App Store Optimization and Seasonality: A Complete Guide

The app stores experience a change in user behavior based on seasons. Leveraging seasonality in your ASO strategy is a powerful tactic to improve discoverability and CVR.

Why is seasonality important for your ASO strategy?

Like any other market, the app stores experience a change in user behavior based on seasons. When thinking about seasons, it’s easy to simply look at it from the narrow perspective of the seasons of the year and holidays. But seasonality in the app stores happens on many levels. On a category levelsuch as New Year’s resolutions for the Health & Fitness category and Black Friday in the Shopping category. It also exists on an app level, such as new content on a game or a new season of a show on a streaming app. 

A better definition of seasonality in the app store is time-based changes to the way users make decisions based on external (holidays, global events) and internal (new content, seasons, and in-app events) events, as to whether to proceed with your app and game. 

Leveraging seasonality in your app store optimization (ASO) strategy is one of the most powerful tactics to improve the discoverability of your app or game as well as app store conversion rates. 

The impact of seasonality

Why does seasonal marketing work? Because nothing is done within a vacuum. Users consume news and information from many different sources and that affects how they make decisions. During the holiday season for example, when users look for shopping apps, they might care more about special deals than about deliveries or a variety of products. 

When users just made their New Year’s resolution, they might care much more about the fact that a fitness app is designed to help them stick with a training regime than the fact they’ll be able to share their training results with friends. 

Using unique app store creatives and messaging that fits the “season” to cater to these changing preferences does affect conversion rates, but it also affects discoverability. By changing the keyword strategy to fit changing search queries and by appealing to the App Store and Google Play store editors, your app can be found easier.

We found that by getting seasonality right, apps and games enjoyed a 15-20% increase in app store conversion rates throughout different seasons.

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Ben Chernik, Jam City’s ASO manager, explains how they managed to see up to a 100% increase in conversion rates when they updated their app store page to showcase new game content and updates on their highly popular game Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery

“Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery is a strong story-driven game where each update brings a new storyline with new characters. Fans have gotten to be really excited about these updates so a new icon or a new piece of creative acts as a signal to them that there is new content. As a result, we can drive really large conversion lifts with a new icon or with a new store preview video. Depending on the event and seasonality, we’ve actually seen a day over day increases of up to 100% and higher in conversion”.

Types of ASO seasonality

Holidays

The most basic level of seasonality is around holidays. This type of seasonality changes from country to country as each culture celebrates and observes different holidays. The most common time apps and games update their assets is during Christmas.

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Category-specific

These are category-specific seasons: for example, different sports seasons throughout the year in the Sports category (the NBA season vs. the NFL season). Getting to know your category’s main seasonality is key to leveraging the most important events in the category.

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App-specific

For many apps and games, there is another level of seasonality that is dictated by ongoing changes to the content of their app. For example, adding a new chapter to a game every month or special in-app events that happen at certain times of the year. 

A great example of app-specific seasonality is the different seasons of series that go live on Netflix, Hulu, HBO, and other streaming apps. When there is a new season of a popular show, users are much more likely to respond to an app store page that showcases it and the fact it’s available through the app. 

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How can you leverage seasonality for creative optimization in the app stores?

Seasonality and creative optimization

By working with many game developers and app publishers, we learned some great strategies for implementing seasonal app store creatives

The main way to convey the seasonal message in your app store page is through your creatives, the icon, the screenshots, and the video (if it exists). 

Let’s go through a few important areas to consider when approaching seasonal ASO through your app store creatives. 

When seasonal creatives can harm conversion

As you browse through the App Store or Google Play in a certain season, you’ll notice that many developers implement season-themed creatives, which can encourage visitors to click through to the product page in the hopes of seeing a unique in-app feature related to the holiday. However, this high engagement can quickly decrease if the remaining creatives aren’t consistent with the season’s theme and there’s no special seasonal addition to the app. In fact, we’ve found that although visitors are spending more time exploring your product page, they eventually drop once they see the contradiction and realize there’s no app or game update.

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In the examples above, both icons communicate a Halloween theme, but the games haven’t been updated with any unique Halloween features. If visitors see that only an icon has changed, it’s often regarded as just a gimmick and won’t drive conversion. To bring it into the real world, it’s like decorating your store for a specific holiday without offering a special holiday collection. You’ve clearly advertised for this event, but there are no unique, themed pieces once people walk in. This can only lead to disappointment once they realize their expectations haven’t been met.

Opportunity for Re-engagement

It’s quite common for apps and games to tailor features or add characters that relate to specific holidays. For this reason, app store browsers are more actively searching for themed apps and games in the days or weeks leading up to major holidays. Gamers specifically are accustomed to experiencing new storylines, unlocking new characters, or seeing new environments designed to emulate different holidays. And with nearly half of all installs being reinstalled, this opens the opportunity to use seasonal creatives to boost re-engagement metrics among existing or lapsed users.

First of all, existing users with auto-update enabled will notice a new, Halloween-branded icon on their device home screens, thus sparking interest to check what’s new and to explore the new app experience or gameplay.

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For lapsed users who go back to the app stores, they’ll now be exposed to special What’s New copy in both the App Store and Google Play. The What’s New text typically appears below the fold on the App Store and within the expanded description on Google Play. However, it’s listed directly under the header for returning installers, thus giving it much more prominence on the page and creating a more significant impact on these types of users. In the examples above, Fortnite clearly highlights their “Fortnitemares” update that features Halloween-themed weapons and new Cube Monster characters, and Funky Bay promotes their new Halloween Island environment.

Developers often use this section to showcase basic updates, but holidays such as Halloween are unique in that visitors to the page are more engaged and actively looking for special updates. This is a great opportunity to promote unique holiday-specific features to encourage visitors to re-open or reinstall your app and experience something new.

But what about new users?

Optimizing for New Users

If you’ve spent time adding unique seasonal storylines, characters, events, or features within your app or game, you should make sure it’s clear on your product page, specifically within the gallery assets. A majority of your visitors will be exposed to your gallery as soon as they land on your product page, and this is where they will look to get an accurate representation of your app’s functionality.

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If you only describe your seasonal update in the What’s New section, you’ll miss the opportunity to convert new visitors who make a decision to install or drop based on assets they see above the fold (who we call “decisive visitors”). In the example above, only visitors who choose to explore and expand the “read more” section will learn about Funky Bay’s new Halloween event. In comparison, Game Face AR designed screenshots that specifically showcase their unique Halloween content. This ensures that visitors immediately see that the app has been updated to focus on Halloween.

Sense of Urgency

Additionally, you can use your app store creatives to create a sense of urgency that can further impact conversion. Many seasonal events are limited in time; once it’s over, it’s over. Highlighting the “limited time” nature of these special holiday elements is effective in encouraging visitors to download your app and take advantage of the new features before they’re gone.

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Leveraging the Hype

Lastly, you have an opportunity to leverage the holiday hype throughout your entire funnel. Subway Surfers is a great example of a game maximizing the impact of seasonal creatives throughout the user journey. They referenced a Halloween update in their user acquisition (UA) ads, incorporate Halloween-themed creatives in the gallery on their product page, and have a Halloween environment within the game itself. There’s cohesion in every step, which ensures that visitors’ expectations are fully met, and so they come into the product page with much higher intent.

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The biggest seasonal mistake to avoid

Leveraging seasonality in your ASO strategy can help you drive significant results through these periods. That being said, there is a common mistake that can easily hurt your app’s performance after the seasonal event is over: leaving the seasonal app store creatives live for too long. Every year you can still spot a snowy icon in the store even months after Christmas has ended. 

This mistake can be extremely painful for conversion rates as it signals to users that this app may be neglected by the developer, no ongoing support and maintenance occurs, and no new features will be developed. Thus, seeing out-of-date seasonal creatives on an app store page can quickly send users looking for a different app.

A framework to nail seasonality in your ASO strategy

As there can be many seasonal events you need to take into account throughout the year, it can get overwhelming, which is why you need to follow a clear framework to how you approach seasonality in your ASO strategy.  

Research

  1. Identify all the seasonal events that are relevant for your app or game. Go over all three types: holidays, industry events, and expected app-specific events (get yourself very familiar with the product team’s roadmap). 
  2. Create a calendar (or embed the events in your existing marketing calendar) of all the events so you can keep track of them. 

Now that you have a clear understanding of all the events you could leverage, it’s time to prioritize. Chances are that you won’t be able to leverage all events. Try to focus on the biggest events, those you see having the most potential to influence users’ decision making. 

Research your competitors and see if they updated their app store pages in the past for the seasonal events that you identified. This will allow you to understand the opportunity that exists for you to shine (if they neglect their ASO during these seasonal events) and will ensure they don’t gain an edge by using seasonality when you don’t. 

Lastly, it’s time to experiment with some ideas. For each seasonal event, develop a series of hypotheses you believe are worth testing. Use competitor research, user research, product feedback, and more. 

Planning

Once you know how the seasonality landscape looks, you’ll be better able to build hypotheses that will add value. Everything boils down to your hypotheses. That’s why, after each test, your analysis should leave you with deeper questions to answer, allowing you to repeat the process on a better, more knowledgeable level.

It’s crucial to build a calendar with the important seasonal events (of all types), so you can prepare test ideas in advance. This is important because if you don’t run the test in time, you won’t have time to implement the results, as everything needs to happen quickly and seamlessly.

Execution

After nailing the research and planning stages, you have a plan that’ll last your entire app’s lifetime. This plan will build on core knowledge, help you understand your users on an even deeper level, improve hypotheses, and continuously uncover the best possible combination of assets at the best time to show them. Here’s how you start executing this plan:

  1. Set up the seasonal test in StoreMaven’s Design Studio or on another testing tool. 
  2. Strategize and plan which traffic sources and segments to send to the test. 
  3. Manage and monitor the test to minimize spending, optimize audiences, and ensure successful testing.
  4. Analyze results, rinse, repeat…

After concluding the test, we recommend analyzing the test metrics and using those insights as to the basis for the next test hypotheses:

  • Determine why a variation is the winner/leader in the test. 
  • Quantify potential CVR increases in the live store. 
  • Assess page assets’ performance to pinpoint how to best allocate resources. 
  • Identify the strengths and weaknesses of all variations to incorporate into the overall testing strategy.

To summarize

Working with a seasonal calendar may sound like a headache, constantly looking into the near future for the coming event next month. But in fact, it sharpens your focus, speeds up the execution process, gives insights that help refine the overall strategy, and generates substantial profits.

When you are constantly learning about your users, gaining more data points, and understanding their behaviors, you are able to develop better, stronger hypotheses and a more robust marketing strategy. 

This guide gives you some of the basics, mistakes to avoid, and a clear three-step framework to leave all your seasonality worries behind. For more ASO gold, visit the Storemaven Academy.

Jonathan Fishman
About Jonathan Fishman
Jonathan is Storemaven's Director of Marketing. Before joining Storemaven he spent ten years commanding tanks, working on Wall St., consulting high-growth companies, and exploring Black Rock City. In his spare time, he likes building things from wood, writing, and listening to Frank Zappa.