The App Store and Google Play are at the point of bursting. Right now, they host around 3.1m apps between them and that number’s growing at an incredible rate on a daily basis. The current app ecosystem is not designed to allow the most original or innovative content to be discovered easily; you can create the best game, build a life-changing health app, or invent the next big thing we don’t even know we need yet - but how can people download what they don’t know exists?
The App Store’s broken. If you’re one of the world’s biggest publishers, you’ll have no problem getting featured and working your way onto people’s smartphones - that’s just the way it is, big pockets equals big downloads. If you don’t have that budget, you face a huge battle to make any kind of noise in the crowd. So how do you go about getting discovered in a market where demand is nowhere near the size of the supply?
Gartner said that only 0.01% of developers will be successful through to 2018 - that’s a scary stat and a pretty sad one too. That’s why it’s important that you get the basics right. First impressions are everything, so don’t rush your app into the stores - make sure you iron out any little bugs that may frustrate your early adopters.
You need to make it easy for people to understand what it is your app does and why it’s right for them as quickly as possible, so ensure you have a clear, succinct description - using your keywords - some engaging screenshots and a quality video to draw them in. Next, think about when you’re launching - unless yours is a seasonal-specific app, it’s a good idea to avoid the holiday periods altogether because chances are you’ll be up against even more competition as the big players push their marketing efforts.
Before you start looking at alternative ways of gaining installs perfect the basics so that you don’t become an early casualty before you’ve even got going.
I was lucky enough to be building apps for the App Store when it first launched in 2008. It was a lot easier to build traction then, and I became the first teenager in the world to reach more than 1,000,000 downloads. Shoot forward a couple of years and it became a lot more difficult to get those kind of numbers, and traditional advertising networks just weren’t raising the awareness I needed. These frustrations were shared with most of the developers I spoke to - including my cofounders at Tapdaq, Dom Bracher and Nick Reffitt - who were building apps at the time too.
We found that cross-promotion was a great way of circumventing the cost aspect of obtaining downloads. Developers work together to grow and retain each other’s user base through efficient cross-promotion and a transparent install exchange. By searching ad-exchange platforms - like ours at Tapdaq - developers can select the apps they want to cross-promote with based on user interest and behaviour; ultimately increasing discoverability and install numbers by relevant users.
Tell the media
A hugely important time for any developer is the day your app launches - and you want the world to know about it. Using clever PR techniques can help boost your chances of early discovery. You may think this comes at an expense, but it doesn’t have to - there are things you can do yourself to get your news out there.
Think about what media will be interested in your app and build a dream target list of the publications your potential users will be reading. Then comes the hard bit; getting the journalists’ attention. Media coverage - unlike costly advertising - is never guaranteed, that’s why you need to keep these things in mind before you contact the press about your launch:
Who are your competitors and why do you stand out? It’s one of the first questions any journalist worth their salt will ask you and you need to have a compelling answer ready. If you’re launching a transport app for example, how are you different to Uber etc and why should consumers choose you over the existing offerings? Your team might be your greatest asset in the early days when you don't have any metrics to point to, so think about why yours is the team to pull off this great idea and make it succeed
Journalists like facts not feelings. It’s extremely important that any claim you make about why you’re different / special / better can be backed up with facts rather than feelings. If you’re saying you’ve developed ‘the best new language learning app on the market’ you have to give evidence outlining why this is
Prepare a kick-ass press kit. Journalists write - on average - 3 - 5 articles a day, so make life easy for them by preparing a press kit. This should include a press release - here’s a good article on how to prepare one - company logo and assets, screenshots of the app in action and a video trailer
Build an engaged community
Building, growing and nurturing a loyal community is one of the most important things you can do once you’ve got your app out there. These users will help you grow in more ways than one; they’ll tell their family and friends, spread the word on social media and give you feedback which will help steer the product in the right direction as you grow.
There are loads of companies doing great things to engage with their community. One example is photography app, EyeEm, which is building a fiercely loyal community by hosting an annual Festival & Awards to celebrate the work on the platform. It also has an active social following and recently launched a magazine featuring the work of its users.
Think about how you can interact with and reward your users in the most effective way possible, and steadily you’ll form a strong, devoted user base.
Follow these dos and don’ts to getting featured
Obviously getting featured on the app stores is fantastic - but as we’ve noted, it’s incredibly difficult. Our friend and independent games developer, Amir Rajan, wrote this great post on our blog explaining how he got featured and had a #1 game in the App Store.