The app store has transformed the lives of so many people around the world. We use apps for everything: buying groceries, dating, travel, connecting with friends, and more. In fact, people spend about 57% of their time using digital media in apps.
On the one hand, there is no shortage of options. Millions of apps grace the pages of Google Play and the App store—but what makes an app worth downloading, and more importantly, how do you make it easy for users to find your app in the first place?
How Users Discover Apps
As people download apps each day, there’s a rhyme and reason to which ones stick, and which ones fall by the wayside. Not all apps are an instant App Store success story. For every Tinder, Instagram, Snapchat that are universally downloaded, there thousands of well-designed flops.
So, what is it that makes or breaks an app? As a developer, you’ll need to do some research, keep yourself abreast of the trends coming up across the horizon and figure out where you fit in with trending sensibilities.
Over 80% of app users move on from apps within 90 days of downloading, so you’ll need to make yourself useful while appealing to modern sensibilities. If you want to harness “hotness” and staying power like a pro, here are the four basic reasons that people download an app:
- To learn new skills
- To improve mind and body through the use of technology—think fitness and mindfulness/meditation
- Productivity—work tools, time trackers, better photos and videos
- Money management
These trends can also change depending on the year and popular searches happening outside of the app store. As casual dining becomes more popular in 2018, according to a recent study by Google, users are increasingly searching for apps that spot restaurant deals, food delivery, or how-to apps.
App Store Optimization Strategies for Discovery
App discovery hinges heavily on the ability to rank for the specific keywords your customer base is looking for. According to Apple Search Ads, 65% of apps are discovered by users entering a search term within the App Store. So, getting your keywords down is a critical piece of your discovery strategy.
A few tips:
You’ll need to pick the right app name. When searching for a new app, users rarely search for exact titles. Only about 5% of searches are for specific app titles, whereas 80% are around a category or genre. You’ll want to optimize your app title and your keyword ranking in the app store so that it’s a word or phrase that a lot of people are searching for, but does not have too much competition.
Google Play vs. iOS
Most app store optimization strategies are pretty similar across the two primary platforms. With that said, the two stores have a different approach to keywords. The App Store, for example. has a 100-character keyword field, and uses the title and whatever keywords that fit into this section to determine search results. For this reason, you’ll need to choose your search terms wisely.
Google Play, on the other hand, scans your 4000-character app description for relevant keywords and ranks accordingly.
Promote Your Listing with Outside Promotion
Of course, the amount of traffic you drive to the App Store and Google Play plays a huge role in how you’ll rank. While it seems obvious to say, “drive more traffic,” it’s worth pointing out that you need to include a URL in all your social media posts, in your paid ads, and anywhere that’s relevant.
Build traffic by asking for reviews, sticking to a consistent social posting schedule, and advertising. They all work together for a consistent and cohesive download campaign.
Like names, optimized icons are part of the first impression customers see when they log into the store. This tiny bit of branding can speak volumes. Make sure your design stands out by following these quick tips:
- Keep words off the icon; the title is sufficient
- The icon must be 1024×1024, so make sure it works both on the large and small scales.
- Make sure your app icon works with the app. If the concepts are not aligned, people may get confused.
Screenshots Sell the Experience
If you’re marketing a game, a tool, or a dating app, people want to see before they download how the user interface works. Make sure that you take a series of high-quality screenshots that accurately sell the experience. According to Split Metrics, apps with screenshots experience 33% more downloads than their counterparts with fewer visuals.
The App Store and Google Play allow five to eight screenshots per app, respectively. Take advantage and upload your full allotment.
Use Reviewers and Influencers to Get the Word Out
While optimizing your search is key to visibility, users also want recommendations for new apps. Look out for influencers who are sharing content within your niche—gamers for your latest puzzle game, financial bloggers for a money management tool, health and wellness folks for your mindfulness app, and so on. Put together a spreadsheet and track the names that keep coming up. Are there news sites that cover apps like the one you’re working on?
Make a list and connect with these people on outlets like Twitter or Instagram and start a conversation. It’s vital to establish a rapport before going in with a pitch right off the bat.
Beyond that, make sure you get in touch with contacts at the App Store and Google Play. These platforms have editorial teams and they have the power to place your app on the front page.
Review sites are a good way to draw some attention to a new app. If possible see if it’s possible to connect with review sites, an in-depth video reviewer, or the old standby, MacWorld. These sources cover the best of the best in new apps, and provide a credible barometer for potential users to gauge their interest.
That said, they don’t cover everything on the horizon and it may be hard to get an in with some of the bigger sites. Alternatively, you don’t need to turn toward app-specific review sites—popular bloggers often provide recommendations and round-ups featuring tools worth checking out.
Making the Apple’s App Store top apps list is a big deal, but many developers rely on more than just organic traffic to get there. Try running a cost-per-install campaign, or CPI, where you’ll pay for every install of your app.
Now, this, of course, is no long-term strategy, but if you’re starting from scratch, a short burst of installs can help you demonstrate your value in front of a paid audience–and help you land in the charts–that alone can make those initial customer acquisition costs worth every penny.
Your other option is working with Google’s paid search. According to a recent study, most mobile users find out about new apps by doing a Google search anyway, so why not place yourself where the action is?
Word-of-Mouth Still Dominates
Even in a digital era, word-of-mouth advertising continues to be the most effective way to drive sales. People trust friends and family more than an ad, so take advantage. Try offering your users some incentive–a certain amount of service, free credits to be used in the app, etc.
Rewarding existing customers means users will talk about your product to others within your target audience. For example, consider how you found out about services like Lyft, Uber, Dropbox, and Tinder–all provide credits to users that pass along a referral code to friends.
Marketing by App Type
Whatever your strategy, the end goal of keeping users on your app is dependent on the market. It goes without saying, different mobile device management apps call for different measures. You can utilize content marketing to talk about the merits of certain apps. For example, if you’ve developed a money management app, consider creating a financial advice column. After content marketing, the key is to pay attention to unique pain points of your app genre.
Dating app fatigue has been on the rise for quite some time now, and there are probably as many niche platforms out there as single people looking for the one (or one). So, as one might imagine, standing out in a sea of Plenty of Fish is going to be a much bigger marketing challenge than simply developing a cute idea and hoping the singles rush in. The challenge here is finding an audience that doesn’t have their own app yet.
Digital wallets, too, face some marketing challenges. Cryptowallets have been marred by a series of high-profile hacks, so consumers will have a lot of demands as far as security is concerned.
To prove yourself, you’ll need to invest in a lot of educational content—explaining how your digital wallet works, how your solution protects users from incoming hacks, and so on. Consider reaching out to the myriad crypto publications to see if they’ll review your digital wallet or include you in a roundup.
Games on the other hand, require a more visual approach. For one, a well-designed video ad can go viral on YouTube, Facebook, and other online channels. For an immersive experience like a game, video is going to sell potential customers on the experience far more than any blog or Tweet will.
Finally, you’ll need to prove your value. People tend to download apps to improve their lives, not take up precious phone space. If you’re making productivity apps, share videos on social media sites (aka where people may be in need of productivity) that show just how your tool can help people get more work done during their time at the office.
After working hard on developing your app, you still need to invest time in making sure your app is a success for its user base. There’s no such thing as a true overnight sensation, and that same rule applies to any app in the app store. With careful planning, your app can be successful–or, on the other hand, give you the experience you need to make sure the next one has the right strategy in place.
More on this topic: What Your Business Can Learn From The Best Apps Of 2019