Mobile App Launch Plan Best Practices

Mobile App Launch Plan Best Practices

So you have been working on a new mobile app, and hopefully you’ve read my previous post about how to build an app and set it up in the app stores in a way that will ensure that your app will be found.

This post will outline best practices around how to:

  • Beta launch your app
  • Get app reviews, and
  • Create a public launch strategy

All of the above is critical to ensure that your app gets the surge in downloads that are required to cement its placement in the app stores and its long term success.

Why is the app launch impact so important?

To get hundreds of thousands of downloads, you need to make an effort and get the app to “chart,” to blast up the App Store’s sales charts. This will get Apple or Google’s attention and you will potentially be listed in one of their “top” app lists.

Also both app stores look at the rate of downloads as an indicator of how you should rank in their app stores. Apps that have a huge kick at launch end up being successful, and those that don’t make a splash on opening day struggle to gain momentum and are subsequently hard to find in the app store and have lower lifetime downloads.

What do you need to prepare to get ready for your app launch?

The following items are essential for ensuring that you’re ready to beta and publicly launch your app:

  1. A landing page or website about your app
  2. A measurement plan (and installation of software) for both in-app actions and your app store rankings – to be added prior to your beta launch.
  3. A plan for which App store you’re going to launch in first
  4. Pre-release of your app to select beta testers and a plan to compile their feedback/make changes to your app prior to the press launch
  5. A press launch plan where you send out promotional codes for your app to be reviewed by press and other top bloggers. This will also include the development of press release materials.
  6. A public launch promotion plan that includes app directory submission, earned and paid outreach.

So let’s dig into the best practices around how to flesh out each of these tactics!

1. Setting up your app website/landing page:

Users who hear about your app are going to search in Google or Bing to find out more information. When your app is in pre-release stage, you’re going to need an app landing page or website to appear in Google search.

Your landing page needs to:

  • Follow Google’s SEO best practices
  • Have quality content (narrative around your app and it’s unique selling proposition), blog content with screenshots, and updates on changes to the app, etc.
  • Have social media sharing buttons (the ones from each social media network vs. AddThis/ShareThis)
  • Highlight a video of how the app works
  • Display an email address where users can sign up to get the pre-release demo.
  • Support links
  • Follow buttons for the social media accounts that you’ve claimed for your app
    • (I would suggest Google+, Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook – but only if you plan on running Facebook ads).

Supporting your landing page, you’ll need:

  • A blog and social media editorial calendar to keep your users engaged
  • An email marketing campaign plan for all those users who signed up for more information
  • A social media monitoring and response plan for launch week so you can respond to user issues, reviews, and recommendations in a timely manner.

2. Establishing your in-app and app store measurement plan

As you’re finalizing your app, it’s critical to ensure that you have built in mechanisms to track usage (along with user feedback) so that you’ll get a sense of which parts of the app work well and which don’t – data that can help you further refine your app’s features and performance.

There are a variety of in-app analytics packages that would assist in this like Flurry Analytics, Apsalar and Google Analytics Mobile App Analytics. If you’re using Google Analytics for your website, Universal Analytics will allow you to track how those mobile app users move from the app to your website.

Related to tracking your app’s performance in the app stores, it can be difficult as both app stores are personalized to you. The solution is using software like StoreStats or Distimo or App Annie’s in store analytics.

3. Decide which app store you’re going to launch in first

Mashable recommends choosing just one app store in which to launch your mobile app at first. This should help you get the highest concentration of users and ratings possible. Additionally, you’ll be making lots of changes and improvements to your app during those first few weeks after launch, and having your app in just one store will help you streamline those updates as they roll out. Once your app is more established, you should expand it to more app stores.

Most mobile marketers recommend the Google Play store first as it:

  • Owns 75% of all mobile app downloads
  • Has better search functionality and will show apps even when people misspell the name or category
  • Has more visibility and less stringent submissions standards (though developers also make less money than the IOs store, which is a factor to keep in mind if revenue is your ultimate goal).

Ultimately it will depend on your audience. Based on your initial research (prior to building the app) you should have a good sense of whether your target audience is Android or iPhone users.

4. Setting up a beta release strategy to get early feedback and build buzz

Getting early feedback from your users during the app development process will ensure that your app meets their needs, meets the high standards of the app stores, and will generate positive reviews once it’s released to the press.

You can also position this beta testing group as free, exclusive access to your mobile app before it launches. You can even ask them to write a review of your app in exchange for that free, exclusive access.

This process should start early in the app development process by sharing with a beta testing group:

  1. Drawings of the first few screens that you think your customer should see when they use your app for the first time. The user test should be focused on how difficult the users think it is for them to take the primary actions on those screens.
  2. Clickable screens that create an interactive demo of your app.
  3. Here are a few software options to assist in coordinating this stage of the beta test:
    • The Free POP app which allows you to take pictures of your sketches to turn them into an interactive prototype.
    • UserTesting.com where real life people can test your app/website and you’ll get video of their experiences.
    • Or you can use a service that will manage all of your pre-release activity like: Hockey App , Test Flight or PreApps.

You should collect and get input on your prototype from friends, family and potential customers (utilize your email lists!) and revise your designs based on their input. Remember to share some of this process via your social media channels as a teaser to your app launch.

Once you’ve incorporated all of the feedback you can add your app to the store for it to be approved, and follow the best practices around your app store
landing page as mentioned in the previous post.

5. Getting press to cover your App once it is approved by your selected App store:

Getting early reviews from the press will be critical to your app’s success, and you’ll want to start collecting them prior to your public launch.

Apple provides 50 promo codes that enable a reviewer to download the app in advance after the app is approved by Apple, but before it is available to the public (and for free, if a paid app).

With Android, you need to send the game build/APK file to the reviewer. There is a piracy/security risk associated with this, so only sent it to trusted reviewers. So you need to use a third-party service like Appia or prepare a special build just for journalists.

Keep in mind that with iOS apps approval for your app might take some time, and you’ll need the app approved prior to getting the reviews that will be so critical to your app’s long term success. Because of this, set your launch date 6 months after when your app gets approved.


When developing your press review launch list, keep in mind:

After sending out the apps with the promotion codes to your select list of journalists, you should follow up with:

  • an email thank you which re-iterates features that you’d like them to try
  • a press kit with a press release
  • folder full of screenshots
  • the app icon in various sizes
  • a link to a short app demo video showing your app in action

Below is an example of a mobile app pitch email from the founder of Tapity from a his Smashing magazine interview:

Hey [journalist’s name],

[Personalized message to the journalist and introduction to the pitch.]


Launching in a week, Languages is the fastest, most reliable and most affordable offline translation app to hit the App Store. Most translation apps
break down when you need them most: traveling without an Internet connection. Languages gives you the peace of mind that you’ll never be stuck without
reliable translation. While other offline translators charge $5 to $20 for a single language, Languages packs 12 common language pairs into one app for
$0.99.

  • Price: $0.99
  • Launch Date: Next Thursday, October 25
  • Video Demo: http://vimeo.com/51481324
  • Website: http://www.languagesapp.com
  • Press Kit: http://www.languagesapp.com/LanguagesPressKit.zip
  • Promo Code: WJ9HXJNAPL73

Please let me know if you would be interested in doing a review, and I would be happy to provide more information or answer any questions.

Thanks,

Jeremy Olson

Tapity – Founder

704.421.8242

Twitter: http:[email protected]

Website: http://www.tapity.com

6. Creating and executing your app’s public launch

Now that you’ve started to get reviews of your apps as a result of your press launch efforts, it’s time to launch your app publicly. Your public launch plan should include:

  • Promotion on your company’s and the app’s social media channels
  • Email blast to your beta testing group and other relevant email lists
  • An update to your app landing page
  • Submitting your app to app review submission sites. Check out Moby Affiliates which has a huge list of mobile app review sites.
  • Earned/PR pitching of the app to bloggers and journalists
  • Paid promotion of the app
    • There are a plethora of paid mobile advertising networks like AppFlood, so the key is to build a plan that reaches your target audience, and keep an eye on the downloads that you receive from each network.

Are you ready to get started developing your app’s beta, press and public launch plan?

All of the steps might seem overwhelming but that’s often the challenge when trying to enter a crowded market.

If you have:

  • Developed a killer app with user feedback
  • Paid attention to your competitor’s activities
  • Planned accordingly and are prepared to respond in a timely manner to user feedback on launch day and
  • Have a strong long term support and update plan in place

You should be well on your way to announcing a mobile app that not only has a great launch day but becomes a well-used app by your target audience for months to come.

Developing a Marketing Strategy for Mobile Apps – Before you Build

Developing a Marketing Strategy for Mobile Apps – Before you Build

Most people don’t realize how challenging it is to develop a marketing strategy for mobile apps. Some brands think they need a mobile app because their competitors do, or because it’s new sexy thing. In many instances, however, a mobile friendly (responsive) website would be the easiest way for their target audience to find their content while surfing via their phones.

But let’s assume that you (or the brand you work for) have determined that your target audience would be likely to find the space on their phone to install your app as a way to find your content.

What goes into people finding your app?

Below is the latest US data around how people discover apps. Note that the vast majority of app users search the app stores or get recommendations from family or friends.

Mobile App Discovery Stats

 

This post will outline how to ensure that your app is found in the various app stores, and will outline strategies to ensure that your are recommended by your target audience’s family and friends

Fact: The app market is flooded and your app needs to be awesome

Currently, the App Store has around 1 million apps, and itadds about 20,000 apps per month. Apple gets almost 1,000 app submissions a day. The Google Play Store has over 1 million apps, and there have been over 50 billion downloads.

Fact: Users ditch most apps they try

Only 5% of users keep the app after the first month, and uninstalls of your app negatively impact your app being found in the app store. In fact, Google has mentioned that 80% of apps go unused after the first download.

So how do you build an app that will be findable and that your audience will keep and use?

It’s all about understanding your target audience and your app’s competitors. You need to ask yourself these questions:

  • Is the app you’re building filling a need that your target audience has? Is that need currently not served by your competitors?
  • Do you have a sense of what your unique selling proposition is?
    • Your unique selling proposition should not only convince your target audience that they should pay attention, but should also have a call to action that encourages them to download the app. This statement should outline the points of difference and have compelling visuals and calls to action to download the app.
  • Are you building something that allows the user to “snack” on content vs. “feast?”
    • Based on the data, most users are not going to use your app for more than a few minutes a day. US users spend 2 hours and 42 minutes a day on their mobile devices, and 86% of that time is spent in apps.
    • See the breakdown of how that 2 hours and 42 minutes is divided by the type of app being used:Time Spent on Mobile

 

So if you’re creating a news app, your users are only going to use your app for an average of 4 minutes and 18 seconds a day.

  • Are you building a great user experience? If not, you might collect negative reviews that would negatively impact your app’s success.
  • Are you testing your app with your users prior to launching?
  • Are you developing the app for multiple devices? Apps that are featured on multiple devices are ranked better in the app store.

Tackling the app store – App Store Optimization

So you’re now aware that 63% of apps are discovered through app store searches and there are additional apps discovered via app store browsing and the “recommended for you” or “Top 20 App” sections.

What do you do to be found in each of those discovery methods?

Well each one runs a bit differently and I’ve outlined the best practices for each in the ITunes store and the Google Play store below:

Google Play – App Store Search Optimization (ASO)

1. Effectively tackle your app store landing page:

  • Start by using ASO tools to conduct your keyword research. Try Google Keyword Planner, AppCod.es ,Search Man, MobileDevHQ, or Sensor Tower
  • Optimize your App name – it should include your target keyword and the maximum character limit is 30
  • Create a killer app description:
    • This description is what sells your app. There is a 4,000 character limit, and you should use your target keyword at least 5 times.
    • You can have a short snippet from review sites, provide reasons to download, highlight number of users, other apps you’ve created, and quotes from users with links to social media platforms – embedded Tweets, etc.
  • Create a standout app icon
    •  It should be simple, it should not use words, and it should stand out from others in the stores.
  • Add app screenshots of the best features
  • Select the app type (either “applications” or “games)
  • Add an App YouTube demo video to your app store page. ( Using video on your landing page has been shown toimprove conversion rates by as much as 80%).
  • Localize your app and marketing materials. You can also upload localized: hi-res icons, screenshots, feature graphics, promo graphics, and promo videos.
  • YouTube URLs for each language version of your app.
  • Link to the app landing page on your website.

2. Understand and influence other app store ranking factors:

There are a variety of other factors that influence your findability in the app store (some of which have been highlighted by Google themselves) and include:

  • Using a Google+ Plugin, as the more pluses your app gets, the more visible it is in the app store.
  • Getting a large number of searches in the play store of your app by name.
    • Google recommends via your promotion you should ask your audience to “Search for us on the Google Play store.”
  • The total number of downloads and “long installs” (negated by uninstalls)
  • The install rate (number of installs per hour and over last 30 days)
  • Your app’s aggregate rating and number of ratings
  • The number of reviews
  • Being able to use all features of your app cross devices
  • Prompt app support and fixing of app bugs
  • The time since last update (regular updates to features and bugs is critical)
  • Speed in which your app downloads and runs
  • Daily usage of the app by users
  • Which apps your friends on Google+ have voted for.
  • Online reviews of your app
  • Usage: frequency with which your app is used (reported by some developers)
  • Continually updating your app features
  • Using Google’s deep linking so that the content of your app can be visible in Google search results.

Google Play – Optimizing for “Recommended for you”

This “recommended for you” section appears at the top of the app screen and provides personalized recommendations:

Screenshot of Personalized Google Play results

This is influenced by factors like which apps your Google+ friends enjoy, what app you currently have installed, your Google search history, and the general geographical area in which you live. The 2013 Google I/O webinar also highlighted a variety of other tactics that you can deploy when developing your app to leverage  personalization to the end user.

iTunes – App Store Search Optimization (ASO)

1. Tackle your IOs App Store landing page:

Many of these steps are very similar to the Google play store, except that Apple has a few unique fields Iike the keyword field).

  • Start by using ASO tools to conduct your keyword research. Like Google Keyword Planner, AppCod.esSearch Man, MobileDevHQ, or Sensor Tower
  • Optimize your App name (you have 255 characters, but the user only sees 19 characters in their iPhone)
  • Create a killer app description:
    • You have a 4,000 character limit to sell your app
    •  It should be optimized based on your keyword research
    • Include a brief opening paragraph or two and a short bulleted list of main features.
    • Localize for markets where appropriate.
    • Include user reviews, accolades, or testimonials only at the end, if at all.
  • Keywords field:
    • There is 100 character limit field for you to list your keywords
    • Don’t repeat keywords that are already in your title and separate keywords by commas but don’t use spaces.
  • Create a stand out app Icon
    • It should be simple, it should not use words, and it should stand out from others in the stores.
  • Add app screenshots of the best features
  • Localize your app and marketing materials.
  • Link to the app landing page on your website.
  • And now you can add an App preview video.

2. Understand and influence other app store ranking factors:

The additional factors in the iOs app store algorithm include:

  •  Total installs
  • Length of installs
  • Number of reviews
  • Aggregate rating
  • Time since initial launch
  • Time since last update
  • Install rate (installs per 24 hours)
  • App downloaded by not installed

The iOs developer library outlines many of these best practices.

iTunes – optimizing for App Store browsing behavior

While in Google Play the majority of app discovery is via search, in the iOs store most people discover apps through the browse rankings, especially Top 10, Top 25, and New & Noteworthy lists which are available from the App Store.

How do you get on these lists?

According to US market data collected by The Loadown in 2013, iOS app publishers and developers making version updates and price changes improve their positioning on iTunes’ Top Paid, Top Free and Top Grossing lists.

Impact of Version Updates and Prices Changes on Mobile App Discovery

 

David Renard, CEO of The Loadown, stated that this ranking change is because:

“when a paid or free app is updated to a new version, the developer can change the name, icon, description, screenshots and keywords of the app as well as force users to notice the new update.”

For price changes, he adds that

“sales get featured on an Apple RSS feed that is distributed to thousands of sites and twitter feeds focused on promoting apps that have gone on sale or have recently become free.”

iTunes – Optimizing for “Top Free apps”

To break into the Top 10 free apps on the US App Store, an app needs 72,000 downloads per day. To achieve this, one obviously needs a great pre-launch, launch and post launch marketing plan. We’ll talk about how to create these in my next blog post.

 

Now that the user has found your app because of your landing page (and other factors), what convinces them to install it?

There is great data from Google that was shared during their 2013 Google I/O webinar about what drives US users to install an app:

Data around what drives installs

Additional data from Google highlights that 57% of users say that cost is the most important factor when choosing an app to download, and 54% say user ratings and reviews.

Getting Good Reviews

To ensure that you get good reviews, you should make it easy for users to send you feedback and have a process in place to respond to those issues quickly, and notify users when those issues have been resolved. Here are a few ideas for how to handle those issues:

  • Include some contact info at the end of your app description. It can be an email address, a Twitter or Facebook account, etc.
  • Have a website for support. Google Play and the iTunes Store lets you add link to your app landing page where you should highlight your support options.
  • Use software to monitor your feedback messages, run surveys, and engage them via in app messages. Some of the well-known software options are: Appboy, Apptentive, or Instabug.
  • Ensure that you have built in push notifications that will allow you to ping users when there are new features available, notify them when a bug has been fixed, wake up dormant or less engaged users, and/or prompt them to rate an app.

How do you get others to recommend your App to their social media networks?

Again, this is where the marketing needs for the app influence the initial build of the app, as all Google Play apps should use Google Plus sign in functionality, and social sharing to friends should be baked into the app (Play or iOs) from the beginning. If you’ve done your target audience research from the beginning, you should have good personas developed that will help you determine which social media networks your audience is on as you build out the social media channels you might need to promote the app. Nothing is going to replace direct interaction with engaged users however, and that’s where mobile app CRM tools like the ones mentioned above will be the most valuable in engaging your users and getting them to recommend you to others.

Are you ready to build a mobile app now?

If the above list seems overwhelming, that’s because the competition in both app stores had driven a need for high quality apps and solid promotion to ensure that in both stores only the most highly usable and quality apps make it to the top. Keep in mind that both stores personalize their results to the end user as well which also creates an additional marketing hurdle.

But with a strong research and marketing approach from the beginning of developing your app, and a concurrent pre-launch marketing plan in place, it’s not
impossible to create an app that is perfect for your target audience, is found, used and recommended by them.

Stay tuned for my next blog post where I outline how to create a pre-launch and launch marketing plan for your mobile app.

Creating a Mobile Marketing Strategy – Build An App or a Mobile Website?

Creating a Mobile Marketing Strategy – Build An App or a Mobile Website?

Are you thinking about creating  mobile marketing strategy for your business or clients?

When I work with my clients to create a mobile marketing strategy, I often get asked if they should build a mobile app or a site to reach their mobile audience. My answer is always, “it depends”.

It depends on:

  1. Which smartphone or tablet application is your target demographic using? Do they  use many different platforms?
  2. How is your target audience going to look for the information that you are going to provide via a mobile site or app? Does your audience currently look for your information via Google mobile search? (FYI- you can measure this). Or maybe they just are going to look for your information via the app store?
  3. How many other companies are providing the same information via mobile sites or apps? What does your competition look like?
  4. If the market looks flooded, then what are you offering that is different and would encourage your audience to pick you over other apps/sites?
  5. Do you have a promotion plan in place? Do you know the challenges behind website and/or mobile app marketing?

Let’s talk through how you can answer the above questions and start building your mobile marketing strategy:

1. Which platform is your target audience using?

There are few places to discover this.

2. How are they looking for your information?

The free Google Keyword Tool is a great source of information, and by selecting advanced options and then “smartphones” you can get data for mobile searches in Google. Bing now has a similar tool.

3. What is the competition like for the type of app you want to create?

By quickly searching both app stores you can see how many like minded apps there are and can see how many downloads, likes, reviews, etc. In addition, Quantcast just rolled out new functionality that will let you review:

  • information on app traffic
  • how that traffic breaks down by device
  • how it breaks down by app version, and
  • return usage

4. If the market is flooded, how are you different?

This really should be one of the first question you ask yourself whenever you’re thinking about launching a new product. Considering that mobile apps rank in the app store based on daily use, downloads, star ratings, reviews, etc. So you should think through these questions:

  • How are you going to counteract that with your app product?
  • Why should they download your app over the competitors?
  • How are is your app different or new?

5. What promotion plan do you have in place?

If you are lucky enough to build your website so that it’s responsive, then all of your desktop SEO efforts will enhance your mobile efforts as well.

If you’ve launched a mobile only set of landing pages or a mobile only website (that stands independently from your desktop site) then you’ll need to double your SEO and social efforts for your mobile website.

But what if you need to market a mobile app?

Here are few stats from the 2010 Nielsen Company Mobile Apps Playbook that address the challenges of mobile app marketing

  • Only 5% of users keep the app after the first month
  • There are over 350K apps in the iPhone app store (over 30,000 apps in Android’s app store)
  • Each app store results screen only shows about 4.5 listings and a total of 25 before you have to go to the next page (iPhone
  • Both Android and Apple have tweaked how it ranks apps in the mobile app search. One factor is downloads, and most insiders think it is also daily and monthly users of the app.
  • Without building an independent landing page to promote the app, you will only receive on search listing for your app

 There’s no doubt that all businesses should be developing strategies to be found by their target audience (who at this point is most likely looking for you on a mobile device) and many businesses should be thinking about how they can build a stronger brand affiliation with their audience by engaging them on their mobile devices.

Focus on being found via mobile search first

I would suggest that all businesses focus on at least being found when you customers search for you via mobile by creating a set of mobile landing pages.  That will allow you to  gather mobile usage data from your audience and then think about how you might expand your mobile marketing strategy beyond a mobile friendly website.

If you have the budget to take a multi-prong approach to setting up a mobile presence for your business, then check out this mobile strategy infographic that has a great flow chart for you to figure out which combination of mobile platforms (mobile only site, native app or mobile responsive website) would be best for you.

At a bare minimum you are going to need a mobile landing page to be found in mobile search based on the latest statements and guides from Google, so if you’re not thinking of building mobile assets, you should.