10 Tips for Getting App Downloads

by: | Aug 26, 2015

If you build it, they might come. But not without some marketing strategy and effort.

It’s surprisingly not all that uncommon for businesses to decide to build an app without really thinking through the marketing of it. Companies are sometimes so focused on the big idea that user acquisition is an afterthought. A great app MVP is a start. But you need users — or none of your hard work will matter.

With that, we wanted to share some tips from our team on getting app downloads. And we’re not talking about expensive ad campaigns to get volume app downloads right from day one. You don’t just want any app downloads — we’re more interested in helping businesses and our clients drive app downloads from the right users at the right time in order to create long-term success with continued app engagement.

Here are 10 tips for doing just that:

1. Avoid big ad spends at launch

Of course you want a massive user base right at launch. But getting those users with a big advertising spend could send you down the wrong path. You’re more likely to attract the wrong type of user — the ones who don’t actually find value in your core value proposition. This could lead to negative reviews or poor conversion rates — and in turn trigger less visibility in the app stores. And worse, the wrong customer will offer up the wrong type of feedback — which could steer you completely off course as you iterate and try to establish product/market fit. Conversely, the right customer can become your biggest advocates (see below about turning your users into evangelists).

2. Do a multi-platform launch

Sometimes companies will stagger the launch of related iOS and Android apps based on when they are completed. But if your business can afford to wait, launching simultaneously will give both apps a boost. You’ll get twice the viral effect because you have a larger audience to start. And any effort/resources you put into marketing on the web will appeal to twice the audience size.

3. Use keyword research

Apps in the App Store and Google Play are becoming more discoverable via search, slowly catching up to the web. Research the related keywords that have the most volume and are most likely to drive app downloads — and include those in your app store descriptions. A good tool to understand search volume: Google Trends.

4. Test, test, test to optimize app downloads

Google Play now makes it pretty easy to perform A/B testing with your description and screen shots. Try two versions of text and images, see what wins, then repeat. A few percentage points difference in app download conversions can make a big difference over time.

5. Aggressively target your current customers

If you’re an existing business, market your app first to your most loyal customers — they are the ones most likely to download your app at launch and to give you positive ratings (or helpful feedback). Those early positive ratings can help drive up your ranking. Also, think about your app in the context of your customer lifecycle. For most businesses, the app is a way to engage more deeply with repeat customers — while most new customers first find out about a business on the web. With that in mind, include links to the app store in all of your customer marketing campaigns and make the links to the app store prominent on your web site.

6. Bundle your apps

If your company has another app already on the app store, bundle your new app with it. The new app could get a boost from the existing app — especially if it’s highly rated.

7. Consider a freemium model

If you’re a startup, consider a freemium model. App download rates are much higher for free apps than paid ones — and if you can offer something for free first, you can start building a relationship with users that will lead to paying customers down the road. Some of our apps have consistent 25% to 30% conversion rates from free users to paid users through in-app purchases.

8. Respond to early reviews immediately

It’s incredibly important for companies to closely monitor and encourage reviews from the very start. Respond to any negative reviews — if someone reports a bug, let people know you are working on a fix. If a user complains about a feature they don’t like, acknowledge you heard the complaint and are considering all feedback for future releases. If you respond to those individuals directly, you might just win over some advocates that in the long run will drive up your overall user reviews rating and ranking. There are also some great and affordable tools available to capture feedback — including UserVoice and Zendesk — that can help turn users into evangelists.

9. Target a few big influencers

Good PR is priceless. Get your app in the hands of a few influential reviewers at launch — top media that cover your industry, bloggers, analysts, etc. And as long as the app delivers on its promise, a few good reviews will make a huge difference.

10. Empower your users to be your evangelists

Create a way for your most loyal users to invite others to download your app. Your advocates will understand how other people might benefit from using your apps — maybe even better than you do. Empower them to sell your app on your behalf. If you have an e-commerce app or are a paid service, you might offer up incentives for your current users (e.g. one month free or 40% off your next purchase) to recruit new ones — it’s a great way to drive engagement and grow your customer base.

Bonus tip: Start thinking about marketing before you start your app

It seems like it goes without saying — but really, you should start thinking about how you’ll reach potential users at the same time as you are shaping your app strategy. Our ebook, From Great Idea to Successful Mobile App, can help with that. And if you have an idea for an app and would like to talk, we’re always happy to help.