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For professional app developers, nothing can be as exhilarating as the news of their mobile applications getting rave reviews, generating high downloads, and earning a fair bit of money. Unfortunately, for most app companies around the world, this remains a pipe dream. We took a look at the app store stats last week, and found that over 80% of the available apps had a total download count of less than 1000 (with many having double-digit download counts too). Add to that the large number of apps that are downloaded and installed on devices, but are not used more than once or twice by users – and it becomes apparent that most apps are unsuccessful, and they end up causing losses for their respective makers. In this week’s AppBoard Tuesday (ABT), we will discuss some pointers that can help mobile app companies stay out of this rut:
- Make apps discoverable – People come to the online app stores (iTunes or Google Play Store), search for the type(s) of apps they are looking for, browse through the results, and select one from them. The entire process takes less than three minutes. The trick lies in ensuring that your apps also show up in the customers’ search results. At the time of submission, write out a detailed description of your app. Think up a set of keywords that are likely to feature in people’s searches, and include them in the description (do not spam though). For instance, if you have made a kids’ app, specify whether it is a ‘mobile game’, or a ‘mobile educational app’, or something else. For apps that are downloadable across the world, you should also have translated versions of the app descriptions ready.
- Add value via apps – There should always be a reason why people should download your application. If an app simply displays information that is already available on mobile-friendly websites, most people will not feel motivated enough to download it. You need to zero in on a unique value proposition for your app (might be entertainment, might be image-editing, might be digital reading, or anything else), and highlight that to prospective end-users. Start doing this before your app is launched. Building curiosity among customers is important.
- Get extensive press coverage – Okay, this bit is slightly difficult for startup mobile app companies, at least. The leading app review sites pick up and feature apps randomly from the store – and do not generally entertain requests from smaller firms. There is no reason to despair though – since there are plenty of free press release distribution sites, where you can publish news, updates and interesting tidbits about your apps. You should also submit your app for evaluation at select free app review sites. Don’t lose sight of the app review exchange groups and communities on Facebook and Google Plus. As the buzz about your app will grow, the bigger, high-traffic sites might just feature your app. That’s what you are after.
- Prepare customized tutorial videos for each app – You wish to give as much information about apps to the potential customers – and videos are one of the best ways to do it. Right from the downloading and installation procedure, to the controls, features and in-app navigation feature – highlight everything in the video (make sure that the recording is of decent quality). Upload the video on popular channels like YouTube and G+, and share its link on your other social media channels. Explain the user-permissions that your app would seek (for instance, phonebook information), and be forthright about the app monetization strategy implemented. The less doubts people have about an app, the more likely it is that they will check it out.
- Manage notifications to bolster engagement – The average interaction time between a user and a mobile app is low. An effective way in which you can keep people hooked on to your app is by including regular push notification options in the application. The notifications can be related to text messages, special offers (for business/retail apps), images, or simply social sharing prompts. One thing though – users should be able to deactivate the notifications, if they so wish. Not everyone likes to hear a ‘beep’ in their smartphones after every 15 minutes!
- Simplicity works, complexity doesn’t – First-time game developers often rack their brains about making that ‘perfect’ mobile game, with a host of characters, loads of features, and high-end gameplay. They should not bother taking the trouble, for a complex mobile application is not likely to find favor among customers anyway. Irrespective of the genre of your app, it should have simple UI/UX layouts, a seamless background, and user-friendly controls. Provide an instructions screen to guide the users. People neither have the time, nor the patience, to spend time ‘learning’ how an elaborate app works.
- Build urgency – This is a relatively underused, but really effective, strategy to boost the downloads of a new app. For a limited period of time (say, a week or ten days), offer your app at a discount (assuming that yours is a paid app). Keep informing people that this discount period is running out. If you have launched a freemium app, launch reward campaigns, which gives tokens/points/discounts on every in-app purchase done within a specified deadline. This will build user-engagement. The points or gifts you offer should be easily redeemable.
- Keep an eye on analytics data – Resources like Countly and Flurry Analytics help mobile app developers to keep track of how their apps are being used – right from installation and activation, to deletion (well, if that happens). You can also create multiple trigger points within the same application – which would help you in performing A/B tests between two or more versions of the app. Note the percentage of users who are activating the push notifications for your app. If this figure is too low, you might have to rethink the notification generation strategy.
- Initiate a Cost-Per-Install (CPI) campaign – If availability of funds is not a big issue, iPhone app developers can launch a CPI campaign for a limited time-period. Every time a new app gets downloaded, some amount of money has to be paid by the registered developer. In exchange, the chances of that particular app getting featured in the top-50 list at the store get enhanced. The CPI campaigns are, in essence, a method of investing money to boost the visibility of your app at the stores. They can be really beneficial.
- Make everything shareable – The importance of real-time social media integration in mobile applications can hardly be overemphasized. According to experts from top mobile app companies, social media sharing features are great for bolstering user-engagement, and ultimately, building up a mobile community (think: a large group of users discussing about data generated from your app). Make sure that users can share stuff directly from the app to their personal FB, Twitter, LinkedIn or Google Plus profiles. A mistake is to be avoided here – do not make Facebook as the only login option for your app. There are people who are not on Facebook, and they are not going to open an account only for using a mobile app.
- Use HQ, detailed screenshots – At the Apple iTunes store, you have the opportunity of uploading as many as 5 screenshots of your iPhone app. Each screen you choose should display a specific, important feature of the app (ideally, the registration/login screen should be included). If possible, a couple of lines of text should be present on each screen too – explaining the functions of the latter. For Android apps, you will need good-quality app screenshots, and an optimized cover image (most developers overlook this). The first impression of an app needs to be a good one.
For those who have started out with making apps for Apple Watch, remember that the first wave of third-party WatchKit applications has not been anything great – and there is a real opportunity to make customized, user-friendly apps for the smartwatch. Testing mobile apps thoroughly before store submission is vital, as is releasing regular updates (which, of course, have to be free). Provided that the core content of your app is indeed of value, the above tips can help in bolstering the chances of its success. You don’t want to work hard on creating a mobile app, and then have it lying at a corner at the app stores with negligible downloads, right?
That’s about that then, as far as this edition of AppBoard Tuesday is concerned. A bit of news from the Teks-front before we sign off – we are at the final stages of making two new apps: Property Match (a mobile property locator in England) and Fish-O (an iOS discount coupon app). If all goes well, they should be at the App Store within a few days.
AppBoard Tuesday will return next week with some other interesting topic related to mobile apps. Till next Tuesday then, take care…and love thy apps!