How to Successfully Market an App In 2019 (and 2020)

We love our apps. There are more than 2 million on the iTunes App Store alone. Business of Apps reports that the average American smartphone owner spends 2 hours and 57 minutes using their apps each day, with approximately 20.1 apps being used on a monthly basis.

Needless to say, apps have become a fully integrated part of our daily lives. There are apps for practically every niche imaginable, whether you need help managing your finances or you want to spend time gaming.

All of this presents a significant opportunity for app developers. But it also poses a legitimate challenge. After all, with so many apps on the market, how can you get yours to stand out?

Successfully marketing an app can be challenging, but it’s far from impossible. Here are some of the tactics that I’ve seen generate real results, that will help you grow your app’s audience in 2019 and in the years to come:

Find your unique selling point

It doesn’t matter whether you’re developing a standalone app or launching an app that serves as an extension to your website — you need to find the unique value proposition that you can offer to your target audience. All the marketing in the world won’t do you any good if people don’t feel like they have a legitimate reason to adopt your app.

Think critically. What is the problem you are trying to solve? I’ve found that doing extensive research on your perceived target market and analyzing the strengths and weaknesses of potential competitors can go a long way in helping you identify areas where you can fulfill an unmet market need.

Regardless of what your idea might be, chances are, there are already other apps attempting to address a similar need. Doing your research early on will ensure that you don’t become just another imitator that gets lost in the clutter.

However, you should also take this opportunity to identify ways to more seamlessly meet user expectations regarding design and interface. As developer Hicham Moutahir warns, “As a user, you would want to open an app and feel like you already intuitively know everything — where to click next, what actions to perform, how to jump to a particular place, etc. The second you get stuck, you give up and go try another app.” Don’t try to become so unique that you alienate your audience.

Optimize your app listing

Online app stores are one of the primary means of discovery for smartphone apps. Unfortunately, far too many developers overlook the marketing basics needed to ensure that people can actually find their recently launched app. Just like websites need SEO to stand out, you will need to use app store optimization techniques to increase exposure and engagement.

Even if you have your app listed on your own website, you need to optimize your app store listings. Research from Forrester indicates that a full 63% of app downloads come directly through app stores.

As in SEO, keywords matter. Your app’s headline, description and even screenshots should be optimized for your target keywords. This will help you show up in relevant searches. App stores also look at reviews and ratings to determine an app’s overall engagement levels. Encourage your early adopters to leave reviews for an additional rankings boost.

As engagement and impressions continue to grow, so will your download numbers. This will continue to feed into the ranking algorithm so you can keep climbing.

Grow revenue through retargeting campaigns

It’s a common mantra in marketing that it is cheaper to retain an existing customer than it is to acquire a new one. I’ve learned through my own startup experiences that this is true, and it has equal application in the apps marketplace as well.

A recent study from app user acquisition analytics provider AppsFlyer found that retargeting yields a 50% greater revenue uplift than acquisition campaigns that don’t involve retargeting. This was especially true of shopping apps, where app retargeting resulted in an impressive 62% conversion rate. Across all industries, apps that utilized retargeting campaigns saw their year-over-year revenue increase by 63% from 2018 to 2019.

The most effective retargeting campaigns use dynamic ads, which offer greater relevance and personalization in comparison to a standard ad. By leveraging data from a user’s previous interactions with your app, you can customize your retargeting campaign on an individual basis to identify the content that will have the greatest impact.

Leverage industry influencers.

Though the term “influencer” has largely become associated with celebrities on Instagram, this is far from the only platform where you can find individuals with large followings who can help get the word out about your new app.

Look for bloggers, podcasters or social media influencers who work within a similar niche to your app, then send a pitch to encourage them to try out and review your app. Obviously, you want your UI to be ready to go at this stage so you can get a great review. Even a short mention in a Tweet will have a greater influence on much of your target audience than all the paid marketing you would do on your own.

You can also increase your coverage potential by sending out press releases or getting appearances in podcasts or other interviews to discuss your new app. Bloggers and news outlets are always looking for new content, and the launch of your app can easily be viewed as a newsworthy event.

Regardless of whether you are reaching out to an influencer or setting up an interview opportunity, you must clearly communicate your unique value proposition in your pitch. Publishers and influencers want to provide value to their audience, too. Try to focus the story on how the app helps their target audience, rather than the app itself.

Engage your audience through social media

Social media has had its ups and downs, but it continues to be a powerful driver for app downloads. In fact, research from Google has found that social media ads influence 49% of all app downloads.

With organic reach continuing to decline, app developers must invest in paid social media content if they want to take advantage of these highly targeted ad platforms. However, savvy marketers know that newsfeed ads aren’t the only way to promote their app.

As reported by Digiday, many brands have recently found success by using Instagram Stories to promote their apps: “App installs for Hopper on Instagram Stories grew by 67% on versus those ads the travel advertiser bought in the Facebook news feed … Conversions were also three times more likely on the app install ads bought in Stories versus those in the feed.”

This doesn’t mean that you should neglect organic content entirely. Your app’s social media profiles are an ideal platform for running contests or providing special offers that encourage new users to download your app. Social media also allows you to use your current audience to find new app users, particularly when you run contests that require tagging friends or sharing a branded hashtag.

Continually update and maintain your app

It’s nice to imagine that the actual development work is complete once you launch your app. But this simply isn’t the case. As with any other business venture, you must continue to fine-tune and improve your app after the initial launch.

Whether you discover new bugs or receive feedback from your customers about something that needs to change, continued app maintenance plays an essential role in retaining your current users. It indicates that you are fully invested in your app and its contents and that you care about the experience of those who have downloaded your app.

Quite often, you will need to update your app to address changes in the marketplace as a whole. Whether you need to ensure compatibility with a new set of devices or want to add a new feature to address a new competitor app, new updates will ensure that you remain relevant.

A/B testing can also prove to be a valuable resource once you have a large enough user base, especially when planning to implement new ideas. Getting customer feedback before enacting a full-scale change will help you avoid the backlash faced by apps such as Snapchat.

Continued updates won’t just make your app more user-friendly. It can also improve your rankings in app stores. Regular app updates are actually part of the ranking algorithm for both Apple and Google. Online app stores will reward you for keeping your app up to date, even if you are only making a minor change.

Is marketing your app a lot of work? Absolutely. You must consider the marketing needs of your app from the time you enter development through the months and years after your launch.

Marketing an app is never a once-and-done item on your checklist. It is an essential part of your ongoing branding efforts. As you use these tactics to ensure your app reaches your target audience, you will achieve the growth you need.

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