Mobile apps have become an incredibly important piece of the digital landscape, in fact, custom app development platform, Buildfire, found that 57% of all digital media usage comes from mobile apps. This huge, viable market for apps does present certain challenges; the Apple App Store has 2.2 million apps, and the Google Play Store has a staggering 2.8 million. With this much competition, it’s no wonder less than 0.01% of apps become financially successful.
Though the stats look bleak, a well-designed app that solves real-world problems can still see extraordinary success. Mobile apps were projected to generate $189 billion in revenue by 2020, and app usage is only going up from here. Of course, to be one of the few apps that climbs the ranks in the app store, it’s important to do some mobile app marketing along the way.
Before diving into mobile app marketing, it’s paramount that you build a timeline with a wide enough period to face any roadblocks that are unfortunately just part of doing business. Creating a financially successful app can require months, if not years, of prep work; the more in-depth research about your target market, your competitors and your users you can compile the better.
One place to start research is with the competition. Find out everything you possibly can in this department:
- Look at their timeline (does yours seem plausible in comparison?)
- How do they make money (and are they actually doing so?)
- Look at different iterations of your competition’s apps (looking at their mistakes and improvements can help lead you in the right direction)
While combing through data about competing businesses can definitely provide some useful information, the best sources you can find are the competitions’ users themselves. Looking at the comments, ratings and reviews those customers post about your competition is often far more constructive than any statistic. Talk to their users – they can reveal information you may not think to look for:
- What made them download the competition’s app? (what is the problem they wanted to solve)
- What are the best and worst features? (how you can improve)
- What makes it user-friendly/unfriendly?
- What features do they actually use?
- Are the in-app advertisements overkill?
- If they stopped using the app, why?
- Where did they discover the app and what drove them to download it?
While learning about the competition is important in and of itself, this information could also be quite useful in defining the problem your app can solve. Of course, you probably had a solid idea of what that problem was when you thought of the app, but don’t let that be a limiting factor. The best way to drive a business into the ground is by refusing to adapt.
Knowing what problem your app solves is vital; that’s one reason why user personas, fictional characters that represent your ideal customers based on market research and demographic data, are so valuable. Your user persona will help paint a more clear picture of the people you are marketing to:
- Who is your ideal customer: Occupation, demographics, personality, hobbies, beliefs, etc.
- The problems and needs of your customers: What annoys them, what wastes their time, what are they settling with that you can make better
- Behavior: Where and why do they shop, when and what do they use their phones for, are they frugal or do they like to treat themselves, etc.
While user personas can be wonderfully valuable, be careful not to stick to them too rigidly. If you find that your real users don’t match up well with the personas you have created – re-evaluate the personas, don’t try and force your real clients into inaccurate categorizations just for the sake of it. The beauty of research is that you can always do more, and we very highly recommend continuing this research throughout the app’s lifetime.
Now that you have conducted some solid preliminary research, the next step is mobile app marketing. If your app is part of a pre-existing business, that business could be a marvelous asset. If you already have a base of dedicated clients, why not start with marketing to them? You can advertise your soon-to-exist app through your:
- Social media: Make an introduction post or a demo video to wet your subscribers’ tongues.
- Website: A simple banner ad at the top of your website could draw in potential customers without hindering their experience at all. Your site is also a great place to link off to the app store or your apps specific social media pages once they are available.
- Emails: Do you have a laundry list of email addresses? Send them an enticing email highlighting the problems your app solves.
- Blog: If you have a blog, this is a wonderful place to tell your clients anything and everything they may need to know about your new app. If you’re ready to take it to the next level, reach out to other blogs/journalists/influencers and see if they would feature your app in a publication.
Though it certainly helps, you in no way need to have an existing business to launch a mobile app; there are a multitude of other ways to get your name out in the zeitgeist. In most cases, you are going to want to start building your apps online presence before it’s ready to launch. The best course of action will ultimately depend on who and what your app is for – but in general, it’s a good idea to make a website and social media accounts for your app if you don’t already have them.
Online will provide you with the largest reach, but in-person events can help add a personal touch to your mobile app marketing. If you have the capacity, a launch party or similar event could draw in interested customers, attract media attention, and showcase what your app has to offer.
The pre-launch phase of your mobile app marketing will hopefully reveal what pieces of your advertising strategy work, and what pieces don’t. Much of the marketing post-launch will be similar to pre-launch, but once the app is available for download, your options expand even more:
Like advertising for any product, paid is always an option. If you choose pay-per-click advertising, make sure your ads are compatible with both iOS and Android on mobile devices. You can also market offline using traditional advertising such as billboards, flyers, free merchandise and QR codes.
If your app is not very well known, paid advertisements within the Apple App Store could be of great use to you. The App Store allows you to buy search ads, which lets you bid for keywords related to your app. If a searcher looks up that keyword, your app will appear at the top of the results. This is a great way to increase app downloads, considering the average conversion rate for Apple Search Ads is 50% (1-2% is the average app conversion rate).
App Store Optimization
Apple’s App Store functions are similar to a search engine, meaning you can strategically improve your app’s ranking through basic SEO techniques. This is appropriately called App Store Optimization, or ASO. Just like in SEO, keywords play a vital role in ASO; in fact, keywords are the leading factor the Apple App Store algorithm uses to determine an app’s ranking for a search query. Keywords hold the most weight in the app’s title; MobileDevHQ, a provider of ASO solutions, found that a keyword in the title increases its ranking an average of 10.3%. Of course, keywords can be used elsewhere as well. You can include keywords in the subtitle of the app and in the keywords field, which is unseen by users.
The next piece the App Store algorithm considers in its ranking is downloads, ratings and reviews. When it comes to ratings and reviews, quantity is important, but quality is imperative. This piece is trickier to navigate as it falls more on the user, but there are many things you can do to begin accruing positive ratings/reviews. The first, and most important, is to listen to the bad ones; a negative review can provide insight into what improvements need to be made. You can also incentivize users to provide honest feedback with in-app rewards such as a free drink, extra gaming lives, no ads, etc..
Perhaps the best way to skyrocket your app’s downloads is to get featured in the App Store – but this is very challenging to do. Apple’s editorial team receives thousands of pitches a day, so if you want a shot at a feature, you’ve got to stand out. Luckily, Apple is pretty transparent about what they look for:
- Beautifully designed UX: Basically, does your app work well and look good doing so? Native apps tend to do much better in this arena, as Apple prefers to feature apps made for iOS.
- Regular updates: This shows Apple that you are constantly working to improve your app.
- Global: The more countries your app is available in, the better. Apple tends to only feature apps that can be used in multiple countries.
- Accessibility: Apple will not feature an inaccessible app.
- App Store Product Page: Your product page should be engaging, optimized for keywords, and informative.
There is a pervasive sentiment in the modern world that good products tend to succeed – but even the best products usually demand time and effort to get to that point. With millions of apps available for download, a powerful mobile app marketing strategy is of the utmost importance. For most, this will require a combination of in-depth market research, a strong online presence, and (tactful) App Store Optimization. If you have an awesome app that isn’t getting the attention it deserves, give us a call at Brandcave, we’d love to help!