Mobile Growth-ers: Welcome to the Era of Intelligent Optimization

The app stores came to life as an afterthought, in a time when most believed their CVR was near 100%. They were essentially technical specs. Now, many years later, with Google upping Apple's iOS 15 tools, we've gone a full 180°. It's a world of powerful knowledge with no ceiling on optimization. Storemaven's VP Consultancy has more.

2014.

The international year of Crystallography. Germany wins the world cup. The Ebola epidemic slaughters thousands. Sia wants to swing from the chandelier. Terrible sitcom ‘How I Met Your Mother’ finally put itself out of its misery. Esther Shatz begins exploring the new frontier of ASO. And the app stores looked like shit.

Here’s the thing: originally app store pages weren’t thought of as part of a marketing funnel. Honestly?  There wasn’t really a concept of funnel. Growing your app meant getting your app discovered, whether through UA or through murky dataless waters of keyword optimization. Then someone else worked on the product side to optimize revenue. The store pages themselves were an afterthought, a means to an end. There were no metrics available to assess performance, and most people believed their app store conversion was near 100% 


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In fact, when we posted our first recruiting campaign on FB, we got comments like this calling the app stores a “technically perfect product” and thinking we were drunk for building a product implying it could be optimized.

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Seems crazy now but think of it from the mindset of developers back in the day: There were no data or tools available, the platforms clearly didn’t invest in or emphasize the stores, and if you got a user to click your ad or find your app searching the stores why wouldn’t they just download?

As such, store pages were essentially technical specs. Direct screengrabs from the product and a dry description of the app’s purpose. Icons were the only element receiving any consideration since they showed up before and after the product download.

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Real live app stores & gallery assets in 2014/15

And yet, any web marketer from around that time would agree that your landing pages are critical, and a/b testing, optimization, tailored pages per funnel are musts for anyone who actually intends to make money from their efforts.

So slowly, the mobile community began optimizing these funny little pages. And the platforms started giving little breadcrumbs to aid these efforts (analytics, Featured elements, Google Experiments). But still, mobile was inherently unable to optimize properly because every single cluster of users was coming to one page. And no matter how well structured, analyzed, or designed the page, it will never be one size fits all. There was no full funnel, because it was hacked in the middle.

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App stores & gallery assets in 2017/18 – Thoughtful designs and messaging but one size fits all

I’ll take the example I always use – someone decides they want to buy a pair of shoes. They search “shoes on sale.” Macy’s would love to sell this person some thrifty shoes. Would Macy’s send this person straight to their homepage? Macy’s sells fucking everything, on sale and not on sale. Taking them to the homepage requires a user to go through a long navigation to reach what they’re looking for. Would someone even click on a link that wasn’t directly speaking about shoes? Of COURSE Macy’s should be using landing pages to take users straight where they wanted.

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It is flat out impossible to effectively introduce new users to an app with the same exact messaging you’d use to capture a lapsed user. Their needs are night and day. Developers have been forced for years to either sacrifice certain audiences in favor of others, or choose a page that doesn’t wow any one group but doesn’t dramatically damage others.

2021.

The international year of Peace and Trust. Donald Trump somehow became president and concluded a whole term. The much-awaited Covid vaccine gives hope of a return to a new normalcy. The Crown starts their Princess Di story. Adele releases 30. Esther Shatz is now heavily pregnant when Apple drops the iOS 15 announcement that is so game-changing her water breaks (true story).

I won’t rehash this too much since it’s recent history, but the announcement of Custom Product Pages (CPP), so closely after the IDFA bomb meant that the era of developer-owned optimization was upon us.

And now, following Google’s I/O updates on Custom Store Listings (CSLs), Deep Linking, LiveOps and more, the era is in full swing.  

Marketers and Growth-eters (Growthies? Growthians? Storemaven’s newsletter folks claims Growth-ers. Sign up for it below) must think about their funnels as opposed to their page, their ad, their entrance screen, and create processes accordingly. You’re being given the ability to speak directly to users as they should be spoken to, from first to last step. Developers who don’t learn to do this will fall behind.

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    We’ve written and talked ad nauseum about how CPPs and loss of IDFA demand an understanding of audiences and contextual knowledge. If you’re going to design effective messaging you have to know who you’re speaking to, what they’re looking for, and of course, if they’re worth the investment of a CPP and your time and effort.

    With Google, while this process is also endlessly valuable, if we’re to make some intelligent guesses about the future, CSLs will match with the UAC model of plugging in pages and allowing algorithms to whittle down your powerful performers and push them as relevant. For many who are accustomed to this process on the ad end, this means taking the strong creatives and trying to understand what their success point was, then iterating and expanding to create better and better performance.

    Look, really, these processes are the same, just in different costumes. You create smart hypotheses for your store page (based on audience research, on past performance, on competitors, on context), you set them live, analyze the performance, and use those learnings to create more. But it’s critical that you get used to doing this top to bottom – from the ad, to the event, to the store page, to the product, and then back to the top. Your hypotheses start on the funnel level, and then you break down into translating that across your individual assets. This means UA, Growth, ASO, Product, Analytics, all these teams and functions must be in sync. No step has the “luxury” of being produced in isolation anymore and thank god for that. There was a ceiling on optimization that has finally started being pushed up and up and soon may even be pushed away.

    This is a seismic shift and it will take developers time to adopt new processes. There are and will continue to be growing pains. But on the other side of this awaits a world of powerful knowledge. Of knowing who you’re speaking to and how to speak to them, how you get them to be power users, how you catch them when they start to drift, or get them back if they leave. 

    2022.

    We’ve entered the Era of Intelligent Optimization, and goddamn, it feels good.

    About Esther Shatz
    For some it goes: Moses -> the elders -> People of Israel. For most of us here it's simply: Everything that happens in the mobile world -> Esther -> Storemaven. When not on maternity leave, Esther is leading all consultancy and product marketing activities as Senior VP.

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