This updated post was originally written for Iterable by Arazoo Kadir, Head of Agency Growth for Yodel Mobile, and published on May 28, 2020.
In a hugely saturated market, competing for users in the app space can be incredibly challenging. Consumers downloaded a record 255 billion apps in 2022, with research showing that approximately 167 billion U.S. dollars has been spent globally on apps, subscriptions and other in-app spending over the past year.
Many app owners are fighting for screen time both within their categories and across the app stores. Long-gone are the days of placing value in vanity metrics—like install rates—as a measure of growth and success for an app business. Instead, success should be based on the ability to acquire, retain and convert high-value users and actions.
Here are our top five strategies that you could implement for your app business to successfully grow your app user base.
1. Align on a Shared Vision
Agreeing on a shared vision across your business is essential to working towards a common goal. While this sounds like a big feat, there are steps you can take in the early stages of your app marketing efforts to establish a clear and concise strategy.
To achieve your growth targets, you need to establish your “North Star” metric. Your “North Star” metric should reflect what action provides realized value to your customer and is typically the best indication of future revenue for your app.
For a workout app, this could be the number of paid workouts completed or for a music streaming app, the number of premium-tier subscribers. Once you have determined your “North Star” and communicated this across the business, you can take the next step and focus on your acquisition, engagement and retention targets.
Iterable tip: Once you’ve defined your “North Star” metric, you can go even further by implementing Iterable’s Predictive Goals, which analyzes your historical data to predict which users are most likely to convert in the future.
2. Set Up Your App for Success
Before brands even consider what the ideal in-app experience should be like, mobile marketers need to ensure their apps are discoverable within these highly saturated app stores. This is where app store optimization (ASO) can help.
Much like how search engine optimization (SEO) can help brands get their content to land in those coveted top spots, ASO helps apps rank better—with the goal of increasing visibility and likelihood of user engagement.
Here are two tips to keep in mind when it comes to improving discoverability and ranking in an app store:
- Pick your title and stick with it. Your app’s name can match your brand name, but the app title—the first line that appears in your app description in the app store—should be carefully constructed. Include top keywords in your app title, but select those that match intent over those with high search volume if it comes down to choosing between the two.
- Write a detailed description. If you couldn’t fit all of your top keywords in your app title, the app description is the perfect place to include some more in a detailed explanation of what your app does. Unlike your app title, the app description can change. It’s not immediately on display when the app is searched for, so it can evolve depending on what resonates with your audience.
Iterable tip: So much more goes into app store optimization, but your team doesn’t have to tackle it alone. With Iterable’s expansive ecosystem of solutions partners like Yodel Mobile, you can access award-winning mobile marketing services that drive sustainable business growth.
3. Acquire High-Value App Users
The best way to tackle the growth of your user base is to bridge your efforts towards, and the gap between, your organic and paid acquisition methods.
Organic acquisition: The beauty of a great organic acquisition strategy is that there is demonstrated intent in your services or brand. This indicates a higher probability for success with down-the-line engagement, retention, and monetization, impacting the whole user funnel.
Make sure to:
- Implement ongoing keyword optimizations to drive app discoverability
- Ensure your listings foreground your value proposition and/or make use of your existing brand success to drive traction
- Test and implement compelling creative assets, such as your product screenshots or promotional videos that foreground your app’s features
Paid user acquisition: By sending users towards a highly optimized listing, you’ve safeguarded your advertising budget and can freely focus on your paid user acquisition strategies. Paid advertising offers the ability to target new and niche audiences with a high level of granularity, targeting with the right message, at the right time and on the right platform.
- Implement and test your attribution tracking, including post-install events to determine high-value acquisition sources
- Make sure you’ve determined the best possible combination of channels to acquire your users from (ad networks, app store search, social, etc.) and how much budget to allocate to each channel
- Optimize your campaigns continuously to execute the most successful creative and copy to capture and convert your target audience
Iterable tip: Acquiring high-value users isn’t enough if you aren’t going to prioritize activating their data and putting it to good use. Make sure your marketing tech stack centralizes all customer data—both within your app and beyond it. Eliminating these data silos ensures access to rich data sets for real-time message personalization.
4. Gamify In-App Promotions
Now that you’ve optimized for the app store and acquired high-value users, it’s time to encourage customer engagement to drive actions within your app. When it comes to engaging and re-engaging users, two of the greatest channels at your disposal are push notifications and in-app messaging.
In-app messages, in particular, offer highly effective delivery for coupons, promotions, and flash sales. The mobile gaming industry, which is often considered the most sophisticated app vertical, has widely used in-app messages for promotions because of the channel’s ability to generate incremental lift (earnings you wouldn’t have gained without a specific campaign).
A best practice is to have the logic for the promotional sale on the backend so that you can sunset the promotion or change it towards a seasonal offering without having to update the application.
To take things one step further, you will want to not only measure your incremental lift with analytics, but also test which campaigns are creating more conversions by A/B testing the promotional content.
Iterable tip: Building in-app messaging in-house is time-consuming and technically challenging, but Iterable’s Embedded Messages solution allows marketers to effortlessly integrate native in-app and website message placements that dynamically adapt to individual user data. And with pre-built templates for hero banners, scrolling carousels and more, you can create personalized communications—no coding required.
5. Encourage App User Reviews
Reviews are important because users value the feedback from those similar to themselves. We know that the opinions of like-minded users (peer-to-peer marketing) can influence a purchase, and that holds true for app downloads as well. According to Mobile App Daily, “90% of users go through reviews and ratings before installing an app.”
But not only that, getting reviews is incredibly important for app store optimization because app stores also value quality. Simply put, “Apps with higher ratings also ranked higher.” So, while brands should strive to get more app reviews, they also should aim to get positive reviews: a tough balance to strike.
An additional, yet equally important, benefit of reviews is that they also allow you to collect qualitative data on your users’ experience in the app, which could feed into your product roadmap.
Be sure your brand is soliciting reviews both within your app and via other marketing channels, such as email, SMS, or mobile push. Remember: paid or incentivized reviews will get your app taken down from the app stores, so keep the content of these review request messages short and to the point.
Iterable tip: Increase the likelihood your customers will leave app reviews with Iterable’s Channel Optimization, which analyzes each user’s historical data and sends a message to the channel they’re most likely to engage with, whether it be email, SMS, or push notification.
Successful App Growth, One Tip at a Time
By bringing together these top five strategies, you’ll be well on your way to delivering on your brand’s shared vision and growing your app user base successfully.
The common thread throughout all of these tips is understanding your audience and their perspective. Put yourself in their shoes and make sure each message you send is catered to their unique needs and personalized so as to prompt action and engagement. Only then will you have an app they’ll return to, again and again.