An effective app marketing strategy requires a blend of traditional and new channels to attract users and generate revenue. In this post, we share the 12 best marketing channels to optimise your app’s user acquisition and retention strategies.
In 2008, the Apple App Store was launched with only 500 apps. With the App Store came a new marketplace to create mobile experiences that transcended entrepreneurship, industry and international distribution boundaries.
In the eight years since then, the pursuit of app store supremacy has led businesses and entrepreneurs towards a variety of mobile app marketing and distribution channels that continue to be shaken up by the latest technological innovations and social trends.
In my role as a Product Manager since 2012, I’ve seen mobile app marketing change a lot, but one thing has remained constant all these years: To the victor go the spoils.
Taking advantage of the marketing channels available to you is the key to increasing the performance, popularity and profitability of your mobile app. To help your app thrive in the evolving business of mobile marketing, these are the 12 most effective marketing channels to use when launching a new mobile app.
1. App Store Optimisation
App Store Optimisation (ASO) is the process of increasing a mobile app’s ranking in an app store’s search results. The purpose of ASO is to drive more traffic to your app’s page on the App Store or Google Play, so browsers can discover and download your app.
With 63% of apps being discovered through app store searches, you need to be well versed in the various elements that influence an app’s ranking, including the use of keywords and a high-converting sequence of screenshots.
However, there is more to ASO than just the content on your app’s landing page. To maximise your conversion rates for the lowest user acquisition cost possible, you should also be measuring the page ratings and reviews your app receives from consumers.
2. Ratings & Reviews
At the core of mobile app marketing are the app store ratings and reviews provided by potential customers that directly influence your app’s assurance of quality. As Zomato reviews can make or break a local restaurant, a slight change in your app’s rating can have a dramatic effect on it’s app store ranking and, in turn, the downloads and revenue it generates.
A 2015 Consumer Survey on App Store ratings found that increasing the average rating of your app by just one star (E.g. from a 3.0 to a 4.0) can nearly double your expected downloads. Reviews are just as vital with approximately one-third of browsers reading at least seven reviews before purchasing a paid app.
In a survey of 350 smartphone users in the US, approximately 60% of respondents said that they check ratings before downloading an app.
3. Engaging Content
If ratings and reviews are at the core of app marketing, in-app content is the key ingredient to the growth and sustainability of your app. This channel is one of the few listed here that affects every tier in an app’s growth funnel.
Benefiting user acquisition and retention in particular, engaging content is essential to your app’s long-term viability. With 60% of mobile customers getting bored with an app after using it for a month, it’s vital that you offer something original and fresh every time they open your app.
Furthermore, new content via frequent app updates plays a crucial role in user acquisition. Recent updates communicate quality assurance and continued developer maintenance to your customers, while trends over time (E.g. An increased app rating following a content update) directly influence an app’s boost in store ranks.
4. Paid Advertising
Similar to search engine marketing (E.g. Pay-Per-Click advertising via Google Adwords), paid advertising of your mobile app is a way to quickly reach a targeted audience and secure app downloads.
There is a variety marketing channels available for paid app marketing, from the app stores, to social media and even within other apps. While this marketing strategy is commonplace in digital marketing, incentivised Cost Per Install (CPI) and retargeting is still unique in the app marketplace.
Incentivised CPI relies more so on the strategic partnership between two apps rather than the app stores as an intermediary. In this shared monetisation model, one app ‘incentivises’ users to download the other publisher’s app (E.g. A mobile game may offer in-app currency if the user downloads a specified app). In return, the publisher who receives the download pays a small commission to the referring publisher.
App retargeting is a strategy to increase user retention by targeting your ads towards users who have already downloaded these apps. These ads provide a non-intrusive method to alerting current users of newly available updates and features, or simply reminding fleeting users of your app offering.
5. Loyalty Programs
The purpose of an app loyalty program is to convert casual users into highly active and profitable advocates. In the app marketplace, these programs are often implemented as:
- Reward systems – E.g. A discount offer on a customer’s next purchase following a recent transaction.
- Gaming achievements – E.g. Unlocking a new level after sharing your gameplay on Facebook.
- A mix of mobile and traditional marketing channels where customers can earn loyalty rewards to obtain in-app incentives.
In 2015, coffee chain Starbucks saw a 7% jump in global store sales thanks in part to the My Starbucks Rewards program. Starbucks CEO and mobile loyalty innovator Howard Schultz said the growth of the company’s loyalty program “continues to be our most important business driver as new members contribute not only short-term increases in revenue and profit, but also to long-term loyalty for years to come.”
The My Starbucks Rewards program gives customers free drink or food rewards based on the number of stars earned. There are three levels —welcome, green and gold—with increasingly greater rewards.
6. Usability & Visual Design
A continuous collaborative effort between an app’s designers, developers and marketers, this channel is all about the interaction between your app and it’s users. As we covered in a previous post, providing a useful app product that’s simple and intuitive to use is essential to a business’s long-term success. Your aim should be to reduce the learning curve for the users and make navigation more intuitive.
This marketing channel is particularly important for user retention. A Search Engine Watch survey found that 71% of users delete apps after they crash. Furthermore, a survey conducted by Appiterate found that:
- 71% of users will delete apps after they crash.
- 42% of people uninstall an app due to a bad user interface.
- 68% of users delete an app because of a poorly designed registration process.
To alleviate these threats to user retention, an understanding of both design principles and user behaviour is integral to an app’s market sustainability. Remember, success is by design, not by chance.
7. Personalised Messaging
App personalisation, the ability to automate a unique experience for every user based on their preferences and behaviour, is the ultimate goal for app marketers. The logic here is simple: personalised experiences = better experiences = valuable and loyal users.
Personailised messaging is a form of one-to-one marketing where we can integrate everything we know about a user’s likes and dislikes into the mobile app experience. As part of our Rocketfuel Workshop, we user persona models and user stories to design a product strategy that drives customer adoption and retention.
Do you know the birthdays of your app users? Send them personalised messages with in-app incentives via push notifications.
As push messages become one of the primary entry points for users interacting with an app, being able to seamlessly transition from a text message to a relevant, personalised page provides a tailored in-app experience for each individual end user.
8. Word of Mouth
Having already touched on two methods of Word of Mouth (WOM) marketing in previous listed channels – app store ratings and reviews, and reward program incentives – we’ll add another to the list: Making your app easy to share.
To do so, build in social sharing functionality (E.g. ‘Share to Facebook’) and social integration (E.g. The ability to access a device’s address book to send an automated SMS message with an app store link) to your app offering. Ultimately, however, referrals come down to creating an app that users not only love, but also love to talk about.
9. Social Media
Social media is an essential marketing channel to facilitate two-way communicating between you and your app users. The social media platforms available for app marketing allow for varying degrees of discoverability. This is influenced by how much the user experience or app product favours recency or permanence, which can be visualised by the following Social Longevity Spectrum.
Social Longevity Spectrum. Source: Honigman Media
Where platforms like Twitter and Instagram place much more of an emphasis on being up to the minute, content posted on Pinterest and Google+ have more potential to be discovered long after they have been shared.
You can promote your app on any of these social media platforms in the same way you would a website or business with one important exception: mobile-specified paid promotion. Facebook’s App Install Ads, Twitter’s App Cards and Pinterest’s App Pins are all geared towards mobile advertising. If your budget allows, these paid promotion channels provide are a great way to reach your target audience.
10. Blogs & Multimedia
When it comes to marketing your app, content marketing through blog writing is one of the most effective methods to position yourself as an industry expert and spread the word about your app. Adding a blogging strategy to your marketing mix will allow you to reach new audiences and boost organic traffic through search engine optimisation.
Another highly recommended medium for app marketing is video. A well-produced promotional video or app demo will help to communicate the value of your app and it’s unique features using basic audio and animations. It will convert visitors of your app’s website and social media pages into users by visually showcasing the app and letting viewers make a buying decision in seconds.
11. Internet Forums & Social Bookmarking
We commented earlier on the effectiveness of social media advertising to get your app in front of a specified target audience. Internet forums and virtual communities are just as effective for the very same reason. As a no-cost alternative to paid advertising, online forums allow you to communicate directly with your target market.
Just be sure to follow the community’s code of conduct or recognised rules to avoid having your marketing efforts appear spammy or overly promotional, both of which may do more harm than good for your app.
12. Press and Influencer Outreach
To ‘go viral’ means that your online content resonates so much that it ends up being the latest big thing across the Internet. It is when your content gets liked, commented, retweeted, and talked about from the streets of Melbourne to Silicon Valley.
When it comes to apps, look no further than ride-sharing juggernaut Uber for an example of top-notch viral marketing. The enormously popular #UberIceCream PR campaign is where the company uses its fleet of cars to provide an on-demand ice cream delivery service in major metropolitan areas across 57 countries. The campaign led to coverage by major media outlets around the world and a frenzy of social media activity.
The Uber-effective #UberIceCream campaign.
Unfortunately, we don’t all have Uber’s resources, but that doesn’t mean you can’t generate buzz for your app. To influentially announce yourself and grab the attention of potential users, take a grassroots approach to going viral. Reach out to your connections, key influencers, bloggers, and social media personalities in your app’s category to leverage their personal brands to promote your app.
When it comes to app press, there’s no bigger channel for distribution than being featured by Apple or Google in the respective app stores. Both companies frequently review apps and prominently display their top endorsements in their app stores—a feat that instantly and dramatically drives downloads for these lucky apps. Apple and Google want to show off what app entrepreneurs can do with their operating systems, so to improve your app’s chances of being featured, focus on the app’s design, usability and performance.
Before marketing your app…
And there you have it—the 12 best app marketing channels to help you drive market awareness and user adoption of your app towards a superior and sustainable market position
With the right research methodologies and strategies to map every step in the user’s journey, mobile app marketing should be seen as something all businesses and entrepreneurs can get behind: A measurable, results-driven extension to the traditional ways of promoting a product or service.
What other marketing channels should we consider for promoting an app? Let us know in the comments section below.
If you’re ready to launch a successful app startup, get in touch for a free 1-hour discovery session with one of our App Experts to help you take the next step with your app.