In the vast world of app development, you might feel like at some point you’ll overlook something crucial. Determining the right launch plan, garnering success in the App Store, and retaining users for the long-term is a multi-step, multi-variate process that directly determines the outcome of your mobile or web app.
While there is a lot to cover and keep track of in this process, there are certain big considerations that will help guide you along as you reach for app success, particularly as your strategy evolves. Before, during and after launching your app, run through this quick list of must-dos to make sure you cover all your bases.
#1. Pick a platform
In an ideal world, with infinite resources, you’d launch on both Android and iOS at the same time with a fully featured native app. In reality, you’ll have to consider which platform to launch on first, and each has their own set of pros and cons. Android is currently the market leader in terms of adoption and retention, but iOS apps are more profitable, so if your monetization strategy is dependent on paid-for apps or in-app purchases, then iOS might be your best bet. Aside from that, there are a number of development considerations to take into account before choosing a platform:
> Potentially wealthier reach
> Superior development tooling and support
> Guaranteed security
> More open platform
> No approval process necessary
> Broader reach, in terms of devices
Things to be aware of
> Approval process can take longer than two weeks
> More restrictive on data sharing, advertising and interaction methods
Things to be aware of
> Harder to maintain a consistent experience due to the wider variety of form factors and OS versions
> Higher chance of errors and piracy
Of course, you can always choose to develop on more than one platform to negate a lot of these issues. However, that will extend your development time, increase costs, and delay your entry to the App Store, so it’s essential to think about your timeline and priorities before choosing your platform(s).
Bonus tip: Apple is going to start rejecting apps that incentivize based on social sharing and video views, so take that into consideration when developing your app!
#2. Identify your beta users and test, test, test
Your beta users will serve as the ultimate test group, and will be some of the most honest and accurate critics of your new-to-the-world app, so finding the right group is important. You can choose to do a public beta launch, which is open to everyone to gain more impressions, or do a private launch by invite-only. First, consider what your vision is for the app, and along with that who your ideal user would be: if it’s really anyone, public beta could be fine. If you prefer more targeted beta insights, find the closest possible version of your ideal user and invite them.
Reaching your beta users is always critical. You can use a tool like TestFlight to help streamline that process. Beyond beta or real-world testers, you’ll also want to bring some load, scale, and network testing to bear on your app. You can do this manually, and initially that might work, but using a tool like AppPurify can help reduce the amount of time spent on this phase of the project.
#3. Plan your acquisition campaigns
The next big step after you’ve developed your app? Finding users.
Every app is going to have organic acquisition, but only some are going to have paid acquisition. Facebook’s platform is currently the most-used, but using search engine marketing and other mobile ad platforms should be considered in the planning phase. Mobile ads work well to drive users because they’re already in the mobile mindset. Plus, when ads are served to the right audience (by targeting specific interests), you’re paying to introduce your app to your ideal users.
In preparing for organic acquisition, you want to make sure you’ve optimized your App Store listing. Much like search engine optimization App Store Optimization (ASO) involves incorporating the right keywords into your store listing so that it ranks higher in search results and is easily discovered. More traffic from these searches to your listing generally mean more downloads and ultimately, users. ASO also includes identifying the right category for your app, as 63% of downloads come from general browsing in the App Store.
You also want to have the right app screenshots in your listing to help convey the value, plus ratings and reviews, which help in the decision of whether or not to download. Ultimately, the more downloads you can get, the better your App Store ranking will be, giving you better exposure (and potentially even a spot in the Top Charts).
Another piece of organic acquisition is online promotion. Do you have a website? Does it provide information about your app? Do you have social media accounts set up for your app? Are there forums or online communities you can tap? Your app needs to live a life outside of the app store as users conduct research and start to engage with your brand. The more relevant information there is online about your app, the more credibility it lends. Plus, it expands your reach to potential users, who are most certainly online.
Of course, there is also the scenario in which your app goes viral. Despite an abundance of research done on what makes something viral, this is still difficult to pull off, and relies heavily on the oh-so-uncertain word-of-mouth. That being said, it’s certainly not impossible. The experts over at Smashing Magazine have a rundown of everything it takes to make your app viral, which is a good place to start.
P.S., Here are some additional tips on how to improve your acquisition strategy using app analytics.
#4. Identify what’s working and what’s not
Namely, which features are your users responding to and what functionality resonates most? The goal here is to know exactly how users are interacting with your app and to double down on that functionality, improving the experience and giving users what they want. It might even be that your primary feature isn’t what users connect with most, but which will help inform your strategy moving forward, and evolve your app further.
You’ll also want to keep a close eye on your app performance as it’s being used during launch. Monitoring your app performance closely during this first impression time period will allow you to immediately address, prioritize and troubleshoot any app issues, including errors, bugs, crashes and network latency. A new user who encounters a bottleneck might never return, so ensuring that your app is error-free is critical. Use a tool like Crittercism to ensure uptime, pinpoint errors and maintain perfect performance.
#5. Look at your initial App Store success
Downloads aren’t the most important metric to measure when it comes to your app success long-term, but during launch, it most definitely takes center stage. You want as many eyes on your app as possible, which means tracking downloads as an initial indicator of interest and usage. Also, if you decided to build apps for multiple platforms, you’ll want to consider exactly how you’ll draw insights across the various app stores. App Annie is a great source of market research, and their analytics platform can measure your downloads by source, indicate overall revenue and track your App Store ranking.
With the right PR and promotion plan, you can drive attention, downloads and users to your app – and with the right App Store ranking and reviews you gain invaluable credibility. Too keep this up, however, is an ongoing project, so be sure not to rest solely on initial numbers.
#6. Analyze first week retention rates
Are the channels you chose during pre-launch delivering in the numbers you wanted? The answer lies in acquisition and retention tracking. Go beyond identifying the downloads from each source and look at the first week data around retention rates: which channels delivered the most engaged, valuable users? This will help you validate the right sources and stop paying for the ones that simply aren’t working.
Then take a look at your overall organic and paid retention rates. How often do users open your app? What percentage of users downloaded it once and haven’t re-engaged? Do you already have a group of power users? What you want to identify clearly at this point is how well your app is keeping users interested. Because even if you get 10,000 downloads in week one, if only 5% of those users come back you need to re-think your strategy. Using a tool like Localytics will enable you to track user engagement and other key metrics today, tomorrow, and down the road, and help achieve your post-launch goals.
#7. Create a plan for engaging and re-engaging users over time
Promoting your app to garner downloads is an essential part of your marketing plan, but don’t forget what comes next: maintaining and improving usage (or improving the “stickiness” of your app). Happy, engaged users are more likely to convert, make in-app purchases, and give you positive reviews. All in all, they are the most valuable users you have, and re-engaging them to keep them happy is a definite must-do.
You can do this with campaigns targeted to your users through email, push and in-app messages, and SMS. These promote engagement with special offers and discounts, customized content, reminders, and other valuable information your users are looking for. Plus, with personalization and automation (some of our favorite keywords), you can create campaigns that speak to individual audience segments and trigger according to certain actions, making the entire experience tailored to your user interests.
#8. Optimize your app to provide more value
After launch, you can gain even better insight into how users are interacting with your app features. This means analyzing screen flows and moving users through conversion funnels to identify where to expand on your app and where the value lies. Are there UX or UI changes you can make based on user behavior that you hadn’t previously anticipated? Here’s where you begin to find out, and can optimize accordingly.
In most cases, your ultimate goal will be to optimize for higher customer lifetime value. In calculating the ROI of your app, this is the primary metric. A user’s lifetime value signals what they are worth to you over the course of their lifetime using your app, and improving your app to boost this metric will increase ROI as a whole. But, every app is different, and your ultimate goal could be whatever you want it to be to provide the highest value possible.
#9. Re-evaluate to grow
No app can stay static and be successful; no matter what your industry or driving purpose, you will have to evolve as user behavior evolves. This can mean expanding into other value paths, targeting new audiences, and even re-defining the direction of your app roadmap. There are small considerations and giant leaps that live within this, and some of your re-evaluation moments might be unexpected. Think critically and creatively to come out of these moments with concrete ideas and plans to better grow your app.
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