Updated: January 15, 2019
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.
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 (CVR) & significantly cut the cost of user acquisition (UA).
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.
Founded in 2014, StoreMaven invented the only way to A/B 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.
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:
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.
After the Google Play redesign, the most dominant asset in Google Play is now the Gallery, similar to iOS. On both platforms, a majority of the app store page real estate is given to the Screenshot/Video Gallery, so it’s imperative that the messages you showcase there are compelling to convince visitors to install.
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.
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 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%.
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
The winning variation created a 66% lift in app install conversion
For tips on creating a better performing App Preview Video, read this.
Landscape vs. Portrait Gallery
Apple and Google give 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.
On Google Play, both portrait and landscape galleries keep your description ‘above the fold,’ making it visible to more (if not all) of your users in the first impression. Despite the visibility of the “read more” button, the majority of visitors will not expand your 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!
On iOS, portrait galleries tend to push your description below the fold, but they also enable you to present more than one message in a single frame, which can encourage visitors to explore more of your page or to directly install.
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, distinguishing it from regular App Store pages. As a result, the First Impression changes significantly, and the Screenshots are pushed somewhat below the fold.
Here are the elements of a featured App Store Product Page:
It goes without saying that design best practices are industry dependent, yet there are basic guidelines that have been proven consistently across the board:
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.
We’ve found that only 10% of Gallery scrollers will reach your final Screenshot. Make sure your most valuable selling propositions are highlighted in the first few Screenshots with an ideal combination of messaging and design.
For tips on how to design and run better Screenshot tests, read this.
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. As of iOS 11, your Video in the App Store is on autoplay, so a majority of your visitors will be exposed to it.
The most significant (and common) error is choosing a random (or default) Poster Frame (image still) in iOS. Although the Video is on autoplay (thanks to iOS 11), there are still instances in which your Poster Frame will appear, so it’s essential that you optimize it accordingly.
What we’ve found is that 60% of Video watchers will drop after the 1st 5 seconds, and only 20% will actually complete watching your Video. This makes it imperative that the most valuable and compelling messages be shown in the first 3-5 seconds. Find more Video tips here.
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)
User acquisition (UA) 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 Product Page, and the user journey is mostly controlled and 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 that all of your app store visitors will land on – 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!
Refer to this guide to learn more about best practices for localizing or culturalizing your app store.
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:
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.
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 core of every test is the underlying hypothesis that justifies the test. Ask yourself the following questions:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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. Learn about the problems associated with traditional A/B testing methods here, and understand how we use Bayesian Statistics for more accurate ASO testing here.
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.
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.