Table of Contents

  1. The Role of App Stores in the First User Journey
    • About StoreMaven
  2. Optimizing the First Impression is key
    • The difference between the App Store and Google Play
    • Every change to the first impression requires special attention
      • Adding a Video
        • Kabam’s Case Study
      • Landscape vs. Portrait Gallery
      • Featured App Store Page
    • General tips for maximizing your First Impression
  3. Understanding the exploration journey inside the app store
    • App Screenshots
      • Scrolling Down the Page
      • Scrolling Along the Gallery
      • Trending approaches for designing screenshots
    • App Store Video
    • App Store Descriptions
  4. Localized versions of your app store are crucial for growth
  5. How app store testing works
  6. Designing impactful tests
    • The outcome of a well planned test
    • The ingredients of a well planned test
      • A well crafted hypothesis
      • Push design boundaries
      • Test only one element at a time
      • Limit the test to 3 to 4 variations
      • Pace test traffic evenly for at least 7 days
      • Use a multi armed bandit approach
  7. Choosing the right traffic source
  8. App Store Testing Cadence
    • The main factors for  “App Store Conversion Decay”
  9. Summary
    • The 3 most common tests enterprise companies run

 

The Role of App Stores in the User Journey

With more of the marketing budget being poured into mobile than ever before, the cost of acquiring new installs is soaring. Today, the biggest barrier to success in the app universe is reducing these costs. Taking on the challenge, growth experts have learned to invest heavily in the user journey. This means carefully crafting ad messages and guiding users to showcase the usability and value of your app.

Thanks to powerful attribution analytics and a data driven marketing approach, it’s a known fact that each step of the onboarding flow counts. Optimizing this flow can reduce marketing costs, increase lifetime value, and improve retention.

The app stores are a crucial part of the user journey.

Everyone lands on the app stores: organic, cross promotion & paid traffic. While all installs happen within the store, people behave differently before choosing to install or to drop.

Developers spend millions of dollars driving traffic to the app stores, just to discover that the majority of visitors don’t install despite making it all the way to the store. A better version of your App Store page can double your conversion rates & significantly cut the cost of user acquisition.

In this article, we’ll cover everything there is to know about App Store Marketing and uncover the potential uplifts of testing each key element:lift

About StoreMaven

Founded in 2014, StoreMaven invented the only way to AB test App Store and Google Play marketing assets. Since then, over 60% of the top grossing developers rely on StoreMaven’s platform and services for testing different creatives and understanding what messages drive more installs for their app.

The information below is based on thousands of tests and over one billion data points collected by the StoreMaven platform.

 


Optimizing the first impression is key

One of our major learnings from analyzing visitor engagement in app stores is that we can classify visitors into 2 major groups based on their behavior patterns:

  1. Decisive Visitors – 60% of visitors decide to install or leave without ever engaging with the page. In other words,  these visitors are only exposed to the creative that appears “above the fold”, and their first and only action is either tapping the install button or leaving the page altogether.
  2. Exploring Visitors – Visitors that choose to browse through the available content to make a more informed decision before installing. Since Explorers are exposed to more information, they’re often more excited about the app and, as a result, boost post-install KPIs

No matter which group visitors belong to, all of them are exposed to the marketing assets in the First Impression and are impacted by the messages presented there.

Think of your app store page as a website that markets your app – your goal is to drive new visitors to perform an action on your website. In this case, your goal is for visitors to hit the download button. Some of the visitors will bounce before engaging with the page, some will try to learn more about your app, and some will make a quick decision to install if they immediately like it. The attention span of modern day consumers is shortening by the day, especially for smartphone users who are always on-the-go, in-between tasks,  and have little to no patience for any type of friction.

What would you highlight on the top of your home page? Which content would you keep above the fold? This way of thinking is exactly what you should adopt when designing your next app store page and specifically the First Impression.

The difference between the App Store and Google Playfirst_impression

The most dominant asset in Google Play is the top Featured Graphic.

In the App Store, on the other hand, the most significant real estate is dedicated to the screenshot gallery, which also includes the video thumbnail (“Poster Frame”) as the first screenshot when including an App Preview.

On both stores, the First Impression is comprised of the assets that visitors see the moment they land on the app page. These assets are the key drivers not only for the install conversion rate, but also for the quality of the installs.

Every change to the first impression requires special attention

While the layout of Google Play’s product pages remains constant, Apple offers several features that completely change the layout and First Impression. Since most visitors are only exposed to your First Impression, the access and use of the features listed below have a significant impact and require testing to ensure a positive effect on visitors.

Adding a Video
It’s up to you to decide if you want to add an App Preview or not. Adding an App Preview video can unlock multiple benefits (see below) but also presents a major challenge: your Poster Frame (image thumbnail) pushes your image gallery to the right.

Essentially, your Poster Frame acts as your first screenshot, becoming one of the most impactful elements on your page since it dominates the First Impression.

Kabam’s Case Study

StoreMaven recently worked with Kabam to optimize their Poster Frame for Marvel Contest of Champions by testing 3 different image stills, which ultimately improved install conversion rates by 66%.

Test Hypotheses

Kabam created 3 variations of their App Store page. They tested different poster frames with several underlying hypotheses:

Hypothesis 1: Giving users a hint to what core gameplay looks like in the first impression will increase install rates

Hypothesis 2: Showing a game artifact that conveys the message of progress and game achievements will increase install rates

Hypothesis 3: Highlighting the brand in the Poster Frame and maintaining a uniform message in the first impression will increase page engagement

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The Result

The winning variation created a 66% lift in app install conversion

banner_kabam

Landscape vs. Portrait Gallery
Apple gives developers the option to present screenshots in either landscape or portrait orientation. Finding the right presentation can be key to driving higher install rates. To understand which orientation is best for portraying your app’s strongest message, it’s important to understand the implications of the gallery’s orientation on user behavior.
hor_ver

A landscape gallery moves your description ‘above the fold’, making it visible to more (if not all) of your users in the first impression. While a landscape gallery can potentially triple the amount of clicks on the “read more” button, the majority of visitors will not expand the description. Therefore, you should focus on optimizing the first few lines and tailor the copy for an audience that prefers skimming through something short and concise!

Featured App Store Page
Featured app pages are Apple’s way of giving your page a unique feel that’s customized towards your brand. Featured pages have proven to significantly increase install rates and are a strong acknowledgment by Apple’s editors that your app is download-worthy. A featured App Store page has several unique design elements (highlighted above), distinguishing it from regular App Store pages. As a result, the First Impression changes significantly, and the screenshots are pushed somewhat below the fold.

featured

These are some tips for making the most of a Featured App Store page:

  • Featured Banner – A common mistake is designing a banner that looks similar to the icon and/or first images. This visual repetition leads to lower Exploration rates and higher drop rates. Be sure to use diverse images and messages to appeal to as many users as possible
  • Background – This is a great opportunity to use exciting colors or ones from your brand palette, creating a holistic design to your App Store page. Make sure the background doesn’t clash with the rest of the App Store assets, as that typically has a negative impact on install rates

General tips for maximizing your First Impression

It goes without saying that design best practices are industry dependent, yet there are basic guidelines that have been proven consistently across the board:

  • Repetition – There’s a fine line between conveying a focused message and being repetitive. Visitors that are keen on learning about the app care to discover more of the main features and value propositions. If assets are repetitive, it reduces their interest and excitement. We recommend differentiating between each of your app store screenshots by using different messages and visuals.
  • Captions – Visitors don’t spend a lot of time or effort understanding the app screenshots. By adding captions and keeping them short and bold, you significantly increase the chance that visitors actually absorb your messages and understand the visuals.
  • Messaging – Start with your strongest selling point right on the first screenshot, keeping in mind 40% of visitors don’t scroll past the First Impression.

 A good First Impression will:

  1. Maximize Decisive install rates
  2. Increase Explore rates
  3. Convince more Explorers to install


Understanding the exploration journey inside the app store

Once you get your First Impression right and convince more visitors to engage with your page, your goal is to design the best user journey to convert those Exploring Visitors.

In this section, we’ll go over Exploring Visitors’ top actions on the page in both the App Store and Google Play, reveal behavioral statistics, and describe the high-level testing guidelines for optimizing each asset.

App Screenshots

Scrolling Down the Page

  • App Store: Scrolling down the page will expose the visitor to the short description and the technical specs of the App Store
  • Google Play: Scrolling down the page will expose the visitor to more essential elements: Screenshot gallery, reviews score and review highlights

Scrolling Along the Gallery

  • App Store: The gallery is above the fold and takes up the most significant real estate of the page.The gallery may include up to 10 screenshots.
  • Google Play: Gallery is below the fold and, as a result, gallery scroll rates are significantly lower than on iOS. The gallery may include up to 8 screenshots.

compare_gallery_scroll_light 

Trending approaches for designing screenshots:

  1. Lifestyle-oriented (Feeling-oriented): Using lifestyle images or visuals that are more similar to ad banners can often do a better job conveying the value of your app. Such screenshots tend to draw a stronger emotional connection to the brand and product. It’s strongly recommended to try out, especially if the UI of the app is not necessarily where the edge of the app lies.
  2. Feature-oriented: Real screenshots of the app used to explain the different features and highlight unique selling points. Make sure to help visitors focus on the relevant parts of the UI and enforce the connection between the textual caption and visual so they quickly understand the image and don’t get lost in the clutter. If your UI is exciting or a key differentiator in your app’s category, this approach may resonate well with your target audience.
  3. Hybrid: A mix of both approaches, highlighting features over a contextual background, or simply switching off between feeling-oriented images and feature-oriented in one set. This style of design can often offer the best of both worlds – an engaging image that draws curiosity and an accurate visual representation of the app to showcase its functionality.

screenshots_type

App Store Video

Getting an App Preview video (iOS) or Play Store video (Google Play) right is a challenge. That said, the value you get from having a good video is not merely conversion improvement – it’s also an increase in the quality of the installs (LTV).

The visual richness of video offers a great medium for delivering messages that often don’t come across as well through text and static images. A good video has the potential to educate visitors about your value propositions and present a more vivid image of the app’s experience. Most importantly, it is a great way to get store visitors excited about your product.

compare_video_watch_light

The most significant (and common) error is choosing a random (or default) Poster Frame (image still) in iOS. Since the majority of the visitors don’t end up watching the video, the poster frame needs to perform well as a standalone first screenshot.

video_use

The poster frame dual role

  • For Decisive Visitors – use as a meaningful first screenshot for users who won’t play the video
  • For Exploring Visitors – entice the users to play the video

App Store Descriptions

The description is meant to provide your audience with highlights of the features and functionality of your app. It also plays a significant role in Keyword Optimization.

Both platforms require adding a description of the app and dividing it into a short description (80 characters for Google Play and 3 first lines for Apple) and extended description (limited to 4000 characters in total for both platforms)

  • App Store: In case the gallery orientation is portrait, the description will be located below the fold and visible only for Exploring Visitors. If your app page shows landscape images, the description is above the fold, making it visible to all visitors (Decisive and Exploring)
  • Google Play: The short description is always above the fold, making it an important factor for converting Decisive Visitors. The result is about 2X more visitors clicking on “More” to read the full description on Google Play vs. iOS:


compare_expand_description


Localized versions of your App Stores are crucial for growth

User acquisition methodologies are all about segmentation. Customizing the marketing funnel per traffic source, placements, different audience targeting or even seasonal influences, such as holidays and weekends, are all inherent steps in any marketing strategy.

On the web, every company or product has its own website and can define the layout of each landing page to create an optimal user journey. Unlike the web, if you’re marketing an app, your primary landing page is your App Store page, and the user journey is somewhat dictated by the platforms. As opposed to the web funnel, the mobile funnel is less flexible in creating different user flows, as there’s only one landing page – the app store page.

The one customization both Apple and Google enable the developer to make is localizing the app store page per geo. This is a golden opportunity to optimize your install rates, which mustn’t be neglected!

  • Same language – different affinities
    Many countries share the same language, creating the illusion they can be treated as one unit in marketing terms. But that is not the case. For example, countless tests of ours have shown that the UK generally has different winning variations than the US.
  • Localizing stores is one thing. Culturizing them is a whole other story.
    It is easy to confuse these two terms – localization and culturalization. While store localization essentially means translating the text to different languages, culturizing the store means creating a custom store with creatives and messaging that relate to each country’s culture and jargon. We’ve seen both versions win, as it depends on the product’s awareness and messaging and how globalized the country is. It is crucial to test both approaches in order to take advantage of this customization opportunity.


How app store testing works

Testing App Store and Google Play listings is done by driving traffic from dedicated banners on any mobile platform (Facebook, Instagram, Google Search, etc.) to mobile landing pages that look and feel exactly like the app stores:

SM_flow

Traffic coming in from the banners is then distributed across the store variations tested (A and B in this example), and the test ends once the top performing page is found.


Designing impactful tests

The most important factor of App Store Marketing is designing marketing assets that speak the language of your brand and highlight the values of your app. In order to find the optimal way to market your app on the stores, one should first draw the right hypotheses for why visitors choose to install the app.

The outcome of a well planned test

  1. Finding a winner – Identify the winning variation that should be implemented in the live store
  2. Designing your “future” winners – understand exactly why the winning variation performed better and how to design additional app store pages based on these learnings
  3. Finding weak spots – finding the assets that drive visitors to drop

The ingredients of a well planned test

A well-crafted hypothesis

The core of every test is the underlying hypothesis that justifies the test. Ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Why are users installing the app?
  2. What might drive their decision when they choose to install? Focus on the app’s values, special features, competitive advantage, social proof, etc..
  3. How can we best convey our marketing messages using the assets available for us on the app stores (screenshots, captions, etc.)?

Push design boundaries

Subtle changes between app store elements generally have minimal impact on your target audience and don’t yield insights into what messaging they like best. The goal is to test pages that have real messaging / design differences. At the end of the day, a good test is one where visitors respond differently to each variant – revealing what drives their decision on the app stores.

Test only one element at a time

Since your goal is not merely to find a winner, but also to understand the drivers of performance, it’s best that you choose only one element (icon, screenshots, video, etc.) in each test you run. While it may be tempting to test everything all at once, you’ll ultimately slow down the process by missing out on understanding why visitors responded to each variable the way they did.

Limit the test to 3 to 4 variations

Each app store variation added to the test increases the overall UA budget for the test (a greater amount of traffic is required before reaching significant results) and prolongs the time it will take to conclude the test. The more experience you get with app store testing, the better understanding of the budget and time it takes your tests to reach significance.

Pace test traffic evenly for at least 7 days

It’s recommended to spread the traffic volume over multiple days rather than doing a large push at the beginning of the test. Each day can potentially attract slightly different audiences with diverse preferences and rationale. Ultimately, we want to drive an even amount of traffic every day, making the overall sample as balanced as possible.

Use a Multi-Armed Bandit approach

At StoreMaven, our goal is to make App Store Testing accurate, quick and more affordable. The amount of traffic needed to reach significant results depends on many variables, including:

  • The traffic channels used in the test
  • The coherence between your ad creative and the store creative
  • The test GEOs and demographics
  • The app’s baseline install conversion rate (CVR)
  • The element you are testing (Icon, Screenshots, etc..)

Since testing multiple store pages involves sending dedicated traffic to your tests, it’s crucial to minimize the required sample as much as possible without harming the accuracy of the results. In early 2014, we started experimenting with implementations of machine learning predictive algorithms in App Store Testing. The result of that experiment yielded our proprietary app store predictive testing algorithm – StoreIQ™.

StoreIQ™ is based on a well-known algorithm called Multi-Armed Bandit and is designed to save you between 30-50% of the cost of each test by concluding tests faster and with fewer samples. The good news is that all StoreMaven tests utilize StoreIQ™, constantly saving you precious budget and time. Read more about how we do it in this post about app store predictive testing.

 


Choosing the right traffic source

Essentially, the goal is to optimize both your paid campaigns (Facebook, Google, Ad networks, etc..) and your organic traffic’s install conversion rate.

Since we cannot send organic traffic to the tests, we need to focus on traffic sources that best mimic organic visitors’ behavior.  Our experience proves that traffic from Facebook campaigns is the best proxy for organic visitors who find your app directly on the live store. The assumption behind this finding is that visitors coming from Facebook ads have a higher intent to learn more about the app than traffic coming from interstitial ads from within 3rd party apps.

The result – using Facebook campaigns to drive traffic to your app store marketing tests will not only improve the performance of your Facebook campaigns, but will also improve the conversion rate of your lucrative organic traffic. In order to effectively run Facebook campaigns for a StoreMaven test, make sure to read this post.

In addition to Facebook traffic, we recommend using any other traffic channel that normally drives more than 10% of your daily installs to best mimic the audience mix you have on the live store. On StoreMaven, you can track the behavior of multiple traffic sources and choose the store variation that is a best fit for all.


App Store Testing Cadence

As the cost of each impression and ad click continues to increase, your UA team will constantly swim against the current when trying to reduce the cost of each new install and maintain a healthy return on investment. The value of continuous testing is not just to achieve quick, temporary wins but to create the processes and methodology for maintaining your CPI goals over time. Stalling app store updates will result in a phenomena called “App Store Conversion Decay,” which will drive the CVR to record lows.

The main factors for “App Store Conversion Decay” include:

  • Your audience changes – The audience you are targeting today is not the one you’re targeting next month. Your marketing efforts outside the store (UA campaigns, lift in the app store charts, etc.) will drive audiences with different preferences to your app store pages. Continuously testing and refreshing your page ensures that these changes will not reflect in a CVR drop
  • Your onboarding funnel changes – You are constantly changing your ad creatives to keep your media campaigns fresh and focused on performance. Refreshing your app store accordingly will create the same effect and will keep the cohesiveness between your ad and your store messaging


The leading companies in mobile launch new tests on a weekly basis, accelerating the pace of improvement to the point that they find new store winners in the majority of their tests.


Summary

  • How you market your app on the app store will determine the cost of each new install and the quality of the installs
  • A better version of your app store page can double your conversion rates
  • The largest mobile brands continuously test their app store pages to maintain high install conversion rates
  • 50% of your installs will come from store visitors who do not engage with the store
  • Each element on your store page (icon, screenshots, video, etc.) has a crucial role in the conversion funnel – make it count and diversify the messaging in each element
  • Follow our guidelines for creating a good testing plan to perfect your app store marketing efforts

The 3 most common tests enterprise companies run

  • First two screenshots test – Increase conversions by 30%
  • Video vs. no Video – Increase conversions by 35%
  • Icon test – Increase conversions by 25%