original app. Appsee CEO Zahi Boussiba says that the company is currently focused on bringing its service to more platforms but will eventually become an analytics-turned-customer management service like Appboy.

"We're currently in the measurement area. We will show you what's wrong with your app, we will show you what your users do in the app, and we will give you very good visibility into how users behave," Boussiba says. "Eventually, though, we would like to go into the operative stage. We're not there yet, but we definitely see ourselves going there."

Ghermezian explains the progression of the app market and companies like Appboy as:

The last few years, when apps started, everything was focused on creating apps. Then, when everyone could create an app, the question became 'How do I get users to use my app?' Now companies have gotten really smart about how to build awareness around an app. The question becomes 'Okay, I know how to create an app and I know how to acquire users, but I don't just want to throw these people into a bucket and leave them there.' That's where I see Appboy fitting in. We're the last-stage toolset meant to keep those users coming back.
Knowledge doesn't mean much by itself, especially in the app market. As more companies start to realize that, more will shift from the passive gathering of information towards a proactive solution that uses data as fuel.